Silhouette Artform of Clay Rice
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HAPPENINGS SILHOUETTIST IS CUT ABOVE Putting best faces forward, for keeps

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Four-year-old Madeline Price was a little anxious about having her silhouette made this week at the Fredericksburg Area Museum.
Could her mother really be taking her to get her face cut out?

But once Madeline got to the museum and saw renowned silhouettist Clay Rice in action, cutting only paper, her day brightened. She nestled into her mom's lap, looked straight ahead for what seemed like an eternity--about 45 seconds--and hopped back down.

And her mom, Gayle, received the early Mother's Day present of Madeline's perfect profile, captured in black and white.

The Price mother and daughter, who live in Spotsylvania County, were among the first of about 140 area residents who showed up to have Rice make their silhouettes.

The grandson of famed South Carolina silhouettist Carew Rice, Clay Rice was in town just for a day at the invitation of museum gift shop manager Nancy Guerin.

Using tiny surgical scissors and cutting freehand, Rice snipped profile after profile out of folded black contact paper.

When each silhouette was complete, Rice peeled off its backing and affixed it to a white card above his signature. Clients could then choose whether to get the finished works matted and framed.

Rice, 48, of Isle of Palms, S.C., completed each silhouette in 1 minute, 15 seconds or less. Working fast is a necessity.

Nearly all of his subjects were children, and many of those children were 4 or younger--prone to wiggling at the very least, and in many cases given to drooling, fussing, hiccuping and sticking their entire hands into their mouths.

That's one way the silhouette craft has changed since his grandfather's day, Rice said during a brief break between profiles Wednesday morning.

Until the mid-20th century, adults made up a good portion of a professional silhouettist's clientele.

"My grandfather used to do at least as many adults as kids," Rice said.

Then department stores started promoting children's silhouettes as Mother's Day gifts, and the demographic shifted from sedate to squirmy.

Rice had no problem dealing with young subjects, thanks to a crucial tool of the trade--a whizzy, whirly light-up toy that moms could hold in front of their toddlers' faces to focus their attention forward.








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