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A Wedding in Canada

What a great time I had doing my first wedding out of the country!
It was a six hour drive, but well worth it, especially since the bride and her parents were willing to pay my travel expenses and accommodations.  And it was in a beautiful part of the country, along the coast of New Brunswick, home of the world’s highest and most dramatic tides.

The bride, Shannon, the groom, Trent, and Ruth Monsell on June 2.

I even got to watch the wedding ceremony, which is rare for me. It afforded me the opportunity to photograph the bride and groom in profile while they were exchanging vows, and then to run back and cut and frame their profiles as my wedding gift for them. I think the attached photos say it all. They clearly were pleased!
Ruth

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Emphasis on Weddings

This is the year to put one of my strongest intentions into the forefront.  It definitely called for an action plan.

Of all the many venues in which I’ve cut silhouettes over the years (art shows, craft fairs, museums, stores, schools, town celebrations, etc.) I’ve found I love cutting at weddings the best.  In second place are other special occasions such as corporate and private parties.  But at weddings, I get to add something unusual to a couple’s most important day.  I become part of the entertainment as a crowd watches me snip away with my little surgical scissors until the profile of my seated subject looks perfect.  The murmers I most often hear are, “Amazing!” and “it’s like magic!”

The happy guests go home with a wedding favor unlike any they’ve received before: their own heirloom likeness in cut paper.  In the majority of cases, the bride and groom have an album of duplicate silhouettes signed or autographed by their wedding party, relatives, and other guests–something they can treasure always.

It was Emerson, I believe, who wrote, “if you build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door.”  In my life I have not found that to be true.  I find I have to spend almost as much time and energy marketing what I have to offer as I do creating art.  I think that as an artist, I’m fortunate to have a background in sales and marketing, as well as in writing.  Friends poke a little fun at me locally, saying “you were in the newspaper AGAIN!” But if I didn’t send out regular press releases, who would know what I’m doing and when?

This year I took the following steps to market myself as a wedding silhouettist for hire:

I joined the Maine Wedding Association to get on their website.  I paid an additional sum to be listed under three categories there:  Silhouettes, Favors, and Unique Wedding Ideas, and to have a direct link to my website, Wedding Silhouettes.biz.

I attended a full day seminar on succeeding in the wedding market, run by a national expert.

I invested in doing my first large bridal show, and came away having educated a great many brides on this relatively new and novel option for their future weddings.

I took out an ad in a publication called “Marry Maine” which I designed myself; this also gives me a presence on their website.  I’m beginning to understand that today, more weddings are planned online than in reading a magazine or even hiring a wedding planner.

Having met several employees of Martha Stewart Living at the grand opening of a Chicago wedding boutique at which I was hired to cut guests’ silhouettes, I signed up on Wedding Wire, which means I will additionally appear on MarthaStewartWeddings.com, Brides.com, and several other websites related to the industry.

I am hardly being inundated by requests for weddings, but do have two lined up this year for which I’ll be travelling once out of state and once out of the country, as the wedding is in Canada.

I’m hoping that as time passes, the many seeds I have sown in trying to grow my small business will bear fruit.

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Two new applications for Silhouettes

Two new applications for Silhouettes.

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Two new applications for Silhouettes

I’m off to New York early tomorrow to attend my only niece’s baby shower! I thought I’d show you one of the gifts I’m bringing, done up in a darling blue and white checked frame (she’s having a boy.) Along with it is a gift certificate for the baby’s silhouette profile, to be cut “anytime after he can hold his head up!”

Business-wise, the week brought to fruition two unusual silhouette projects. For the first, I sent the client 9 profiles of little girls I have in my albums of silhouettes. She then chose four for me to resize in Photoshop to very high resolution. Her project (and inspiration) is that she’s pregnant with a little girl, and wants 3 foot tall silhouettes of girls ranging in age from 1 to 6 on the walls! I’m hoping for a photo of how this looks, once the decorating is done. I’m posting one of the children she selected from my stock.

I asked a second client for a photo to be taken on her wedding day! It’s funny to have gone from yard tall silhouettes to 1 1/4 inch ones in the same week, but that’s what size I cut of a bride and groom to be. (It rather reminds me of the time my husband took a picture of two birds together, right outside our country living room window: a turkey and a hummingbird!) Lots of brides these days are thinking silhouettes for their weddings, as a vintage theme is very popular. The bride, from Texas, had found a wonderful double frame in an antique shop, and figured it would make a dandy wedding cake topper. My job was to cut the silhouettes small enough to fit 2 inch tall oval openings, including the groom’s ten gallon hat! Yes, they’re Texans. The hardest part was making everything stay in the frame openings, and figuring out what to lay over the openings so the cuttings wouldn’t be ruined should they fall face first into the icing! After trying to hand cut plexiglass (ugh!) I wound up with acetate on top. My reward for the struggle was that the bride reported she was THRILLED with them and that she cried when I wrote that I’d love a photo of them atop her cake. She promised I’d have it. I did take my own photo of the framed profiles before shipping them, and you can see it below.

Part of what makes my work as an artist so satisfying is rising to new challenges, no matter how unusual the request, and making people happy with the results.

Now if only the parents of the two darling little girls I painted in pastel, all dressed up as flower girls, are as delighted with what I’ve done, my life will be complete — at least for this month. I’ll know on Monday.

More soon. All best!
The “Artful-1” (my license plate)

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An Unusual Testimonial

One of my earliest decorative silhouettesI have a nice fat file of unsolicited testimonials on the portrait silhouettes I’ve been cutting for decades, but although I sell quite a few decorative silhouettes through a shops, art galleries and at craft shows, this message from someone who bought a few is a first for me, and made my day.  Even though the decoratives  (of Maine motifs and landmarks, full figures, children, and animals) represent a small portion of my business, I am delighted to know when they’re appreciated.  Excerpted below is most of the email this lovely Mainer sent me recently…over two months after her purchase:

Dear Ruth,

I bought three of your charming silhouettes as a gift for a woman I know, to add to a few other small gifts.  Clearly, her favorites were the silhouettes, which she described as “dear,” and said she would have to find a good place to display them.  I was very happy that she shared my appreciation of your delightful work.  I hung the dove with heart that I kept for myself on a red ribbon in the window of my front door, where it shows up well both in daylight and lit by the porch light at night.  Someday I hope to purchase more of your silhouettes.  The ones that so pleased my friend were the super-lively drummer boy, the sleigh bringing home the Christmas tree, and the parade of three small children carrying a tree and gifts.  My friend said they were things she would not have bought herself—but she thoroughly enjoyed receiving them.

 So I thank you for your fine artistry, and for providing a unique and excellent gift for my friend.

Naturally, I immediately sent her a heartfelt THANK YOU!  If you’re curious what “decoratives” look like, you can see a dozen or so on my website, ArtfulHeirlooms.com,  on their own page under Silhouettes.  Meanwhile, I’m attaching a couple of the ones this lady bought.

If you’re reading this, please leave me a comment, even if it’s one syllable!  My blog is new, and I need to know if it’s reaching readers.  Thanks, and enjoy the count-down to SPRING:  only 25 days!

Ruth Monsell

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Cutting in Chicago

Just back from a whirlwind trip to the windy city – Chicago.  The circumstances were most unusual, as I found myself en route to the airport less than 24 hours after learning about two silhouette cutting gigs.  I was filling in for a silhouettist friend in Texas who had a death in the family.  When she told me that a New York agency had a client who needed a  grand opening party for her posh store and was paying all the expenses plus a very nice fee, I couldn’t resist.  I never in my life was photographed so much while cutting profiles, and hope to have a few of those shots sent to me.  Most exciting of all was meeting the Weddings Editorial Director Senior Vice President of  Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, having a long chat with him about my work, and having my photos taken holding one of my silhouettes!  One never knows what future path an event might lead one to. 

Another reward of the experience was that my agency contact reported today that the client at the opening was “thrilled” with my work.  Certainly the guests seemed delighted with their complimentary portraits.  This was the kind of grand opening party that was by invitation only.

Another thing I learned by traveling to IL was the importance of having more than one event to make the journey and expense worthwhile.  Again, filling in for my friend, I cut all morning and most of the afternoon at a lovely toy store that same day and then drove an hour and a half to downtown Chicago through heavy traffic, arriving just in time.  It was an exhausting day, but very worthwhile financially, and will probably lead to future business.  One parent at the toy store even said I’d definitely hear from her about a portrait of her daughter!

 

Image

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Wherein the artist gets an ego boost

What an amazing compliment I received yesterday, one which made my day.  I’ve been corresponding with a man who wants an oil portrait of his late mother from an old photo of her, taken when she was probably in her late 20’s.  In the course of our emails, I asked this question, and was blown away by the response I got:

Question: How did you hear of me, by the way?  Since it seems you live in Maine, I’m wondering whether a previous client referred you or whether you found me in an online search or on a website of one of many organizations I’m in.

Answer:

I looked at several hundred artists portfolios before I accepted you.  Checked all over the world.

Wow.  I will do my darndest to live up to his confidence in me.

Here’s a photo of the last portrait I completed, which was also from an old photo.  It was commissioned by my youngest client to date: a college student.  She is the baby who is being hoisted aloft in the pastel portrait.  It’s from one of her mother’s favorite photos, and my young client wanted to leave her mom with it while she is away studying in Australia for the year.Imagen ego