For award-winning cut-paper artist Nikki McClure, the perfect day would likely start off with one of her husband Jay T’s homemade waffles. It would be topped with fresh fruit — foraged or farm market blackberries or neat slices of late summer nectarines. Or he might make his giant blueberry pancakes — pancakes that fill the whole pan, flipped with a giant spatula. Mmmm!
These nourishing, homemade mornings are an important part of Nikki’s inspiring, free-spirited lifestyle that’s marked by weekly visits to the farmers market, cooking, eating and playing outdoors with her son Finn, foraging for fruit, afternoon swims, astute observations of her rural environment, and hours of meditative work in her studio, where she captures the essence of bird, leaf, branch, sky, the turning of the seasons, and a myriad of other everyday wonders in her amazingly beautiful, intricate papercuts.
Nikki’s latest release, Apple (Abrams, 2012), is a stunning, sweet-to-the-core homage that represents a full-circle moment for this self-taught, self-made artist who’s never waited “to be chosen.” It contains Nikki’s first-ever papercut, which was originally part of a 1996 self-published, hand bound book and tracks the seasonal peregrinations of a very fetching red apple from tree to consumption to sharing to composting to sprouting anew.
Along with her award-winning, To Market, To Market (2011), a heartening, informative tome based on her local farmers market in Olympia, Washington, Apple celebrates the inextricable connection between the human world and the natural world by examining the food we eat, grow, cook, distribute and share.
I know you’ll enjoy learning more about Nikki’s relationship with food and seeing where she lives and works. She is still very much the child lying on a hill side, feeling the earth spin, reveling in birdsong. A creative life lived with pure intention, sustained by simply cooked good food, shaped by honest hard work and guided by environmental stewardship translates into masterful, soul-nourishing art with universal resonance.
It’s good to be reminded that just like a papercut picture created from just one sheet of black paper, we’re all wondrously connected and should always honor and nurture our interdependence. Is that apple pie I smell?
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♥ AT THE TABLE WITH NIKKI MCCLURE ♥
Were you interested in homegrown produce, farmers markets and cooking as a child? Who or what inspires you when it comes to growing, cooking, and eating food? Who taught you how to cook?
Yes! I remember nibbling parsley from my Grandmother’s garden . . . though I think that is all she grew. I would eat lunch in anyone’s garden. Now it’s like inviting a raccoon family over when my family drops by!
My mother worked and it was just her and my sisters. So I cooked a lot. I made scrambled eggs as well as sour cream with mushrooms over noodles and that’s about it. Sometimes I would tackle a Jiffy bake mix. I didn’t have a teacher. Only now do I have teachers by watching my friends cook and eating out. Reading Alice Waters’ The Art of Simple Food made everything so much easier.
Also, I tried to sell plums on the street corner with the bathroom scale to weigh out pounds. “Plums! Plums for Sale!” 8-year-old’s farm stand.
What’s your favorite childhood food memory?
This is a tough one. Breyer’s chocolate mint ice cream that I could only get when we visited my dad for the summer on the East Coast. My birthday is in July. It made up for no friends at my parties. Now you can get it on the West Coast.
I also have green bean memories and a scar on my knee to show my 6-year-old love. Spreading peanut butter in celery at my Grandma’s kitchen table and opening the can of black olives for Thanksgiving.
Describe your perfect day in terms of food.
A Jay T waffle with possibly the last nectarine of the year sliced over it (if only you could know that this is the LAST one . . . ) and maple syrup, black tea with a bit of Finn’s milk poured in (raw, 10% fat???)
Apple from tree
Fried egg over kale greens and garlic with some quinoa thrown in too and some leftover apple pie
Apple from tree
Chocolate and cold tea
Finn comes home from school and runs down to beach with fishing pole and tries to catch a salmon. They are leaping all over, huge beautiful, full fish bodies. I swim, for second swim of Autumn . . . last swim of summer??? No fish is caught but I have some salmon from Steve in To Market, To Market.
Salmon, green beans, corn, wee baked potatoes, tomatoes sliced, green salad, in summer hanging onto sunshine evening, outside with bones chilled from swim
Then another warm apple pie.
You say that the first picture in APPLE is the very first papercut you ever made. What prompted you to pick up an x-acto knife rather than a paint brush?
I had been using a knife to draw for some time in order to temper the detail obsessed qualities within me. I tried scratchboard, but could still go crazy over details, then linocuts were tried – and I am a messy, impatient printer who could carve fine detail . . . so one day there was a desire to make a book and a friend beside me who had gone to Art School, and he suggested I try making it with papercuts. I tried it and it felt really, really good in my brain. It is meditation and creation. And no messy ink!
When you made your first two food-related papercut books over a decade ago, the term “foodie” didn’t exist. Do you consider yourself a foodie? Why or why not?
Yes. I think about what I eat, how to get it, and how to cook it, and whom to eat it with but I’m not too snobby about it. I just like good, fresh food, so come on over! Simply cooked or just hand me a fennel bulb to gnaw on and I’m happy.
I’m also an avid forager. That pastime used to be the only one, then it was lost, and in a decade it will be all the rage. No more can openers! That’s a new poster I should make.
Americans seem more interested in food than ever before, yet for many people, more time is spent watching and enjoying others cook than actually cooking. What do you think of the current obsession with TV cooking shows, celebrity chefs and gourmet cookbooks? Can you offer any tips for those of us who’d like to embrace a more homegrown, cook-from-scratch lifestyle?
Gluttony. Over-consumption of EVERYTHING. Food, news, people, space, trees, water, speed, information, sugar, the world.
Get soil under your fingernails, shovels dirty, your hands green with kale juice.
Dig, sow, reap, feast. Pretty simple.
Olive oil and salt help too.
What did you get from the farmers market this week? Tell us about one of the dishes you cooked, how it was shared, and how you felt about the experience.
Steelhead salmon from Steve (no more King or Sockeye – boo hoo!), smoked salmon wings (drat, should have had that for lunch), corn, carrots, kale, lettuce, green beans, fennel bulbs to chew on, the last nectarines, Blue Heron Bakery brownie/cinnamon roll/Turbo Cookie, celery . . . hmmmm, am I forgetting anything??? potatoes.
I made the dinner above. Very simple cooking, beans and corn thrown in together, beans squeaky and corn crunchy. Potatoes baked with apple pie. Grilled salmon, easy, good, and completely September 24th.
We are having a late summer so we ate outside, trying to ignore sounds of leaping salmon taunting us. Then we went for a walk in the woods and feasted on huckleberries and said goodnight to the sun.
What’s the story behind Jay T’s giant blueberry pancakes and waffles? Does he have any other specialties?
Jay T started making pancakes 20-25 years ago. He would set up in Grateful Dead shows and make pancakes for hungry hippies. He has a giant spatula that someone gave him that he still uses from those days.
He picked blueberries from the abandoned farm . . . and to save time just poured it all big so he’d only have to flip one. He makes up a big gallon jar of mix. All the layers of grains is beautiful like the earth. Then he shakes it all up and uses it for pancakes and waffles. He’s branched out now and mostly makes waffles by popular request (you can fill each hole with syrup). He found a cast iron waffle maker and life is sweet.
I just wake up and it is all settled: waffles.
We’ve been talking about how Obama makes decisions by letting the day to day small decisions go. It’s no big deal: blue or black suit = easy, waffles or . . . waffles = easy. Then you have brain power to make big decisions quickly and confidently.
Jay T does make a mean German Chocolate Cake, not mean German . . . but mean in a nice way. Oh, and Corn Pudding which is a family secret that you have to be willing to get married for. But that’s about it . . . sorry Jay T.
Please share your favorite apple recipe and tell us why you like it so much.
Apple Pie = because it really is the best.
Go to tree. Shake it. Gather apples up in your shirt tails, or skirt.
Turn on oven to 415 F.
Wash, peel, core, cut up apples. Sprinkle with ¼ c. sugar of your choice, 1 tsp cinnamon, 1 tsp ginger, 2 Tblsp. quick tapioca and let sit for awhile.
2 c. flour, ½ tsp salt, 1-1/2 sticks of unsalted butter FROZEN
Grate butter into flour-mix.
Add 10-12 Tblsp ice water and mix till it is doughlike but not too much (the first crust I tried to make, I opened up the kitchen door and threw it into the street in frustration. It will be ok. You can do it!) Take half and spread out on floured cloth or board, roll out into big circle. Place in pie tin. Fill with apples.
Roll out remaining dough, fold edges in and crimp, roll, whatever is your style. Cut holes in top to vent, again your style. A big heart, wheat, just lots of kissy “x’s.”
Bake at 415 F for 20 min (clean up or call your Mother), then turn down to 375 for 30 min.
Cool a bit and devour but save some for lunch next day.
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written and illustrated by Nikki McClure
published by Abrams Appleseed, 2012
Picture Book for ages 4-6, 40 pp.
*Starred Reviews* from Kirkus and Publishers Weekly
**Selected for the Society of Illustrators Original Art Exhibit in NYC, October 24 – December 22, 2012.
* * * APPLE GIVEAWAY! * * *
For a chance to win a brand new copy of APPLE, simply leave a comment at this post telling us your favorite way to eat apples no later than midnight (EST) Tuesday, October 23, 2012. Extra entries for blogging, Facebooking, or Tweeting (please mention in your comment). You may also enter by sending an email with APPLE in the subject line to: readermail (at) jamakimrattigan (dot) com. Giveaway open to U.S. residents only, please. Winner will be notified by email the last week of October. Good Luck!
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Enjoy this awesome video to learn more about Nikki’s papercut process, inspirations and overall artistry:
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♥ EVEN MORE, PLEASE! ♥
♥ Visit buyolympia.com to purchase wonderful posters, notecards, original papercuts, gift tags, t-shirts, notepads and books featuring Nikki’s beautiful work. A holiday shopper’s paradise!
Her 2013 Calendar is now available. Just purchased one and it is gorgeous!
♥ Heads up, Pacific Northwest area peeps:
“Nikki McClure: Cutting Her Own Path, 1996-2012,” the first 16-year retrospective of her work, will run at the Bellevue Arts Museum, November 13 – February 3, 2013.
♥ Visit Nikki’s Official Website for lots more. Her next book, HOW TO BE A CAT, will be out from Abrams in April 2013! *purrrrrrrr*
♥ Other cool interviews:
- “Seven Questions Over Breakfast with Nikki McClure” at 7-Imp
- Chad Beckerman’s Mishaps and Adventures (focus on her NY Times bestselling All in a Day, written by Cynthia Rylant)
- Design Mom
♥ Wonderful recent article by Stacie Sledge at Thurstontalks.com.
♥ Bonus Recipe from How to Cook the Perfect Day:
“‘The secret to good cooking is 99 percent love,’ said a French chef who created the most perfect chocolate cake that I will ever eat. You can follow recipes exactly, leveling off the cup of flour with a knife, but food must be created with love if it is to be eaten with passion. Food nourishes and electrifies the heart, and it is this spirit that makes us most alive. . . May your heart sing as you cook the perfect day.” ~ Nikki McClure, (How to Cook the Perfect Day).
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This post is being linked to Beth Fish Read’s Weekend Cooking, where all are invited to share their food-related posts: fiction/nonfiction/cookbook/movie reviews, recipes, photos, and musings, etc. Come join in the deliciousness!
**Spreads from Apple posted with permission of the publisher, copyright © 2012 Nikki McClure, published by Abrams Appleseed. All rights reserved.
***All other images and photos posted with permission of the author/illustrator, copyright © 2012 Nikki McClure. All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.