May 10, 2006
Wrap It Up!
This time of year rivals Christmas for gift giving. Have you noticed how many birthdays, weddings, anniversaries, and graduations there are in the Spring? If you're on automatic pilot and not keeping track, your credit card bill will bring you up to date by the end of the month. Gad zooks! One special event after another. And they warrant fairly serious gifts. At least they require some serious thought. Candy isn't going to cut it for the grad in your life, and a newly married couple isn't going to be impressed by a set of hedge clippers. Now that
our Oil Baron President has worked it so that gas prices are higher than they've ever been, not everyone has the funds for wristwatches, gold fountain pens, and silver picture frames. Not all of us, for every occasion, are going to be able to come across with those little blue boxes tied in white satin ribbon from Tiffany.
This leads us to the psychology of gift-wrap. Like so many other aspects of visual creativity, it comes naturally to most gay people. I thought I'd share a few tips here for the wrapping paper phobic and the ribbon challenged. Let me set-up the scene for you: perhaps a good quality calculator is all you can manage for that tenth graduate on your list. Granted, he or she may want a new laptop with all the bells and whistles, but too bad, kid. That's what you have parents for. We all know that presentation is key. We've come to expect it from restaurants and florists. Accessories have re-created many a tired outfit into an au courante, even trendy, fashion statement. The same is true of the way you wrap a gift. The lackluster gift becomes oh so special because of the effort you've put into making the box a showstopper. It's so demonstrative of the principle of "it's the thought that counts." Reality may set in when the recipient realizes it's a Cross pen they've received and not a Mont Blanc. But the magic of the moment when it's given (in all its splendor) is undeniable.
One of the oldest tricks out there is to use wallpaper samples as the wrapping paper. Being a decorator or having a friend who knows one will make that a reality. If not, check with your local Janovic or Home Depot to see if they have any discontinued books they'd be willing to throw in your direction instead of the dumpster. If you see something of particular interest, go ahead and buy a roll so that you'll have lots of it for future projects. Did you know it's quite easy to make your own gift-wrap? For small packages, use printer paper and hastily streak it with metallic paints or try your hand at loosely marbleizing it. Everyone can decoupage and it's fabulous. Rolls of brown paper such as you'd find at the UPS Store can be turned into serviceable art for larger packages. They lend themselves particularly well to organic designs. Pick a few leaves and scatter them over the paper. Then sponge some paint in a couple of subtle greens all around them, leaving the places where the leaves were blank. If you feel really artsy, take a fine line marker and draw some sketchy veins through the areas where the leaves were. Very effective. Don't forget art supply stores for things like rice paper or thick and textured watercolor paper or blotter paper.
Now all you have to do is adopt the design principal held by Marie-Antoinette's famous hairdresser, Monsieur Leonard. Namely, pile stuff on top like there's no tomorrow. Using real ribbon is an immediate step up from the paper junk. Go mad with flowers, bows, feathers, raffia, small figurines, flags, charms — it's all good. Find yourself a dollar store (there's one in Riverhead) and mercilessly cut up their florals and greenery and paste it on with wild abandon. Raffia is super with your "natural" looks. Appliques and medallions make for packages that sizzle. Tiny model ships, little stuffed animals, baubles, bangles 'n beads. They'll love you for it.