Thursday, September 18, 2014


The other week, Cecile sat for her first artist: silhouette artist Erik Johnson. Johnson is a third-generation silhouette artist--he learned the trade from his father, he told me. (His brother practices the art, too.) His family, he said, has been cutting silhouettes for more than six decades, and he has traveled the world for his trade. What a gift.
We arrived early for our five-minute slot at Dawn Price Baby in Georgetown, Johnson promptly sat Cecile atop a stool and hit 'play' on his iPad. Finding Nemo scrolled across the screen and Cecile immediately zoned out (brilliant), staring straight ahead and sitting still. He worked fast, but carefully. It was clear Johnson had a skillful eye. His scissors nicked, nipped, and notched. And then in a flash, he was through. Johnson even had traditional oval frames on-hand. Done and done. 
^^When the next customer sat for Johnson, Cecile didn't want to stop watching Finding Nemo.^^

Later, after a little light Googling, I learned the art of silhouette is so ancient that nobody can truly trace it's origin, and that silhouettes were once a popular alternative to commissioned (read: expensive) oil portraits. Members of high society often practiced "shade cutting" as a hobby. But the invention of the camera signaled the end of the silhouette as a widespread form of portraiture. Today, only a handful still practice the art. Johnson told me there are only 17 silhouette artists left in the United States. Seventeen! Oh, how lucky I felt to have had Cecile's impression cut by someone who's talent runs so deep. 
Where is our little keepsake now? Why, on my dresser in our bedroom. It's beautiful. I hope to visit Johnson every time he passes through town so that he can record my girl's growth. Maybe someday, with any luck, I will have an entire wall collage of black-and-white silhouettes. Now wouldn't that be something.

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