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Work Samples

Video of silhouette-cutting

I cut silhouette portraits freehand with only scissors - without drawing, tracing, or using shadows. This silhouette portrait style has been popular for over 200 years. This video shows the process from start to finish. I devised a way to film myself while cutting, and I edited the footage to conform to social media video time contraints. Running time: 59 seconds. Videotaped: Dec 2017, in Tacoma, WA.

Guest Artist Residency

I am a guest artist at the globally-renowned Greenfield Village in Dearborn, MI, part of The Henry Ford Museum. When Henry Ford decided in 1919 to create a new type of education - based in experiencing objects and places that made up the history of American innovation, little did I know that I would become part of Henry Ford's legacy. The historic house shown here became the home base for me to present part of the unknown history of silhouettes. I brought visitors to experience silhouettes in a historical vignette installation, as well as live demonstrations and interpretation.

Silhouette compared with sitter

Silhouettes are cut freehand with only scissors - without drawing. The silhouette is often cut in just 90-120 seconds, in full view of onlookers, and while the artist is speaking on topics of interpretation. The resemblance to the sitter is often considered by the audience as remarkable or even uncanny, and the silhouette can serve as a folk portrait of heirloom-quality.

Silhouettes grouping shows variety

Despite the rapid method of cutting freehand with only scissors, these silhouette portraits are containing an impressive amount of details, which are revealing age, sex, ethnicity, and personal features like hairstyle and clothing. "Cutting freehand" means creating the portraits without drawing in advance, without using any shadows, or machinery. This photo shows examples of a variety of such details that can be captured in silhouettes - even when cut quickly. (February 2019 at a museum event in NJ)


About Lauren

Baltimore City

Lauren Muney's picture
Lauren Muney is one of a handful of people in the world cutting silhouettes freehand using a 200-year-old method: with only scissors - without drawing in advance, tracing, or using any shadows. For 7 years in a row she has been named a "Master Traditional Artist" by a panel of expert museum judges. She melds the past with the present at museum events, fundraising galas, immersive events, as well as private events - in her home state of Maryland, and worldwide - connecting modern society to the... more

“Your Face, Your Place in History” (Future project)

I am looking for funding and interest in installation in this project, in Baltimore or other communities. We deserve to have all our citizens portraited and to feel honored that they will will be appreciated for years to come.

“Your Face, Your Place in History”

The story of many communities, especially Baltimore, needs to include portraits that reflect their modern diversity - including those faces who aren't often seen on walls in cultural institutions. There are faces around the city, country and world that are not seen, both to themselves and to their community. 

Before photography, silhouettes were the way non-wealthy people could have their portraits made in the era when the rich showed their wealth by commissioning a painted portrait. Baltimore has a long tradition with silhouettes, as they were cut here in Baltimore at the Peale Museum starting in 1815. Silhouettes were called “the poor man’s portrait”; but in reality, the poor rarely would have even a silhouette made. As a result we have few old portraits of the people on the lower economic rungs of society’s ladder. However the people who had their silhouettes made were able to pass them on for generations; many "old fashioned" paper silhouettes have outlived digital media, making silhouettes a true sustainable portrait form.

I would like to freehand-cut, in person, silhouettes of all types of people in Baltimore, or any other city or town - then create a frieze of the silhouettes for temporary or permanent display. All portraits would be profiles, all in the same color - classic [black] silhouettes, showing respect for the beauty and dignity of each individual without regard to economic status or skin color. To have contemporary portraits on historical walls would allow community residents to see themselves honored, but also to visualize themselves as a part of history.

For the participating sitters, it may be the first time they have sat for a portrait, or seen their faces recognized in a public place. All of my sitters also receive their own silhouette portrait to take home. They can look at their silhouette portrait to remind them of their experience, or even pass their silhouette down through generations as the 'historical' silhouettes have been passed down.

I would like the resulting silhouette portraits to be installed in a frieze and exhibited. 

The resulting silhouette sittings, silhouette frieze of faces, will reach hundreds, perhaps many thousands of people in Baltimore and beyond.

Artistic Process

Silhouettes are cut freehand, with only scissors, live in-person with people from the community. The process takes less than two minutes for the sitter. Even though the time is brief, most people are flattered to have someone focus on them for an entire two minutes and then receive the elegant portrait at the end. During the sitting, the person and I have a conversation. Since many people don’t feel heard, or don’t speak to strangers in an intimate, friendly, yet completely respectful, close way, the conversation is part of the experience; they are seen for themselves (literally). 

The silhouettes are laterrecut with a vector-based cutting machine and prepared for installation. Details for installation are custom to the interested location.

  • Simulation 1: Silhouettes Frieze

    This is a *simulation* of my silhouettes frieze installation concept -- in situ at the Peale Center, Baltimore, MD.
 The Peale Museum was originally built in 1815, and therefore has room sizes of the early 19th century. This is the parlor room at the right of the main entry. his room had a chair rail , so this custom location was perfect for asilhouette frieze.
  • Simulation 2: Silhouettes Frieze

    This is a simulation of my silhouettes frieze installation concept -- in situ at the Peale Center, Baltimore, MD.
Another simulation of silhouette frieze in another part of the room. There is already an installation in the room; my silhouettes show that the silhouettes can truly blend into any environment. The chair rail detail on this wall was perfect for placing the silhouettes frieze.
  • Varied faces in silhouette

    A example of how different silhouette portraits can be: different ages, ethnicities, sexes. These were silhouette portraits of real people at the same event. Each person sat for 2 minutes or less for their silhouette, and were able to take their own silhouette home. Various features shown in these silhouette portraits represent how individual faces would show on the silhouette frieze. (silhouettes cut June 2019)
  • Silhouette example, cut at the Peale

    Example of a silhouette cut with only scissors at a live appearance at the Peale Center, Baltimore MD, Aug 2018. Note the facial details including mustache, eyelashes, even the shape of head and skin folds at the back of head. Portraits in the silhouette frieze would show accurate, yet artistic representations of community members as a temporary or permemant installation. Each participant would take his/her silhouette home as well.
  • A boy with his silhouette

    An example of how freehand-cut silhouettes can look very much like the sitter - in less than 2 minutes of the sitter's time. I cut this silhouette freehand with only scissors, as all silhouettes are cut. Dec 2018
  • Recognizable community members

    Leaders of a community might be easily identifiable when silhouetted and then installed or exhibited. This is not only a way of identifying their likeness for future generations, but to place the person in that room at that time. Shown here: historian Cheyney McKnight, well known for her portrayals and teachings about enslaved and formerly enslaved individuals. Silhouette taken May 2019.
  • African American Woman

    Silhouettes in the frieze would be detailed, respectful, and small, thus allowing for many faces to be shown in the installation. My hand show the relative size of the silhouettes. An average size room's silhouette frieze might include 80-100 silhouette portraits just on one wall. There are an untold amount of places that a silhouette frieze can be placed.
  • Caucasian Woman

    Details of faces and ethnicities are identifiable, especially for a community looking to see their own on a wall. This caucasian woman's features are unmistakable.
  • No Lines

    Silhouettes are cut freehand with scissors without drawing first or using any shadows. This blue-scrap of paper show that there no lines that help guide the scissors. This tiny silhouette, not much larger than fingers, shows that no shadows were used in the creation. (May 2019). Participants of the frieze of silhouettes are excited to be part of this unique portrait process - whether they are interested in the history of silhouettes or not - and they are excited to take their own handmade portrait home.

Example silhouettes

My silhouettes are cut freehand with only scissors. As this photo shows, the sitter faces sideways to me (presenting the face in profile orientation) and I start cutting on a blank sheet of paper - without drawing first, or using any shadows, or any devices.

There is a story by Pliny the Elder (500 AD) that the first portrait was a shadow, drawn by the maid Dibutade when her lover was going off to war. Our modern silhouettes debuted in written form in 1699, as noted in a diary that stated "Mrs. Pyberg took my Likeness today". Since that diary mention, silhouettes (or by their original name "Likenesses") have been a quick and more economical way to create portraits than their expensive and socially advanced cousin, the painted portrait.

In our modern culture of the 21st century, outside of artist communities, many believe that items are rarely created by hand anymore. They expect some external device to assist in the creation of portraiture - whether by photo or shadow - until they witness the process with their own eyes.   I am thrilled to break such preconceived ideas all around the world and amaze people by cutting silhouettes in 90 seconds, without drawing. I want to connect people to their faces once again with every curve and angle I create to show them their outward beauty as I see it. Enclosed are a few examples of my work. More examples can be seen on my website and via my social media links.
  • Man and his Silhouette (Photo 1 of 2)

    It's rare to retain images of both the person and his/her silhouette to make a comparison. This example shows the level of detail which can be created in under two (2) minutes, freehand with scissors. The next image in this Project is the final result of this sitter.
  • Man and his Silhouette (Photo 2 of 2)

    This is the final resulting silhouette of the previous photo of the photo of the man (and his silhouette). There are many details to choose when cutting, plus the details of how to present him. This particular man is very broad through his chest area, plus with a particular hairstyle and pointed, small features. It is important when starting any silhouette that I identify details rapidly and then commit to cutting immediately, while retaining the lifelike qualities that would identify him to his loved ones.
  • Boy and his silhouette

    This is another example of the silhouette compared with the person it represents. In contrast to the previous photos of the man's angular silhouette, this little boy presents with roundness. Rounder curves are less forgiving when creating a silhouette because if any curve is cut wrong, the likeness can be ruined.
  • Copies

    Two copies are produced when silhouettes are cut. For 200 years, silhouette artists retained one copy while giving the other copy to their customer. The more ambitious silhouette artists had their copy signed by the sitter, especially if their sitter was famous in his/her own right; these signed copies were kept most often in an archive book of their work. While I retain the tradition of cutting two silhouettes, often I might sell the other copy to the customer for their own gift-giving.
  • Large and small

    The scissors shown here seem more like as described by Diderot's Encyclopédie, the late 18th century book of items of domestic arts and industry. It is very difficult to use long blades when cutting silhouettes: the blades get caught in the off-cuts of paper, and turning the paper around in the opposite hand is difficult when using long blades. I cut this tiny face - a caricature of a face - without any model, testing the scissors. This silhouette is like a "doodle with scissors". The size of the face is about the size of my thumbnail, less than 1.5" long.
  • Melbourne (Photo 1 of 3)

    This photo is one of a series photographed by Aron Lee, Melbourne, Australia, 2018. Aron met me at the Lost Trades Fair (seen elsewhere in this portfolio), and asked to take a series of photos of me cutting silhouettes. The photo shoot location: the antique store of Miguel Mereilles, a Portuguese born Australian whose shop features French antiques. Miguel's own profile was so incredible that I asked him to sit for a silhouette - only 2 minutes of his time. The photos of his image were from only this brief session.
  • Melbourne (Photo 2 of 3)

    This is Photo#2 of Miguel Mereilles silhouette, Melbourne, Australia, photo by Aron Lee. As seen in the photo, sihouettes are cut freehand with scissors, without drawing in advance or use of any shadows.
  • Melbourne (Photo 3 of 3)

    This is the final result of the session with Miguel Mereilles in Melbourne, Australia. Photo by Aron Lee. The paper is double-sided: white on one side, matte black on the other. The previous photos showed white side of the paper; this is the opposite side of the paper. The black side of the paper is like the traditional silhouette color we expect of silhouettes.
  • A Waiter

    This silhouette is a thank-you silhouette I cut for a waiter who saw that I had not eaten at a fundraiser gala event I was working. It's common that I work through an entire event - sometimes 2-6 hours - without being able to take a break or eat. This waiter kindly wrapped up a few leftovers for me; I was so grateful for this kindness that I cut his silhouette as a thank you. I wonder how many gifts that Picasso or another artist gave out in his lifetime?
  • Man in Michigan

    This is one of the silhouettes I cut while doing demonstrations. Dec 2019. This silhouette was cut freehand with scissors while I was speaking to an intimate audience of 30 people. Silhouettes can contain a multitude of details, including shirt, jacket, hairstyle, moustache, glasses, relative age, and even posture. Time to cut this silhouette: about 75 seconds. Connecting the visitors to history: priceless.

Artist residency, installation of a historical scene and live demonstration: ca.1917

The mission of Greenfield Village, which was established 1929 by Henry Ford in Dearborn, MI, is to "provide unique educational experiences based on authentic objects, stories, and lives from America's traditions of ingenuity, resourcefulness and innovation," with the purpose to "inspire people to learn from these traditions to help shape a better future". While this is the officially stated mission, the staff sometimes describes it as "We want to show the many facets of three centuries of American culture and innovation. We want to take what someone expects to see and break that expectation".

In December 2019, I was invited as a guest artist, to present in Greenfield Village a historical scene, and demonstrate silhouettes to thousands of people. My creation of a silhouette artist studio around 1917 broke with the established expectation that silhouettes should be presented as a quaint colonial offering from a time before the invention of cameras.

I researched and presented a 19-teens story of silhouettes as a facet of the contemporary American culture, which at the time had gotten used to the ongoing invention of new objects and their subsequent production in factories, and regained an appetite for handmade objects. I connected this to World War I as well as artistic trends such as the Arts and Crafts Movement.

I was given an empty ca. 1808 building, formerly occupied by an early 20th-century agricultural pioneer. I used one of the rooms to set up a ca. 1917 silhouette artist's studio, and set up a second roomto give live demonstrations approximately every 5 minutes for 4 hours per night. Since the event was held at night, I crafted a lighting scheme to simulate natural light while also focusing attention on elements like the informational sign, which helped the visitors to understand and visually explore the room alone.

Visitors spent between 2 and 10 minutes in the Silhouette Artist Studio scene before entering the Demonstration Room, where I was presenting a live demonstration of cutting silhouettes and interpreting at the same time. The Demonstration Room was decorated with my reproductions of  early 20th century silhouettes, including silhouettes created of WWI soldiers, the Prince of Wales at that time, and other silhouettes that showed early 20th century life. Many visitors were surprised to learn that such silhouettes were not made from shadows, and also that silhouettes had endured to the 20th (and even the 21st) century.

Every element of the installation was planned and executed by me, from the sign in front of the building, to the display and lighting, to the canvas informational sign in the artist studio. I researched all historical elements, including contemporary artist clothing and studio decor, and developed my own version of a 19-teens silhouette artist studio.

The Greenfield Village and Henry Ford Museum staff have repeatedly expressed their appreciation for my ability to work autonomously, produce remarkable setups, and presentations that have a lasting postive effect on visitors. At such a busy museum, with so many facets, exhibits, buildings, staff, volunteers, and many thousands of guests each day, it is very important that an outside contractor can be trusted to uphold the institution's mission and purpose.

Visitors are emotionally transported out of their daily thoughts and into the past. We, the re-creators of the past, must seamlessly connect the modern-day visitors to the temporary "alien" feeling of residing in the past with us. 

  • Night sign

    Greenfield Village's Holiday Nights event lights its buildings almost entirely with lanterns, candles, or bonfires. This is the nighttime look of the house (built in 1808) containing the silhouette studio. I wrote the text for the sign; it was approved by the museum exhibits department and then printed. It is important to note the visitor experience in a [dark] village of old houses and buildings lit only by lanterns and bonfires; for many people, the details of this village can be life-changing.
  • Empty room, before setup

    The house seems large on the exterior but only has two large rooms on the ground floor. Both rooms were completely empty when I received them. This is the first (entry) room. The second room looks similar. I am showing this empty room to contrast with the final historical scene that I created in the next photos.
  • ca.1917 Silhouette Artist Studio (left side)

    This is the first room - the room shown as empty in the previous photo - set up as a silhouette-artist studio ca.1917. I researched artist studios from the turn of the century, comparing similar and different elements. This room feels as if an artist just just gotten up from the chair (after leaving paper cuttings on the floor). There are details of early 20th century life scattered around the room. The room was lit by Edison bulbs, candles, and 2 hidden spotlights. I brought from MD to MI all the supplies, details, and items to install in this scene.
  • ca.1917 Silhouette Artist Studio, right side

    This is the right side of the ca.1917 artist studio. (The left side of the studio is shown in the previous photo). I decorated the scene for period holiday time, including these details silhouettes, silhouette books (published in that decade, antiques), candle, and a handmade paper-chain. There are also silhouettes that I cut, hand-folded Monrovian paper stars, and a "Votes for Women" pennant which connects the viewer back to the era.
  • Informational sign printed on canvas

    The ca.1917 silhouette artist's studio was not going to be manned - I was demonstrating in the next room - so I wanted visitors to learn about silhouettes using an interpretative sign. However I wanted a sympathetic connection to the secene, so I had my text printed onto canvas ("giclee print") and displayed in an artist easel. The background texture of the sign simulates old dirty canvas. The text is a basic overview of 200 years of silhouettes, featuring artists' work from the past.
  • Chair (detail)

    I wanted the vignette to look like the silhouette artist had just walked away for moment. I placed both chairs in the perpendicular manner needed to cut a silhouette (the sitter facing away from the artist), but added scraps of paper "off-cuts" on the floor. "Off-cuts" are the paper scraps of after the silhouette was cut. The nearby wooden briefcase - seen in the upper left-hand corner of the photo- was handmade for me from my own designs.
  • "Offcuts" (detail)

    Detail photo of the trash left on the floor in the artist studio. These paper scraps were placed on the floor between "the artist" chair and "the sitter's" chair. I'm not actually a messy artist - I had to collect and curate paper "off-cuts" to make a convincing display.
  • Handmade Paper Chain (detail)

    As detailed in a previous photo, the right side of the ca.1917 Silhouette Artist Studio had a paper chain hanging from the ceiling. I handmade the paper chain from simulated and authentic newspapers dating 1830-1918. The many newspaper eras was purposeful - I wanted to simulate finding newspapers in this ca.1808 house and cutting them up to make this chain. Living history museums from across the US donated simulated newspapers to this cause.
  • Lamp, with handmade "shadows"

    This is a photo of me in the ca.1917 artist studio, cutting a silhouette, next to a lamp of silhouettes on a lampshade. In the 19-teens, a silhouette artist named Beatrix Sherman ("The Girl who Cuts Up") developed a series of new ideas how to use silhouettes in everyday life and decor; one idea was to create silhouettes to decorate lamps, Valentines boxes, and other decorative objects. Ms.Sherman's actual ad is reproduced on the paper below the lamp. I am wearing a simulation of women-artist's clothing from the era, as seen in primary-source images.
  • Table detail with wax sealing and dip pens.

    The detail in this walk-in vignette is hard to capture with photos or video. On the table in the Artist Studio room, details included hand-written letters sealed with wax, dip pens and ink, wax sealer, 3-min sand-timer, an old toolbox, feathers from wild turkeys in Virginia, a handmade drinking vessel, and a face cast. Each element has symbolism why they are placed into the vignette, but also meant to feel like a lived-in room.

Lost Trades Fair Australia: 2018, 2019

The Lost Trades Fair (Australia) was established to inspire, to educate and to open the minds of the next generation to demand something made by a real person rather than a machine, and to think about sustainability and longevity of what we buy and use. The LTF brings into one location artists of lost and rare trades demonstrating and sharing their skills, talent and craftsmanship. It is possibly one of the most inspiring and authentic shows in the 21st century. All LTF craft, beverages, and food must be made in Australia. The Fair is privately owned and operated in three different Australian states, at different times of the calendar year: Victoria, Queensland, and New South Wales. The Lost Trades Fairs attract about 40,000 visitors in only six total days per year.

With less than three non-Australians participating each year, and with the focus on old and rare trades from Australia, my goal was to present Australians with their own history of silhouettes, and offer the opportunity to visitors to experience this extremely rare portrait form in the context of the LTF's mission. 

I researched Australian history in general and Australian silhouettes to better support questions from visitors. I developed specific signage to account for the Australian culture and a brief e-book of Australian silhouettes to show on site.

Ignoring the jetlag and demonstrating a passion for hard work, my efforts to educate the visitors about Australian history and culture paid off and I was accepted as part of the Lost Trades "family." My American accent was recognized but due to my preparations, most people did not realize that I didn't live in Australia.

  • Lost Trades Fair video

    This 2018 promotional video by Chris Appleby features artisans and descriptions of the Lost Trades Fair in Kyneton, Victoria, Australia. Chris is an tndependent TV producer/editor based in Melbourne, Victoria. Lauren Muney of "Silhouettes By Hand", Baltimore MD, is a guest international artist - 2018, 2019, and 2020.- she can be seen speaking in this promotional video.
  • eBook of Australian silhouette examples

    I made this PDF eBook with permission by the Sydney Living Museums to present examples of Australian silhouettes during my interpretation while presenting at the Lost Trades Fair. eBooks are more convenient than scrapbooks especially when flying across the globe, with limited luggage weight and space. As I am commonly working with museums, it was important to keep most museum citation information in case any details were needed for context. I was able to visit several of these silhouettes in person, including the scrapbook listed in the pages, at the Museum of Sydney and other locations. being a Multi- and Inter-disciplinary artist means that I am continually thinking out of the box - frequently, to throw away any box - to connect with visitors, events, producers, museums, and other factors; to be visionary but grounded, immersive but factual, creative yet connected to rules.

    PDF icon eBook of Australian silhouette examples
  • Lost Trades Fair 2020 promo

    I consider this a delightful surprise and an international honor - to be part of the promotional photos for the 2020 Lost Trades Fair in Australia. I was asked to be photographed during the 2019 Lost Trades Fair. I wanted a silhouette in the photo - so I cut my own silhouette to look like the silhouette and I were mirror-images.
  • LTF Tent 2019

    This was my tent presentation at the Lost Trades Fair 2019, my second year at LTF. My setup had to provide many solutions to the problems of long-haul travel: travel-weight restrictions, signage needs, and the ability to demonstrate/interpret even if a visitor was not purchasing a silhouette. So I painted lightweight but attention-grabbing banners, made a pennant-line with my silhouettes on it, and kept signage more educational than commercial.
  • Detail: LTF tent 2019

    Detail photo showing the banners that I designed and painted for the Lost Trades Fair, plus my silhouette pennant. I designed and executed the pennant to show many different silhouettes without the need to bring glass framed examples. All framed examples on the table are made with lightweight cardboard painted gold, and plastic frames replacing the glass; all of these efforts are to cut weight during overseas travel.
  • Lost Trades Fair signage

    This is not a photo of my work, but to explain the popularity of the Lost Trades Fair, est.2013 by a husband and wife, is the second most visited event in Victoria. The event welcomes 24,000 people in 2 days in March. The event has done more to popularize artisans, lost or rare trades, and hand-work more than any other event in the state. It is an honor for me to be involved with an event of this scope.
  • Demonstrating at LTF

    As a demonstrating artisan, my job is to demonstrate and educate about my lost trade - first and foremost. I simply step forward to start demonstrating a silhouette cutting with any passerby. A crowd forms in moments. At the end of the demonstration, they normally applaud; my silhouette demonstration is often the only start-to-finish rare trade that the visitors can see in a short period of time. I am dressed in modern clothing, not any costume - to show the connection of our present day with this rare trade. Photo by Matthias Koch.
  • "Better Homes and Gardens TV"

    This is a screenshot of the segment on Australian TV's most popular show, "Better Homes and Gardens TV", during the filming (and then playing) in 2018. BHAGTV filmed at the Lost Trades Fair (March 2018), and I had a long segment featuring me and the two hosts. (I have a copy of the program but it is long, and I do not have any rights to upload the material online). The segment played on the TV network in Nov 2018.
  • Painting period signs (#1)

    These two photos show the series of sign and banner paintings I made for the Lost Trades Fair and and other events. I created my own designs and painted them on both wood and canvas using acrylic paint. My inspiration was a ca.1855 broadside, from Sovereign Hill Living Museum in Ballarat, Victoria, Australia.
  • Painting period signs (#2)

    These two photos show the series of sign and banner paintings I made for the Lost Trades Fair and and other events. I designed my own signs and painted them on both wood and canvas. My inspiration era was a ca.1855 broadside, from Sovereign Hill Living Museum in Ballarat, Victoria, Australia.

Silhouettes traveling "studio", ca. 1860s, with physiognomy, and phrenology

An element of some of my live appearances is bringing my own tent, creating a "traveling studio" feel, and connecting a cultural element of an era - plus the ability to have silhouette portraits cut. Here is 1860s, during the Civil War, when people are interested in both face-reading (physiognomy) and head-reading (phrenology) as the ability to 'read personality'.

These old "sciences" helped shape the culture of the 19th century, while silhouettes - on the wane since photography studios were being built in the 1840s - was being relegated to nostalgia or novelty. My on-site discussion with visitors about physiognomy and phrenology  helped visitors understand the larger scope of the event. While visitors initially think they are coming to an event about the Civil War, they are unwittingly led into a discussion about the facets that led to the war, and then what happened after the war, which helped shape American culture.

I bring my own 14'x14' tent, set it up alone, and bring all of my own supplies to fill. Many elements of the tent were handmade by me or for me, including my displays, banners, signs, period clothing.

To me, "art" is a confusing term - as is the term "artist". What is art, and what is artist? Are artists tasked with bringing new ideas to our culture, educating people, or creating new ways of seeing? My "art" may be to connect modern people with ideas of the past, to disconnect their concepts of boring history lessons, and to make the past come alive in ways they would not have imagined.

Purpose: To help people discover that learning about the past is interesting Location: Greenfield Village at the Henry Ford Museum, Dearborn, MI Event: Civil War Remembrance Time of Year: Every Memorial Day weekend
Number of visitors:  7000-10000 visitors per day, for 3-days It is very rare to be accepted as an outside vendor at this event. I am both a presenter educating the visitors as well as a vendor creating a product on the spot. I have been participating for approximately 5 years.

  • 1860's traveling artist tent

    I bring my own 14x14 tent, set it up alone, and bring all my own supplies to fill. Many elements of the tent are handmade by me or for me, including my displays, banners, signs, period clothing. I researched the banners and signs designs to connect with this era in history. The sign design is based on ca.1855 broadsides (flyers) which could be printed on letterpress machines. banners and signs often had both large and small text - designed to grab the eye but also convey information.
  • 1860s tent (left side detail)

    The effort of this tent is to educate as well as give the visitors and opportunity to buy their own silhouette portrait if they want. But the effort is to help people understand reading personality from the head (phrenology, as exemplified by the ceramic bust and the large canvas) and by the facial features (physiognomy, as exemplified by the canvas panel with the noses).
  • Physiognomy Noses (front view)

    I handmade this physiognomy 'chart' of the nose as a similarity to the phrenology head so popular since the 1840s. I consolidated books about 18th century physiognomy to create just a facet of face-reading - to show just the nose. Visitors are intrigued by comparing their own noses to 'scientific' noses as seen in this display. Visitors often crowd around the noses to talk to each other about the "personality" stated about each nose. I hand-formed the noses using Fimo clay, baked the noses, and wrote each nose description from modern physiognomy texts.
  • Physiognomy Noses (detail)

    Detail of physiognomy noses: I handmade the noses from Fimo clay, simulate real noses that match the clear personality listed for that feature. The descriptors on the Physiognomy Chart are meant to spark discussion, especially about prejudice through the centures regarding facial features. The Physiognomy Chart is a favored experience of visitors. The staff of Greenfield Village trusts that I will bring interactive, immersive yet valuable experiences to their events - helping them fulfill their mission to teach visitors about American innovation.
  • "Heads in History" stand-up presentation

    When I present physiognomy and phrenology together in a living-history setting, I talk to individuals or a small group using this presentation as a stand-up illustrated interpretation. I researched the subjects, chose primary source images in the public domain, mounted and them on matboard.
  • "De humana physiognomonia" (1586)

    This is a detail from my "Heads in History" stand-up presentation mounted on matboards: this is "De humana physiognomonia" (1586), a treatise on human physiognomy - judging human character from facial features. (author: Giambattista della Porta, 1535-1615). My "Heads in History" presentation starts with the ancient Greek understanding of the human brain, and traces our interest in prejudgement/prejudice to up to almost the 20th century.
  • Phrenology Chart, 19th century

    This is a detail from my "Heads in History" stand-up presentation mounted on matboards: this is a copy of a primary source Phrenological Chart of a phrenologist working in England, ca.1870. Mrs. Hamilton was one of a number of female phrenologists. Phrenologists believed that the shape and size of various areas of the brain (and therefore the overlying skull) determined personality. (credit: Science Museum, London). My "Heads in History" presentation takes the listener to understand our cultural journey from prejudice to self-improvement.
  • Physiognomy Chart and letterpress block

    I wrote, designed, and printed with letterpress this Phyisognomy Chart based on the primary source Phrenology chart in the previous photo. There is no record of physiognomists using a written chart when giving a physiognomy reading; I have created this on my own, to give visitors something to take home. The physiognomy elements listed on the chart are in a type of shorthand so I can explain my "reading" of someone's face, marking the paper as needed, and then interpreting my 'reading' to them. The visitor then had the experience of a reading, the paper to take home.
  • Clothing as interpretation

    Me, in front of my tent in 2017. My period clothing is meant to invite commentary - the red, white and blue apron was often seen during the 1860s as a way to show allegiance to their the Union or Confederacy, as each side's apron was different from each other. While most guests comment on how "cute" the apron looks, I am able to discuss the cultural implications of clothing and even how a divided state, Maryland, was able to show political allegiances using clothing even when it wasn't polite to discuss in the difficult streets.
  • 1860s period clothing details

    Here's an example of my designing an element but not fabricating it. I designed this dress, and it was fabricated by a historical seamstress, Kay Demlow of Lavendar's Green, in Oregon. Every clothing article element is period-correct - from the hoops underneath the skirt, to the material, to the undergarments and shoes. The idea is to "bring history to life". I worked with Kay by phone and text to decide fabric and period style - dated to around 1858.

Rolling Table for Events - From conception, to design, to reality

Part of being an artist is the ability to notice problems and design solutions. Easy access to supplies of paper, cardstock, envelopes, glue, and other needs is hindered by lack of pockets in most women's clothing.

I designed the following rolling table that allows me to:

  1. store supplies for silhouttes
  2. provide a surface for gluing silhouettes onto cardstock
  3. allows me to rove (move around) an elegant event, so guests don't have to line up
  4. be small enough to move within a crowded room
  5. be stylish enough to fit in any event
  6. disassemble for travel or storage
  7. able to withstand the rigors of heavy travel - prepared corners and surface
  8. be a custom height, or change heights if needed

I designed and sourced the table and supplies. It was built by Jim Frank (Laurel, MD). It has been to New York City twice by train, and countless times by car. It has so far succeeded in all its goals.

  • Design for Rolling Table

    This is the notebook design that I submitted to Jim Frank for fabrication. Along with the notebook page, I included pages from a private Pinterest Board that I made with ideas and sources.
  • Completed Rolling Table

    This is the final rolling table. The concept is perfect for my needs, and the style fits into any event decor. The table drawer (seen open in this photo) fits all my supplies, thus allowing me to wear any clothing as an event needs - without requiring any aprons. Since using this table, I have added a simple black bag underneath that can hold the scraps of off-cuts of paper from cutting silhouettes.
  • Pinterest page

    I connected my fabricator, Jim Frank, with my ideas for the rolling table, I made a private Pinterest board that to show my ideas, inspirations, and elements to help him fabricate the table the easiest.
  • Sourcing Materials

    It was important to me not to waste Jim's time to source materials. The resources that I found online included drawer pulls, corner hardware, and wheels. Therefore I looked up all resources, "pinned" the sources using Pinterest, priced out the supplies, and also gave alternative resources should one resource not be available. So while Jim had the hard job of actual fabrication, I pre-solved some issues before he even began work.
  • Dissassembled Rolling Table

    The rolling table was specifically designed to disassemble for travel as well as storage. The final table can fit into a small carry-on-sized suitcase, especially for travel on trains, or rolling into corporate event spaces for use at galas, fundraisers, or parties.
  • The Rolling Table in Situ (New York City)

    I traveled to NYC by train, with the table dissembled in a suitcase. I was able to walk through NYC with the table in this suitcase, unpack and have ready in 5 minutes, then prepare my supplies for the event. The New York Design Center staff was intrigued by the table, my preparations, and the ease of my travel, as well as the silhouettes which I produced at the event. The table can easily fit into any decor, including this ultra-white, ultra-modern decor on the 16th floor of the New York Design Center.

Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery Appearance Nov 2012

In February 2012, only 4 years after my public debut cutting silhouettes, The Smithsonian Institution hired me to cut silhouettes and present the history of silhouettes at their Black History Month family program in their covered courtyard between the two museums Smithonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery.

Working with the Smithsonian public programming director, we decided that I would present the silhouettes in 18th-century period clothing, and talk about silhouettes in the our late Colonial and early Federal eras. Although the modern museum and atrium didn't fit with the 18th century, I knew that my table could be considered a little 'island' of the 18th century in the large room. By featuring this era, I could talk about early 19th century manumitted [formerly] enslaved African American silhouette artist Moses Williams who made silhouettes in Philadelphia (ca. 1804) at the museum of Charles Willson Peale, thus tying together the 18th century success story of a successful Black American.

Because I assumed there would be long lines at this special event, I also made a special display of "physiognomy" - face-reading as a method to understand a person's personality - as a way for visitors to pass the time while waiting in line for their silhouettes. (More on physiognomy in this portfolio project  on Greenfield Village 1860s)

There were very long lines; from the moment I start cutting the silhouettes, the line continued to grow until the museum closed. I stayed overtime to finish cutting all silhouettes of the people standing in line. 

After cutting the silhouettes, the Smithsonian stuff quickly rushed me into a room to videotape an interview for their Traditional Artist video series. The video is enclosed.

  • Smithsonian Institution Education "Traditional Artist" Video series: Silhouette Artist Lauren Muney (Interview, Feb 2012)

    From the posting on the "Smithsonian Education" YouTube Channel: "Artist Lauren Muney cuts silhouette portraits freehand, a traditional method gained from reading historical texts. Watch as she explains her technique and its historical significance.
  • Little Boy at Smithsonian Event

    This photo was taken by the Smithsonian photographer. A little boy takes his silhouette portrait very seriously. Feb 2012.
  • Girl at Smithsonian event

    Girl being silhouetted at Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, Black History Month Family Day, Feb 2012
    This photograph from the Smithsonian photographers. This girl was also very serious when being silhouetted at the Smithsonian Black History Family Day, Feb 2012.
  • Complete Colonial outfit

    This is the full 1770's clothing as seen in the Smithsonian photos. While the Smithsonian seating only allowed me to be seen from the waist upward, I still dressed in full Colinal manner from the underclothes and shoes outward.To connect people with a past era, it can be important to dress and present from that era.
  • Colonial Clothing (detail)

    Detail of my 1770s Colonial clothing, for presentation at the Smithsonian. I hand-trimmed the hat (banding in silk ribbon, adding period-authentic bows, decor, and holdings) and hand-painted my banners and signs.It is important to present an immersive experience for visitors if the event producers want to give an authentic appearance. Event producers - especially museums - appreciate authenticity, along with trustworthiness of the artist and of the presented material.

Selected example experiences, 2009-2019

These few photos show sample experiences of silhouettes events.  Where possible, the dates and locations are mentioned. Some photos are connected to one another.

  • A Love Letter To Letterpress

    The video is my love-letter, the video was made entirely alone, even handholding the camera while cranking the flywheel. The video tells all the information any viewer needs to know. (The final printed pieces are seen in the Project "1860s Tent" in this Portfolio).
  • Coopered wooden bucket

    I believe in trying things from the past to understand the past: I hand-made this traditional maple keeler (bucket) at the Somerset Historical Society coopering workshop, March 2016. The workshop ran Fri night/Sat/Sunday noon. The bucket started out as only strips of wood and 2 strips of metal. I hand-shaped the wood with handtools - no mechanical tools were used - and fit everything together myself. It took 22 hours to learn and execute. The sickle in the bucket is my own - I garden with it.
  • 1914 Dress, for museum events

    I designed this ca.1914 from fashion plates of the era, to use at some of my early-20th-century events. I didn't design the cat (inspecting the dress); he had a mind of his own. The dress was then made by Sarah Cooper Hrechun of T.H.Clothiers. (2017)
  • George Washington's Mount Vernon, Nov 2019

    The granite staircase and natural lighting were so grand that I had to show my display. This is George Washington's Mount Vernon Estate and Museum Educational Center. I was guest artist (11/30/19), cutting silhouettes and presenting interpretation about silhouettes. While working museums, I am often placed in surroundings that are sympathetic to my being in costume - but the modern Education Center had no location with a "historic" feel where to place me. I was in period costume in a modern setting.
  • George Washington (Photo 1 of 2)

    I was working event at George Washington's Mount Vernon in May 2019, in the Lobby location. George Washington (far left) and Lafayette (second from left) were engaging with the visitors. While they spoke, sometimes with excited gestures, I cut both their silhouettes - a challenge for me, since I normally work with calm, relatively unmoving sitters. The experience was as if I was a courtroom illustrator - capturing a likeness when I was able.
  • George Washington (Photo 2 of 2)

    This is the final silhouette made from a speaking and moving George Washington (the actor/interpreter Dean Malissa) during his conversation with visitors. It was my first silhouette portrait cut from afar with a moving person.
  • Colonial Couple, 11 years later.

    This reenactor couple was/were one of the first silhouettes I had ever cut - but these silhouettes were cut 11 years after my first try. At the time of my first cutting, I had been perplexed how to cut braid, bows, tricorn hat, and even how to portrait older people without offending their self-image of themselves. My silhouettes also took 10 minutes to complete when I first started. This set of silhouettes shows that I have taken to the challenges of presenting lifelike details with simple yet poignant details. I can also now cut silhouettes in 2 minutes or fewer.
  • WWI interpreters, Little Rock, AR

    This photo connects the many aspects of my work in museums into one image from the Old State House Museum in Little Rock, AR, May 2019. The museum was creating a free, city-wide community event commemorating Arkansas' contribution in WWI. There were many reenactors dressed to the early 20th century, interpreting to the vistors. The museum also prints up a newspaper for every living history event they made. I made this image vignette from silhouettes I cut of their interpreters, on the background of their own simulated newspaper.
  • Harvest Festival (photo 1 of 2)

    This photo is from the Montgomery-County wide Harvest Festival at the Agricultural History Farm Park in Derwood, MD. I was invited to come in early 20th century clothing (WWI era) to help the Harvest festival show harvest celebrations through the centuries of Montgomery County. Oct 2019. Photo by Tony Ventouris for Montgomery Parks (MD)
  • Harvest Festival (Photo 2 of 2)

    This is another photo from the Harvest Festival in Montgomery County, MD (Oct 2019). As mentioned in the previous photo, often my silhouettes at public events are of children. The event photographer, Tony Ventouris, caught me as I spread the silhouettes on my table for the parent to inspect before I glued them onto the final cardstock. I help my customers connect to their family folk portraits for the next 100-200 years.

Selected examples of other design work

Here is a sample of my decades-long career creating visual communication, although my client design work has taken a back seat to my "Silhouettes By Hand" business. My design work runs the gamut from websites, to page layout, to video covers, brochures, business cards, branding, and even directing a video shoot.

  • Christian Harel DVD cover

    Canadian juggler Christian Harel often had me create printed materials for him, 2000-present day. All materials for use in Canada needed two languages - French and English. This is a DVD cover for promotion to booking agents, completed in 2009 or 2010.
  • David Andrew Smith, musician (photo 1 of 2)

    I created the visuals for musician David Andrew Smith for many years, 2009-2017, including CD covers, business cards, flyers, and posters. This busines card design was so popular that he frequently needed reprinting.
  • David Andrew Smith, musician (photo 2 of 2)

    I created the visuals for musician David Andrew Smith for many years, 2009-2017, including CD covers, business cards, flyers, and posters. It was often a challenge to fit all his important information into the format - this one-sheet poster needed so much information but also had to be coherant, cohesive, and feature his sweet, thoughtful, but musical personality. This was a quick turnaround.
  • GardenCore business card (Photo 1 of 2)

    This business card (front and back) needed to connect to not only gardening, but also exercise. The client and I developed the business name and tag lines, while I had free reign to make the card visuals. Date of business card, around 2012
  • GardenCore business card (Photo 2 of 2)

    This business card (front and back) needed to connect to not only gardening, but also exercise. The client and I developed the business name and tag lines, while I had free reign to make the card visuals. Date of business card, around 2012
  • TimTunes (photo 1 of 2)

    This client had an unusual proposition - show and describe all of his characters that he used to perform onstage with symphonies and orchestras, and connect this printed material with his website (that I also designed and executed). The website and the printed material had to be whimsical but not silly, professional yet fun.

    PDF icon TimTunes (photo 1 of 2)
  • TimTunes (photo 2 of 2)

    This client had an unusual proposition - show and describe all of his characters that he used to perform onstage with symphonies and orchestras, and connect this printed material with his website (that I also designed and executed). The website and the printed material had to be whimsical but not silly, professional yet fun.

    PDF icon TimTunes (photo 2 of 2)
  • Somatics poster, Germany, Oct 2014

    I created printed materials for Martha Peterson of Essential Somatics: , an intenationally renown institute. I was her professional coach, branding manager, and art director for 5 years (2010-2015). This is a poster in German for one of her workshops being held in Germany. (designed in May 2014)
  • Pain relief for the world - Somatics video shoot

    I storyboarded and directed an entire video-shoot to create a series of four (4) pain-relief DVDs for Martha Peterson of Essential Somatics: , an internationally renowned institute. This is one of the videos of the series. I was business coach, branding manager, and art director for 5 years (2010-2015)

"Silhouettes By Hand" in the media

Lauren Muney of Silhouettes By Hand, represented in published media:

Lauren's Curated Collection

View Lauren's favorite works from other Baker Artists