Artist Clay Rice carries on family tradition creating silhouette art

jpaprocki@islandpacket.comJune 7, 2013 

  • IF YOU GO

    Clay Rice will cut silhouette portraits for the public from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. June 8 at The Greenery's Antiques and Garden Collectibles Shop on Hilton Head Island. At 2 p.m., Rice will perform a reading and musical performance from his children's books.

    Packages for silhouette portraits begin at $42.

    Details: 843-785-3848, ext. 116, to book a silhouette appointment

For generations, silhouette art has been in the Rice family. Carew Rice was a nationally recognized silhouette artist known for his black-and-white cut-outs of Lowcountry scenes. His grandson, Clay Rice, carries on the tradition. But he's also expanded upon it.

Clay Rice also is a singer/songwriter and a children's book author. "The Lonely Shadow" and "Mama Let's Make a Moon" are intricately illustrated in the silhouette style. During readings, he'll typically play a few complementary songs as well.

Clay Rice, who will give a reading and performance June 8 at The Greenery on Hilton Head Island, discusses how he carries on a family tradition.

Question. I know that silhouette art has been in your family for generations. So how did you pick up songwriting?

Answer. Writing, music and art have always been in my family. My great-grandfather was the editor of The State. He wrote several books. His books were about the outdoors -- sportsman sketches and things like that that were popular back then. My grandfather was an artist and poet and played banjo.

Q. Did your grandfather sit you down and teach you silhouette art or did you pick up on it yourself?

A. He showed me how to do several things when I was young -- barnyard animals and such. I picked it up more later. I really didn't start cutting until my early 20s.

Q. Silhouette art seems pretty rare these days. Do you come across many other people who are doing what you're doing?

A. Not too many. There are people who do cut-outs at the amusement park or something like that. But not on the level of what I do with the children's book and the incorporation of music.

Q. The illustrations in your books are quite elaborate. How long do they take to make?

A. It takes a long time. I'm guessing it took about a year. Some of those illustrations probably have more than 100 hours in them. With every book, my goal is to win the Caldecott (medal for children's picture books). Not that I'll actually win one. But that's the level of effort I want to put in each book.

Q. What do you do if you mess up?

A. It depends on how bad it is. I don't mess up too much because I've been doing it so long. I've got a pretty good feel for it now. I'm going on 33 years. I'd say I'm starting to get the hang of it (laughs).

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