December is an anticipatory month, a month of gathering and making. It’s also, in my 45th-degree-north and continental-climate-centric world view, defined by the first real snow*. You’ll notice that both the real life paper-cut snowflakes and the art-mimicking-life snowflakes here are rather aggressively six-pointed**. It’s hard to get much more belligerent than this in December in Minnesota, when everything is smiles and anticipation. We’re into the snow of winter, but the novelty hasn’t worn off. Blizzards? Bring ’em on! Snow days? No complaints here! See how fat flakes sparkle under streetlights? It’s the same gleam coming from every toothy grin. Really, it’s happy times all around!
The paper-cut snowflakes are a bit of homage to my great-grandmother, Popo/Paupau (grandmother, different cousins used different romanizations). Of course, she signed her cards to my generation Ah-bok, but it always felt like a technicality. She was deft with paper and scissors, accordion-folding whatever newsprint was around, snip-snipping for a moment, and holding it up to reveal a line of people holding hands. Pretty magical, no matter how many times I watched her.
Making these snowflakes is a lovely nostalgic little handicraft, easily portable (though picking up the sometimes staticky tiny remnants can prove a challenge) and seasonally appropriate. Like the shortening days and the promise of snow of December, there’s a kind of magic to it–no matter how many you’ve experienced, the unfurling is always its own revelation. Some years I use them with wrapping on presents. They’re delicate, imperfectly symmetrical, somewhere between surprisingly sturdy and definitely ephemeral.
Bonus photo-less DIY!
If you want to make similar snowflakes, here’s the secret, as taught to me by my mother during my apparently very impressionable youth. Use cupcake/muffin liners. Smooth them out into circles, then fold them in half, then in thirds (and then in half again?). You can use foil ones for a little extra sparkle, but the aluminum is harder to unfold successfully and I tend to stick with the translucent plain ones. These particular snowflakes are made with mini-liners. I think they might be sold for holding individual truffles? I like my crafts to feed my neuroses and there’s something about certain kinds of detail work that brings me a probably somewhat pathological pleasure. I generally use equally tiny tools–I find the kind of curved-blade scissors that some people use to cut nails work very well for snipping away tiny bits. Play around with it and you’ll get a sense of what cuts do what. And I’ll add it to my list of things-to-maybe-take-photos-of-and-blog-about-next-winter.
Calendar available here.
* Actually, this snow-feeling is like many emotional weather-states–not always based in reality. I’ve heard various people break it down over the years, discussing how often snow flies and sticks before the new year, and it’s far from 100%, even before factoring in how climate change impacts this.
* A small rant for artists, designers, teachers, meteorologists, snow lovers, doodlers, and all others who might possibly ever maybe have a sliver of a notion of graphically representing snowflakes or talking about the graphical representation of snowflakes. They are six-pointed. Not five, not eight. Six. This is science. It’s not negotiable. I realize there are all sorts of arguments for creative liberties and normally, yes, yay! creativity! but when it comes to snowflakes nope. As far as I know, the only two reasons to do non-six-pointed snowflakes are 1) ignorance (in which case, solved! in one blog post!), and 2) laziness (and here I beseech you to consider the children! doesn’t your art/classroom/napkin/TV graphic deserve better!). I just can’t. Please, people. Six points. Science. Thank you.