Each silhouette is cut entirely freehand, by eye using only paper and scissors. These are not the large traced silhouettes which are often produced by kindergarten or primary school teachers where a child sits next to a lamp and has the shadow of their face projected onto a sheet of paper. Silhouettes are a form of miniature portrait art cut in exacting detail of the live subject in only a few minutes.
As far as I have researched, there are only around twenty silhouette artists in America, about six in England and I have not been able to find any in Europe. To my knowledge, I am now the only silhouette artist in Australia. For many years S. John Ross, now deceased, worked at Sydneys Luna Park and the Agricultural show circuit around Australia. You may even remember having your silhouette done by him at The Royal Easter Show! There is a tribute to him on Wikipedia.
As silhouettes are rare, it is not surprising that many people have not even seen how a silhouette is cut. Often they are expecting a tracing to be done or think that a silhouette is some kind of photographic process. It is absolutely fascinating to watch a silhouette artist at work and be amazed at how quickly a likeness emerges from the black paper. While people watch as I cut, they may gain an appreciation not just of the finished art but also of its actual creation. In 1982, I had my own silhouette cut at Disneyland and my own fascination eventually led me to become a silhouette artist too.
Mounting the Silhouettes
Once the silhouettes are cut, they are mounted onto 12.7cm x 17.8cm (5 x 7) cards. Your brand or logo can be right there on the card in the lower left or right corner.
There are several ways to achieve this.
Design a layout suitable for a 12.7cm x 17.8cm (5 x 7) card.
Have a graphic artist design a layout that includes a nice border to frame the silhouette and place "With the Compliments of..." and your brand or logo in
the lower left or right corner. When your client or customer frames their silhouette, your name or logo is right there and will remain there for years to come as the silhouette grows in value as an heirloom.
Design a layout suitable for a 25.4cm x 17.8cm (10 x 7) folding card.
Have a graphic artist design a layout that includes a nice border to frame the silhouette on the right hand inside page and place "With the Compliments of..." and your brand or logo in the lower left or right corner. The left hand inside has space for your message. Being a card, it can stand freely on a shelf. When your client or customer decides to frame the silhouette, the card will be folded inside out and your name or logo will be visible in the frame.
Design a layout for a 20.3cm x 25.4cm (8 x 10) folding card with oval cut out.
An extension to the option above is to have a 2.7cm x 17.8cm (5 x 7) oval cut out of the "front" page of the card. A graphic artist can design a layout including your name or logo around the front page oval. Around the inside left page there is some space for your message. The card may stand on a shelf and when the silhouette is framed, the oval cut out will act like a mat around the silhouette and again your name or logo will be there on display.
Depending on your budget, you may want to consider hot foil stamping the layout or having your name or logo embossed. Although there is an extra cost involved in producing the mounting cards, these additions undoubtedly add class.
I normally cut at the rate of ten silhouettes per hour however if you have a helper present to welcome people and get them seated and if I do not have to write receipts or handle cash, I am able to do between twelve to fifteen silhouettes per hour.
Hosting the Promotion
There are several ways to host this type of promotion:
- Give silhouettes away for free
- if your business is a store,
you could hire me at an hourly rate and either give the silhouettes away to customers for free, or have them show a receipt of purchase of goods of a certain value from your store, which entitles them to have their silhouette done. This way you make some money from sales to offset the cost of the promotion.
- if your business is a shopping mall,
As above, you could give the silhouettes away to customers for free, or have them show a receipt of purchase of goods of a certain value from any of the shops within your mall. As a Centre Manager of a mall, with tenants paying outgoings for promotions, coming up with novel promotional ideas can be tricky! However, building up the visit of a silhouette artist with a few promo girls, signage and publicity can make your event go from ordinary to spectacular.
Generally at this type of promotion or event, I cut and mount single silhouettes only. The idea is to do as many as possible. It would be at your discretion if you have a special customer for whom you may wish to allow having extra copies made as I wouldn't offer this to everyone.
b. Have your customers pay for silhouettes.
You could run your promotion essentially like a fundraiser. You would promote for several weeks within your store or by other advertising, that a Silhouette Artist will be appearing and take deposits for appointments from customers. These customers would then arrive at the prescribed time on the day to have their silhouettes done.
To make it viable for me, you would need to take at least twenty-five confirmed appointments. You would have to cover the cost of no-shows, however, when your customers see what is going on, often they will want silhouettes too, so falling short of twenty-five bookings is usually not a problem. As I cut silhouettes, the fascination factor kicks in and a crowd develops. A crowd attracts a larger crowd so I sometimes find it difficult to stop or take a break!
Customers therefore would be paying for their silhouettes and I would give you twenty-five percent of the gross sales of silhouettes and twenty percent of mats if mats are being sold at your promotion. So essentially, it is equivalent to me paying rent for space in your store with you promoting the event for several weeks prior.
Please be aware that if you expect your customers to pay for their silhouettes, and if you layout artwork looks too over the top, they may feel they shouldn't have to pay for them. Your mounting cards would make the silhouettes look like something customers would expect to get for free. A discreet name or logo in a corner usually works best.
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