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Best of Olympia 2011 Readers' Pick: Nikki McClure

You chose Nikki McClure as Best Visual Artist

Nikki McClure: She’s humble, amazing and prolific. COURTESY PHOTO

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Perhaps it's no wonder papercut artist Nikki McClure was voted Olympia's Best Visual Artist. Her work seems to be everywhere, from people's chests to kitchen walls to the covers of Olympia's storm drains.

"Maybe it's the most popular or the most identifiable, not necessarily the best," McClure says. "There are some amazing artists in our town."

The modesty is part of her quirky, wholesome charm, but it's misplaced: After 15 years of developing her unmistakable style, McClure has hit the big time. Her books are being published by mainstream publishers, she designs T-shirts for outdoor-chic retailer Patagonia and her first museum show, a retrospective, opens in August at Portland's Museum of Contemporary Craft.

McClure's bold yet detailed papercuts, each cut from a single sheet of black paper, are set in a world of natural wonders - lush gardens, laughing children and flocks of birds, butterflies and umbrellas.

There's a message in her work, a message about slowing down and appreciating the small, the real, the close to home.

"I like to make stuff. What the world needs is not more stuff," she says. "But I make it in such a way that it's all 100 percent recycled. I make it as local as I can.

"It's still stuff, but it has some goodness to it."

McClure's stuff is turning up in more - and more unlikely - places. One of her latest projects was creating art of the state flora and fauna to decorate the cubicle markers at the new State Data Center.

But more distasteful to the artist are the tattoos her work inspires. She regularly receives requests for permission.

"I say: ‘OK, but it's going to hurt, and it's permanent, and your mom probably won't like it.

"When you make something that is put into a public sphere, you can't control the way people respond to it," she says.

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