Mike Herbert: Exploring the Magic of Silhouette
A photograph of Michael Herbert holding a silhouette

ANE GLANCE at the way Michael uses his scissors will tell how he earned his nick-name The Magician.

Born in New Zealand in 1962, Mike is in fact a talented magician; dissatisfied with "doing tricks", he has abandoned magic in order to to pursue a feeling of true magic and mystery in his performance as a silhouettist. He began teaching himself to cut silhouettes in the 1990's after studying the work of the famous magician/silhouettist Dai Vernon.

Mike's professional background is in architecture, which has given him a unique sense of proportion and linear style, as well as the all-important 'spatial aptitude' needed for silhouette cutting. He teamed up with Charles after calling him out of the blue one day to ask what kind of paper he should use to cut silhouettes. They have been firm friends ever since.

Together with Charles, Mike was booked for the Queen's 80th birthday party in 2006.


Artist's statement

"I have been cutting silhouettes professionally for over ten years at a wide range of events,  both at home and abroad.  My architectural background helps to give a sense of proportion and detail to my work.

Initially I was intrigued by the look that a child has in its eyes when spellbound, a phenomenon which disappears as we get older.  I spent years trying to find a way of re-creating that 'look' in adults.  Initially experimenting with sleight-of-hand and magic, I eventually settled on cutting silhouettes.  I am currently researching the possibility of capturing the actual character of the person in these minimal portraits, rather than simply a physical likeness, a feat which many believe to be impossible.

I have given a number of workshops for schools and museums, which involve a brief talk on the history of the silhouette and a demonstration of 'how to do it'  followed by pupils attempting to cut a likeness of their friends. These are then mounted on a printed handout that summarises what they have seen. This is an area of work I am keen to expand".

Michael Herbert, 2012

A set of silhouettes by silhouette cutter Michael Herbert

Some shadow portraits by Michael Herbert, including a bride and groom portrait - cut after the event from
a set of photographs - and a variety of on-the-spot cuttings made at weddings and other events