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!

2 August 2012

Superquick sketches

Some superquick watercolor sketches I did the other day. Click to enlarge.



29 July 2012

The King of Calypso and Mama Africa


Yesterday I bought this 1965 Grammy award winning album by Harry Belafonte and Miriam Makeba in a charity shop. I greatly admire the American/Jamaican "King of Calypso" Harry Belafonte, not only for being a great singer, but also for his relentless fight for human right issues. And same goes for the late South African "Mama Africa" Miriam Makeba (who's song Pata Pata you'll surely know). On this album they joined forces to call attention to life under apartheid in South Africa. Song titles include Beware, Verwoerd! ("A warning to the Prime Minister of South Africa that the black man is on the move" it reads on the back sleeve), Give Us Our  Land and Hurry, Mama, Hurry ("Hurry, mama, and hide - the police are on their way"). There are a few African traditionals on there as well, sung in Xhosa, Zulu and Swahili. It is possibly the most beautiful protest album ever made. My favorite track by far is this duet, absolutely fantastic.

Harry Belafonte and Myriam Makeba - Train Song (Mbombela). Get it here.

19 July 2012

Ms en Mr ...

This song by duo MS MR has been stuck on repeat here for some weeks now. It's one of those bands that doesn't release any photos or information on themselves to try to make themselves more intriguing and mysterious. Right.. *sigh* The video doesn't give away anything either. So all I know they're from New York and that this song is ace.

Download the song here, or  if the link is expired fill in your email address and get it here.

The video reminded me of the vid my friend Anita Sharma made for Bart Constant back in April (and in my opinion it fits the song much better than the MS MR one). This song is ace too.

17 July 2012

Architecture and Wine

Like I said in my previous post, it does occasionally rain in northern Spain. So when the forecast predicted not so nice weather in Santander, we decided to leave our friends for a few days to travel south to the area of La Rioja. Sometime last year I  had read an article in Easyjet's inflight magazine (of all places..) about the amazing architecture of some of the wineries in that region. I had kept a copy and with its help we mapped out a route for our little road trip.

After spending the night in a charming posada in the (extremely) sleepy village of Sajazarra (there was not even a shop in this village, but at 8.30 am a man drove through the village blaring through a megaphone that he was selling melons from his trunk) we had our first tour and wine tasting at 10 am at Bodegas López de Heredia Viña Tondonia. Architecturally not the most exciting winery (only the reception slash tasting room has a futuristic, decanter-shaped design), but our friends (and Easyjet) recommended the place because it's one of the oldest wineries in the region and they still make wine the traditional way. 

I'm glad we made this our first stop, because we learned a lot about the process of wine making and the natural conditions that influence it (temperature, the wood and age of the barrels, humidity, mold and spiders). I was very impressed (and at the same time disgusted) by all the mold that covers the walls. It works as a form of insulation that keeps the temperature and humidity in check.

They make some unique white wines, that are well worth a taste. Best thing is the tour will cost you €10, but when you buy a bottle they'll give you a €10 discount on showing them your ticket. So we left, after being entertained and educated for an hour and a half, had two free glasses of wine, with two bottles of wine that had cost us €2,50!

After about a half an hour drive we reached Marqués de Riscal in the village of Elciego, in the Basque country. It is well known for the building designed by Frank Gehry (opened in 2006). The colors reflect the colors of the wine and bottles (silver and gold). The story goes Gehry was apprehensive at first, but was convinced to work for them after they had opened a bottle from the year he was born, 1929.

∧ I couldn't even get a decent photo of the whole building because they were cleaning the titanium  (!) plates with a cherry picker :-(
Gehry's building is a hotel, restaurant, bistro and spa. Unless you're staying at this luxury hotel or have a (Michelin starred) meal or have a vinotherapy (pfff!) here you can't get nearer than where I took my picture. The winery itself is housed in far less interesting buildings and is much more like a factory really, with massive halls filled with massive stainless steel tanks. 

By inviting Gehry they hoped the building would do for the winery what the Guggenheim did for Bilbao. And I think it has worked... The places was heaving. There were about 30 people on the tour, which started by showing us an awful corporate film. In all the whole experience was a bit of a disappointment. But I would love to go back and have their tasting menu in the more affordable bistro, to get a closer look at the building, and to sample their chickpea stew with monkfish and clams and meat balls with truffle.

That afternoon we continued our roadtrip by driving in a south-western direction towards the region of Ribera del Duero. It was a long but beautiful drive that took us through green hills, rocky canyons, passing clear blue lakes and over vast planes. The next day we had booked a tour and tasting at Bodega Portia. Their brand new building (2010) has been designed by the British architect Norman Foster (also know for 'The Gherkin' in London).

Now this was truly an impressive design, where the building has been fully integrated with process of the wine making and the rest of the corporate design. The building is a three-legged star, and in each of the wings one stage of the wine making process takes place: vinification, fermentation and aging. When the grapes have been harvested the trucks drive up the slope to the top of the building where they off load the grapes by dumping them onto a corkscrew sort of devise that transports the grapes to a lower level without them being crushed. Amazing! Inside the small windows (which are at ground level) provide a wine colored glow. There's also a restaurant with a beautiful outside seating area where you can have lunch or just a coffee.

There are many more wineries with impressive architecture in La Rioja and surrounding areas and I'd love to go back and visit some more. It's just such a tasteful combination.

15 July 2012

Best about Bilbao

Sorry for the lack of posts! I escaped the grey skies and went on holiday to Northern Spain to visit friends in Santander. I was very happy to see my friends again and to catch a bit of warmth and sunshine (though Northern Spain isn't as hot as you might think, the weather is pretty temperamental and they do get quite a bit of rain. Which means it's very green; the landscape is just stunning!)

We started off our trip in Bilbao. Best things: €1.20 for a glass of good wine and the pinxtos, sort of like the Basque version of tapas. They are served on the top of the bar and you just have your pick. Most of them include ham, seafood and/or tortilla. Mmmm!!

Equally as good are the museums in Bilbao. Of course The Guggenheim is the most famous, but we also enjoyed the Fine Arts Museum, where we visited an exhibition of etchings by Goya (entrance is free on Wednesdays!).

Frank Gehry's Guggenheim is worth a visit no matter what's on. But as it happened David Hockney's exhibition A Bigger Picture was on show! I had missed this exhibition at the Royal Academy in London, so I was thrilled that I was offered a second chance. 

The exhibition focuses on Hockney's fascination with the landscape. It shows his latest iPad paintings, as well as older works that has lead up to these works. Over the last 10 years Hockney, who has lived in California since the 1960s, has spent a lot of time capturing the scenery of his native Yorkshire. I was especially impressed by the watercolors he did there. He has a great technique and the colors are so vibrant for watercolor. It was also amazing to see that he used a gadget like the iPad for a theme that is so traditional as the landscape, and that he managed to paint on the iPad in the same way as he would on canvas; they are undoubtedly Hockneys.

A few of his (large format) watercolor sketchbooks were on display as well. I personally find it difficult to draw or paint the 'bigger picture' (landscapes, rooms, environments in general) and I found his sketchbooks so inspirational that I bought A Yorkshire Sketchbook. The sketches are quite simple, but very effective and convincing.

25 June 2012

Punk Poet

Last night I went to see 'punk poet' John Cooper Clarke at The Gate in Cardiff (great venue by the way, a former church). He is like the Busta Rhymes of poetry, he spits really fast! He is also known for his huge hair and for having toured with The Fall, The Sex Pistols, Siouxsie and the Banshees and Joy Division. He plays himself in Anton Corbijn's Control, opening for Joy Div as he did in 1977. Here he is in the video for Transmission (1979):

I really enjoyed it, especially the first half was extremely funny and he performed a few of his 'greatest hits' at the end. I also really enjoyed 'support act' Mike Garry, who's poems are almost exclusively odes to his city Manchester and its residents.

21 June 2012

Pub Carpet Crawl #3 - The Cantonville Ghost and other stories

Let me start by telling those of you who don't know yet, I am moving to London at the end of this summer! I'm obviously VERY excited about this, but it does mean that last Saturday's third edition of the Pub Carpet Crawl was probably the last one in Cardiff. *SNIF!!* I must emphasize the word probably, because on my Pub Carpet Crawls we've only been to two areas, which means I'm still very far removed from having collected all the pub carpets in Caerdydd. I've also noticed London pubs don't tend to have carpet that often, so there might just be a reunion!

For Pub Carpet Crawl #3 we returned to Canton, to finish what we started in March: the rest of the Canton Mile. We met at the Victoria Park Pub, an establishment that has - in my opinion - a great classic pub carpet. 

There is a skittle alley at The Vicky, painted in a high gloss Kermit green. We had a go at skittles, which you would think is a lot like bowling but it's actually far more difficult. 

Next up was The Clive. A bit of a nondescript pub, but they did have two different carpets. The one in the front of the pub (seen in the second picture below) was particularly hideous and even more so in combination with the various patterns on the chairs.

In The Duke of Clarence we could finally catch up on what was happening in the group A finals of the Eurocup, as they showed both matches (they love football at The Duke - it's a well known haunt for fans of the Cardiff City 'Bluebirds' football club). We were very upset not to find carpet, but we were very impressed by the reupholstering of the back of the benches that line the entire pub (which is actually a nice feature of The Duke). 

 ∧ Reupholstered in a beautiful shiny silk. The red velvet seats up next?

Now over the past few years I've gained a bit of experience when it comes to pubs and carpets and I just knew there had to be carpet somewhere in the Duke. My best guess was the loos, so I went for a wee. No carpet there, but on my way to the toilets I discovered there was a function room at the back of the pub where a massive party was going on! It was dark in there with lots of flickering disco lights and people shaking their hips to Jerry Lee Lewis. Eager to join in on the fun I quickly went in and there it was: the carpet. The carpet was on an elevated area where people were sitting and as they all turned their heads when I stormed in with my camera I soon came to realize I had just crashed a private party (the massive array of snacks and presents on the table behind me also gave me a hint). Too embarrassed to take a picture of the carpet I left...  

A good few pubs on the Canton Mile have closed in the last few years and we were sad to discover  The Insole has suffered the same fate.

∧ The Insole looking desolate.

O well, enter the Canton Liberal Club. Wow this place was happening and with its five different carpets it was truly a pub carpet heaven! It is a huge building, with a large lounge in the front with a pool table and other antique table ball games (called 'bagatelle', according to their website only found in one other place in the UK).

In the back people were playing bingo and there was another room where again there was a massive party going on with lots of disco lights and people shaking their hips, this time to more contemporary dance music. The beer was cheap as chips and they even sold ham rolls. This place is a keeper!

The big five of the Canton Liberal Working Men's Club:

We were only at our 4th stop and we were already running out of time. The size of the group (+/- 30) made it almost impossible to keep the drinking tempo in sync. Realizing with a shock that it was 22.30 already I think I ran to the Butcher's Arms! This is one of those pubs I never dared to enter, because from the outside you can't see anything through the windows except that they have fluorescent tubes for lightning. So yes this is a very traditional pub, but the atmosphere inside was very pleasant.

Then all of a sudden a pint dropped. Promptly one of the staff members came out with a mop. They told us not to worry as it happens more often that drinks are spilled without anyone touching them. Apparently this started happening after the previous landlord fell down the stairs in the pub and broke his neck. Brrrrr eerie!

∧ The haunted pint.

Maybe they got tired of all the spontaneous smashing pints soaking the carpet and therefor opted for a wooden floor in the bar? There was still carpet in the  backroom and  the toilets though (because it's far less worse when fluids are being spilled here..?!) ∨

Oh and what a joy, turned out The Corporation around the corner stayed open till midnight! This was the last pub we visited on Pub Carpet Crawl #1, but then I had been so distracted that I'd completely forgotten to take a picture of the carpet... So it was totally legit to go there again and have one more beer.

∧ Would you believe a pint had just been dropped here?! (Not by a ghost this time..) 
The Corporation has an extremely absorbing carpet!

An old man was DJ'ing and gramps had an impressive laser show going on! He even spoke through a mic in between songs, which I always find so endearing. He played us Dolly Parton and the B52s, which was nice.

Then the clock struck twelve and we were kicked out of The Corporation. The last Pub Carpet Crawl in Cardiff had ended. Though it not necessarily meant the end of the night... 

I'm a bit melancholic now, but the crawls have been so  much fun. I'll definitely continue doing them in London. Without wanting to sound too pretentious, there is more to them than just drinking beer and taking pictures of carpets as some weird hobby. They lead you into unknown territory, let you have a glimpse at worlds you are normally not a part of, you learn about the neighborhood and its history, you meet new people and erm.. you get to spend the whole next day in bed.

12 June 2012

Dead Man Working

It's not in my usual line of work, but still worth a mention: the cover photography I did for the book Dead Man Working by Carl Cederström and Peter Fleming. I had to make fake blood and then create puddles and splatter it around, which was heaps of fun! It has been published by Zero Books, a 'radical' publisher, whose catalogue will be much of interest to those of you who are into philosophy, political theory and cultural studies.

"What does the worker tell us today? "I feel drained, empty... dead." This book follows the dead man working from the daily tedium of the office, to the humiliating mandatory team building exercise, to awkward encounters with the funky boss who pretends to hate capitalism and tells you to be authentic. When the corporation has colonized life itself, even our dreams, the question of escape becomes ever more pressing, ever more desperate..."

Despite the fact I don't have to go on humiliating team building exercises, I am my own funky boss and I love my new-found daily tedium of the office, this does sound like an interesting read!

Order it from Amazon here.

11 June 2012

An animated invitation

(click to enlarge)  
For a private client I recently made an invitation for their wedding party on a rooftop terrace in Madrid. As the invitation was going to be send out electronically I suggested turning it into an animated GIF. I have an absolute soft spot for animated GIFs, so I was very excited about finally having an excuse for making one myself!

8 June 2012

50s novelty

Probably fueled by the idea of making a circle skirt from my recently bought fruit pattered curtains, I've been looking at lots of 1950s full skirts and dresses on eBay and Etsy. I'm absolutely fascinated by the NOVELTY prints from that era.

 Now that's what I call a poodle skirt!

Both for sale here on Etsy.

 ∧  Bananas, pineapples, brown leaves and monkeys = want. 
If you do have a 25" waist you can buy it here on Etsy.

Sold for $200 here.

 ∧ Shakespeare themed fabric!
Snap up a bargain due to slightly yellow stained armpits here on Etsy!


∧ Possibly my favourite: various brands of tobacco ands smoking paraphernalia. 
Unfortunately already sold here.