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


StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble


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 Nineteen

foam box wrap

Numinous Trashformation

Sculpture from the Everyday

An amazing quantity of exotic materials flows through our households every day. Though it may be called trash, some of it inspired me to make this wrap. I started with a long yellow foam tray that once held chicken breasts. I cut it in half and glued the two halves together. That left an almost-closed box; only the bottom was open.

The edge where the halves join I covered with a white cord taken from a shopping bag. I then glued dark-green chenille stems into vertical depressions in the foam tray. I glued orange-juice caps in a column between the stems. I clipped small shiny red beads from a scrap of bead-cord and glued them into the eye-shaped molded depressions in the foam tray.

After a bit of testing, I chose another foam tray for the base. I trimmed off the lip that runs around its edge and glued on a scrap of lime-colored ribbon. Then I placed the gift inside the yellow shell. I made a door in the base foam, so the gift could be removed without destroying the wrap; I taped the door shut. I glued the two foam objects together.

I was not yet ready to stop. The wrap seemed to want more. I glued a piece of black bag-handle  cord to the join between black and yellow foam. Adding these extra components have a powerful effect. The identity of the foam as food-packaging trash begins to recede, and the underlying power of the foam’s native form and its beautiful qualities asserts itself.

Thus inspired I took a single scrap of thick white foam from my tiny-foam-scraps bag. I cut it in half and had two Cycladic ears (c.f. church architecture of Santorini), which I glued to the top of the wrap. Picking up conceptual momentum, I added the red/white bag-handle cord. And I added the gold fringe ribbon to the ears.

I stood back and contemplated the wrap. It had a new and mysterious appeal, all its own, of numinous packaging.

Easy: This wrap takes a bit more time.

band wrap

Band Wrap on Yellow

Two-piece plus Bands

The base of this wrap is a piece of marketing literature, a glossy yellow flyer with minimal type. It did not cover the whole gift, so I grabbed another sheet of paper. It had low contrast in color (dull diminished yellow) but high contrast in surface (no glass, uncoated, some texture).

Three of the bands were made from pages of a glossy newspaper supplement which features expensive watches and glamorous fashion. The fourth band is red recycled christmas wrap.

The label is hand-written right on the base wrap.

This wrap is a good example of elegance achieved in a quick and easy wrap.

Contrast: Contrast of flat and sculptural. Contrast of texture. Contrast black-and-white photogrpahy versus colored regions.

Easy: Yes, if you have large, fresh, flexible leaves.


band wrap

Silver Shopping-Bag Band Wrap

Fractured Elegance

Shopping-bag paper is often a thick and luxurious substance. It can be hard to wrangle into submission. But the paper is so beautiful it is hard to resist whatever challenges it throws one’s way.

This particular bag had enough dings and wrinkles that it was not suitable for an outright one-piece wrap. The solution to overcoming it’s surface complexity was to create a wrap with an even-more complex surface. So I cut the bag  into strips and made folded-edge wrapping bands.

I did not want to wrap the ends with the thick paper, so I selected a blue tissue paper and capped the ends. Then I added successive silver bands to wrap the gift. I was aware of the white Optima letters from the bag’s logotype, making them into decorative trim, taking advantage of Hermann Zapf’s beautiful curves.

I finished the wrap with a silver cap-bow.

This is my first band wrap using one-color bands. The finished effect reminds me of the titanium-paneled building surfaces of Frank Ghery and Daniel libeskind.

Contrast: Contrast of texture and shape: shiny, smooth silver; sculptural complexity.

Easy: Moderately difficult.

soda bottle reveal wrap

Transparency in Wrapping

Wrap Tease

I was giving a small sculpture commemorating son Canyon’s 20th birthday, and I had the idea of using the same two-cylinder recycle-wrap design that I had used two weeks ago with shaving can lids. This time I would use PET soda bottles.

I picked two clear ones and cut them six inches above their baseline. I made a small incision in one of the bottles, ninety degrees to the cut that opened the bottles. This little cut allows one to pinch one half of the bottle slightly and push it into the other half. They could now be taped together into one container.

Next I put some foam packing peanuts into one half, adding in the gift (a small driftwood and aspen-fragment sculpture of a “20″ with red-trimmed crossbar) and then adding more peanuts. It is a little tricky getting the right amount of the foam objects, but at a certain point you can achieve a balance between mobility of the foam & gift and semi-visibility of that gift. I used small pieces of tape to hold the two halves together while adjusting the gift/foam mix. Then I put one large piece all around to seal up the wrap.

At this point began a typical process of trial, error and learn to determine what constituted a good belt of wrapping around this odd object. I tried lots of papers. Patterns lost out to solids, and flat solids lost out to this very wrinkly piece of green mylar, the color a contrast to the red driftwood crossbar that was peeking out through the foam peanuts. I added a simple yellow cotton ribbon and then an oval of adhesive plastic with the recipient’s name written on with a fine marker.

The wrap was definitely a bit goofy looking. So I added a tiny bow on the top, a wrap equivalent to a clown’s over-sized shoes and under-sized hat. I feel I have achieved some significant innovations in this wrap. 1) I have moved the lowly packing-peanut from its usual role of mess-after-the-fact to a new prominence as the equivalent of stage-smoke, both hiding and revealing the lead actor, the gift. 2) I have also found a way to make transparency a viable tactic for the wrap artist; you can see the gift before unwrapping but without abandoning the mystery of what that gift might be.

Contrast: Contrast of expectations about what a wrapped gift can look like.

Easy: This is not that easy, but it is fun.

madelaine trash wrap

Madelaine Packing Wrap

The Joy of Vacuum Molding

Continuing my fascination with the transient and expendable plastics of food packaging, I have been saving the flimsy molded materials found inside cookies, and candies. These translucent brown pieces from madelaine packages caught my eye because they look like tall cooking molds.

I took two of them and placed them together, creating four small chambers for four small gifts. Crumpled tissue hides the gifts and is itself partially visible as a texture. A dab of hot glue holds them together. I then made tissue bands and wrapped them around the three spaces dividing the four towers.

I picked some ribbon with a compatible caramel color scheme, and vertical lines to complement the vertical towers of trays. I cut out some ovals of sparkly red shopping-bag paper and glued them onto the tray-tower tops. They suggest the jellied centers of certain cookies and tarts.

Contrast: contrast of expectations: can trash look this good; are wrapped presents supposed to look liked this?

Easy: moderately easy.

band wrap

Wedding Gift Wrap

A young friend married a ballet dancer from Japan. To wrap our gift I reached for two scraps of paper that were very different. The light-colored piece with angled stripes is actually the back-side of fancy foil paper. The dark-colored piece is a small Japanese retail bag, cut open and laid flat.

I then reached for something I have been saving for a while, a piece of under-carpet anti-skid foam with a very-dimensional checkerboard pattern of holes. I did not even have to cut it; the shape was already perfect to a) join along the horizontal line where the paper fragments join, and b) bring a new line into my developing system of angles.

I poked around the studio looking for paper scraps and objects to continue my emerging constructivist theme and the steady increase in contrasting textures. Finally I discovered a wood fragmens painted brush strokes of excess paint while making oil paintings. I positioned it to cover a small rip in the blue-stripe paper.

Before gluing the board in place I rummaged through my ribbon boxes and found a wide gauze ribbon scrap with red edges. I set this along the angled line which the wood bar would later assume, wrapping it around the back, thus making some reference to traditional wrapping customs. The existence of the ribbon also makes the wooden bar assume the role of a bow. I glued the ribbon and the wood bar in place.

Last of all I consulted with my son on the Japanese greeting and we came up with this phrase which I believe says, “congratulations on your honorable wedding.” I printed it on card stock and attached it to the wrap. The final detail was to write the couple’s first names on a little label and apply it to the gauze ribbon.

Contrast: Contrast of materials, textures, light and dark.

Easy: moderately easy; requires odd materials.

soda bottle wrap

Soda Bottle Gift Bag

I made this birthday gift wrap using the poster-child material of the recycling craft world, the polyethylene terephthalate (PET) soft-drink bottle.

I lopped off the top and, using scissors, cut vertical slices down to within 2-3 inches of the bottom of the bottle.

I massaged and rolled the resultant leaves tightly between thumb and finger, pulling the leaf slowly downward, while just avoiding forcing an actual fold into the newly-bent plastic.

I waited until this leaf bending was complete to trim the tips of the leaves into a more appealing shape than that left by the initial slicing.

Now it was time to place the gift. I loosely wrapped the box in tissue, and, since the gift’s box was a handsome piece of box-making, with a sorely-needed contrasting graphic complexity, I chose to leave part of the box exposed. The emerging box’s linear pattern constitutes the stamen of this wrap-art flower.

Contrast: Contrast of expectations about what a wrapped gift can look like

Easy: easy.

spray-can lids

Aerosol Lid Wrap

I thought of this one while lying in bed early one morning. I have been saving the plastic lids from shaving cream and deodorant for a while. Some are simple solid colors. Others have a metallic look. They are simple, flexible and tough. I have been using them as feet on boxy packages.

The idea here is speed and elegance. Pop the small gift (in this case a gift card) into the two lids. Join them together with tape. Wrap a piece of ribbon around the join and tape it shut too. Stick on a bow. Write the label on an office dot. You are done.

Of course, you will have given a proper amount of thought to the concept of contrast while knocking out this quick wrap. In this instance the tape contrasts in color and form with the smooth plastic caps; one has color and no pattern; the other has pattern and no color. The ribbon also avoids color and has a fair amount of texture, compared to the lids.

PS: if you run the initial tape join all the way around the two lids,  this wrap is waterproof and will even float, should you go overboard in rough seas.

Contrast: Contrast of expectations: trash is not pretty, but the wrap is.

Easy: easy.

band wrap

Band Wrap

Simplicity and Complexity

The gift has curved edges on the short ends, and it is solid enough to wrap without a box. I gave it a quick white-paper wrap, and it turned out that the white paper was almost exactly the same width as the long edge. That meant that there was minimal paper overage for making properly folded and taped ends. But typically-folded ends would have been a wrinkly mess on the curves. Freed from that problem by the paper’s width, I was still left me with the challenge of covering the curved ends.

I decided on applying an edge-wrap of ribbon, choosing a shiny, patterned white ribbon for it’s wedding-dress feel. I put the ribbon aside for later application, and moved on to main wrapping tactics.

I disassembled a magazine and some mailers and made a bunch of printed bands, each with two folds, which gives my wrapping bands their slightly pneumatic shape and softened edges. One of the bands is folded tissue.

This gift was large enough that typical pages of magazines are too shorti. I had to use the wide paper of the folded-poster mailers for most of the bands. When those ran out I began to glue regular magazine page bands together, hiding the join by the way I positioned the band under a previously-positioned band.

Laying out the bands is an improvisational exercise. One after another, starting closer to the center, you keep on adding new bands. A bit of weaving is involved. Eventually you begin to see a satisfying arrangement, and that is when you should start to think about stopping.

Once the band wrapping was done it was time to glue the ribbon all the way around the edge, covering up the end wraps.

I printed out a label, and snugged it behind two bands.

Contrast: Contrast of busy and empty. Contrast of textures.

Easy: Some challenge.

notecardsNotecards by John Boak— Drawings of Colorado & Utah