Beyond the bow: Getting creative with gift wrapping

Wanda Wen's principles for gift wrapping: Be playful, choose quality materials, play up accent colors

Wanda Wen, founder and creative directory of Soolip, the upscale stationery and paper arts studio in West Hollywood, believes gift wrap is a statement of personal style. "It's really an extension of yourself," she says. "People are hyper-aware of the power and importance the attention to handcrafted detail conveys. The art of gift wrapping is intimate — it is both an aesthetic representation of what you are drawn to and a consideration … of the recipient."

Although Wen stocks handmade papers, crinkled Japanese Momi wrap and Yuzen designs, she insists neither pricey materials nor artistic talent alone is the key to couture styling. "I think one has to be open and positive about the process and understand it does not take five minutes to wrap a gift. It's a minimum of 10."

In her book, "The Art of Gift Wrapping," Wen features 50 ways to wrap and says almost half the ideas use common materials. Bottom line: Approach the task with creativity and think beyond a store-bought bow.

"I've always liked mixing high and low," says Wen, who finds inspiration in nature. "Step outside and find twigs … wrap five of them in simple twine — it makes it interesting. This time of year you can find tons of pink pepper berries. They're wonderful on top of a gift." Wen also notes that tree bark, fresh florals and seed pods lend natural beauty. "There's a grace to simplicity."

When it comes to design principles, Wen adheres to the following: Be playful, choose quality materials, play up accent colors and balance texture. For example, when using flat Kraft paper, opt for multiple strands of fluffy yarn in lieu of ribbon. Conversely, pair textural paper with something flat. Avoid fussy.

To package like the pros, Wen says everyone should start with sharp scissors, double-sided tape and paper cut to fit. "The right size makes life easier and you'll be happier." To get "the look," hide the tape and fold the edges. Finally, Wen says, "Give it a crease. After you've wrapped a gift, take your thumb and pointer finger and gently pinch all the vertical and horizontal edges of the box. It makes it look very tidy and tailored."

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