Lakes are peppered across the land of Minnesota—11,842 reminders that this area was once covered in vast sheets of ice a mile thick, plowing inch by inch, and finally melting into what we see today. These water-filled, earthly scars are named after European explorers, topographical features, identifications by Dakota and Ojibwe tribes.
And they are an overflow of inspiration for Marnie Karger.
“Growing up in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, I think it’s difficult to not have a ‘lake effect’ in your own development,” Marnie says. “I swam in lakes, I floated on rivers, I went all the way under in Superior, and stared at waterfalls. To then see these places on flat maps, and work out how the drawn lines represent that third dimension is pretty cool.”
Marnie creates cut-paper renderings that reimagine the depths of lakes, harbors, and seaways, many of which underscore personal, water-loving ties—from the family cabin to camping recollections or learning how to swim for the first time. “To be part of those memories by making these pieces is nothing short of an honor,” she adds.
Cutting, tearing, and layering paper has been a lifelong craft of Marnie’s. However, “I didn’t think I could earn a living through art,” she says. “So I followed my second passion of teaching instead.”
That was, until 2007. With Marnie on a one-year maternity leave, she decided to fill the time by starting an Etsy shop to earn “fun money.” She launched Crafterall that fall—setting eight years as an English teacher aside—selling handmade cards.
In February 2009, a customer inquired about a possible project—seeing beyond her organic, amoeba-shaped designs—that led to the bread and butter of current-day Crafterall: lake depth maps. The first bathymetric map was of Deer Lake, located northwest of Grand Rapids, Minnesota.
“I like to say that the paper led me here, and the subjects kept me here,” she says.
Diving into a project, Marnie studies maps of the area, and consults the Department of Natural Resources, historical charts, and modern satellite technology. From there, she traces the image using computer software, creating juts of land and curving bodies of water.
Then, she cuts to it.
When Marnie began papercutting, it was all by hand. But when the orders started piling in, and hand and wrist pain developed, she turned to a digital-cutting plotter for the majority of her work.
“I’ll reverse the design,” she explains, “and start cutting one layer at a time, working from the deepest layer upward, and assembling the layers with adhesive tape as I go.” Layering, from the deepest, darkest blue hue to the top cardstock, which can range in color from stark white to metallic gold.
From subjects like the waterways of the Great Lakes, Nantucket, and Indonesia, to clients such as New York’s Museum of Modern Art, or as a gift bestowed to the former United States Ambassador to Canada, Marnie’s passion for papercut art reaches fulfilling depths.
“Being able to design, craft, and produce art every day is soul food,” Marnie says. “I hope that each piece I make reflects the beauty of that area. To turn a map of data-driven lines into something I call art is to appreciate the unique shape of that body of water, and to hold it up as something other than just a map, just a place, or just some colored paper.”
Name: Marnie Karger
Hometown: Bemidji, MN
Currently Resides: Shorewood, MN