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The Artisan revisited.

Lockdown isn’t all bad. Theories can be tweaked between bouts of John le Carre, long, long bouts.


The Artisan may have travelled with the Agricultural Show circuit. Cutting stencils or silhouettes, a small display for sale.

Click and see what 1933 looked like.

The Sydney Royal Easter Show, 1933

Could you see the Somerton Man fifteen years younger and working that traffic? Even the ring touts were well-dressed.

The fellow in the header pic, the round-faced man of about .. thirty? Thirty-five ? He worked the big shows as a silhouette cutter. Like Adelaide’s in 1948.

From Trove:

The Royal (Adelaide) Show, 8 September 1948


Time for a breather … I mean, there’s a youthful likeness isn’t there. Shave off a couple of stone. The hair looks almost curly. The nose doesn’t need any work and the tools can be made to fit. He has very big hands and he’s in Adelaide at the right time. And he’s built. 

I wish I had a suit that fitted that well

.. but


Alas ..

The round-faced man is American-born S. John Ross. His short bio follows.

The Advertiser, August 2017.

And who remembers the Silhouette Man?

For something like 60 years, American-born S. John Ross stood near the stage in Centennial Hall and cut out his silhouettes. He started touring the Australian show circuits in about 1948, after settling in Australia after the war.

Over the next six decades, he became a legend of various shows around the country, both city and provincial, travelling the length and breadth of the continent with his famous scissors, cutting out silhouettes for the people of Australia. S. John Ross was still travelling on the show circuit when he died in 2008, at the age of 89.

An artist whose medium was a pair of scissors and a sheet of black paper.

He wasn’t our man at all – but he showed us what he used to cut silhouettes.

Scissors and black paper. This is Ross in 1989. Note the big hands.



One Comment Post a comment
  1. dude47 #

    I spent a couple of years in the 80s working as what we called a “Showy” which was basically what the yanks call a “Carny”

    I knew John a little bit. Had a great technique of roping in the punters. Would basically just pay you a compliment as you walked by and when he got your attention offered you 2 silhouettes for the price of 1.

    In truth no-one ever paid full price He just doubled layered the paper thus producing 2 in one hit which he put in little cardboard frames..

    Im sure 99.9 % of his silhouettes never left the car glove box but no-one seemed to mind . The man was so charming its was worth the few bob just to have a chat with John as he speedily made your silhouette with lightning fast hands and told you how handsome or pretty you were in his thick American accent.

    Lovely man and was a revered as a legend on the circuit.

    April 21, 2020

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