Shorewood resident Marnie Karger is not your typical cartographer. She is an artist whose work is inspired by maps, in particular “bathymetric” maps, or maps representing the varying depths in bodies of water. But Karger didn’t always think she would make a living as an artist. In fact, until relatively recently, she never thought it was even possible.
“I had dreamed about being an artist all my life,” she says, “But I thought it was just one of those romantic ideas like being a poet, or being a singer.”
Karger says she had grown up doing crafts with paper, everything from cutting to folding to tearing to layering. When she was older, she began making homemade cards to send to friends and family. Her recipients loved her cards so much that when Karger left her seven-year teaching career for a year’s maternity leave in 2007, a friend suggested that Karger try selling her cards on Etsy.com, an online marketplace devoted to handmade and vintage goods.
With a few clicks, Karger’s handmade card operation opened online under the name Crafterall. It took about a month for someone to buy one of her items, Karger says, “but when one finally sold, it was very exciting.”
After seeing some mild success selling her cards in the following months, Karger began to experiment further with paper as an artistic medium. While working part time at a scrapbook store, she had come across a type of colored card stock that came in graduated sets, ranging from light to dark.
“I started playing around with these paper sets,” she explains, finding herself especially drawn to cutting them into organic shapes and arranging them in layers. “Eventually,” she says, “a customer on Etsy pointed out that the layered paper pieces I was making looked like lakes, and asked if I could be commissioned to do a piece based on a specific lake.”
Karger says she was certainly happy to give it a try, and soon, her paper-layered lake pieces turned out to be the bread and butter of Crafterall.
The desire for Karger’s intricate representations of local bodies of water soon far exceeded what she ever imagined was possible. “My little Etsy shop had gone from bringing in money we could spend on going out to dinner or for dessert once in a while to earning something comparable to what I’d been making as a teacher,” Karger says.
Now, nearly seven years later, Karger’s work is available not only on Etsy, but also in nearly a dozen retail stores in the Twin Cities metro area and as far away as New York and Chicago.
One such store is the ekate designs + the orchard art house in Excelsior. Owner Erin Kate Duininck began stocking Karger’s Lake Minnetonka map pieces last fall, and they’ve draw a lot of attention, she says.
“People are always amazed by Marnie’s work,” says Duininck. “There’s something so magical about her pieces, especially when people recognize them as the lake in their own neighborhoods.”