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“Yarn Darling” Shanell Papp Loves Knitting and the Macabre

Shanell Papp’s upbringing fostered an interest in death and the macabre. She spent part of her childhood on a farm where she took part in caring and slaughtering the animals. Down the street was a cemetery. That alone provided ample content for her artistic endeavors. Her grandmother, owner of a thrift store/flea market, taught Papp how to knit and to crochet. Papp’s 2008 labor-intensive show Lab (Skeleton) was an instant hit and still discussed ten years later.

Papp, born in 1980, was enrolled in an MFA (Master of Fine Art) program at the University of Saskatchewan (Canada) when she began to crochet the life-sized skeleton. It took 4 months to create. Add another 4 months to create and to assemble the internal organs, and Lab (Skeleton) was born—much like Frankenstein’s Monster, a huge influence on Papp’s work.

Creating anatomically correct crochet skeletons is labor-intensive. Papp refers to medical textbooks, visiting college classes, and looking at real skeletons to maintain the accuracy in each piece. She even purchased a gurney to hold one of her creations. Papp says her art is an act of “patience, skill, and commitment.” She sees the pieces as conversation starters. Once completed and installed, Papp enjoys walking amongst the crowd and watching their reactions.

“Lab #4” depicts a skeleton on a table draped with a white tablecloth. The life-sized skeleton is made with yarn and thread and is crocheted and sewn together. It was created in 2006.


In 2013, Papp created “The Shining/Banff” comparing different rooms from King’s Overlook Hotel with one of the Banff Hotels. Needless to say, The Shining is one of Papp’s favorite horror movies.

To see more of Papp’s work: https://shanellpapp.com/