How to wrap presents creatively,
using fragments of paper and
miscellaneous items from around your house


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All you need are pieces of paper, tape, glue sticks, hot glue or double sided tape, and these three ideas.


Absorb these 3 ideas


You can use small fragments of paper.

You can use odd, non-wrapping materials, such as twigs, bottle caps or even colorful breakfast foods.


Focus on the front of the package.

The back of the package is backstage; it's ok to let it be messy.


Contrast of color.

Contrast of light and dark.

Contrast of texture or material.

Contrast of line (angled paper on rectangular boxes).


wrap art book

40 pages, 7"x7", full color, hardcover or paperback.

Gallery Sixteen

candycane deer

Candy Cane Reindeer

Wrap with Character

I started this wrap with a scrap of a favorite wrapping paper from seasons past. Recycled at least 3 times, this paper is now in short supply. But I wanted a bold texture to resist and contrast with the very simple symbolic elements that would make the reindeer head. I used thin craft foam to make the antlers, ears, eyes and nose. I drew simple patterns for the antlers and ears, cut them out and traced them onto the foam. I cut the foam with an exacto knife. The label is a simple office label, placed on the end of the wrap, just underneath the deers nose.

Being small and light, this wrap can even be hung on a tree as an ornament.

Contrast: Contrast in expectations: presents do not usually have antlers.

Easy: Making the antlers is the hardest part. Overall this wrap is quick..


Robot Head

Speedy Fun

This began with my stash of orange-juice-carton caps. Two caps make eyes. Two make ears. I reached for a large piece of silver paper which I had recycled from a particularly fancy shopping bag and wrapped the presentís box. I already had a vision of the robotís mouth; I rendered it in red craft foam and added a black piece to give it dimension.

I spent some time positioning the eyes, from wall-eyed to narrow. Each position has an emotional impact. There are few more powerful templates in our brains than the face templates we build as infants. Adding the ears was easy.

My method for gluing on caps is based on the fact that hot glue will flow. I add two medium dabs of glue on the inner edge of the cap. I place it on the wrap surface. I wait. The glue inside the cap flows down and bonds with the surface. It stays pretty warm inside the cap; give the glue some time to solidify.

Making and gluing the mouth is simple. In fact this is a very simple, quick wrap overall, and one with the potential for many variations.

See what happens when the find its legs.

Easy: This is a simple fast wrap. The only challenge is saving the bottle caps.



Brown Wrap Cow

A Design with Legs

Iíve been thinking about animal wraps since last year, when I made a robot wrap with popsicle stick legs and arms. The legs, neck, horns and tail are made with a very thick packing foam that I found in my dumpster last fall. It is .5? thick, and thus is capable of bearing an impressive weight when made into legs. It is also very easy to cut.

I am using hot glue, which is almost essential for sculptural wraps. The head is a small wrapped box itself, which could contain a second gift.

Contrast: Contrast of function: "package" versus "toy." Contrast of textures.

Easy: Fairly easy.


Sea Urchin Wrap on Silver

Abstracting Natural Form

Here is a wrap that resembles that bane of coral-reef surfers: the sea urchin. The base wrap is silver paper from a fancy shopping bag. The black sticks are coffee-stirring straws, which I saved from a recurrent meeting that I organize. I cut them in half. There are a lot of straws here. The technique requires that one places six to eight dabs of hot glue onto the paper at a time, allowing the glue to cool. That way you can place the straws quickly and not have to hold them in position. This is not a quick wrap. But it has a distinctive feel, and one that is much friendlier than real sea urchins.

Contrast: Smooth silver paper vs. complex forest of black sticks.

Easy: This is not easy. It took me a long time to glue on the black straws.

ribbon wrap

Ribbon Wrap with Pearls

Materials Solve the Problems of Odd Shapes.

When Iím running out of wrap time and encounter a diffult shaped gift, I reach for ribbon and tissue. In this case I wrapped a tin of coffee with a large white ribbon, which covered the entire tin. I capped it with a piece lime-green tissue. The third layer is a piece of red paper folded into a ďribbon.Ē The folding gives this quasi-ribbon a satisfying dimension and a softened edge. Then I added the string of molded plastic pearls, using occasional very-tiny dabs of hot glue to keep it in position. I finished it with a red pre-fab bow. This simple banded design has a variety of textures. The result is very pleasing, especially considering that it took very little time and no planning. I just started and kept adding until the wrap declared its completion.

Contrast: Varied materials and textures.

Easy: Yes, it is.


Simulating a Common Christmas Toy

Pushy Envelope

This is a quick wrap if you have been saving your carton-caps from milk or juice cartons. Wrap the gift in plain white paper. Glue on four caps. Now you have a scaled-up imitation of one very common piece of a common building-block toy.

I have saved up some green, blue and orange caps; next I must find the matching paper colors so that I can simulate more kinds of bricks.

Easy: Simple and fast.

short legs

Stubby Leg Wrap

Legs Lift Gift

Things got a little busy on the afternoon of the 24th. I had to return to roots of wrap art: speedy work with just enough play to keep it lively. I wrapped this box with fragments from the recycle closet.

Then I remembered that in my box of juice and milk caps were some big, shiny caps from spray deodorants. I had saved them thinking they could make excellent legs for wrapped presents, short stubby legs like those one finds on couches, sideboards and other load-bearing furniture. I put two blobs on each cap, turn the cap upside down and place it on the wrap. The hot glue is still fluid. It slides down the sides of the cap and flows onto the wrap. You have to put the package aside and let the glue cool down; the cap insulates the glue so it takes a few minutes. The leg/caps are made of a shiny, slightly mettalic plastic, and quickly loose any sense of their source as they join in this new context. Why is the bow on the side? And a fold-end side too? At first I tested it on top of the package. It looked ok. But when I put it on the end, it had more the feel of a formal bowtie, on the shirt of the red paper. An alternate reading, in response to the shirt legs, is that the bow is either a head or tail of this strange creature.

This wrap had legs, but no head, until....

Contrast: Contrast of paper patterns.

Easy: Simple and quick.


Victorian Cast Off

Taking On Take-Out

Over the holidays a white plastic take-out food box turned up in our kitchen. Itís one of a new style of take-out box. Not the white closed-cell foam variety. It had a textured surface with rounded crenillations. It had two simple closure snaps. It had a square, raised protrusion in the center of the lid. There was something 19th century about its shape and detail. It only lacked some fabric complexity and a bit of metal.

I added grey cords taken from shopping-bag handles, gluing them into a molded groove in the box lidís outer edge. Next, I added the red ribbon which surrounds the crenillations. I added some silver shopping-bag paper trim: a square with rounded corners in the central embossed medallion, and two little folded pieces on top of the closure snaps, to simulate metal hardware.

With the gift inside resting on tissue paper, I snapped the box shut and wrapped a piece of blue gauze ribbon around it all. I added the label sticker. It is hard to capture the odd charm of this wrap in a single photo. Humor plays a part in this wrap as a utilitarian box shifts into a new context.

Contrast: Contrast of throwaway materials and frilly-gift result.

Easy: Medium challenge.


Tube Wrap Recycling

Wrap-Art Ease

When you have a tube to wrap, you are given an excellent opportunity to use up the small scraps of wrapping paper you have saved. Not only do you get the benefits of this recycling, you also get a speedy wrap. Start anywhere. Add contrasting pieces of paper; fold the edges and let those edges overlap the previous piece. Add ribbons, too. I added a circle of paper over the many folds that close the top. A bow on the top finishes the top.

Contrast: Light & Dark. Color. Texture.

Easy: This wrap requires little planning. Just grab a fregment and keep on going.

robot and legs

Wrap Synergy

The Wrap Bot Finds Its Legs

When these two wraps went under the tree, I suddenly saw that they were meant for each other. So, without the need for any additional fastening technologies, they rested one atop the other until Christmas morning, when they went their separate ways. It is perhaps not so surprising that they would go together, a head and some legs. But I was pleasantly surprised at this amusing synergy arising from this yearís theme of animal wraps.

notecardsNotecards by John Boak— Drawings of Colorado & Utah