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Learn how to make the perfect paper snowflake with St. Louis’ own ‘Snowflakey Lady’

We here at “Cityscape” know—making the perfect paper snowflake can yield some serious headaches. No, really, we do. For a recent holiday party, we were each in charge of making paper snowflakes. Amid cries of exasperation like ‘Crud! I cut the wrong edge!’ and ‘It doesn’t look like anything,’ we thought to call for help.

Enter: Marion Nichols. You may know her as the ‘Snowflakey Lady’ at City Museum. On Friday’s “Cityscape,” she joined us to share how she makes perfectly patterned snowflakes—all while telling a good story or two for those who ask for her help. She started working as a volunteer at the City Museum in 1998, a year after it opened, until Bob Cassilly found she could “do stuff” and hired her full-time.  

Click through the gallery above to see some of the snowflake creations, as executed by third grade students in Oakville.

"I can turn anything into a snowflake; I could turn you into a snowflake," Nichols told host Steve Potter on Friday. 

"I can turn anything into a snowflake; I could turn you into a snowflake."

Recently, Nichols published a book called “100 Amazing Paper Animal Snowflakes,” so that you can learn some of her ways. This is actually her 11th book. 

Paper snowflakes are part origami, the Japanese art of folding paper, and part kirigami, the Japanese art of cutting paper. They're also part mathematics. Nichols does snowflakes in the form of both radial tessellations (a repeating pattern in a circular form) and fractals (an image that repeats smaller and smaller)

"While you're cutting snowflakes, you are also doing a type of meditation, you are lowering your blood pressure, you're in your right mind and staving off Alzheimers—all while cutting snowflakes. Just looking at them, seeing the patterns, you're increasing the mathematical part of your brain."

Credit Kelly Moffitt | St. Louis Public Radio
Marion Nichols

Nichols recommends using the thinnest paper you can to cut paper snowflakes, because it will allow your scissors to be more precise when you make more folds of the paper. She also recommends folding paper either four or six times, never eight. You can make shapes as simple as a star or as difficult as something Nichols calls "The Partridge in a Pear Tree," a template of hers which has only been successfully completed by 59 people in 14 years.

You can also find her teaching kids to cut snowflakes, do origami as well as telling fun or spooky stories in a six-sided room, much like the snowflakes themselves, at the City Museum. She'll even be available for emergency help during the holiday season.

"I'll be working the day before and the day after Christmas and loving what I do," Nichols said.

“Cityscape” is produced by Mary EdwardsAlex Heuer, and Kelly Moffitt. The show is sponsored in part by the Missouri Arts Council, the Regional Arts Commission, and the Arts and Education Council of Greater St. Louis.   

Kelly Moffitt joined St. Louis Public Radio in 2015 as an online producer for St. Louis Public Radio's talk shows St. Louis on the Air.