When you buy cut flowers they come wrapped in durable, handsome paper. And the sheet is large enough to do some serious wrapping. This particular sheet appeared to be a form of plastic. It folded and creased in a pleasing fashion. After wrapping the gift I resorted to speedy and reliable ribbon-wrap tactics. First I made a yellow band of tissue paper, gluing it on the back. I then added two strips of a thin, shiny red ribbon to back a border stripe on the yellow band. The little red square is made of craft foam, placed at a 45 degree angle. I then completed the wrap with the transparent-weave blue ribbon (which had been cast off at an awards dinner by the medal winners, and retrieved, rolled up and removed for recycling by yours truly) running transverse to the band. I made this wrap quickly: no time for innovation. A house to be warmed; a dinner to be enjoyed.
Marketing literature can deliver a lot when you are making a quick wrap. I had saved a large mailer with these tasty saguaro on it. The brochure was very large, so no words were revealed. After a bit of positioning and observation, I wrapped up the box rapidly. I added orange ribbon to complete the secondary color triad that was begun with the photo’s own purples and greens. And last of all I used a skinny piece of dark-green christmas ribbon. A delicious wrap in no time at all!
Open a box of chocolates and you find them arrayed in peculiar trays of thin molded plastic. The careful laborious detail and curious shapes of these moldings stand in stark contrast to their humble role as quietly supportive servants, doomed to be ignored and then trashed the moment the last chocolate has been been eaten.
But should you have one or more small gifts, a pair of these trays can have a reprise role as wrap.
At least that is what I thought in the aftermath of a tasty christmas. I joined the two trays with small pieces of two-sided tape, trapping the gift in small pieces of tissue. I then glued an orange shopping-bag handle around the edge; it sat easily in a groove made by the combined shapes of the trays’ edges.
Looking at the eight fluted pedestals of the inverted tray, it seemed obvious that they wanted something to perch on top. I had just received two bags of melted marbles. Their shiny surfaces seemed in sympathy with the shiny black plastic. I glued eight of the pale blue pebbles on the tops of the pedestals, and then added ten of the dark metallic ones — even closer in sympathy with the plastic, but different — around the pedestals’ bases. The dense glass pebbles contrast in mass with the ethereally thin plastic.
Berry packers buy some of the loveliest pieces of throw-away plastic in our world. When these two identical blue boxes passed through our recycling bin, I immediately diverted them into the wrap stash. This is the second one of these blue berry box wraps I have done. The first used foam boxes. This is shiny plastic. But, like its predecessor, it too had indentations that would happily hold transverse ribbons.
I sealed this pair with strips of thin-cut masking tape. That way I could avoid gluing the boxes together and maybe used them again. I then glued a pale orange ribbon onto the masking-tape seal.
There is a rectangular depression in the bottom (now top) of the berry box. It has debossed type. I made this type disappear by cutting and attaching a rectangle of red shopping-bag paper with rounded corners. Then I attached four pieces of contrasting and skinny ribbons: smooth white satin and rough burlap stripe. I did some simple weaving as they crossed on top. Choosing which ribbon to use was the hardest part of the wrap.
The last detail was to attach a small plastic Christmas tree that I had found lying in a path in Washington Park a few weeks ago. Besides being charming and different this wrap is relatively water-proof and even sea-worthy in minor floods.
The idea for this wrap came to me just after awaking. I was thinking about slabs of black foam from meat-packing trays. They are easy to cut, thick enough to hold a lot of hot glue, and thus make good sculpture components to a wrap. I’ve used them before (Meat-Tray Fins on Red Bag Wrap). This time the idea was to cut a slot into the slabs so that they made not only strange fins, but also legs to elevate the package.
Later in the day I wrapped the gift in a large piece of recycled wrapping paper. It’s silver & black houndstooth pattern had a mechnical quality and colors fully compatible with my industrial materials.
Cutting the foam trays involved a bit of guesswork. The trays are small enough that any attempt to make perfectly flat fins would produce relatively small pieces. So I decided to keep at least part of the trays’ rounded shoulders. I inserted my matte knife parallel the trays’ bottom plane, and carefully sliced with a reciprocating motion all the way around the tray. It worked pretty well giving me four round-cornered slabs which had gently-curving faces, resembling the back of an iPad, on one side of the slab.
I made a paper template in the shape of the slabs and then drew and tested the shape of the slot that would allow the fins to be slipped onto the package. It worked very well. Now I could play around with the placement of the fins. I had imagined at first that they would be aligned in parallel as in my first fin wrap. But I became intrigued when I discovered the stability conferred by a symmetrical X configuration.
Before gluing the fins I continued exploratory play looking for something that would sit in the small empty space at the center of the X. My favorite among various objects was an old standby of my recycling materials: a copper metallic plastic lid from an aerosol deodorant.
I used a drafting triangle to regulate the gluing process. Fat strips of hot glue attached the fins to the bottom side of the wrap. Holding the wrap carefully on my knees, I then added glue on the wrap-top backside of the fins. (This wrap is inherently stagey, having an inherent audience-vs-backstage assymetry.) I glued a cross-brace onto the deodorant lid, and then glued it to the center of the wrap.
I was not yet sure if I had a finished wrap. Poking around the bins I found a red lid from a cosmetic jar and glued it to the top of the copper-colored lid. That was it. The wrap was complete. It evoked a strong sense of abstract function. But what, exactly? It was the recipient of the gift who thought it looked like a space module. The wrap sits elevated off floor, table or planet. It has a metallic palette. The curious cupola at its center is of ambiguous scale and purpose. Perhaps it is a big emergency button whose compression would set off a celebration.
Wrapping at the Florence Crittenton High School event this week, I was about to wrap the last gift in my assigned bag. It was a knitted cap. I wanted to put it into a box, but I could see none. They were already cleaning up. I was feeling like I should pick up the pace. The volunteers had outwrapped me in numbers of gifts. I was just finishing my first and only bag of presents.
Undaunted I grabbed a short half of a tube that had once had wrapping paper rolled around it. I took the gift cap out of its plastic bag, and carefully coaxed it into the short tube. I had two full-length tubes and I thought of pick-up-sticks and so I hot-glued the three pieces together. A beginning. It would need more tubes to stand up.
Scanning the adjacent wrapping room, I saw tubes under a table. I scuttled this treasure back to my room and commenced gluing. It takes a bit of patience, letting the hot glue cool down, before you have a structurally sound tube tangle. I waited, holding and tapping my foot, tempering my haste.
I said out loud, “What will I add for trim on the ends.” Jennifer (not Jenifer, if you have read the Purse Wrap post) said, “Bows! There’s a whole box of them.” I crimped the ends of the tubes. I glued the bows. The volunteers cleaning up kept at their work. But at last I was done. A hasty wrap, but distinctive nonetheless. The gift is behind the green bow.
The foam trays of meat packaging have a subtle beauty that emerges once they have been gussied up enough to obliterate their low-caste role in our lives. In this case I have taken the gussying process so far that you can barely see that beauty as the trim takes over.
The first step in foam-tray wrap is easy. Place the gift in a try, just as the butcher places the sausages. Apply little strips of glue along the top of the long edges (the short edges do not actually touch when two trays are placed together) and then apply the second tray face down. Hold to permit the glue to set. Alternately, you can tape the edges, if you plan to cover them with some trim.
For this wrap I had thought I would just run the blue-silver tinsel boa around the edge, my standard technique for transforming the two trays. When the paired edges of the trays disappear, the sow’s ear begins its transformation to silk purse. That change is completed by obliterating the debossed type (manufacterer and recycling info) on the underside of the tray.
Contemplating the wrap thus far, I decided against adding some new contrasting material and began a new round of the same tinsel boa on the shoulder of the tray, feeding the furry forest I saw along the edge. Then I added the silver bow over the debossed type. It becomes the central shrub in this new landscpe.
Some of the beautiful shiny black foam shows through. It is usually a central element of my foam-tray wraps. But here it becomes a subservient but sympathetic dark background to the complex light/dark texture of the mylar tinsel. It’s quite a transformation, from trash to tiara. This gift has a very eager, lively feel. It asks to pick it up and play with it.
It’s always fun to make wraps that look like real things in the world. But the wrap story on this piece, and this purse, is improvisation. Improvisation is, of course, the heart and soul of Wrap Art. The wrap artist arrives at the moment of wrapping with little or no vision of what the wraps will look like. There is no burden of program or planning, just a time of pure play.
I began this wrap by taking the gift, a small garment, and rolling it up. I had no small boxes at the service office where we were wrapping. So I picked up a scrap of cardboard and molded it around the gift. It made odd shapes as the cardboard corrugation began folding. I wondered if I could find a real box somewhere, but the voice of improvisation said, “No. Keep on inventing with this cardboard!” Finally I had a nice shape, square on one side, but rounded on the other. I taped it shut.
Next I grabbed a beautiful shopping bag which was made of very thick red paper with silver foil-stamp snowflakes. I chose it purely for its material beauty. I still had no idea where this wrap was going. After removing its silver handles, and slicing it into flat paper, I wrapped it around the cardboard package. Using scissors, I made multiple cuts into the part of the red paper extending past the cardboard inner container. The round top required multiple cuts to maintain the curve that gives the wrap its purse shape. Then I folded the ends and glued them shut.
I had been thinking about what this wrap might be thematically: abstract or literal, and I began to imagine another animal wrap, with legs and antlers. But these thoughts were vague. Just then Jennifer, who had told me of this volunteering opportunity last year, looked over from her wrapping and said, “It’s a purse!” I grabbed the silver bag handles, clipped off their knotted ends, and glued them in place. I used some snippets of silver ribbon to clean up the ends and suggest the leather techniques of real purses. And I was done.
No real planning. Just openness to the materials and feedback from all directions.
This is my second year wrapping presents for Florence Crittenton High School. It’s a part of Denver Public Schools, serving teen moms. Florence Crittenton Services does a great job of fundraising and acquiring specific gifts for specific moms. Volunteers spend a fun evening wrapping them up. I encourage the Colorado Yale Association’s Service Group to join the party.
These are the wraps I made for the Christmas of one young woman and her child.
I did a Band Wrap, an Enhancement of a Pink Box, two Black-foam Sausage Tray Wraps, a Cow Wrap, an Elk Wrap, and last but not least a Purse Wrap. I will detail some of these in later posts.
I was in New Haven in November and kept seeing posters for Linda McMahon’s run for a senate seat. Being married to a Linda, I enjoyed the politician’s aggressive one-name branding effort, which featured a big “Linda.” I never did manage to get even a photo of her graphics, but a friend in Connecticut, amused by seeing my wife’s name all over his community, sent me one of McMahon’s yard-sign sleeves.
I trimmed it along the three closed edges, making it into two large sheets of plastic. I then angled wrapped one of them over my Linda’s Christmas present, using tape. Then I proceeded to make folded-edge rectangles of used wrapping paper to cover up the exposed areas of underlying box.
If not quite a conversion to gold, my alchemy has at least turned base plastic into something amusing.