by Bernadette Verzosa
Silhouette Artist Cindi Harwood Rose fondly remembers making homemade dolls with her sisters Holly and Bonny. The three little girls would use rocks and scrap materials to create their little playthings. It was just one of the simple and artistic family activities she enjoyed growing up in her Houston home.
“Our mom would sit with us for hours doing fabulous art projects. In one way, I was being trained to be skilled with pen, paintbrush, pastel and scissors,” recalls Rose. “But I’ve always been fascinated with drawing by scissors, cutting out paper dolls and hearts when I was three years old, cracking paint off and sculpting on the walls to my parents’ dismay with the rounded-edge of scissors”. Scissors are Rose’s trademark tools. She is now known around the globe for her talent and skill in paper cutting elegant silhouettes, a disappearing art with roots in ancient China and France.
She has done in-person silhouettes of a range of public figures including Barbara Bush, Queen Elizabeth, singer Tony Bennett, violinist Itzhak Perlman and movie star Ashley Judd. “This art gives me great joy because it opens up a whole world,” Rose says. “Facial features can reveal a lot about a person. When I’m doing someone’s silhouette, I need to capture their personality so I have to connect with them.”
SILHOUETTES & CHILDREN
Here in Houston, Rose’s delicate silhouettes hang on the walls of hundreds of homes as heirloom keepsakes. They are especially popular as reasonably priced gifts for grandparents. For $35, she takes her scissors and vintage paper, and snips away a profile in a matter of minutes. Children are fascinated to watch her use her magic scissors to form their likeness out of black paper.
“I do well with children. I educate them while they watch me do their silhouettes. I tell them ‘Everybody has a magic wand.’ For me, it’s scissors and for them it’s a sport or dance,” she says. “The amazing part is children don’t have to sit still, and can come dirty in a T-shirt! Parents can tell me how they want the hair and clothes to appear.”
Rose is hired to create silhouettes for guests at weddings, business conventions, school fundraisers and birthday parties. She can be booked by playgroups and private homes with a minimum of 20 spots reserved.
She donates all proceeds to the Holly Rose Ribbon Foundation, an organization she established that provides free reconstructive surgery to uninsured breast cancer survivors. The foundation bears her sister’s name – Holly Harwood Skolkin passed away earlier this year after a long battle with breast cancer.
Rose will be at Fundamentally Toys on Rice Boulevard on Sunday, December 2 from 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Reservations are required. Please call 713-524-4400 ahead of time since slots fill up fast. For Rose’s schedule for the rest of the holiday season, see the bottom of this article.
At Bellaire High School, she used her art to get high marks. “I would illustrate everything from clothing from other countries, to Texas pioneers, or the constellation,” she says. “It was like a magic trick. I would make an A, even in math or Spanish, by just drawing something about the subject.”
She discovered her passion while working at Astroworld as a teenager. She was only 15 years old when she started drawing portraits at Astroworld for a Walt Disney art company. While walking past various art concession stands, she witnessed the work of a silhouette artist from France and she knew she found her calling.
“Silhouette art is not just drawing a shadow. A shadow is just blocked light and can be distorted. Silhouette artists need to be life artists first. They need to be able to draw everything they see and capture a spirit,” she says. “I taught myself how to cut ruffles, bows, shirts, ribbons, glasses, hats, couples together, pets, all from practice. I just can see things. I’m good at seeing shape, form and contour and cutting out interior details,” she says.
Her work was so impressive, she was flown to Disneyland to do her silhouette artistry. It became her summer job through high school and college, helping pay for her tuition at the University of Texas in Austin.
Rose also awed audiences and art critics with her speed. At Disney, she was able to create 600 silhouettes per day. She set a record with the San Antonio Express News in the early 1980s cutting out 144 silhouettes in one hour – that’s more than two silhouettes per minute!
After getting her degrees in art and journalism, she married noted plastic surgeon Dr. Franklin Rose. They have two children, 29-year-old Erica and 27-year-old Ben.
SILHOUETTE ART – HOUSTON HOLIDAY SCHEDULE
- November 30: Cypress Learning Express Toy Stores
- December 1: Cypress Learning Express Toy Stores
- December 2: Fundamentally Toys, Rice Boulevard
- December 6: Town and Country Learning Express
- December 20: Town and Country Learning Express
- December 21: Town and Country Learning Express
- December 22: Katy Educational Toys