Dressing up for New Year's Eve?

New Year's Eve - and what to wear?
I will end up in something black plus flat shoes and big earrings. As always.

When it comes to clothing and fashion, my formative years were the Eighties (and by the Eighties I don't mean the Crystal/Alexis Carrington Eighties). I like black skinny jeans, oversized sweatshirts, t-shirts, men's shirts - and bulky scarves and big overcoats. I wear trainers or sneakers practically all year round, when not wearing flipflops in summer. In my corner of the Eighties girls had either short, spiky hair og big, messy hair. Both kinds usually dyed. I landed on big and messy, sometimes dyed red. And there I've stayed. When it comes to colors in my clothing, I actually like it a lot, but mainly do the safe accessories thing with colorful scarves, bags and outrageous jewellery. Otherwise my clothes are boring and comfortable. I have long since accepted this in a very relaxed way, I am way too old to change this now, I think! I like my clothes exactly the way they are.

But that doesn't keep me from having a lifelong admiration of people who dress very flamboyantly!

I always stated that my style icons were Frida Kahlo, Bette Midler (in her burlesque showgirl 70s period) and Vivienne Westwood. Added to the list would be someone like Iris Apfel - I just saw the lovely film about her - watch it!

So obviously I was delighted, when I discovered the African Sapeur culture!

'Sapeurs' are men who belong to a fashion happy working class subculture, 'La SAPE' (an acronym, meaning: Societe des Ambianceurs et des Personnes Elegantes) centered primarily in the big Congolese cities, Brazzaville and Kinshasa.

A Sapeur is friendly, polite, respectful of others and obeys the intricate fashion rules of his brotherhood. The Sapeurs use fashion as a statement of tribute to life, self respect and personal freedom, and do so with such crazy, creative outfits, in spite of very limited resources and shopping opportunities.

They make the most of us look fairly dull!
Maybe they'll inspire you just a bit, before dressing for tonight?

Curious about them? Check this five minute mini documentary, produced by the Guiness Breweries - they focused a whole campaign on the Sapeurs!

And a fine looking book has been written and photographed on the subject:
'Gentlemen of the Bacongo' by Daniele Tamagni

Per-Anders Petterson's photographs from Kinshasa are great as well!

So here's to pink suits and fancy umbrellas - or what ever you may come up with for this evening - and a very Happy New Year to every reader of this blog, thanks for following it in 2015, see you in 2016!

(Photo credits for this post, from top: the young men posing is by Francesco Giusti, cool dudes with umbrella center is by W. Massamba, next two are by Francesco Giusti again, the green Western boots are by Per-Anders Petterson, and the last one is yet another fine shot by Francesco Giusti.)


Those days in between

Christmas is more or less over, although there is still a certain holiday slacker atmosphere about our days, and now we are frantically Googling hors d'oeuvres recipes, as we are going to our usual everybody-bring-a-course dinnerparty on New Years Eve.

Yesterday I took a different route grocery shopping than my usual one, and remembered one thing I had completely forgotten: my friends down the road with the snowflake window - how did it look this year? Unbelievably, as they live about a five minute walk from us, I hadn't been down that end of the main street in our neighborhood all December.

But there it was, pretty as always!

(Readers of this blog will know that I have posted this window several times before. Every year, early in the Christmas season, my frinds have a party, where everyone is asked to cut white tissue paper snow flakes, while drinking glögg and eating sweets. They don't stop until the window is full, and I LOVE that window. Some years they jazz it up with a few red flakes, and last year - I think it was? - the flakes were square. But it always snows in Stine and Erik's dining room window!)


Happy Christmas from John & Yoko

This has not been an altogether great year for the family of man. Christmas Day always makes me reflective, and today I end up having only this to say: We must be able to do better.
But there is hope, also. There is always hope.

This song has been playing on the radio for the last six weeks, some of you have heard it daily, along with Wham, Nat King Cole, Mariah Carey and all the other beloved Christmas pop classics.

But here is the video. The video is not warm, cosy and nice, it makes me cry - and it will make you cry. But for all the right reasons. Merry Christmas - and may peace, decency and democracy stand a chance. 


Origami top star - or at least I tried!

Yesterdays several attempts to make a sort of oversize octahedron star to put in the top of our small and over prized Christmas tree, resulted in one star that was too soft and fragile, one that didn't stay in shape because the paper was too plastic coated, and one that was almost impossible to make, because the paper was too thick. But still, they were kind of pretty, I suppose.

The small one is the one from the other day, made in 15 x 15 centimetres paper. The white one with gold leaf paint, was the one that was veeeery hard to fold, because the paper was so heavy - it's made in 30 x 30 centimetres scrapbooking paper from the hobbyshop, because I didn't have any A3.

But the gold paint looks rather nice. If you want to decorate the tips on this kind of star, you should do it when you have done all the horizontal and diagonal folds, but before you do the last folds - like this:

This size of paper makes a star about 11 centimetres in diameter. I found it a bit too small for the tree, and started digging in my wrapping paper supplies, and found some paper from IKEA and some from the Tiger Stores, that looked festive. I made 45 x 45 centimetres squares for the large ones, and the finished star is about 17 centimetres in diameter.

These had a nice size, but upscaling origami is always hard. It is as if the larger surfaces become too heavy and pull the paper in all the wrong directions. But I managed two large stars that didn't fall totally apart:

And finally, after much wiggling and twisting - and taping a pencil to the top of the tree - I managed to top our odd looking little tree (it has clusters of crooked branches with too much air in between and was insanely expensive) with this one! 

So a merry merry 'Lillejuleaften' (= Little Christmas Eve) as we say in Denmark, to all of you out there.


Winter Solstice: close your eyes and listen for five minutes

It's winter solstice today, and therefore the shortest, darkest day of the year. Let's celebrate this turning point with a very, very beautiful song! 

Björk is always great, and when I looked for this video I ended up looking at amazing Björk videos for almost two hours. Maybe you'll do the same? Not the worst way to spend a long, dark evening.

I also found this interesting article about the song.

But first, slow down and listen to 'Solstice'.


Christmas Origami: Octahedron Star

These are my newest origami favorites, they are really pretty, but not half as tricky to make as one might think. They are the kind you end up inflating by blowing air into them, just like the cubes and the easter bunnies I have shown here before. And they have much in common with both the cubes and the bunnies, so if you have tried them, these are easy.

This time I didn't make my own tutorial, because I found a great video, where you will learn this in five minutes, and every step is very easy to understand. So let me guide you there:

Stellated Octahedron tutorial on PaperKawaii.com

BUT - this is important: In this tutorial, they tell you to start with the pattern side down (or 'white side up' as it says) - I find that to be an error, this design should be folded, starting with the pattern side UP! Otherwise, the tutorial is great.

I wanted to make some hanging ornaments for the tree from these, and thought that some red and white would be great - and again I made a paper design that enhances the form of the finished origami: here the tips of the stars, or the folds between them. The small ones above are made from various shop bought 15 x 15 cm. papers, and I made you some 20 x 20 cm. papers with two kinds of patterns: graphic stripes and stars and another one with a kind of dip-dye design, like the red one with the faded white tips.

Download origami papers for octahedron stars: Christmas red/white stars and stripes

Download origami papers for octahedron stars: Dip-dye in three colors


Origami flashback: Katrine's tree

It has been a madly busy December for me - I started a new job just a few months ago, and that has been a great experience, but also something that has had the most of my attention, obviously. I do, however, sit in the evenings and empty my stressful head with origami. And tomorrow, fourth Sunday in Advent, of course I have another little DIY project for all of you out there, likewise inclined to find it detoxing, de-stressing and just plain cosy to sit and fold pieces of pretty paper. And tomorrow it will be more origami, because that is my favorite paper thing at the moment!

My fondness for origami started with an English teacher, Ellen, who laid the foundation for my love of the English language, who taught us that when in Australia you should always check your shoes before putting them on (for deadly spiders etc.) - and how to fold the classical crane, the tsuru.

For years it was the only origami I knew how to do, but the lately have I just started to browse for cool little origami things, that would work well as Christmas and Easter decorations, and that has been just such fun. It has turned into several things you can pick up here on this blog - check my full list of DIYs or my Pinterest paper design board.

Last years obsession was definitely these - and my friend Katrine really took that craze to the next level! She literally made hundreds of them, and made them in a very nice way, putting a bit of wire and some pearls through the paper form, a very pretty way of hanging them.

Let me show you her fabulous tree, dedicated to only origami, even the top star - and stay tuned for tomorrows origami project!


I just couldn't resist it

I promise this will be the last reference to Yayoi Kusama for a veeeery long time. But it's been ages since I made a woven heart for this blog.... So when this image popped into my mind, I had a hard time letting it go. I really tried, cause I think it's a bit silly. And then I thought what the heck, and made it anyway. Silly is fine, actually (check my full list - I have made some very silly ones!)

It's the Tribute to Yayoi Pumpkin Christmas heart! Yay!
And in the PDF it even comes in seasonal red/white as well.

So why don't you download yourself a dotty heart, and have some fun with that.

Click here for the hearts

Having a hard time weaving paper hearts? Use my very simple tutorial, or try to find a video, I am sure there are countless.


Think XXXL

I've been walking the streets of Copenhagen and Malmö these last few days, and have seen a lot of holiday decorations in the public spaces and in all the shop windows. I have some absolute favorites, and as I was checking them out in my camera roll, I saw that they have something in common: they use some little ordinary thing, and just blow it up to XXXL!

Check the paper loops in Cph dress maker Stasia's shop - they are just brilliant, I think! Paper loops are like a low ranking Christmas tinsel variety: any kid can do them (and does). I still think they are kind of cute, and in giant size and gold foil, they just look plain glamorous.

After the loops: Enormous baubles (the big ones are crazy big - like almost a meter in diameter!) outside Cph department store Magasin. The one insanely big lamp, that sits in the middle of Malmö's small square every Christmas - and in the last photo: giant, gleaming nylon stars filled with air, in Malmö's Central Station. Beautiful.


Baubles that go Plop

These are almost a bit magic - they are such fun to assemble! And as always, they are truly easy to make. This time my usual piece of advice about tracing folding lines (with a needle or the point of a knife) before folding them, in order to get them super precise, is not just a tip - it is simply necessary to make these.

So if you haven't tried the tracing trick before, now is a good time to start. It works like a charm, and you can make these fun paper baubles, that look much more complicated than they really are. The whole idea of tracing the paper is of course that you force the paper to bend along a certain line - and you really don't need much pressure, just scratch evenly along the line, making sure you don't cut through. They plop nicely into their shape if you have traced them precisely!

I have made these in these black/white line patterns, and made a PDF with four different stripe designs, ready to download and make. As you can see, a couple of mine in the photo are a bit smaller - and as usual, that's just done by scaling 80% (or whatever) when printing.

I made these on 120 g. paper, and that is just perfect. Heavier paper (which I tried first) doesn't bend as willingly along the traced lines - and thinner paper is not as strong, and will break, when you push and wiggle these to get the elements in place. So: heavy printing paper, but not exactly card stock. Try for yourself.....

I also made you a blank template, because I think that these would be fun to make in almost any kind of sturdy paper, patterned or colored, or decorated by yourself in any way you would fancy.

I made several graphic patterns and discarded some of them. I left the nicest ones for you in the PDF!

PlopPlop bauble blank template - download PDF

Update 2017: The Danish magazine 'BoligLiv' made a video tutorial on them, it's on YouTube, and you can find it right here! Thank you, BoligLiv.


More dottyness

I love how a media as Pinterest - a beloved time stealer for anyone who loves great images and cool stuff - is intuitive and just throws random things at you, that are so far from random. I think my love of polka dots introduced me to this shop interior a few days ago, in this particular way. And I had to look it up, and discovered that I had noticed it in several other contexts, like Instagram and so on.

The very nice US fashion brand Opening Ceremony has this shop in Tokyo (opened in 2013). Let me show you a couple of images from the interiors (it's four floors of mega shop, and it also has life size horses as clothes racks and other delightful things). I think I love it. At least I love the staircase. Will absolutely visit it, should I happen to come to Tokyo again any time soon (here's hoping).

Architects and interior designers? No idea. Japanese, and I couldn't figure out who they are. But they must have had a blast.


Little cubic ornaments on a sunday

Our neighbors brought these very lovely red branches the other day. I don't know what kind they are, but they inspired me to do some slightly un-christmassy little ornaments for a nice decoration of sorts. They are odd and a bit oblique little cubes, and I have sprinkled them with confetti like patterns. Enjoy, if you like!

This time it's not origami, but an easy project to cut, fold and glue, from sheets with my finished designs. As always, when making 3D ornaments, be very precise when you cut - and trace all the folding lines before folding, that will make it much, much easier!

I made these in thick card stock, but heavy paper (100 g. or so) will be fine. I made the slightly smaller pink ones by printing on pink paper, and scaling the print 80%.

Here they are on the red branches*, making a minimalist kind of Christmas statement.
(*I think they are from a cornus sanguinea, if you know what that is!)


Pumpkins. Or Yayoi Kusama by numbers.

Okay, I write a lot about Yayoi Kusama, but the lady fascinates me. Her show at Louisiana is very popular, and Instagram is overflowing with a veritable polka dot frenzy. And I still feel the need to write another blog post about her. Or rather her pumpkins, mostly. 

But first a few words. I like her art in a very simple, straightforward way - it's pretty, it's graphically bold, and it's extremely colorful. So, for me, it's natural to like. I know several people who find her work somewhat shallow and superficial, and yes, she does seem to repeat herself a lot, and no, there is perhaps not a lot to say about dots, come to think of it. Other than the fact that they are pretty, and perhaps resemble the stars of the universe, or perhaps also tiny cells in a Petri dish. The wonders of the small and the huge, etc. etc.

But the show at Louisiana, which is big and cover most of her career in a quite narrative and educational way, made me see something more than the dots. I saw her obsession, and how clinging to the obsession, is her way of staying sane and relatively happy. And how painting is, quite simply, physical therapy. And soothing meditation.

It's not as if these are deep or profound conclusions, but they really set my mind to work, and most especially, at how she has managed the superhuman workload of physically creating her pieces!

As far as I have been able to find out, she does not employ a hoard of assistants - but much is unclear about Yayoi, who is sometimes a bit enigmatic, when answering questions in interviews. In this one, she claims to have done her work herself, and makes a point of it.

I started really looking at her pumpkins. They have become her sort of peace-love-fertility symbol, and are said to be a reference to childhood memories. She grew up in a wealthy family who had a seed- and vegetable business, and has told, somewhere, about feeling guilty about the abundance of food her family had, in war times when the Japanese were starving.

At Louisiana they meet you already outside in bronze supersize, and there are several fine pumpkin works inside - especially a giant yellow/black cabinet, filled with pumpkins. 

(I borrowed the top photo from Designboom, and the cabinet one from snilla.blogspot)

I don't think there is even an official estimate at how many times she has painted, drawn or sculpted this plump vegetable. I just fill with wonder at how much variety she puts into this tedious motif.

Just see how she does the stems in slightly different ways - how she has a variety of ways to do those rows of dots that make up their pattern, and how they vary a lot in their outer shape. But still seems to be the same kind of pumpkin. 

All those little varieties and decisions - about every single one of those pumpkins. I know she did a lot of other types of wildly repetitive and detailed themes, the Infinity nets, for instance, but I just love those pumpkins for their way of occupying her mind for a whole, long lifetime.

So, when I saw a cheap papier-mâché pumpkin in my local hobby shop round Halloween, I just knew I had to make a close study of her pumpkins in the most obvious way: I had to make one myself! And I had to be very faithful to her way of doing them, I had to deliberately copy her, just to feel it.

So, one pumpkin and some paint supplies later, I set to work.

I gave it a few coats of spray paint, and had decided (wisely) to not do the dots with a brush, but rather with Posca markers. I started with the stem, and decided on a 'random dots' type stem. Then I did the tiny ones in the grooves of the pumpkin, and moved on to the central rows of big dots on the swollen parts of the pumpkin. And then moved on to the smaller rows on the sides.

Here are some numbers: After about 1200 hand painted dots and some eight to ten hours of fiddly work doing them - spread out over a few evenings and a Sunday morning - I ended up here. And decided that my pumpkin was done. Yayoi would have kept at it, of course.

So, you might say I took a very small stroll in Yayoi's polka dot shoes. And that was interesting.