Make a Danish Christmas Star (or how to foil even the craftiest non-Dane)


Each year I spend a few relaxing advent Sundays making Danish christmas crafts, from clove studded oranges to woven heart decorations. One of my favorites is a 3D Danish Christmas star, also known as a Froebel Star. It is classically done in white, but also available in various colors.

Be warned this activity seems to be a love/hate proposition – either you love it and quickly learn to weave stars with ease, or you hate it and end up with several crumpled piles of paper that look like knock-off Frank Gehry brainstorming models. Disclaimer aside, if you’d like to learn to make one, then proceed…

GIF of two views of a Danish Christmas star

What you need:
• a bunch of precisely cut strips of paper, in the US termed Moravian star strips (4 strips per star)
• scissors
• 15 minutes +/- your level of craftiness
• nimble fingers and patience of steel

How to do it:
Written instructions would probably rival Anna Karenina in length, so I’ll provide a few visuals. First off, a diagram. For translation services contact Google or email me for a one-on-one tutorial (limited spots available).

step by step instructions on how to make a Danish xmas heart out of Moravian star strips

If you need a play by play, my intrepid crafting friend Christa made this video. She can probably outcraft 90% of the population and does so every year with a series of braided paper hearts. If you don’t believe me, JUST YOU TRY to make a star in under 5 minutes.

There are various sizes from 6″ across to less than 1″ (you might need tweezers for that version), but the most common is about 2″ from tip to tip. Perfect for scattering about on any surface that needs some holiday cheer.

red table cloth with Danish christmas start and pine cone decorations. And chex mix.

Code-Art Donor Pin


Last year I checked off a designer to-do by creating an enamel pin for a Design Week Portland event called Pin That Shit. After the show, the extra pins I had ordered were given out to people as both business cards and old fashioned goodwill. As with many side projects created Just for Fun®, people took to it – from Sparkle Daddy Aaron Rayburn to an employee at New Season’s who engaged my 3-year old daughter in a discussion about art while he checked our groceries. Love Birds for everyone!

love bird pin in the wild

After a Moo Card blog post including my Love Bird was published, future client Amy Renshaw reached out to me about designing a series of pins for her organization Code-Art. Code-Art encourages girls to explore coding through art, and puts on workshops to give girls the opportunity to learn coding within their own interest areas. HIGH FIVE Amy. The first of many pins I designed for Code-Art was a donor pin to gift to supporters of her organization. Inspired by projects made in Code-Art workshops, it is a modern twist on the classic brooch portrait. We used Moo Cards again to create the pin backer with matching spot gloss accents. SO SHINY.

code art girls coding camp enamel pin

The theme of being a pioneer, present in many of my side projects, drew me to this organization and especially reading the stories of early female coders who led the way in the field, such as Margaret Hamilton and Ada, Countess of Lovelace who is often recognized as the first computer programmer. Margaret was instrumental in the code for putting a man on the moon. GO MARGARET! Reading their stories and seeing the photos (below Margaret stands next to a stack of code used in the Apollo mission) makes me both proud and frustrated at the pace of the representation of women in so many roles of society.

Amongst many other things, these stories made me want to support Amy and Code-Art’s mission to the umpteenth degree. And if you’d also like to support or donate to CodeArt find more information here. As a registered nonprofit 501(c)(3) all donations are tax deductible.

three photos of female coder Margaret Hamilton who worked for Nasa and helped with the Apollo mission

Olympia Provisions Holiday Card + 10% off


Tis the season for holiday cards and charcuterie. Following up on last year’s meat wreath, this year my client Olympia Provisions went for a more pyramid shaped meat art for their annual card – a stack of charcuterie bedecked with a merry star. Meaty Christmas!

Christmas pyramid of charcuterie - probably salami - from Olympia Provisions 2018 holiday card design.

On another holiday note, Olympia Provisions is hosting their second annual charcuterie box building party. Get your tickets here if you want to fill your own box or basket with meats galore and either take it home or send it to a lucky recipient.

MORE Deals! Deals! Deals!
Enter METTERULES as a promo code for 10% off online at Olympia Provisions.

Bonne Maman Advent Calendar Packaging


Front of box for the Bonne Maman advent calendar features a wreath of mini-jars of preserves  with the classic red and white checkered lid, one being plucked for enjoyment.

As a part-time Dane, I love a good advent calendar as part of my Christmas celebrations (read how Danes do xmas here). So when I got the opportunity to design and illustrate the annual advent of mini-preserves and jellies for Bonne Maman, I signed up faster than a sweet tooth gets a cavity. After a brainstorming round with several ideas presented, the concept of a wreath shape of 24 tiny Bonne Maman jars fit the bill by communicating “advent calendar” and being a simple holiday visual that was good for both distance viewing and close-up inspection.

Inside of box for Bonne Maman advent calendar with custom illustration and french-inspired hand lettered numerals, full of holiday cheer - sprigs of holly, bursts and sweet treats.

This project was fun for a few reasons, only of them being drawing teeny tiny jam jars (actually preserves, but I like the sound of jam better). The project was contracted through R/West, a Portland-founded ad agency whose creative director happened to give me my first real design job. Back in the mid-2000’s I worked with Elizabeth Morrow McKenzie when she ran her own studio, and she gave me my first introduction to packaging, hand crafted lettering and so many other firsts that are invaluable when getting started in your career (and especially important if you didn’t go to art or design school like myself).

Back of box packaging for the Bonne Maman advent calendar shows all 24 mini jars of jellies, spreads and honey.

The project was a quicky, the kind of “blink twice and it’s over” gig. But when all is said and done time always flies for me when I’m lettering Frenchy numerals or drawing muffins. Built primarily for sale in Costco, the box opens up to reveal the 24 doors that house miniature jars for each day leading up to Christmas. The box is wrapped in a sleeve that is more minimal than the inner packaging and contains all the fine print and nutritional information. Presented in stacks of large cardboard trays, the primary visuals needed to be Christmasy from a distance.

The Bonne Maman advent calendar is so festive you want to put it on your mantle!

I was going to put a bunch of FOR SALE links so everyone could buy this for their mom/cousin/sister/co-worker but the advent calendar was so popular it SOLD OUT. Sorry, nothing available at Amazon, Costco, World Market…anywhere. Instead, here are a few extra illustration excerpts from the project…and yes, I did hand-letter every single label individually in tiny Bonne Maman script.

Hand lettered french-inspired numbers and numerals with holiday and Christmas flair.

A very Cinderella inspired stack of french preserves from Bonne Maman.

Illustrations of tiny Bonne Maman preserve jars and sweet treats they can be use for.

Client: Bonne Maman
Agency: R/West
Creative Director: Elizabeth Morrow McKenzie
Brand Manager: Annatova Goodman
Designer & Illustrator: Mette Hornung Rankin/Bureau of Betterment
Designer: Anna Naef

Softy Icons


This style of icon was partially developed in the early stages of a branding project. A cleaner more geometric style was chosen, but I liked the imperfect, soft nature of these. So I did a quick study to build out a set of six, just for fun.

series of six icons with flowers, bursts, hands, speech bubbles etc to portray a soft, female-focused brand look

Olympia Provisions Catalog


My most recent project for Olympia Provisions was creating their consumer catalog – a curated line-up of OP’s best charcuterie in a small, fun digestible size and format. It is used promotionally at farmer’s markets and trade shows and sent directly to customers, and later in the year will also function as a holiday gift guide. From a designer’s perspective it was also a lovely project because it combined a photoshoot with David Reamer, working with one of my favorite food copywriters Jen Stevenson, and detailed page layout (yum, stylesheets!).

While working “out of season” always feels a little strange, many holiday pieces are created in early summer to allow for wholesale order planning, product production, etc. In fact most of my work in May was focused on the Christmas season…

A bright red cover in a hand-held size of 5×7 inches catches your attention merrily and is festooned with a border of bow-tied sausage links. The cover artwork was painstakingly created from scanning vintage cuts, or letterpress images, and piecing them together to create the scene we wanted. Of special note is the The Whole Shebang spread, technically described as half a pig. Read more about the creation of the photo here, and may you never experience a pork shortage again!

Olympia Provisions holiday catalog - a red booklet with stack of sausage on display

Welcome letter from Eli  for the Olympia Provisions holiday catalog.

Olympia Provisions clubs of the month: salami, sausage, pickles and pates.

Charcuterie gift sets from Olympia Provisions from their 2017 holiday catalog.

The Whole Shebang - half a pig from Olympia Provisions, with all the cuts of charcuterie arranged in the shape of a porky pig.

Eli Cairo's honey glazed ham recipe.

Olympia Provisions spread of Good Food Award winning charcuterie.

Build your own charcuterie board with Olympia Provisions.

Evergreen Calendar for Umpqua Bank


One of the reasons I love working for myself is getting to use most parts of my brain: design, intuition, research, organization, efficiency, critical thinking, non-critical thinking, and chocolate consumption. Which is exactly why I enjoyed this Umpqua Bank project designing an evergreen calendar – there were many interconnected parts that created the end result. The goal was to create a keepsake piece for new employees that reinforced the philosophy of Umpqua, which employees had just learned during their on-boarding training. The format chosen by the client was a desk calendar featuring 12 tenets, and that is where my work started…

An initial round of sketches was created to explore an “evergreen” form factor, ease of usability, creativity, and how it lined up with the per unit production budget. Everything from rotating columns, flippable panels, turnable magnets, reversible cards, and game-inspired counters and pegboards were a part of the first round.

initial form factor sketches for an evergreen calendar

After the sketch presentation, the array was narrowed to three main form factors to price specifically. Umpqua wanted to focus on premium materials so some simpler options were chosen to give more of the budget to materials rather than form complexity.

three refined evergreen calendar sketches

A combination of B and C was chosen to move into the visual design phase, with some modifications to meet the budget. After the form factor was nailed (for now), visual directions were explored to find the right balance of “Umpqua”, banking, fun, and feeling like a custom piece that could hold its own on a desktop. A few focus areas in the initial design process were how much emphasis to put on the date (month, day), how integrated the messaging and illustration should be, what style the illustration should have, and what color impression the calendar should have. The option chosen (C) placed the most focus on the tenet, leaving the dates to be purely functional to highlight the messaging and illustration.

initial design concepts for Umpqua Bank evergreen calendar

Throughout the production process, the per unit budget was the major factor in determining the final form. The more parts there are to assemble in production, the higher the cost, so a simple solution was needed. In the end a compromise between materials and functionality was reached. A triangular wooden stand with a powder coated lip met the cost requirement, and could hold the tenets and dates in a nice presentation. A bit of functionality was ceded in that the panels have to be manually rotated instead of flipping them on fixed rings from front to back of the stand. Real projects = real budgets. IT BE REAL, FOLKS!

wood triangle stand with powder coated metal lip to hold evergreen calendar date and tenet panels

When the term evergreen calendar is used it usually refers to a calendar that can be used for any given year because it isn’t dated specifically. We took the term “evergreen” to the next level so both the information panels AND the form factor were evergreen. Umpqua wanted the option to switch out the panels, so the structure was designed to accommodate rotating messaging without it being a hassle to change out and didn’t create too much waste. An added bonus of the form factor was that it could also serve double duty as a picture rail, note holder, whatever, if users took the tenet and date panels out.

wood triangle stand with powder coated metal lip to hold evergreen calendar date and tenet panels

tenet panel series

Tenet themes were used to guide each illustration which were created in the Umpqua brand palette, which thankfully is quite broad with multiple blues, greens, yellows and oranges. Client provided themes included: strive, thrive/challenge, change/versatility, knowledge, collaborate, diligence, grow/curiosity, heart/kindness, betterment, generosity, commitment, and unity.

twelve hand drawn illustrations to match the 12 tenets of Umpqua Bank new employee training

Credits
Client: Umpqua Bank
Creative Director: Kylie Emers
Project Manager: Jason Resch
Calendar Stand Production: Axiom
Calendar Panel Production: Pod4Print