“Silhouettes By Hand” on NPR

Silhouettes By Hand debuted on the radio on Dec 2, 2103, on the National Public Radio station WYPR (Baltimore, MD).

The interview was conducted by Maryland Morning‘s host Sheilah Kast, an enthusiastic, professional newswoman with a silhouettes secret – she herself had been portraited for many consecutive years in her own childhood. It was a family tradition for her brother and herself to have a silhouette portrait made every year.  Maryland Morning airs daily on weekdays, featuring issues of importance to the entire state of Maryland audience – from politics to medical to the arts.

homewoodhallThe date of the interview airing was developed to coincide with an upcoming appearance at John Hopkins University’s Homewood Museum, on Dec 7, 2013.  Homewood is the original ca.1806 mansion and grounds upon which the university campus is located (The main mansion hallway is seen at left). For this appearance, Lauren cuts silhouette portraits in individual private appointments; the December date creates the opportunity for holiday [portrait] gift-giving, while also providing guided museum tours for silhouette customers. Lauren’s appearance in in full ca. 1806 period clothing, adding historical interpretation about the history of silhouettes. Regency

The Radio Interview

Ms. Kast and Silhouettes By Hand’s Lauren Muney attempted to make the visual into the aural. (In other words – how can the radio portray something visual?) Inside the tiny studio recording room, Lauren brought example silhouettes to stimulate the conversation (but obviously not viewable to the radio audience), as well as silhouette-creation supplies to cut Sheilah’s portrait [live] on the air. (Photo at right: The tiny recording room, set up for the interview. Lauren’s silhouette supplies are set up on the table, with example silhouettes nearby on a chair).


Lauren did cut Sheilah’s silhouette during the audio-taping, with the original intent to put the sounds of the scissors on the paper into the interview. Large effort and thought was put into capturing these clipping and paper sounds – which were very intriguing through the headphones. However the sounds of the silhouette being cut did not appear in the final interview segment.

P1020689Since Sheilah could not watch her own portrait being created, the staff helped round up a victim volunteer — the well-known arts newsman, performer, director, and conductor Tom Hall — so Sheilah could view the entire (2-minute) silhouette-creation process that she could not see when her own portrait was being made. (Tom was chosen to portrait for his easily-recognizable profile features).

Details and thoughts about being interviewed/recorded:

Radio studio table

  • Headphones make your own words echo in your head. You don’t have to wear them in the studio, but you can’t hear the producer talking (and giving direction) if you take them off. Feel free to keep taking them on and off, but you might feel silly trying to decide.
  • Sheilah Kast, the host, is quite genial, smart — and very prepared. She did research on silhouettes and even on Silhouettes By Hand before the interview. The interview was like talking to a well-informed, very listening friend.
  • The staff of WYPR is extremely hospitable, polite and professional even when original in-studio interview date was bumped to another date.
  • The original interview was far longer (~90 minutes, including cutting two silhouettes) than the aired interview (~7 mins).
  • Don’t fall in love with anything you say (or do) in a radio interview – it might be cut. Keep repeating this to yourself.
  • Don’t miss the opportunity to take more pictures before or after an interview, because you will have more images to post on your website. (Note the lack of images).

The radio interview:

Silhouettes: The Poor Man’s Portrait

One thought on ““Silhouettes By Hand” on NPR

  1. Ha! You’re right about not falling in love with your interview. I did one years ago for NPR Morning Edition about an exhibit I had done about Popular Mechanics. Apparently there was only time for one exhibit story, and my interview got bumped in favor of a Star Trek exhibit opening at the National Air and Space Museum. Hmm. Mary Seelhorst, or Leonard Nimoy? Even I’d have picked Nimoy. Damn you Spock!

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