23.11.2020 by Charles Burns
Have you already made plans for Christmas? Or are you, like me, completely stuck? I’ve been thinking about silhouette cutting as an online ‘gift experience’ and holding onto the idea that silhouettes still make interesting and personal mementos of the unique times we’re all living through.
In reality, none of us have any idea what Christmas will look like this year. Today’s announcements may clarify things, but I’m not expecting my usual busy season. Even the Zoom parties seem to have lost their lustre (do you remember back when they were fun?) Forced to abandon all plans for a Christmas get-together I wonder if some companies may opt to simply give presents instead?
In truth, I’ve always had something of a love-hate relationship with December. On one hand it’s the busiest month of the year (if an artist-entertainer can’t make money in December they may as well give up and go home). It’s the one month I can guarantee to be cutting silhouettes every evening and squeezing many daytime events in between. By time this in November my team is usually turning away December enquiries on an almost daily basis.
Yet, this hectic schedule can bring it’s own problems. I tend to burn out by Christmas. I confess there are times – working late at some City drinks reception or other – when I ask myself the forbidden question:
“Why exactly did they book a silhouettist?”
These are the times when it seems like the free bar is all the guests really need! The noise and coloured lights make it hard to even see the guests (not that they’ll stand still if I could). I begin to feel like an alien creature – recently descended from another planet – looking in at our world and wondering how corporate culture really works.
I guess we’ve all been to parties like that!
The other problem in December is that I generally need to close my studio. Being out and about at so many events leaves no time to make silhouettes from photographs or take on other interesting artistic commissions. Those seeking silhouettes of the kids to give their partner for Christmas generally receive a short reply informing them that the studio is closed until the New Year.
It’s hardly ideal.
So, this December I thought I’d try something different. For no particular reason (ahem…) I’ve decided to forgo the Christmas parties and keep the studio open instead. In place of the hectic schedule I’ll be beavering away in Mays Barn (my studio), conducting Zoom events (the gift experience) cutting silhouettes from photographs and sending my paper cuttings all over the world.
At least, that’s the plan. If you’ve been following my newsletters this year you’ll know I’ve put a lot of time and effort into launching a new website. I’m offering my silhouettes at a series of ticketed virtual studio days.
People wonder how easy it is to cut a silhouette over Zoom. They ask:
“Will the results be as good as working from life?”
I usually reply that working from Zoom is a lot easier than working at a Christmas party. At least I can see the subject!
Although I can be cynical about Christmas parties, they are a genuine loss.
Christmas is a time to say “thank you” to friends, colleagues, customers and suppliers. This is what the Christmas reception – full of good food and entertainment – is really all about. None of that can happen this year.
Is your company feeling this loss? If so, how will you say thank you this Christmas?
Could you consider giving everybody a silhouette?
Here are three ways to give the gift of a silhouette portrait to staff, clients or suppliers.
I will set up a virtual studio day for your company. Although these studio days take place on Zoom they are not Zoom parties as such. Each attendee is allocated a sitting time and can log in for as little as ten minutes to have their silhouettes cut out. Each person can have two silhouettes: perhaps themselves and a partner or silhouettes of their kids – perhaps even the dog.
These studios days look and feel quite different to a Zoom party. They are family oriented, feeling less like an office get-together and more like a visit to an artist’s studio. Some people may wish to hang around on screen to say “Hi” to those posing before and after them. They are welcome to do so, but there’s no expectation for anybody to stay online longer than they wish.
This is why I refer to them as a gift experience. The whole process is quick, fun, entertaining and educational.
Afterwards, the silhouettes are mounted on cards, branded with a suitable Christmas message from you and posted to the visitors.
Buying a set of gift vouchers for your staff will work in a similar way, except that everybody needs to log in to my website and choose their own sitting time from the public studio days listed on my site. There are currently six such dates planned in December and a further six in January.
There is no time limit for gift vouchers and further studio days will be scheduled throughout 2021.
If you are planning a Zoom party this year, then of course I can be a part of that. I’ll give you a five-minute humorous introduction on how I became a silhouettist and cut portraits of any body who wants one.
Do get in touch for more information.
As a somewhat typical man – who sometimes struggles to access his own feelings – I was stuck by the words of a recent female visitor to one of my virtual studio days. She expressed exactly my own feelings about 2020 when she said:
“I swing from feelings of great enthusiasm, that all these changes are really taking me forward, to feeling like somebody slammed a barn door in my face; everything’s stopped.”
In such a world, trying to make plans seems pointless, and yet they need to be made. The virtual studio is my way of tackling the self-evident challenges we all face this Christmas.
How will this work out? It’ll be interesting to see.
Am I looking forward to the return of “normal” Christmas parties in December 2021?
Frankly, it depends what happens this year. I may just decide I prefer working over Zoom…