Just by chance
A couple of months ago I was walking in the city with a friend. We had passed Albrecht Dürer’s house and were making our way slowly towards St. Sebald church when my friend attention was attracted by a tiny shop that sells silhouette pictures. While he was drawn inside to look at the postcards on display by the door, I was attracted to and photographed, the poster in the window that was advertising a one-day beginner’s course in November.
A few weeks later I rediscovered the photograph that I had saved, knowing that it would come in useful in my conductive lifestyle. I looked up the website and on the spur of the moment decided to enroll on the course to learn how to cut silhouette pictures. This is something that has interested me since discovering amongst my mother’s treasures my grandmother’s and great-grandmother’s autograph books that are filled with art works by their friends. Some of the illustrations in these books are silhouettes, a very fashionable craft of those times.
I also have this cut-out cat picture done by my mother when she was 13 years old.
The time was nearing
Last Friday lunchtime I become ill with a migraine and thought that thiss would be the end of my plans to attend the course on Saturday. But after sleeping it off and taking it easy I managed to walk the few hundred yards from my house, through the city wall to the shop for the very civilized ten o’clock start.
I am so glad that I made it
The course lasted for six hours and from the start I was determined to come away with at least one design for a Christmas card, a design that I had drawn myself and not from one of the samples on offer.
We were taught the basic shapes and how to cut them.
So far so good!
Before lunch I had finished cutting my practice sheet and had learnt how to glue it to a white background, with two hat-pins to maneuver the paper and photographic glue to stick it down.
During the break for lunch I went for a walk in the fresh air instead of popping home as I had planned. While having a sandwich in a café I got out my sketchbook for the first time in months and designed my first Christmas image.
It was so much more difficult than I had imagined, working out which pieces would be white and which black, and how I would make all the black pieces stay joined together. It reminded me of my early days at art school in the printmaking room, trying to work out which bits to etch out first so that in the end they would be the darkest.
The whole process of tracing the image on to the silhouette paper, then cutting and sticking seemed to take me hours but they were hours when my mind was free of all thoughts other than concentrating on not cutting in the wrong place. It was a very relaxing afternoon. I was lost in my work just like when I paint.
When my own piece of work was complete I still had time after the coffee break to snip at one of the teacher’s own designs and produce a second Christmas image.
At home on Sunday I had another go on my own and came up with a respectable star in gold and black that I can add to my Christmas images, and I also did a second, edited, version of the church.
Sorry to all those folks who receive a card from me and look forward to a surprise. Perhaps I shall still have time to cut another new image for those of you who have seen all the previews here.
It is never too late to learn and it is always wonderful to feed the soul
I thought that I had tried just about every craft skill going, I have boxes filled with the materials needed for oil painting, sewing, encaustic, beading, weaving, knitting, felting, crocheting, ceramics, book-making, paper-making, window-colour painting, lino-cutting, mosaic-making, leatherwork, silk-painting, watercolour painting – you name it I have it in a box in the 'Shed' (half the bathroom).
But I have never cut a silhouette. I am sure that I will be doing more of it in the future. It is something small enough for me to take on holiday with me. There is so little equipment needed to get started – just paper, a knife and some scissors. I expect that on my next trip I shall be doing it with my Dad.
Scherenschnitt Studio, Nürnberg –
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