Welcome to The Cuckoo Jar, a blog by Nanna Koekoek - illustrator, music- and flea market junkie.
Head over to my website to take a look at my portfolio. And don't hesitate to get in touch!

25 December 2011

My stay with Arne

I'm writing you from the 10th floor of the -what was once- the famous Royal Hotel (now owned by Radisson Blu). I've got an amazing view of Copenhagen and when it gets dark (3.30ish pm!) two million lights underneath my window light up at the Tivoli Gardens. The Royal Hotel was designed between 1954 and 1960 by the Danish designer and architect Arne Jacobsen, ENTIRELY. From the exterior of the building to the cutlery, from the door handles to the furniture. The famous Egg- and Swan chairs were designed especially for the hotel. 

∧ a fervent pipe smoker, a real Dane: Arne Jacobsen!
By the looks of it they have just finished the paneling of our room here :-)

Although the hotel has lost a lot of its glamour and class of its early days, it still has Arne Jacobsen written all over it. They have kept one room in its original state, exactly like it was when the hotel was built in 1960: Room 606. It is available for bookings, and if it's not booked the less fortunate can have a peek. Luckily it wasn't occupied when we were there, so the concierge kindly took us up there. It was like a time warp!


24 December 2011

Warmest wishes

Warmest Wishes and Happy Holidays my dear readers!

This year I made a card inspired by vintage Christmas cards featuring pets, more specifically cats. I found a lot of these and they are just bizarre...

∧ The cats look either extremely sad, or sinister

∧ or mean

∧ cats and champagne, of course!

∧ those were the days that Christmas Wishes were still sincere.

21 December 2011

The Bill Cosby Sweater legacy

Last Saturday I went to a dinner party for a friend's birthday. The fact that he was the birthday boy wasn't the only thing that made him the focal point of the evening, his knitted cardigan made him the centre of attention as well! Opinions varied on his - what I would classify as a - Cosby sweater.

It's pretty amazing what an enormous influence Bill Cosby's sweaters have had; I mean, there's a whole type of garment named after it. And they still prove to be a source of inspiration to artists and designers today, even after a 30 odd years. Now I only recently found out that the guy who designed the sweaters is Dutch! His name is Koos van den Akker and he left fashionless Holland for New York in the early sixties. Vice interviewed him recently in his NY studio (watch it here - highly recommended!). Koos hits the nail on the head when he looks at the sweaters and says, with a very cute Dutch accent: 
"This is a very thin line between absolutely awful and something of genius. Somebody can look at this and say 'What the fuck is this? This is the most horrible thing I've ever seen' and you know, somebody else says.. 'it's inspiration'".


Inspired by this (pizza??) sweater, pictured above, Andrew Salomone created this jumper on a HACKED electronic knitting machine from the 1980s (God, I wish I was so nerdy as to be able to hack a knitting machine!! Watch the tutorial here on the Craft site). Bill on the sweater is wearing the sweater, so there's a nice Droste-effect!

Another Cosby sweater inspired project is The Cosby Sweater Project. Kelly Tucker makes drawings of patterns of all the knits worn on the show. Maybe it was the outrageous 80s, but everybody in the Cosby show seemed to wearing awesome sweaters!

Even musicians have been inspired by the sweater: a quick research shows the garment gets a mention in songs by Ghostface Killah, MF Doom and Yelawolf. In 2008 Oh Snap!! released The Cosby Sweater EP. This remix by Hostage is a proper banger, with a nice Miami Bass-y intro. "... the elbow's leather and there's pink and green and o and blue..." hahaha.

Oh Snap! - Bill Cosby Sweater (Hostage Remix). Download it here.

20 December 2011


I've signed the contract so it's official: as of January 1st 2012 I'll have a studio space in the Morgan Arcade in Cardiff! With 12 other illustrators, designers and artists I will move in on the second floor of this beautiful Victorian arcade. I'm very much looking forward to having an 'office' (which means home will be a home again) and 'colleagues'!

19 December 2011

Dogs on show

Totally forgot to mention it here on my blog, but in their quest for new sub-urban owners my dyed show dogs have traveled to Almere and Lelystad this December! They'll be for sale during the Kerst & Carry exhibitions, where you can buy perfect Christmas gifts from young designers and artists. Everything is hand picked by curator Renée Reijnders, so you know there'll be quality stuff. For more information on directions and opening hours visit the Corrosia! website.

If you haven't seen any pictures of this dyeing dog craze, have look here or here or here (I tried drawing the Chow Chow that looks like a panda, but it just looked like a panda!).

17 December 2011

The Northern Soul phenomena

All these findings of particles traveling faster than the speed of light excite me a lot. Because it means that time traveling is possible! In theory... I hope they invent a device soon because I need to be teletransported to the Wigan Casino on the outskirts of Manchester somewhere between the years 1973 and 1981.

While the rest of the UK listened to funk, disco, punk, and later new wave, glam rock and metal youngsters in the North let their hair down to obscure mid-sixties American soul. The first club that started playing this music was the Twisted Wheel in Manchester in the late sixties. Soon other venues started having 'Northern Soul' all-nighters (they really went on all night, till 8 am or so). In September 1973 the Wigan Casino opened its doors in a former ballroom. It was massive, it could hold up to 1200 people. Lighting was provided by a couple of fluorescent tubes and there was no bar (!!). Plenty of other stimulants were available though, that were best consumed with water anyway (and chewing gum). The acoustics were excellent and the wooden floor was perfect for smooth moves, spins, drops and twirls. Look!

Next time I'm on the dancefloor I want to do what that guy is doing at 1:00!!!

Apparently The Casino wasn't the most interesting place when it came to the music, but it became THE place for dancing.

I find the whole Northern Soul phenomena fascinating for many reasons. For one that it was kids growing up in bleak industrial north of England that were absolutely gripped by this black footstomping music from the other side of the Atlantic, a decade after its heydays. These were ordinary lads and lasses who worked in the factory all day. Just as in the US (especially Detroit) this music was their salvation; when you listen to people speak about their experiences then it sounds like it was almost like a religion to them. For many 'soullies' Northern Soul is still a way of life. Manchester based Granada TV made a nice short documentary on it in 1977. It gives you a good idea of the context (and more impressive dance moves at 6:00).

I also love the fact people took a bag to the club. In here they kept their dancing shoes, talcum powder, a towel and a spare shirt (things got sweaty - many people went straight from the club to a public bath for a swim!). Venues, record labels and events all had their own badge, which would be sewn on the bag (jeez, that must have been hard work). 

You could also bring a little case for your 45s, as there was a lively record trade going on during the night. There would be vendors or you could swap with other Northern Soul fanatics. Because Northern Soul DJs and fans were obsessive record collectors. As the competition grew DJs tried to distinguish themselves by playing the rarest records. In their quest people traveled to the US to look for obscure records at thrift stores, garage sales and warehouses. Even the vaults of small record companies were searched for unreleased material. As Bill Brewster and Frank Broughton put it in their book Last Night A DJ Saved My Life Northern Soul really was “a genre built from failures:
“…Northern Soul was the music made by hundreds of singers and bands who were copying the Detroit sound of Motown pop. Most of the records were complete failures in their own time and place… but in northern England from the end of the 1960s through to its heyday in the middle 1970s, were exhumed and exalted.”
Artists like Gloria Jones, Junior Walker, Edwin Starr, Jackie Wilson and Martha Reeves (who danced at the Wigan herself for hours on end!) all to came to England to play and were given a second carrier thanks to The Norther Soul scene. Unknown singers were hailed as superstars, often much to their own surprise. 

I've been to a couple of Northern Soul nights, and every time I would be amazed about all these tracks I had never heard before. You think you know a little bit about soul music, but forget it, I was happy to be singing along to one tune during an entire evening!

Even while watching Northern Soul videos on YouTube I heard a song that was new to me, and it was another case of 'song, where have you been all my life?!' You can download it here, as well as a track by Dobie Gray, a Northern Soul hero who passed away last week.

Lou Pride - I'm Comun Home in The Morning. Download it here.

Dobie Gray - The In Crowd. Download it here.

On December 6th it was 30 years ago the Wigam Casino closed. The council, who owned the building, wanted to build a new civic centre there. It never happened and about a year later it burned down. So there is no chance of ever going back there. I really need that time traveling machine!!

14 December 2011

Interesting faces

Totally inspired by the Grayson Perry exhibition and replenished with tea and a scone from the cafe I started wondering through the rest of the British Museum. It truly is a treasure chest! I went downstairs to the African section first hoping to find out more about the masks I bought in a charity shop recently. Idle hope of course... But I did see a lot of other interesting faces!

∧ Don't these African masks remind you of the rabbit from Alice in Wonderland?! 


 ∧ Love Assyrian beards!

 ∧ The Etruscans also did nice beards. ∨

 ∧ Brrr.. F.R.E.A.K.Y.!

13 December 2011

The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman

As soon as I set foot on London soil this last Friday, I hurried myself to the British Museum for the Grayson Perry exhibition The Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman. What a joy it was!  

Perry curated his own show, displaying new as well as older works next to artifacts that he had picked from the British Museum's vast collection (it contains 8 million objects!). I know the man mainly for his ceramics: vases on which he makes beautiful drawings and collages. But I loved seeing works in other media here. I love the themes in his work like shrines, magic, maps, 'scary figures', gender, authenticity ("I love fakes for they make us think about what is is we see in the authentic") and craftsmanship itself. I love how he draws from folklore and outsider art, and mixes tradition with the contemporary. I also love the fact that he talks about his art in a pretty straight forward, unpretentious way and the way he sees himself as an artist: 
"Part of my role as an artist is similar to that of a shaman or witch doctor. I dress up, I tell stories, give things meaning and make them a bit more significant. Like religion this is not a rational process, I use my intuition (...)"
As you can tell by my multiple use of the word LOVE I really LOVED this show and I urge you to go and see it if you have the chance!! It's on until 19th February 2012.

The Rosetta Vase.

∧ detail of  The Rosetta Vase

The Frivolous Now.
He made the sketch for this vase the evening before decorating it by doodling away in front of the telly. 

A dish from c. 1700. You can see where he gets his mustard.

 ∧ One of the most impressive pieces was this immense tapestry (almost 3 x 7 meters),
depicting religious and secular pilgrimage destinations.

∧ Perry went on a pilgrimage himself, to Germany, on this motor cycle, with on the back seat his 50-year-old teddybear Alan Measles (“the benign dictator of my childhood imaginary world”). 

∧ He made sort of a pope-mobile construction for Alan. The bike is on display at the British Museum, but the teddy is a replica. The real Alan is far too precious to be displayed! 

∧ Inspired by pilgrimage tokens/souvenirs Perry designed one for his and Alan's own pilgrimage. Several tokens were on display including this contemporary one from Japan:
"Perhaps more than any other object this hand towel embodies the spirit of this exhibition. It is fitting that it comes from Japan, a country that seems to have a remarkable ability to blend ancient traditions with modern technology and popular culture. Two Hello Kitty characters, created for merchandising in 1974, are dressed as traditional Japanese pilgrims (o-henro-san) in white robes, sticks and straw hats. This towel was sold as a souvenir on the island of Shikoku, famous for its 1200 km pilgrimage route taking in 88 Buddhist temples. So here we have an object featuring modern cartoon characters and a ritual dating back to the 18th century AD coming together on an object carried in most Japanese women's handbags."

8 December 2011

The world should listen

Not long now! My pal Rutger, who nowadays carries the alias of Bart Constant, will release his long awaited new album Tell Yourself Whatever You Have To on January 13 (well PIAS will :-). Which is still a good four weeks... BUT until then you can stream the album from Dutch website VPRO 3voor12! By clicking here. You should. Everybody should, because it is absolutely brilliant. A masterpiece. Maybe you don't believe me and think I'm biased, but just have a look & listen at this award winning video and be converted.

January 6 Bart Constant will celebrate his release in gallery Meneer Malasch in Amsterdam. And if you're very lucky you can catch him live at the Noorderslag Festival in Groningen on Saturday January 14.