On Love, Life and Being Back in the Swing of Things

It has taken my fingers, wrist and hand much longer to recover than expected.  When the doctor said a sprain can take as long as a fracture to heal, I didn’t really take it too serious.  I have had sprains before.  They have never taken this long to heal!  Boy was I in for a surprise.  A whole month unable to work or paint, sigh, well frankly, I am just not built for that.  The minute it started healing, I started doing some little creative project, even if it was just sewing a feather on a handbag – anything to get some creative outlet.  Put my fingers to work.  My fingers would scream in protest afterwards, so it is with much relief I can now say the waiting is over – I am back in full swing.  Cooking up some good stuff for you in the studio.  And spending my evenings painting for an upcoming exhibition with just five weeks to go.  But no complaining from me.

12 days of Christmas in a Paper Wonderland

Most people are familiar with the Christmas
song, “The Twelve Days of Christmas”. To most it’s a delightful
nonsensical rhyme set to music. As I recently discovered, it is a good deal more than just a repetitious
melody with pretty phrases and a list of strange gifts.

12 Days of Christmas Paper Cut Motifs

To give you a brief background on
the history, Catholics in England during the period 1558 to 1829, when
Parliament finally emancipated Catholics in England, were prohibited from any
practice of their faith by law – private or public. It was a crime to be a
Catholic.
“The Twelve Days of
Christmas” was written in England as one of the “catechism
songs” to help young Catholics learn the tenets of their faith and used as
a memory aid.
Today, this famous song was chosen to partner with our very
popular ecard of the same name; the 12 days of Christmas paper cut card.

As an artist it is only natural that I draw inspiration from my own Danish heritage in my work.  In Denmark it is common to cut and display paper cuttings in windows all year round, but especially during Christmas.   They are also used to hang on Christmas and garden trees across all seasons in the form of paper hearts or stars. 

Common Christmas designs include sleighs and reindeer, flora and fauna, nativity scenes, villages etc. Contemporary designs modern silhouettes, cityscapes and famous sayings. 

And what better idea than to bring this famously silly series of gifts from the carol to life than in 12 ornaments in a paper cutting window scene.

 
To begin, I created paper cut motifs following the lyrics
of the song. Each motif starts its life as a hand-drawn sketch and then is
scanned and rendered on to the computer as a vector illustration.  The digitalized images then come to life in
frame-by-frame animations. Turtle doves flutter, ballerinas twirl, swans glide and
pipers play their flutes in celebration of the festive season.
Rather than being a static two dimensional setting, I
designed the ecard to have visual depth and dimension.  To achieve this I placed the paper
cutting within a window and adding a snowy background, adding contextual depth and dimension, resulting in a dynamic moving picture.

Paper Cutting or “Scherrenschnitte” Traditions

This is the first of a series of
blog posts on the tradition of paper cutting, a folkloric practice close to my
heart and my art!
Scherrenschnitte which literally means
scissor cuts in German, is the
traditional art of paper cutting. Using scissors or
a knife, a silhouette of the image or scene is cut from paper in a delicate and
intricate process requiring immense skill and meticulous attention to detail.
Although this craft has been
practiced in Northern Europe, its roots stem back to China around 750 A.D.

A gaekkebrev hand cut by Hans Christian Anderson

Paper cutting is not a dying art, and
instead it has undergone a renaissance and is growing in popularity. Its appeal
lies in using such a simple material such as paper, its versatility and serving
as a wonderful medium for storytelling.
In fact the renowned Hans Christian Andersen created some very famous free hand cut
designs that really celebrated his storytelling. Using a folding technique, the
author cut intricate designs with scissors as a form of therapy and relaxation.
The Danes are famous for their
paper cutting. Gaekkebrev translated to mean secret snowdrop letter is a
well-celebrated Danish tradition that is practiced around Easter time as the
snow is lifting. It’s a little game where you pick a snowdrop flower, attach
its delicate white buds to the paper cut design you have been snipping away at.

Example of a traditional gaekkebrev paper cutting

The idea is to write a poem or
verse, disguising your handwriting and give the paper cutting to someone. The
recipient’s job is to guess who it’s from.  If they guess correctly, then you have to give
them an Easter egg. You can sign your name in dots; one dot for each letter of
your name. This game can also be used on Valentine ’s Day for a bit of fun.
I have drawn inspiration from my
Danish roots to create a new Christmas ecard medium bringing paper cutting to
life in a digital format.
After hand drawing motifs, they are
scanned and brought to life by converting them to Vector illustrations and
digitalized.
This ecard was inspired by the
imaginary stories I would play out in my mind as a child. I created a heavenly
white village scene with paper cut flora and fauna animations fluttering and transforming
before your eyes.

Paper cut snowflake shavings falling  

In an nostalgic moment, I recalled
playing outside in the garden as a child as fresh snow fell, climbing under
branches and watching the snowflakes gently fall to the ground like pieces of
paper cuttings.  I would imagine make-believe worlds amidst a winter
wonderland, only to return to the warmth of my family home hours later with red
cheeks and numb fingers. I would spend hours transfixed on the delicate snow
gently falling outside. 

Due to global warming,
snowfall is becoming rarer before Christmas in my native country Denmark.
As I started working on this ecard, my friends and family back in
Denmark sent me photos of the very unusual first snow in November this year
which delighted and inspired me – making the process of the card’s
creation even more enjoyable.

Flora and fauna layered against a winter village backdrop

Set within a village scene transforming from day to night, the story begins with a fanciful paper snowflake being cut, dropping its paper shavings to a buoyant orchestral tune called A Whimsical Story by composer David G Steele. 

On closer look, we find deer, a fox, a rare and a variety of song birds, partridges and doves frolicking about a wondrous winter playground amidst vines and flowers inspired by traditional Polish paper cutting designs. 

The sequence ends with room to add your own Christmas message

This ecard is intended to be elevating and full of Christmas cheer. 

View the Christmas Paper Story e-card