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The Light Files - Cindi Harwood Rose

Cindi Harwood Rose

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She was born an artist. Laura Max interviews Cindi Harwood Rose, founder of Silhouettes by Cindi, one of only a few artist that still create Silhouette art in the world.

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Laura: Hi, everyone. I'm Laura Max, your host of The Light Files on, brought to you by Audi Central Houston. I am here today with a very special guest. Cindi Rose is one of the only remaining silhouette artists; she is the world's fastest silhouette cutter, and she happens to be a very special person in my life. Welcome to the show, Cindi.

Cindi: Thank you. I'm so happy to be here with you.

Laura: So, Cindi, you're actually holding some of your silhouettes. And for those of our viewers who don't know - I know some of you are listening, listening to us on News 92 today, so we'll try to explain. Tell us about silhouette art and what are you holding? What is your art?

Cindi: Well, my art is an art that began about 700 years ago, because portraits were so expensive. They took three months to do and no common person could afford them; it was done for royalty. And a few of the very best portrait artists figured out they could draw with scissors. So even 700 years ago there might have been only 16 real silhouette artists in the world. And what I'm holding is an authentic real silhouette, which is done by looking at a person and cutting it out straight from the paper, in 12 seconds to a minute for me, but other artists take 15 minutes to cut one silhouette.

Laura: So you are the world record-holder. You've cut the fastest silhouette in 12 seconds. You just did mine, everyone, if you can see. This is - she cut this in about 30 seconds; it's pretty amazing.

Cindi: I did. I did 144 people in an hour, timed by the San Antonio Express newspaper in 1981.

Laura: Wow. So you've been doing this for a really long time.

Cindi: Oh, I've been doing it really since I was 16. So that is a long time.

Laura: And this is something - I mean you don't - we have Instagram today; nobody's cutting silhouettes. You said you're one of 38 people maybe living in the whole world.

Cindi: In the whole world. And some of them are not very good. You'll have to look at their work and see. They-

Laura: Well we know you're really good. So how did you get started? I mean you got started a really long time ago. You said you were 16 years old?

Cindi: I was 16 with silhouettes, but I was drawing since I was 2 and creating things, cutting clothes apart and sewing it.

Laura: You've always been an artist.

Cindi: I've always been an artist. I drew portraits and started getting commissioned at 8.

Laura: And now you got your professional start, though, actually at a place that's near and dear to many a Houstonian's heart, right? Astroworld.

Cindi: Exactly. I was so excited. I looked in the newspaper, I wanted a summer job, I was almost 16, and they said they needed a person to be a cashier for the art concession, and it was owned by Disney.

Laura: Oh my gosh.

Cindi: So immediately I thought, "Well, I don't want to be a cashier, but I certainly want to be an artist." So I drew up a bunch of portraits and - only with charcoal pencils; that's all I had - and brought them in and they said, "You're really good, but we use watercolor and pastel." So they handed me a smelly chart of this watercolor like mixture thing and some pastels and said, "Do me." And I drew the man and he was like, "You're great. You're hired. Come to work, but let me show you where you work."

So he showed me this long aisle and there was about 20 portrait artists and none of them were working. And he said, "We get paid 25-percent of what we do." And I started thinking, "Now that doesn't sound so good." But then he said, "Wait, wait, wait. Look, look, look, we have one silhouette artist, we flew him in from France. See what he does." And then he sat down, the manager, and he cut out the manager's profile, the French silhouette artist. And I thought it didn't look that good and I thought, "Well, I can do that." And also they-

Laura: Like easy.

Cindi: Yeah. And also they had this big sign up, they were indoors, it said "silhouette artist," there was only one of them and there were 20 of the others, so they're like, "[laughter] Sure. Show me," and so I just tried to do something. They looked at mine, they looked at his, they're like, "She's better than you."

Laura: And you did it.

Cindi: I did them, and they fired him and then that was-

Laura: And it wasn't soon before you took over the whole place, right?

Cindi: Yeah, after college I owned all the art concessions and I had 40 employees, including building the stands they had, office payroll, their costumes, which I know you would love to create costumes for people.

Laura: Well, pretty amazing for someone who is just 16 while he _______ _______ to come up there.

Cindi: Yeah.

Laura: And since then you have done so much. You've cut the silhouettes of Elvis Costello; many U.S. presidents, to name a few, George Bush, was it the Roosevelt family?

Cindi: Yes.

Laura: And who else? Who else have you cut?

Cindi: Well, yeah, the Roosevelt family my father actually worked for, because he was an older father, so it was from a photo from when he worked there, oddly. But Queen Elizabeth, Barbara Bush, Ashley Judd, Liberace, Golda Meir, Mama Cass Elliot.

Laura: And you all can't see inside of Cindi's home right now, but the silhouettes are everywhere. I mean any real famous person or former president you could dream of, she's probably cut their silhouette in person or from a photo. So how do you put this into practice today? I mean you are still cutting silhouettes?

Cindi: Yes, I'm still cutting silhouettes. I started doing them when my children were little to raise money for their schools, and Memorial High School was in debt, so in two days I could raise $10,000.00. I gave them all my proceeds.

Laura: In two days?

Cindi: In two days. Yeah, I got the whole school to come.

Laura: Very lucrative, if anybody's interested in becoming a silhouette artist.

Cindi: Yeah, so we - I got the drama department _______. I did it for Kincaid School, where Erica was, Awty International. So when my children was little it mostly went to school fundraisers for them. Now I do school fundraisers and I give 25-percent to the school. I just did St. Luke's School and I'm doing the John Cooper School in the Woodlands, River Roads Baptist. There's so many schools, Austin Schools; I do all over the world.

Laura: And you also do weddings as well.

Cindi: Oh, I love to do weddings.

Laura: You have some silhouettes from weddings in your hand, I believe. These are a couple-

Cindi: Yeah, these are from weddings, and then the bags-

Laura: Very special way to start your big day.

Cindi: Well thank you. And I just did an Alice in Wonderland wedding, which I think is really cute.

Laura: Ooh. We had a little accident.

Cindi: So when people have a special theme I like to help them decorate.

Laura: It's so - they're so beautiful and so timeless.

Cindi: Yeah, I like the whole - the theme look better, because I really am into decorating and finishing your theme off, and a lot of the wedding planners don't go all out. You can even hang them on clotheslines, which is really cute behind you. I do a lot of funky weddings, like in the Austin area. And actually I can say New York, London; it doesn't end in just Houston.

Laura: You've traveled all over the world cutting silhouettes.

Cindi: I've traveled all over. Yes, I have.

Laura: So you said to me earlier, before we started the show, that you always wear your beret when you go to weddings because usually you end up getting invited as a guest; people just love you.

Cindi: I have - that's right.

Laura: And that's how they know to find you; you're wearing something special.

Cindi: I do, and I make sure that there's a sign up, "Silhouettes by Cindi." I'm wearing a beret, so that attracts attention. I start it by walking up to a person and saying, "Would you like to be immortalized?"

Laura: Well you are. I mean I feel immortalized in my youth right now.

Cindi: Thank you.

Laura: I'm just going to save this. When I get older you can't cut one for me; I'm just going to keep this one.

Cindi: Yeah. And at weddings I do typically 30 people an hour, and no one else, even a photo booth doesn't do that. Caricature artists are 12 an hour, people an hour. A silhouette artist in New York named - well, I won't say her name, but she only does 12 an hour.

Laura: So where can people find you if they're interested in hiring you for one of their events? I know you're still very active.

Cindi: If they just type in the word "silhouette artist," and they can misspell it, it's very confusing, then my name will come up. But it's Cindi with an I. If they go even further and put "silhouette artist Cindi" that will come up too.

Laura: And is your Web address.

Cindi: Yeah, and they can-

Laura: And they can also - you're also on Facebook as Silhouettes by Cindi.

Cindi: Yes, and they can join me. And I post my schedule. I'm going to Dallas like in two days. I was in Austin a few days ago, Corpus, for foster kids that also can speak.

Laura: You also post some delicious recipes. It's not just silhouettes.

Cindi: I do. Well, I do bronze sculptures over there and painting, oil painting, watercolor.

Laura: You're a woman of many trades.

Cindi: I'm a total artist, my degree from college - and I did this before college - is in art and communications journalism, RTF-

Laura: You've been all over the map. So unfortunately we have to wrap up in just a few minutes, but before we do I want to ask you a question that I love asking artists especially. I think it's so hard to persevere when you're an artist and to keep going and to keep doing what you love. There are so many challenges. A lot of people don't end up doing it their whole lives, like you have. What would you say to an aspiring artist or someone who really wants to make this their life?

Cindi: I'd say if you were born an artist it makes you - it's life, but if you weren't born an artist I can't give you any advice, because I was born that way, so you couldn't stop me. I did get a lot of spankings because of drawing on walls.

Laura: You were born an artist.

Cindi: Yeah. People who tell me, "Oh, I'm an artist and I haven't done it in 30 years." Well, I mean I've done it my whole life. You couldn't stop me; when I was a child I always had a sketch pad.

Laura: So keep doing it. Always, always be practicing.

Cindi: If you're an artist you can't stop them.

Laura: You're true. You can't stop an artist, I have to say.

Cindi: You can't.

Laura: I feel like one myself, and when I don't do my art it doesn't feel good.

Cindi: Exactly. It's your passion.

Laura: Yeah. Well thank you so much for coming on the show today.

Cindi: Oh, it was my pleasure. Thank you.

Laura: This is Cindi Rose, everyone. You can find her on And I am your host, Laura Max, of The Light Files. You can find me anytime on or on Twitter,; Facebook: And always, we're brought to you by Audi Central Houston. And we'll see you next week. Bye, everyone.

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