♥ a tasty visit with nikki mcclure (+ a giveaway!) ♥

Originally self-published in 1997, this recipe gift book was released by Sasquatch Books in 2010.

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 studio: working on her next book, HOW TO BE A CAT


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.

“Fall,” Nikki’s first papercut.

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.

Farm market workers making blueberry turnovers!
Yuki sells indigo-dyed napkins at the market.

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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“Cheers” (To Market, To Market)

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.

July: “Delight” (2013 calendar)

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.

Yesterday –

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 fishing for salmon.

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.

Late summer lunch.
Nikki loves to cook outside.
Apricot pies!
Make a fire and cook some more.
Did someone say 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!

Nikki’s chipmunk friend.

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.

“Culture” 14″ x 18″ poster print (click to purchase).

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.

Steve smoking salmon (To Market, To Market)

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.

Sketch for “Barter” (2013 calendar)
Cutting it out.
More cutting.
Finished art for “Barter” (September 2013)

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.

Late nite cereal nosh and reading The Magic Pudding with Finn. Nikki wearing puddin’ snatcher’s hat and crushed clam shell face paint.

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.

Knife-wielding pie maker!

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.

* * * * *

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!

* * *

Enjoy this awesome video to learn more about Nikki’s papercut process, inspirations and overall artistry:

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“Nettle Soup” from How to Cook the Perfect Day

♥ 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:

“Good Morning Forage”


“‘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).

* * * * *

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.


77 thoughts on “♥ a tasty visit with nikki mcclure (+ a giveaway!) ♥

  1. Mmmmm! Fantastic! Thanks for always introducing us to great new authors/illustrators/poets/artists!

    My favorite way to eat apples is raw – particularly Cripps Pink apples. Trixie (my rat terrier) looooves apples, so I share with her. (But I wouldn’t turn away a freshly baked warm apple pie!)


    1. This is fun hearing the names of different kinds of apples. Haven’t had any Cripps Pinks before.

      Check out buyolympia.com — I know you like to shop! Loads of great gift ideas. 🙂


  2. Wow! What a feast for the senses. I can just smell that pie baking! The papercuts are stunning, Thank you so much, Nikki, for sharing such a delicious portion of your good life. And thank you, Jama, for hosting this wonderful artist, foodie. Your review is so beautifully written!
    I love eating apples raw- especially early Macouns- so crisp, tart-sweet. But I also make a delicious apple galette from a Julia Child and Jack Pepin cookbook.


    1. Okay, you’re killing me by mentioning your apple galette. Yum!! I’ve never had Macouns. A good baking apple, best eaten out of hand, or both?

      “Stunning” is a good word to describe Nikki’s papercuts. The detail is unbelievable. I love that she starts with a sketch, but doesn’t know exactly how things will go until she’s actually cutting — a beautiful organic process that’s so instinctual and intuitive. And you have to admire her moxie and philosophy about work — just do it, don’t wait for someone else to call you or pick you. Make your own way!


      1. Macouns are best eaten out of hand, and they have a short season- turning mealy as they ripen 😦 But in their peak, they are to me the perfect apple.
        Just watched the video. Nikki is lovely!


  3. That calendar! Beautiful. Nikki sounds like a poet. Does she write poetry? I like apple slices with peanut butter, caramel apples, apple pie, fried apples, apple turnovers, apple cider donuts. I am pretty much a fan.


    1. LOL! Well, I couldn’t tell how much you like apples by your list. 🙂 I agree with every single one of them!

      As far as I know, I don’t think Nikki writes poetry, unless you count her lyrical picture book texts. But I can see why you thought so — her answers are written like free verse, aren’t they?


  4. Amazing paper work. I don’t think Nikki has really given up those details, but translated into these beautiful pieces makes the details sing! I eat one or two apples every day, and like Tabatha, mostly with peanut butter, sometimes with cheese. I think they really do keep the doctor away! Thank you for so much that is wondrous here, Jama, for sharing some of Nikki’s life here. The pictures of her “outside” are beautiful to see. I lived on a lake once in my life, so know it is lovely to be by the water.


    1. Nikki’s work is so, so amazing and inspiring. Sometimes you wonder how it’s possible for people to create such incredible work — but in Nikki’s case, it’s how she LIVES. It’s all part and parcel — her art reflects her everyday life, and then there’s an art to living. I don’t know many people who make pies outdoors.


  5. Her papercuts are satisfying like good food. Thanks for sharing the images and stories. When I was growing up we ate most meals off of colored enamel plates exactly like the dishes Nikki shows on the picnic table with sandwiches – that picture brought my childhood back to me in a rush. Thanks.


    1. Wow, that’s so cool — two artists who do papercuts who both eat/ate off of the same plates . . . hmmmm. If we hear of a third, this could signal a movement :).

      I thought of your beautiful papercut work while cobbling together this post. Total awe.


    2. Good Morning Julie!! (And Jama!) Thank you for reading (and interviewing!). If you are in Olympia, please stop by and I will serve you nibbles of this and that off of the plates.


  6. Gorgeous! I loved seeing the evolution of the “Barter” illustration. The calendar looks absolutely beautiful. Thanks for sharing!

    Favorite way to eat apples? Raw, if fresh and crisp and tart. And, if not, then baked with cinnamon, sugar, walnuts and coconut (per my 6th grade Home Economics class recipe, still in my recipe file after all these years).


  7. What an amazing lady and the lifestyle she has chosen to lead! Her work boggles the mind; so intricate, so delicate. I’m ordering the calendar as soon as I can. My favorite way to eat apples is raw dipped in caramel sauce or baked with a tab of butter, cinnamon and brown sugar or I love a good apple crisp.
    Boy, I’m craving apples big time now! Thanks for the post Jama and Nikki. Delicious as always.


    1. You’re making apple crisp today? What time shall I come over? 🙂

      I’ve never dipped in caramel sauce. Must try.

      I’m looking forward to using my 2013 Calendar. Each month, a different inspirational word. Our resident foxes are thrilled to be on the cover.


  8. Illustrators are magic. They just *are.* They always seem so sane, centered and happy… unlike writers. ☺ I am CLEARLY in the wrong field.

    How utterly lovely to have examples of the cutting-out portion of this artwork. I would love to try it someday. And the GRAVITY print – is amazing. This has just been a visual feast.

    PS – Homemade applesauce is something you can make in about a half hour. Try it!!!! Apples, a kettle, a teensy bit of lemon juice or water is all you need. A medium flame, and away you go.


    1. I agree — they are definitely magic — and don’t seem to have all the angst that generally characterizes writers. 🙂

      I know homemade applesauce is doable — but I also know I’d rather have you make some for me. . . I really like watching people cook.


  9. i have swooned over Nikki’s work for years and carried her cards and calendars when i was the merc purchaser for my local food co-op. i try to get her art into as many people’s hands as i can. i’ve been cutting wool felt for applique in my young little crafty business, and she’s one of my inspirations to keep growing in what i do. My grandma’s apple crisp is one of my earliest food memories, and Pink Lady and Macs are my favorites for eating. thanks so much ~


    1. Hi Tina,

      How nice to hear from a longtime Nikki fan! Your own work with wool felt sounds wonderful too. Are you on Etsy?

      My husband’s fave is Macs — we don’t have any Pink Ladies here in Virginia as far as I know. I’ll have to check more farm markets just in case :). Warm apple crisp — perfect Fall dessert!


  10. Oh, this post is so swoon-worthy. I was introduced to Nikki via the documentary HANDMADE NATION — which you all should watch — and I’ve loved her work ever since…
    As for apples, I eat at least one and sometimes two every day. Raw. Sliced with cheese. Or sliced on toast with almond butter. Or just whole. But I also love apple crumbles very much…


  11. Fresh off the tree, juicy, snapping, Honey Crisp apple + fresh ground peanut butter = HEAVEN!!!
    Thanks for all of your fantastic, inspirational work, Nikki! I’m a long time fan. 🙂


  12. a whole honeycrisp in my hands is my favorite, but i also LOVE apple crisp! my husband is certain apples are nature’s most perfect food.
    so glad you featured nikki mcclure. i have been following her work for many, many years. she inspires me as an artist, a cook and a mother! love, love, love her!


    1. I’m loving all the passion coming from Nikki’s fans. Your husband is right — apple is nature’s perfect food. Can’t think of any other fruit as versatile for cooking. And Nikki does inspire us all for so many reasons!


  13. Fresh homemade applesauce all pink, tart, and steaming hot. That’s how I like my fall apples best! Thanks for sharing the great interview!


  14. btw, i shared this giveaway on my business and personal facebook pages, too. Jama, thanks for asking about etsy. i have the shop, i just need to light a fire under myself to learn how to list items and charge postage! i have some work in two shops here in montana (tartique.com), and i’m pennycandy handmade on facebook. cheers!


  15. Found you through tina r (thanks Tina!) on FB. Our family makes basically a puffed apple pancake for breakfast which we’ve ingeniously titled “special apple breakfast.” Yum!


  16. My favorite way to enjoy an apple is off the tree of course. My second favorite way is in a pie. And my third favorite way is as applesauce on a grilled cheese sandwitch. Weird I know, but it reminds me of my dad (who is also weird) and childhood. I LOVE Nikki


    1. Oh my, applesauce on grilled cheese? Must try that — I know that melted cheese on apple pie is good so it’ll probably be good too.


  17. Nikki is fantastic! I thoroughly enjoyed this post, the books, the illustrations. She lives in a beautiful world. Thanks for sharing it with us. My favorite way to have apples would be to bake them, with pecans, butter and brown sugar


  18. What an amazing post. Not sure where to begin. I’ve always been fascinated by paper cutting and I love Nikki’s vision and how she is able to capture that in her art. I’d love a copy of her book but I don’t have just one way to love apples. 🙂 I make crisps, crumbles, applesauce, and pies. I eat them in hand, cut them up and drizzle with maple syrup or honey, slice them and eat with Cheddar. I live in apple country and buy them by the bushel!


  19. This post was so very interesting. I grew up in Washington State, and I can identify with the cuisine and the markets Nikki describes in her words and art. My favorite way to enjoy apples is raw (eat the whole thing!) or in pie. Apple pie is the best.


  20. What beautiful art Nikki is creating! I’m fascinated by the paper cutting.. so simple but so intricate at the same time. I love it. Just as meaningful, I appreciate the message and lessons she is conveying to her readers. It is alarming how so few people know from where their food comes, how it is grown, harvested, brought to market and eventually to our tables.

    Thanks so much for sharing! 😀


  21. Such a beautiful post! I got to the end and wanted to scroll back to the top to read/see it all again. My new favorite way to eat apples is in the apple cinnamon buttermilk cake recipe I discovered earlier this month.


  22. this post is inspiring. the idea of simplifying my life so the truly important things can take precedent has been coming up a lot recently. this just gives me another reminder to take it easy and do what i love!

    my favorite way to eat apples: make my own apple jelly and then make it into a swirl for some homemade cinnamon ice cream!


    1. Yum — cinnamon ice cream :)! It’s certainly a wonderful reminder to us all in this day and age of rushing around to simplify, and so important to follow your passion.


    1. I think they should adopt us both — two daughters with names beginning with “J”. We’d be great apple pie baking helpers and eaters!


  23. What an amazingly creative process, Jama. I know about the woodcut artwork of Lynd Ward (I reviewed his The Silver Pony published in 1973 for our wordless picture book theme), but I think the process may be a little different with this one, and it’s sooo interesting to see how everything evolves and is ultimately transformed into the final art piece – such dedication, thoroughness, and skill! I am not familiar with Nikki McClure’s books yet, so I should remedy that soon enough. 🙂


    1. I’m in awe of her work and all the patience, high level of skill and dedication that it entails. It’s beautiful to realize how her unique form of expression so organically evolves from the way she lives her life — there’s a purity about that I admire so much. Also she’s unique in that her art has great crossover appeal — it’s for all ages, it’s highly commercial as well as “artsy” at the same time. Do look for her books!


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