We have a calendar in our kitchen. Lisa gave it to us for Christmas, after taking note of the way I pored over it in a store in West LA last year. Ever since we hung it on our kitchen wall, it's had the power to catch my attention and hold it. Even on the last day of the month, when the image has been displayed for weeks, I sometimes just gaze at the artwork as if it were a window, or an icon.
The artist's name is Nikki McClure, and she's been doing these calendars for a few years now, as well as producing cards and books. Her craft is papercutting; she does this stuff with an X-acto knife. She is self-taught. I have never been good at describing visual arts, but the bio on her website characterizes it well: "Her work depicts the virtues of hard labor and patience, which is inherent in her process as well as in the images themselves: weathered hands washing dishes, people sweeping, mothers caring for their babies, and farmers working the land. But there is also a large element of celebration, of taking the time to roll around in the grass and get wet from the early morning dew. The need for all of us to lay down on the ground, grab hold of the earth, look at the stars and dream. She magnifies the importance of simple things, like the change of seasons, slowing down the world for a moment so we can actually taste it."
All that, and she was a Riot Grrrl in the 90s.
Ben is every bit as taken by these images as I am, so before we registered for a single practical baby item, we purchased both sets of posters that are available on Buy Olympia, the website that sells McClure's work (6 for $24!). Of these, three or four will hang in the nursery. The rest will be distributed throughout the house. The "Share Your Table" one in the kitchen, and my personal favorite, "Congregate," which features a hallway full of shoes, will go by the front door.
Oh yeah, that's the other thing about these pictures: they are all accompanied by a word or simple phrase, and the words are as powerful as the images. I have never been much for "affirmations," but I love McClure's imperative yet gentle tone: respond, invest, sustain, encourage.
Nikki McClure and Buy Olympia both granted permission for me to use these images. Please follow the links to check out more of her work, and consider investing in her recently-released 2008 calendar, "Things to Make and Do."