Nikki McClure, the Olympia artist whose papercuts are known around the world, won’t be participating in Arts Walk at the end of the month.
But you can see what she’s been up to this weekend, when she’ll show some of the papercuts she created for the book “The Golden Thread: A Song for Pete Seeger,” written by The Decemberists’ Colin Meloy.
McClure — whose striking artwork can be seen all over town on storm-drain covers, umbrellas, T-shirts and more — has become internationally famous for her bold yet intricate artworks, each cut from a single sheet of black paper, set against a white background, often with accents cut from another color of paper.
“The Golden Thread’s” papercuts include lyrics from many of the late folk icon’s songs, the letters cut from ribbons of yellow-gold paper that weave through the book like the thread of the title.
The artist took the book’s text “song” — Meloy has said it has no tune — and created what she calls a “visual song,” adding layers of meaning with her illustrations and with the lyrics they include.
“The dynamic spreads evoke both the historic heft of vintage newspaper photography and the soaring beauty of righteous, joyous song,” according to a starred review in Publishers Weekly, while Kirkus Reviews described the book as “positively joyous.”
While researching the illustrations, McClure watched hours of video of Seeger, she wrote in an afterward to the book.
“While I watched, I sketched and took pictures to use for his expressions,” she wrote. “Pete always seemed happiest when he stepped away from his mike and the crowd sang strong.”
That joy was a reflection of Seeger’s mission as musician, activist and community builder, she told The Olympian.
“You can just see him glow with happiness when the room is singing,” she said. “It wasn’t really about him. It was about getting people to live their lives in a better way.”
Most of McClure’s books have been her creations from start to finish. “The Golden Thread” was the fourth book on which she did visuals only and the first time she had the chance to talk about the images with the author as she made them.
She and Meloy collaborated on choosing the songs represented in the illustrations. “Some I picked, but when I was stuck, I thought, ‘Oh, he’s the musician,’ ” she told The Olympian.
Though she was a bonafide riot grrl, performing as well as designing album covers, McClure met Meloy not through music but through children’s books. The Decemberists’ singer-songwriter is the author of the chapter-book trilogy The Wildwood Chronicles.
It was through her music, though, that McClure had her closest brush with Seeger.
The two never met, but McClure spent a night sleeping on the deck of the sloop Clearwater, the ship Seeger built with the aim of educating people about pollution and saving the Hudson River.
“I had played a show in New York City, and my friend was staying on the Clearwater,” McClure said. “At midnight, they locked the port gate, so you had to get back to the ship by then. I remember running to get there. It was totally crazy, like ‘Did that really happen?’ ”
Nikki McClure art show and book party
What: McClure will show some of the papercuts she made for the new book “The Golden Thread: A Song for Pete Seeger” by The Decemberists’ Colin Meloy, and sign books.
When: Party at 5 p.m. Friday; art on display through April 22
Where: Browsers Bookshop, 107 Capitol Way N., Olympia
More information: 360-357-7462, browsersolympia.com
Pete Seeger celebration
What: McClure, Michael Dempster — who for years led the Lincoln Options Elementary School parent band and who McClure calls Olympia’s Pete Seeger — will join Lincoln Options in celebrating Seeger’s birthday with a read-aloud and sing-along to benefit the school’s library.
When: 7 p.m. May 3
Where: Lincoln Options Elementary School, 213 21st Ave. SE, Olympia
Admission: Free, with donations accepted
More information: 360-596-6400, lincoln.osd.wednet.edu