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

Who’s been naughty AND nice?

This year I wanted to develop a theme inspired by our pets
as they are so much part of our families, as our human children are. For this
new Christmas ecard, the idea was to inject a bit of fun into the festive
season using three little mischievous kittens.
Digital kitten engaging with scanned images of water coloured objects forming a rich background
Anyone who has observed cats and
boxes (or even young children and boxes), will have seen how they are always
more interested in the box itself, rather than what is inside.  They like
to try to find any way possible to get inside a box, no matter how small or
impossible it may seem. There are tons of You Tube videos that play
testament to that.
This card is a series of vignettes
of three little playful kittens getting into the Christmas presents which kind
of represents the suspense that we all feel when we see the boxes under the
Christmas tree. They create a bit of mayhem as only cheeky furry creatures can,
before finding a perfect cozy spot in a box to snuggle and settle in for
Christmas.  I think this embodies the idea of getting warm and comfy for
the holiday season.
The formation of the card involves
different elements, using hand painted objects and animated digital characters.
 After developing the idea for this card,
the basic tale is story-boarded. 
Next, the elements making up the
scene, such as the wrapped presents, boxes and a Christmas tree, had to be sketched,
painted in water colours then scanned into the computer via Photoshop. The
result is a more illustrated feel and look to the overall card.
Hand painted water colour stuffed elephant toy prior to being scanned 
The cheeky kittens were rendered and animated using Adobe Flash, but key frames are usually hand sketched first like traditional animation, so you have more control over
plotting the movements of your characters. The sweet kittens stalk, pounce, climb
and jump amongst a flurry of gifts and boxes in a delightfully natural manner. We wanted to capture the naturally curious nature of these playful
cats. 
Check out the finished product:  www.ojolie.com/index.php?ec_id=208
Can you relate to this ecard?

I would love you to share your experiences here about how
your pets also enjoy Christmas. 
Please feel free to post any pics you have of
your furry creatures getting into the Christmas spirit and let’s enjoy the
inquisitive nature of our darling pets.

Illuminate the World with Peace

I developed two new cards as a response to all the turmoil
going on around the world. We wanted to remind people that despite all the
chaos, we can choose to focus on positivity and resonate this intention out to
all those around us.

Reflecting on the idea of light as a symbol of hope and enlightenment, I decided to combine both the modern concept of lights through illuminated light bulbs, but with a slightly retro touch for a hip graphic designed style.
Ojolie “Illuminate the World” animated e-card for the holidays 

The result is our newest e-card, “Illuminate the World”, set against a starry
evening sky, with light bulbs illuminated with the words: Peace, Hope and Joy, coming
to life to shine brightly with Christmas greetings. 

The world needs a big
injection of these three elements right now. 

The idea for our new Peace Ribbon e-card came from a trip to the store to buy some simple ribbon for presents.  The news from that day was still going through my mind – another day of senseless violence and unrest.  As I sat fiddling with the ribbon between my hands on the ride home I could see the word peace forming.  It was only when I arrived home, I realized I had the first sparks of a card in the making.

I chose  white doves for this e-card as they are
a classic symbol of peace and a candy cane white and red striped ribbon to inject some uplifting holiday spirit.  There is nothing solemn or mellow about this card. The animated doves dance and fly about to an
upbeat tempo whilst holding red ribbons in their beaks, to spell out the word
“Peace” against the backdrop of an earth globe.

Wishing you peace and joy – and that these e-cards bring smiles to the
faces and the hearts of your loved ones all around the world.   

Two New Christmas e-Cards: Little Carolers and Cheerful Greetings

As we are putting the finishing touches on our production for New Year, we are happy to let you know that we have added two more Christmas and holiday cards for you to send.

The Little Carolers in our newest card sing a delightful version of “We Wish you a Merry Christmas” for their forest friends. The animation in this card has been some of the most challenging to date, but I wanted to give you another happy and upbeat Christmas card like lasts year’s very popular Christmas Vibe.

The second card, Cheerful Greetings, was not part of the plan this year, but the evening the idea for the card was conceived, I decided I simply had to start right away. When the vision for a card is entirely clear, it would be a shame not to seize the moment. And so without further fanfare, I present to you, a short card suitable for just about anyone this time of year and captures the spirit of the season.
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Little Carolers


Cheerful Greetings

Along with the other three new cards added recently to our selection and the many other previous cards, there is plenty to choose from for everyone, no matter when, where or how you celebrate the season.



It’s Snowing


Warmest Wishes


Joy & Peace

And don’t forget, although our cards come with pre-written greeting options, you can always personalize your cards by writing your own greeting and including a photo.

If your membership is almost up for renewal, why not renew your membership today and take advantage of our limited time special when you sign up for two years – two whole years of sending our wonderful ecards to your friends and family plus we throw in a free gift membership. Our membership fee is still only $12 for one year or $18 for two years.

2 New Christmas eCards Reindeers and Snow

With the festive season drawing near, we have started adding the first of many new and exciting holiday cards to our site. After many, many months of working on our holiday line up, personally I am always very excited by the time we get this far.

Announcing Two New Cards

Warmest Wishes

It gets hot and steamy really fast when two reindeers decide to share a cup of hot cocoa. It is a great neat and modern card that will be sure to please just about anyone.

It’s Snowing

Ever since I was a child, one of the best feelings I know is being safely tucked in a warm house, watching the snow gently falling outside, candles lit, preferably after tossing some snow around and getting red cheeks first. It’s a really lovely traditional holiday card perfect for just about anyone.

These two new ecards are just two of hundreds of cards in our collection. So don’t forget to check out our many other wonderful holiday ecards.

Why not renew your membership today and take advantage of our limited time special when you sign up for two years – two whole years of sending our wonderful ecards to your friends and family plus we throw in a free gift membership for a friend or a family member. Our membership fee is still only $12 for one year or $18 for two years.

Finally, remember that you can write and schedule cards now for sending at a specified future date – a great way to get your holiday cards off in good time. So preparing for the holidays is a breeze, right from the comfort of your home.

Fun Christmas eCard for kids and adults

This year I wanted to create a Christmas card that would be really entertaining for people of all ages, while staying true to our mission to create something artistic and tasteful. We started planning this card many months ago and it includes some of our most challenging animation to date – three hip-hop dancing rats with lots of personality as well as an elegant fairy all strutting their stuff to a nice up-tempo version of “Sugar Plum Fairy”. The characters in the card are as proud as we are of the final results – to see what I mean watch the card. I hope you will find it truly entertaining to watch.

Christmas Vibe

We also released a second version of the card “Midnight Mass” with a different choice of music – the second version is titled “O Holy Night” and includes the Christmas carol by the same name.

O Holy Night

The holiday season is a time to give thanks, and we are very thankful for all your support, constructive feedback and comments. We still have two more cards on the way before the New Year, but my personal resolution for the coming year is to keep challenging myself to stay creative, keep learning and give your more great cards to send.

Midnight Mass Christmas eCard

The inspiration for our newest card for Christmas was a painting I did of a winter landscape at night. The reflective light of the snow creates an almost ethereal landscape as people gather for Midnight Mass. The card includes a wonderful rendition of “Amazing Grace”.

Midnight Mass

Here is an alternative version of the card “Midnight Mass” with the Christmas carol “O Holy Night” instead.

O Holy Night

In addition to these 2 cards and the card “Paper Star” which was released last week, we have three more cards on the way for the Christmas and New Year holidays that will be released shortly. So there is still more to look forward to.

Here are our Christmas ecard collection and New Year ecard collection.

Christmas eCard : Paper Star

To show my appreciation for your support I created my own designs for making paper ornaments, which I have included in this new card along with instructions. I have also included instructions for making a traditional folded paper star and a woven heart and I want to share a little bit about the tradition of making these ornaments with you.

Paper Stars

My Scandinavian forbears developed traditions that helped them cope with the cold and dark winter days. One of my favorite has always been gathering with friends and family in the weeks before Christmas to make handmade paper ornaments while sipping on warm gloegg and eating aebleskiver by candlelight, tucked under a blanket and wearing big fluffy slippers. This is what we call “hygge”. It is a concept that is difficult to translat but is very important in my culture:

“the word describes a particular state of mind, an atmosphere, the creation of a little mental and physical space where the turmoil and troubles of the outside world is shut out and a warm, intimate, convivial mood is created. The desire for hygge is a hugely motivating force in Danish culture and has a lot to do with the long dark winters. From the beginning of October all the way until the end of March darkness rules the country and the sunshine is a sad, pale thing. When it’s cold and gloomy outside for this long, moods tends to follow suit and to stave off an annual dip into depression, the Danes have developed the art of creating hygge into a fine art, and almost a national obsession.”

To read more go to this website which is the source of this nice explanation.

The card is of course perfect for friends and family members who love crafts, but I have found that almost everyone seems to enjoy getting together with other people and folding a few paper stars or hearts while decorating the Christmas tree. The competitive in my family even went as far as trying to make the stars smaller and smaller using tweezers to see who could make the smallest star. Many of the ornaments were traditionally made to function as little baskets that were filled with nuts, dried fruits, chocolates and candies in a time when presents had not yet made their appearance under the tree because most people could not afford such luxuries. These homemade ornaments have come to symbolize the deeper meaning of Christmas to me, one that is centered around a shared experience, simple joys and a little hygge.

Here are our other Christmas ecards.

Enjoy and keep warm!

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Christmas Choir eCard

We have added one more card to the site called “Choir”. This is a Christmas rendition of the very popular card I created a few months ago called “Ave Maria”. It still features the very detailed stained glass window I painted using watercolor for the original card, but is made more festive for Christmas with a boys choir singing “O Come All Ye Faithful”.

Choir