The Inspiring Path of a Successful Papercut / Mixed-Media Artist

I find it very interesting to hear artists’ success stories, for there are as many paths to success as there are stars in the rural night sky. Mixed-media artist Nikki McClure has inspired me with her volume of work, going from 300 prints for sale to, well, I’ll let her tell you. Lisa Congdon interviewed Nikki for her book, Art Inc.: The Essential Guide for Building Your Career as an Artist. In it, Lisa gives practical advice on everything an artist needs, including guidance on how to sell and promote your work. She also features artists such as Nikki, who have set shining examples on how art business can be done, and done well.

“Since her early days,” says Lisa, “Nikki has become best known for her self-published yearly calendar that features her signature black-and-white color scheme of papercut art depicting imagery that illuminates her values, including hard work, patience, and nurturing those you love.”

Graphic from Art, Inc |
A graphic from Art, Inc.

Papercut Artist Nikki McClure | Interview by Lisa Congdon 

Nordic Fisherman by Lisa Congdon
Nordic Fisherman by artist/illustrator Lisa Congdon

LC: How did your career as a self-employed artist begin?
NM: Right around the time that I discovered that I loved making papercuts, I declared that I wanted to be an artist. One day, I decided to make a papercut book. I made the papercuts, had photostats taken at a printer (pre-scanner days), pasted the copies down onto paper, and then made copies at Kinko’s. I used a lot of Wite-Out, white tape, and glue! I made 200 copies and shopped them around to bookstores in Portland. From there I just kept making things on a small scale at first and put them out into the world.

LC: How do you sell the originals? Do you keep some of them?
NM: I usually have a show at the end of a series of work. I time it so that it coincides with the calendar or book publication month. I normally sell originals from my yearly calendar at Bryce’s Barbershop in Olympia, Washington, and at Land Gallery in Portland in October or November, and online. I usually keep at least one piece from each series, which makes up the bulk of my traveling museum exhibit.

LC: Why do you self-publish your calendar and some of your products?
NM: In the beginning, self-publishing was all I knew and had access to. I did everything myself, from printing and collating to binding. And then I found out there were machines that did all those things for you, so I started having the work done for me at local print shops. I only produced what I could fund and was capable of supporting. At first I produced 300, and the next year it was 750. Then I did 1,500, then 3,000. Each year it grew. (I produced 18,000 this year!)

Before Nikki could produce 300 calendars, she made that first cut. Perhaps you’ve taken the first steps toward selling your art–but now what? Get your copy of Art Inc. and find out. You’ll be both inspired and educated, and then you can be on your way to 300 prints, 750… the sky’s the limit.

Wishing you happiness and success,


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