A Daruma and a Happy New Year

A Daruma is a Japanese painted papier-mâché tumbling figurine, and a very popular talisman, if you want to set yourself some goals in life, but have ordinary human limitations and need a bit of encouragement. 

It is very much that kind of time in my life right now, and I have a very small one (but size does not matter) staring at me, as I type this.

The plump, little guy is actually a portrait of Bodhidharma, the monk who founded zen buddhism, and when used as a talisman, it works like this: first you set a specific goal - and yes, it needs to be quite specific, measurable and not vague. Then you go get your Daruma. The Daruma is born with blank eyes, and the next thing you do is fill in the one eye. Place your Daruma somewhere near you, like at your desk or bedside table, where he will look at you, wink-wink, reminding you about your goal. 

And then one day, amazingly, your goal is achieved. And then you get to fill in the other eye. 

They are to some extend a New Years tradition, but not exclusively. The Japanese use them all year round, and they even come in different colours for different themes: gold for financial matters, purple for health, white for love etc. The red, for general good luck, seems to be the popular one!

There is a zen proverb often connected with them:
Nana Korobi Ya Oki,
meaning 'Fall down seven times, get up eight'. 

With that little guy, I wish you all a very happy and healthy New Year, and hope that your dreams will come true, and that you will meet some of your important goals.

Photo credits:
Darumas outside temple: Tony Lopez on Pinterest / Daruma painter: Yuriko Nakao, Reuters


Magic Snowflake Paper Toy

For all the impatient kids who are tired of bending over their their iPads or TV-shows (and perhaps even some of their parents?), I have this little Christmas present. If you have never had a kaleidocycle in your hands, it's about time you did. This is a cunning little paper construction, and easy to build yourself - and I have made you one with festive and seasonal snowflakes. 

All you have to do is get this PDF, print it on regular paper (perhaps the heavier quality, if you have it), cut, trace and glue. I took a few photos to show you - see the mini-tutorial here. 

It folds endlessly into itself, giving you lots of time to think of something nice and relax for a bit. Think of it as a very low tech fidget spinner, and even something you might decorate the seasonal table with. 

I even made you a primitive GIF to show you how it works.....

Happy Lillejuleaften as we say in Danish - or 'Little Christmas Eve'


Holiday spirits-ish

Even though I am technically only semi-employed and freelance working at the moment, it feels great to be able to say: Finally Christmas vacation and a bit of peace and rest! Or not quite yet, that is. Today we are having a party at our house, tomorrow it's office Christmas parties, Saturday it's going to be all about (I suspect) slightly panicky shopping - and then there's the big to do on the 24th.

But then, perhaps? All I wanna do is take a long, long walk, some place beautiful and quiet, without shopping bags or places to be at a certain time.

I love this photo, I found it on Flickr a long time ago. It's by Manuel Raposo, and appears to be taken in Salzburg. I want to be in that photo.


Upside Down Origami

Are they flowers? Or a kind of three dimensional stars? Should you hang them this way - or that? 
I really couldn't say. You decide. 

But they are easy and quick to make, and for these I had some fun with a pile of old magazines I was taking to the recycle dumpster, but absentmindedly stood around leafing through. And I just saw all these nice colours and textures, and started ripping pages out. 

Dusty or fleshy pink is still unavoidable it seems, and that's all right with me. 

I put together a tutorial for you, so go get it right here, and get started on the little thingys. They take about five minutes to make, and would be fine for kids or origami novices.

Hope you'll have fun with them, have a great weekend!


That Lucia time of year

If Christmas hasn't gotten to me yet, it always will at Lucia, on December 13th. I think it is one of the most wonderful of all Christmas traditions, and the story behind is beautiful as well. Read an old post about it here (and find recipes for saffron Lucia buns).

Regular readers of this blog will know that I am a closet Swede, and when I think of Lucia, I do associate it very much with Sweden, but I am delighted that we have adopted the tradition here in Denmark.

Not many schools, kindergartens or shopping malls in Denmark today, without a parade of sweetly singing children, bearing (practical, modern and battery powered) candles and clad in white gowns (worn over their practical GoreTex outfits and winter boots.) Most of the kindergarten kids doing the parade, will make a round of retirement homes and hospitals in their local area.

In Vesterbro in Copenhagen, the church organize a large Lucia street parade, and another wildly popular event is the Kayak Lucia Parade, where hundreds of kayaks, all trimmed with lights and torches, paddle and sing in all the inner city canals. 

Happy Lucia, and may the light of love and compassion shine on you all. 

Photo credits: 
top: Nordiska Museet, Stockholm / unknown / Skansen Museum, Stockholm
bottom: street parade in Copenhagen: Kirken I København / kayaks: aok.dk


Styrofoam artwork by Jenni Rope

On this grey and sludgy Tuesday, my eyes feast on these large mobile sculptures by the Finnish artist Jenni Rope - they look like slow motion explosions. They are big works, more like room installations, and are not the only type of thing she does - she is also a very fine painter and graphic artist (I love those brushstroke works and also her textile pattern design). But mobiles are something I was always quite crazy about, and the way she uses styrofoam slabs to make these, is really cool.

When you paint styrofoam, it looks like all kinds of other things: rocks, minerals, concrete - heavy, somehow. And a bit unreal. 

I always find it an enormous inspiration, when artists work in anywhere available and inexpensive materials, such as these. You don't need brass, bronze or granite to make fine sculptural expressions!

Sometimes she does on-the-floor installations with these odd, painted shapes, I really love this one from 2011, 'The Findings'.


Japanese Quilt Stars

The Christmas project for you this weekend, are these cool stars. I named them Japanese Quilt Stars, because they look like the stars often used in traditional quilts - and I made you special print-and-cut paper sheets for these, with lots of Japanese vibe. 

They are surprisingly simple modular (6 unit) origami stars - not made from square papers, but from rectangular ones. I have made you some very easy to use sheets for printing and cutting, crop marked for your convenience. With my sheets a star like this is about 18 centimetres across.

My sheet-designs are for printing on both sides, because this design really displays both sides of the paper (and they have a very pretty and completely different looking backside....)

To print these sheets (four small sheets per A4, and you need six units for one star) on both sides, set the printer to print 'page 1 only'. Then grab your sheets from the 'out'-tray, turn them over, put them in the feed tray blank side up, and print again, this time set to 'page 2 only'. I do this all the time, because of my obsession with designing my own origami paper, which - of course - is so much nicer with print in two different designs.

Download my designs right here. I mixed them a lot, as you can see from the backsides, but just one pattern can be varied, in alternating between which pattern you face outwards, in the first fold. 

A: red waves and dots
B: blue arrows and squares

C: pink stripes and triangles
D: blue waves and diagonals
E: red snow and waves

F: blue stars and dots

Last but not least: the stars are really not hard to make at all, if you have just a little bit of origami experience, but I have not produced my own tutorial for these, since there is no way I could explain them as well as this patient Indian gentleman on YouTube. 

Happy folding, and have a great weekend.


Teeny Tiny

Anyone struggling with the Fröbel Stars, I wrote about the other day?

I just found these in a matchbox in one of our boxes of Christmas tinsel. They most likely are made by my husband's brother, who is not quite like most people, when it comes to doing crazy complicated things with paper and scissors. His Easter letters and woven Christmas hearts are also really something else! I simply cannot imagine how he managed to finish those little tips....??


Oh, those Plop Plop Balls...!

The most wildly popular paper project I have ever shared here, must be these: the so called 'Plop Plop Baubles' from December 2015. I just checked the blog backend, and I can see that the post have been visited almost fifty thousand times, and they are also the most re-pinned design I have ever put up on Pinterest.

I have had sweet messages in my Instagram mailbox, and have been tagged by others, who wanted to share their ploppy projects with me. See a couple of them here

Well, I'm so super glad to have shared something people seem to like - but the reason I take them up again, is that I saw that a popular Danish magazine have produced a video tutorial on them! 

It's on YouTube, right here.

That's great, because I would love to do video tutorials, but I simply don't have the time or the setup to do them - not right now, anyway.

And they also came back to me, because I just cleared out some of all the shoe boxes full of paper things I have produced for this blog. I usually keep just a few items for myself, the rest I give away as small host/hostess gifts in the holiday season - but I still seem to have boxes full of the stuff. 

So I decided to make some little gift bags for a very nice Red Cross charity gift shop we have here in Copenhagen, hoping they might bring in a few Kroner for good purposes. If you are an over-producer of such things, as I am, you could do the same! 


Star Parade on December first

The Fröbel Star is a Christmas classic in Denmark (but comes from Germany, read about it here), and although actually a bit complex, it is something most older kids and almost all the rest of us - who haven't given up on such frivoluos pursuits - can actually make. The procedure is a bit mind-boggling, and I must admit that every year I have to at least peak at at tutorial, and then my fingers seem to remember the rest. 

It is a brilliant little construction, and it's made from four folded paper strips. Basically you lock them into a four legged wheel, and then you fold four tips from one side, turn over and fold the four opposite tips from the other side. Then you fold the middle 'knot' - also consisting of four tips, then turn over and fold the middle knot on the other side. So the work has two processes, that you repeat twice, once on each side. When you know what you are doing, a star takes you about five minutes. 

I will recommend that you get some of the pre-cut paper strips we always use in DK. They are available from craft/DIY/hobby webshops internationally, and are a flat pack little product you could order cheaply online to, I would guess, almost anywhere in the world. They come in all imaginable colours and prints - and the ones I have used here are 15, 20 and 24 mm. 

So, that was a lot of words. And here's the thing: I have tried so many fun variations of these, that I decided to do this blog post dedicated to the Paper Strip Stars - in all the varieties I have tried.

First I will show you the Fröbel Star variations, and I will include links to the best tutorials and videos I have found, and they have all been tested. The examples I have folded for these photos, are made with only one middle knot finished, that way they are flat and easier to photograph. Such one-sided stars are, of course, also great for decorationg the table, gifts etc. - and you make them by simply not doing the middle bit on one side, and just cut off the excess strips.


I posted something about these some Christmases ago, and included a rather poor tutorial - but I think I have found a much better one: It's from a place called www.danishthings.com and if you click on the image, you have a high res, very thorough photographic guide. Find it here.

If that one doesn't do it for you, I can recommend this one from Starfolds.dk.


These I know in three variations. A: with the straight crossed middle / B: with the diagonally crossed middle and C: a fun variation, that looks different on each side.  

Starfolds explains A and B - in Danish, but with photos, and probably very google-translatable simple written instructions. 

The Craftables shows the C variation in English and with photos. 

This very pretty variant, I have found on a danish blog as well - and there is a very detailed series of photos, but it's a slightly more tricky way to do the middle. Pay close attention to what happens in the photos, and you will get it right. I did! 


Actually the simplest way you can finish the middle tips, and almost considered cheating! But it looks nice too. Find the tutorial right here.


In the top image you may have noticed some stars that didn't quite look like the Fröbel Stars. I have included them, because they are fun, and you make them from the same pre-cut paper strips we all use in Denmark.

These are made with three strips, and are very easy. See a great video right here!


These are a kind of variation of the ones above, but they come from a copyrighted e-book, so I won't share the tutorial here - BUT warmly recommend that you spend the 60 dkr / 10 dollars / 8 euro it costs, as I believe in supporting my fellow paper enthusiasts. It's in Danish but the tutorials are very well presented, and easy to follow.


So, hoping I haven't exhausted you utterly already, I hope you are ready to get to work.

A great bit of advice, is to be patient at first - and remember that the principle of the Fröbel Star is such, that you sometimes happen to make a 'reversed' star (it depends on how you lock the first strips in place) - so if you can't seem to make the tutorial work, sometimes you simply need to reflect or flip the image (whether in your head, or in Photoshop) and try again. Did that make sense?

Now try for yourself! They are addictive and fun.


Air + Paper = Magic

I really love these flimsy, airy, weightless (and some, but not me, would say useless) paper vases or containers designed by Torafu Architects from Japan. They are called Air Vases, and they perfectly illustrate everything I love about working with paper: with a bit of simple intervention, a sheet of paper - delicate and fragile in itself - can become three dimensional, and paper does actually withstand much more tugging and handling than you might think. 

They are not a brand new product, but I was inspired to post them here, because I spontaneously decided that I want one for myself, when I saw them again on Pinterest. A bit of Googling made it clear, that you actually can't buy them that many places - but I came up with one dependable seller in Europe, Design Museum in London. So they are on my Christmas wish list. 

Maybe on yours too? Aren't they cool?

When you buy them, they are a flat disc of paper, with an intricate, concentric pattern of slits that you gently have to manipulate into a vase, rounded or more slender, or perhaps a low bowl shape. 

I love the utter simplicity of this, and also that it is a beautiful thing you could just pop in the mail in an envelope. A great product!

As you can see they have been made in many, many colours and also prints, and are still produced in  Japan. Scan your local market for them, they are available a bit here and there.


Flowerpower: ERDEM x HM

Normally I'm not into floral wear, although I cannot get enough of flowers in nature, in art and in print design. For some reason I just don't feel comfortable in florals myself. They end up stuck in the back of the closet, every time I try.

Now, I love it when great marketing design is so seductive and persuasive, that it makes me want something I don't usually wan't, so badly! I find this brain process fascinating. The thing is, of course, that you don't need to obey every impulse - you can actually just sit back and enjoy the ride.

The freshly launched web campaign for Erdem x HM is SO beautiful. I've idled an hour away in front of the screen, exploring every detail, and now I just want to swoon in a meadow full of spring flowers, dressed in Edwardian/Pre-Raphaelite/boho/country lady style and sport an androgynous haircut. And, believe me, that is a bit of a steep step for me, stylewise (I would really like the backpack from the men's collection though).

Get flowered yourself by the stunning web design (use your mouse scroll button to explore the site), or, at least see the crazily lavish Baz Luhrman film.

(all images are screenshots from www.hm.com and from the Baz Luhrman film)