Interview: Carol Menninga Dabbles in Paper and Wool

Jun. 22, 2009
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On the grounds of Lakefront Festival of Arts last weekend, Carol Menninga from Roscoe, Illinois, exhibits the age-old art of paper cutting. A former engineering graduate from the University of Michigan, this medical school dropout always remembered her artistic roots, dabbling in various media. However, while in medical school, Menninga began cutting out paper snowflakes and "she got carried away." Her hand colored paper cuttings, delicate, complicated, and surrounded by burled or gold leaf frames, remain surprisingly affordable. Menninga takes a moment to chat about her unique medium, the only paper cutting artist at the Lakefront Festival of Arts.

Q: Why did the paper cutting appeal to you?

A: After the snowflakes, I realized I have an analytical brain. More zen focused. And I
enjoy small detail work with my hands.

Q: What inspires your organic subject matter: insects, flowers, and trees?

A: I live in the woods, just outside Roscoe, in a conservation area. It's an idyllic setting that I get this, my inspiration, from.

Q: How do you begin a piece of paper cutting?
A: I first do a quick sketch and line drawing from memory. Then I fold [the paper] into 12 layers and cut using a small but heavy sewing scissors. Then I individually hand paint the paper with coffee, diluted, and watercolor to keep the cutting subtle and soft. Afterwards I glue then on acid free mat boards.

Q: And what's in the future for you after you return home?

A: The paper cutting is my summer job, summer art fairs. But in the winter I knit and design patterns and import hand colored yarn. I love elaborate and detailed work⎯so I'm
selling the patterns for this knitwear on line and through other outlets. Usually I use merino wool with cashmere and angora. But my patterns are complicated and challenging, inspired by the motifs from my cuttings, but knitting is big in Europe and America. Experienced knitters look for these. So I moonlight as a knitwear designer.
Discover Carol Menninga's artwork, paper cuttings and knitwear designs at,, or As a $1000 award winner, Menninga will be invited to the Lakefront Festival of Arts for three consecutive years. View her work and remember to visit with her next June.


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