Paper cut art: 'There's this magic power in it'

PORTLAND, Ore. - We all remember creating snowflakes with paper and scissors, but for one Northwest artist, her work takes paper craft from childhood activity to a fine art masterpiece.

Nikki McClure uses an X-ACTO knife and paper to create artwork that is as delicate as it is powerful; she uses black and white motifs that come to life using only the elements of line and shape.

"With paper it was kind of like reducing each thing in their elemental form instead of trying to capture all the detail," McClure said. "What makes an apple leaf an apple leaf?"

McClure started doing paper cut art back in 1996 and is a self-taught artist.

Her latest project is a calendar titled Prepare where she makes her visual statement that asks how we prepare children to meet the challenges of the future and adapt to a changing environment.

"The main thing is looking at what it means to be human and how we can focus on positive attributes of humanity that have passed through thousands and thousands of years and carry us in to the next thousand years. How do we survive as a species using our strengths?" McClure said.

For an artist who first started out collecting change and drawing animals just to make ends meet, McClure has survived and adapted to become a full-time artist with a devoted following.

She now has shows every year in Olympia and Portland and has recently been featured at the Oregon Museum of Contemporary Craft. Also, starting Nov. 13, her work will be on exhibit at the Bellevue Arts Museum.

While McClure's art started out as a personal journey to create pictures just for herself, the work has had a lasting impact on those who admire the craft.

"People come to me, about one a show, just crying because the work resonated deep inside them at this point where they really needed it and that's kind of amazing. There's this magic power in it," McClure said.

With her paper reduced to a fine lace of intricate designs, the power of art is in the conversation rather than the raw beauty. "It's all connected," she said, "and there is strength in those connections even though it's what makes it frail."

McClure's artwork is on display at an exclusive show at the Land Gallery at 3925 N. Mississippi Avenue from Nov. 9 to Dec. 2. You can find more about her work or purchase her designs at