Cecilie O Product Range in AEON Stores in Japan

Cecilie O licensed product in AEON stores

Cecilie O licensed products in AEON stores

A range of nine types of bag and pouch models, umbrellas and a set of apron with pot holders were released for Mother’s Day 2015 in AEON stores across Japan. Branded as Cecilie O products, they appeal to Japanese women’s love for kawaii/cute design. I gave the name “Cheerful Thoughts” to this pattern because it’s about the joy of spring with colorful tulip blossoms.

The Japanese corporation AEON Co., Ltd is Asia’s largest retailer.


News article on the Norwegian Embassy Tokyo website
News article on GRAFILL website, Norway

Cecilie O Porcelain in Department Stores in Japan

Cecilie O porcelain

Cecilie O porcelain

A set of porcelain was launched in April 2015 in the new Arco Store inside Isetan/Lucua Mall in Osaka. It is also available in several department stores in Japan during Arco Design sales events, to name a few:

Matsuya Ginza (Tokyo)
Sogo Seibu (Ikebukuro, Chiba – Tokyo)
Sogo Seibu (Yokohama, Musashikogsi)
Takashimaya Nihonbashi (Tokyo)
Takashimaya Nagoya
Hankyu Umeda (Osaka)
Actus Stores

Part of an assortment of licensed porcelain produced by the Scandinavian Pattern Collection, it was first exhibited at the Tokyo Gift Fair and then at the Swedish Embassy in Tokyo.


My design is Inspired by memories of my grandmother’s colorful stories of growing up in a fishing village in the far north of Norway. Japanese people eat a lot of salmon imported from Norway, so I think of it as a connecting point between two countries that are far apart geographically but close in their appreciation for sea food.

Design Process

After many hand sketches of playful salmon jumping in the river, I scanned my sketches and used Illustrator to draw them digitally. I then played with the fish shapes as if they were pieces of a puzzle, where each form fit neatly together. For the next step, I loosened up the layout and started filling in with details, using scale and movement to create a dynamic composition.

News article on the Norwegian Embassy Tokyo website
News article on GRAFILL website, Norway

3D Textile Simulation and Perfect Repeats

Cecilie O pillows

Print simulation on textile

Look at a fabric simulation on a photo, like the one to left, and chances are you can’t tell the difference from the real thing. My eyes almost popped out when I saw samples of how it’s done at a textile trade show.

Now I use the technology myself, bundled together with amazing software modules for designing print patterns for the textile industry- by NED Graphics.

When I was learning how to create 3D “maps”, I set myself the simple task that you see here. Simulations are a great way to preview designs on a product- not only fabrics, but any product that uses surface design. It can also save costs on prototyping, since a simulation can give you a good idea of the final product.

Perfect Repeats And Color Separation

Another cost-saving feature of designing with this CAD software is that my patterns come in perfect repeat, where there is no need to convert  neither design nor file for textile production. My prints are also color separated, so there are no surprises and decisions to be made with regards to hand painted and textured features in the print design.

Creative Boost At Koyasan (Mt. Koya)

In Japan, Jizo guards the souls of departed children

Jizo guards the souls of departed children

Meditation And Attending An Awesome Art Retreat

Entering the ancient Koyasan cemetery among massive cedars is like entering another world. If you go there in early morning when the fog has barely lifted to meditate, you can almost touch the atmosphere of ancient spirituality.The ashes of some 200,000 souls are deposited in this cemetery, and the legend goes that the grand Buddhist master Kōbō-Daishi is still meditating there in a closed temple chamber. To this day, Zen monks bring him regular meals.

It is just so much easier to meditate in a place where people have been meditating for over a thousand years. It’s like an invisible fertilizer for the soul to enter the deeper sanctums of Spirit.

Together with a merry group of expats and Japanese ladies, I participated in an amazing art retreat hosted by art therapist Catherine Ventura. We played hard with color, magazine cut-outs and glue as we responded to prompts about exploring the simple pleasures in life. Such an easy and free creative play, without any thoughts of making good art- sooo relaxing!

Meditation helps us to access this carefree and creative play zone. At Koyasan it was so much easier because of the mystical atmosphere. If you can’t get to Koyasan on the next train, I encourage you to meditate someplace near you that inspires this sense of peace and introspection.

By the way, we stayed at Koyasan Guest House, a simple and lovely place . Read more about Koyasan.


The Zen of Floral Pattern Design

From the Cecilie O Classic Collection: Modern Vintage – Floral Pattern

meditation-quote-2_cecilie-oI come from Norway- Winter Wonderland, and like all good Norwegians I thought it has the best of great snowscapes. But the serene beauty of snow-covered temple roofs and Zen gardens in Japan make for some of the most magical sights of all….. a surreal white fairy blanket.

It was around Christmas in 2005 that a heavy snowfall took us by surprise in Kyoto, and over the  the years I kept returning to the photographs that we took back then, again and again… until one day I set to work to create a pattern to remember this magical day. I felt like a Zen monk contemplating the significance of a single snowflake

Chrysanthemum themes from traditional temple metal work, and a circular motif from temple cloth make up the core inspiration. You can see both in the photographs below. It was a long, grinding road to refine the composition and find a simple color scheme. The result is a Scandinavian take on iconic Japanese imagery-  a floral pattern called “Kyoto”, with much affection.

How “Arabian Nights” Inspired My Scandinavian Designs

From the Cecilie O Classic Collection: Modern Vintage – Floral Pattern

Floral-Pillow - Cecilie-OFor most of my adult life I’ve been a nomad, living in many countries, seeking adventure in the foreign and unknown. I think I took my cue from Simbad the Sailor, the hero of the famous fairy tale from Arabian Nights. As a young teenager I devoured those tales of sailing on the Seven Seas, and not the least the vivid imagery from ancient Persia, Egypt, India and China.

I made many illustrations from Arabian Nights back then. Imagine the excitement when my oldest sister brought home her boyfriend from Morocco, who duly inscribed my collection with “1001 Nights” in real Arabic…. Today, I can’t take my eyes off the exquisite, swirling forms of Persian and Arabian pattern designs. Their rhythmic beauty make me believe that the Genie in Aladdin’s lamp has actually been at work.
Thanks to wonderful source books with historical patterns and images, I had the joy of transforming authentic shapes into a tapestry of my own floral patterns, all paying homage to this great heritage.

Recently, I found an article in The Textile Blog about  the influence of Persian design:
“The Influence of Islamic Decoration on the Victorian”

Below, you can see some of my Persian inspired pattern designs, along with images that inspired my work.


Introducing Cecilie O at Disseny Hub Barcelona / A-FAD

Cecilie O at the DHUBBarcelona is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, where Gaudi’s colorful architecture draws millions of visitors every year. I have recently had the opportunity to exhibit at the new Disseny Hub Barcelona / A-FAD, that opened in February 2014 with wonderful design collections on display.

The exhibition was called “El Japó, País de Contrastos” (Japan, Country of Contrast), and my contribution was a large digital design that combines traditional Japanese and Nordic imagery, highlighted with gold hand painting. I wanted to bring a playful spirit to this work, symbolic of my life in Japan.

Along with Genrroku folding screen designs by Sadato Kurotake, a modern weaving scupture by Megumi Koyama and music by Shusaku Akita, the exhibition attracted many visitors. The exhibition was curated by Jacqueline Teissier Okuma (Jackie & Partners) and Magda Polo Pujadas (A-FAD).

The exhibition was also part of the official program that commemorates 400 years of relations between Spain and Japan.

Nordic Design for Pickles the Frog

Cecilie O Nordic Design for Pickles the Frog

Pickles the Frog goes skiing on a tissue box

Japanese people from all walks of life love kawaii (cute) characters.

I was commissioned to make custom design for one of Japan’s popular characters, Pickles the Frog, who was popularized many years ago by Nakajima Corporation. Pickles always smiles, and for his sweetness he is known to have comforted children after the Tohoku earthquake.
Nakajima is the main partner of Sanrio (Hello Kitty), and operates the Sanrio stores in the US.

My job was to take Pickles to Norway and let him have fun. I sent him skiing in a vintage scene, dressed in traditional ski outfits as it used to be in yonder day. Last winter season you could meet skiing Pickles.



Why Meditation is Great

A Simple Tool for  Creativity, Resilience and Joy

meditation-qquote-1_cecilie oAs a designer and illustrator, I get a lot of mileage out of meditation. I meditate every single day because there is simply no better tool to harness creativity and joy and to build resilience against the peaks and valleys of life.

Meditation is not about finding an empty void of nothingness. It’s about taming the crushing waves of the mind and diving into the depth of the soul in search of untold inner treasures.

Think of your mind as an onion with layers upon layers. When we dream, we are all very creative. Stilling the incessant chatter of the mind, we can peel off the layer that masks our imagination and let creativity flow freely from the subconscious mind.

In such a meditative state, you will discover an inner world that is filled with resplendent colors, delicious complexities and surprising ideas.

Dive deeper still to peel off more layers, and you will find soothing and sublime states of mind that are impossible to describe.

Some days your meditation will seem useless because your mind refuses to quiet down. Some days you’ll sense a deep inner joy, and on other days you’ll experience a  flood of new ideas. All in all, it adds greatly to the quality to life.

And the good news is that all it takes is daily practice. If you want to become adept at playing the piano, you had better keep at it day in and day out. Becoming a good meditator requires exactly the same.