Craft Stars: Nikki McClure, Ace Papercutter
Hello Nikki! I look at your body of work and think of an artist like the British ceramics artist Grayson Perry - someone who has taken a sidelined artform and reinvented it to reflect their own personality. How did you discover papercutting?
Thank you for leading me astray this morning. I have seen some of Grayson's work but had no idea about the full scope, including costumes - I feel a bit drab in my itchy black wool. But then, I work with black paper.
I discovered papercutting by trying it one day. My friend Tae Won Yu went to art school. He suggested I try cutting black paper to get the effect that I wanted. I tried it. It worked and felt so good for my brain.
What tools do you use to create your wonderfully intricate illustrations? And - I have to ask - do you work freehand?
I just use an X-ACTO knife, the Gripster No. 11 blade, and a really sweet cutting mat from Japan. Each papercut evolves from the last. I sketch out ideas and transfer the final sketch onto the black paper using tracing paper. I redraw with pencil, so I can see the lines better, and then start cutting. Some is planned, but it eventually is a mix with lots of freehand decisions.
Ultimately, the blade decides what happens and hopefully keeps everything all connected.
Above: the cover to Nikki's 2012 calendar, "Inherit".
You live and work in Washington State, in the Pacific Northwest of the USA. It's a part of the country known for its mountains, rivers, forests, and of course a dramatic coastline. How has your lifelong relationship with its landscape influenced your work?
Of course, how couldn't it? It is the air I breathe, my source of water and food. All my cells carry it.
Though you've had a book on the New York Times bestseller list, and create journals, cards, and fantastic original books like How to Cook The Perfect Day, you're still perhaps best known for your eagerly awaited yearly calendar. How did this project begin?
Once again, a friend suggested it. I love my friends! They are so smart. I had an art show to prepare for and only a month to do the work in. It was December. "Why don't you try a calendar?", suggested Stella Marrs. So I did. It gave me boundaries. Twelve images. Seasonal. Ta-dah.
The next year I didn't make one, but everyone kept asking. So the next year was the year 2000. I made a calendar for that and have done so ever since. My work is very seasonal, time-based narratives. Even when I am not making a calendar image, my work reflects the natural cycle of this spinning planet.
Above: the slow, peaceful summer of "Steady", an image from this year's calendar.
How did you choose the theme for this year's calendar, "Inherit"?
I was thinking of interdependence. I am not a trained artist - I studied biology. I wanted to show the connections between everything. That is a big task and eventually I ended up with the interdependence of past and future. What we have done effecting the world our children will inherit. I also wanted it to show that it will take hard work. Gloves on and sweat beading on brow to start fixing things. NOW.
I also inherited land last year and it is full of ivy. We are reclaiming the land and replanting it as a native forest. Big theme and real life. There is a lot of ivy to pull. Come on over!
Above: Nikki at work in her studio in beautiful Olympia, Washington. Photo by Lisa Owen.
*pauses to book flight*
Well, I have been saving every used X-ACTO blade...but I don't think that would hinder them too much. How about my phone? I have taken two ( now three!) computer calls during the course of typing this. A zombie still would have that uncontrollable need to answer a ringing phone....maybe I am a zombie already.
Highly doubtful - but thanks for that, Nikki!
[All images © Nikki McClure and Lisa Owen]