Tinsel, stickers, and tape

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This is definitely the time of year to break out the metallic tape. Pretty ribbon is not the only way to top a present. Every year I seem to find ways to adorn Christmas wrap other than with ribbon. Here are the results of last years gift wrappings. 

The winter beanie was a special card I made for my dad last year. I seem to always get him hats for Christmas. Last year I forgot so I made him one with  zentangle.

The winter beanie was a special card I made for my dad last year. I seem to always get him hats for Christmas. Last year I forgot so I made him one with zentangle.

Merry Christmas!

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas and a lot like my Christmas cards will be arriving late in the mail. While my cards were one of the first holiday projects I made this season they're the last to make it out the door. I'm checking my list (and addresses) twice. Soon my holiday greeting and paper tree will belatedly arrive at doorsteps.

When designing this years card I kept in mind the limitations of my small table top letterpress. I also wanted to incorporate my calligraphy to illustrate the card. I knew I wanted to send out a folding Christmas tree so the design of the card evolved from that concept. Of course it should be presents for under the tree. I'm very pleased with how it all printed.

It was not possible to keep a heavy inking consistent for the green of the packages so I knew I'd be letting the ink naturally fall off as I printed my cards.

It was not possible to keep a heavy inking consistent for the green of the packages so I knew I'd be letting the ink naturally fall off as I printed my cards.

Put the presents under the tree! To keep things less complicated I drew a pattern   that could be printed back to back without worry of registration. And I cut all these trees out by hand (with x-acto) so I needed the pattern to be forgiving for that as well.

Put the presents under the tree! To keep things less complicated I drew a pattern that could be printed back to back without worry of registration. And I cut all these trees out by hand (with x-acto) so I needed the pattern to be forgiving for that as well.

I added gold elastic to turn some of my pop-up trees into gift toppers.

I added gold elastic to turn some of my pop-up trees into gift toppers.

Have a wonderful Christmas! I'm hoping to have one more post before taking a little break to enjoy the festivities.

Wintery wrap with Bay Bridge ribbon

How's your wrappin' going? I haven't even begun to wrap gifts for this year. Luckily I dug up some wrap photos from last year that I never had the chance to share with you.

Last year I was clued into a stash of vintage cellophane ribbon being sold at a local art store. According to the penciled note on the spool the ribbon dates to 1938. Perhaps that's why it's printed with the San Francisco Bay Bridge and skyline which would have still been a young landmark. Of course I bought it in a few colors. 

I meet lots of people who are a bit intimidated by gift wrapping especially this time of year. Well I was intimidated by this ribbon! Aged brittle cellophane is not easy to work with! If you're nervous about your xmas wrappings make sure to use supplies you're comfortable with. And remember that it's about the sentiment of giving and not how perfecting crisp your wrapping is. Any extra creative embellishment will add that thoughtfulness. 

Have fun and happy wrapping!

It's hard to tell in the photos but I used wire to float one of the snow flakes above the package.

It's hard to tell in the photos but I used wire to float one of the snow flakes above the package.

Wrapping paper is from a 2013 print promotion by Hemlock Printers.

Design trends. Why handmade?

Yup, I'm back to blogging! While on my blog break I had the pleasure of being on a panel discussion for AIGA SF's D.Talks series along with Everett Katigbak and Damon Styer. Josh Levine was our fearless moderator who integrated the audience into the conversation. The theme of the night was the trend of handmade in design. Since the event I've been thinking a lot about our discussion and thought it worth a share here. 

The question of the night quickly evolved into answering; Why handmade? My personal theory is that with screens and perfectly uniform type being ever present in our every day we're left with a longing for imperfection and for something personal. I once wrote about the calligraphy trend after I'd taken my first classes. At the time I wondered; Is it a trend? Now over a year since writing that post it still gets weekly hits and shows up first (at least for me) in search. This tells me at the very least the googleverse thinks it's a trend. Maybe trend is the wrong word for it. It has again become popular and valued. 

Sign painting is a good example of hand crafted coming in and out of fashion. Damon owns New Bohemia Signs. For the unfamiliar, New Bohemia Signs practices the art of hand lettering with quill brush and paint. When Damon bought the shop it was because its original owners were ready to shut it down. The ability to cut perfect vinyl letters for signs had fragmented the sign industry winnowing the artists down to very few. Hand lettering hasn't suddenly won over the goliath of vinyl lettering but the craft is once again being elevated. Now New Bohemia finds itself painting the signs for the interiors of many tech startups and holds monthly classes to share the art with interested students. 

Everett shared how handmade directly impacted those creating some of our social infrastructure. Before joining Pinterest Everett helped to found The Analog Research Lab at Facebook. One of the missions they took on was to pose open ended questions. They found the quickest way to communicate with impact was to use wood type to letterpress print posters and wheat paste them around the FB campus. They created an instant dialog as people started handwriting responses on the posters.   

The thread that started to expose itself in the discussion is that when beginning a creative process computer software sometimes adds an unnecessary layer between inspiration and execution. For prototyping sometimes the quickest tool is pen, paper, scissors or any number of mediums. That thought brings to mind that software companies are recognizing the desire for physical connection to creation. One of Adobe's latest offerings is software and accompanying hardware that allows you to draw with your iPad. It's called Ink and Slide (ruler).

It would be easy to think tech is tech and handmade is handmade but this thought exercise indicates they are very intertwined. As you know I make a lot of stuff by hand but the computer definitely is a tool that shows up either to help me complete my vision or simply for sharing here on the blog.

Pinterest which is full of imagery of crochet pet costumes and oasis like backyard projects is a piece of tech which is influencing handmade AND it's exposure. It provides inspiration for someone to take on a new project or new skill. It provides a platform for sharing creations and interestingly creates a feedback loop. It shines a light on imagery in the zeitgeist. With fall about to arrive the pineapple trend is about out the door. I joked about it on the panel but for a moment I had a pineapple filled Pinterest feed.

One last item about handmade I'd like to mention is that it can provide a quick feeling of accomplishment. As a graphic designer I spend most of my day in front of a computer and most of my projects have many steps before completion. Making something by hand creates balance in my life. 

But what about this gift wrap?

This is a gift for close friends getting married so of course I needed wrap with a really personal touch. I wasn't finding any inspiration in my wrap stash so I made some wrap just for them. Their invitations incorporated a purple and orange gradient. The easiest thing to do was to use a big foam brush to wash gouache over a sheet of paper I had previously decorated. No computer necessary. The purple gods eye has been waiting to top a package and was perfect for my purple loving friend. In the span of a half hour I had my idea and had executed it. 

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this topic of handcraft if design. Lets keep the conversation going in the comments!

Tenugui gift wrapping

This past weekend Heath Ceramics in San Francisco had a lovely exhibit; Akio Nukaga and friends which included several events. One of the friends events I saw on the calendar was a Japanese gift wrapping demo. So you know I had to be there!

As part of the festivities the Japanese textile company Kamawanu brought their beautiful Tenugui cloths. What is Tenugui? As it says on their promotional materials:

"Tenugui, a piece of dyed cotton cloth, has always been an essential tool for the Japanese. Not only was it used as a wiping tool such as a towel or handkerchief, it was also used as a bandage and a headwear in the old days. On the other hand, since it was possible to dye various graphic designs on the Tenugui, it also came to be used in the place of a greeting card or a business card."

Gift wrapping is a newer use that Kamawanu is promoting for the Tenugui. You may have seen Japanese gift wrapping with cloth before. The other variety is Furoshiki which uses a square cloth for gift wrapping but it is an entirely different tradition. Wrapping with Tenugui employs similar concepts but is different because the cloth is a long rectangular shape.

Megumi Inouye was the demonstrator and came up with many ways to show us how to wrap with the Tenegui. I'll admit with all my wrapping love I have been a little hesitant to dive into wrapping with cloth. Megumi made it look approachable. Watching her manipulate the cloth you can easily see the benefits of wrapping with Tenegui.

With just a few concepts in mind you can wrap many things.

— Laying your object at an angle to the cloth allows you to cover your object completely. 
— Alternatively if you have a larger object don't stress about covering it completely. Partially wrapping it with the cloth will still make it special.
— Round objects can be rolled at an angle in the cloth.
— And while you're at it use that same idea with boxes. Throw out the western idea of positioning objects at 90 degree angles.
— Twist the cloth to wrap around a wine bottle neck. Or twist the cloth to hold an object inside.
— Knot the cloth. Optionally tuck the exposed ends of your cloth into the knot for a different look.
— Work with the shape of your object not against it. 
— It's ok to get an assist from a simple modern tool like the rubber band! But for this lets definitely say no to tape.

An example of not needing to hide the wrapped object. The ends of the knot are tucked inside the knot to create the clean look.

An example of not needing to hide the wrapped object. The ends of the knot are tucked inside the knot to create the clean look.

Examples of twisting. There are 3 apples wrapped in the left with a twist between each one. Reminds me of how a balloon animal is created.

Examples of twisting. There are 3 apples wrapped in the left with a twist between each one. Reminds me of how a balloon animal is created.

Magumi took inspiration from the shape of the candle holder by tucking the fabric into it's cavity and creating a flower with the ends. This is a great example of letting the object dictate how the fabric forms around it. Maybe this will work for wrapping a small cup too!

Magumi took inspiration from the shape of the candle holder by tucking the fabric into it's cavity and creating a flower with the ends. This is a great example of letting the object dictate how the fabric forms around it. Maybe this will work for wrapping a small cup too!

The wrapping on the far right uses a rubber band as an aid. Instead of twisting the excess fabric a rubber band is secured around it and the fabric is tucked under.

The wrapping on the far right uses a rubber band as an aid. Instead of twisting the excess fabric a rubber band is secured around it and the fabric is tucked under.

The top view of the rubber band aided wrap.

The top view of the rubber band aided wrap.

Megumi and I actually have an interesting connection even though we've just met. In different years we've both participated in the Scotch most gifted wrapper contest. Megumi was runner up the year she participated. So this was a treat to connect with her and chat about wrap.

One of the important things she emphasized is that the Tenegui can elevate simple items for gift giving. This technique doesn't need to be reserved for wrapping only precious ceramics. That's one of the principals I think is so important about gift wrapping whichever kind you do. The act of taking the time to wrap something imposes a significant to the act of gifting however big or small either physically or monetarily the item is.

Impromptu wrapping using twisting and knotting. This might be sturdy enough to carry a smaller object. Perhaps a special way to present a garden clipping.

Impromptu wrapping using twisting and knotting. This might be sturdy enough to carry a smaller object. Perhaps a special way to present a garden clipping.

During Q&A someone asked how Magumi would wrap a plant. She took the challenge and quickly came up with the above idea. I think for a moment she felt like she was back in the wrapping contest.

The twisting method would be a perfect way to wrap eggs. And how perfect to wrap them in this egg patterned Tenegui. If I had chickens I would definitely be using Tenegui to deliver the eggs as gifts to friends.

The twisting method would be a perfect way to wrap eggs. And how perfect to wrap them in this egg patterned Tenegui. If I had chickens I would definitely be using Tenegui to deliver the eggs as gifts to friends.

Some other facts about Tenegui.

Tenegui comes in many patterns which are often chosen by the gift giver to fit the interests of the receiver. The patterns are made by creating paper templates that the dye is pushed through. The Tenegui cloth is cut from a continuous roll so each individual cloth has two cut edges and two salvage edges. (I'm not sure if there is a different terminology for salvage when it comes to this particular cloth). To dye the cloth it is starched. Brand new Tenegui cloths have a crisp feel to them. As they're used and washed they become soft.

You can read about the history of Tenegui on Kamawanu's website. 

I know that there isn't a full demo here but I encourage you to get any bit of fabric that is not very thick and just play around with melding it to the form of objects. The wonderful thing about fabric is you can re-wrap as many times as needed without damaging your material. That's much harder to do with crisp paper. Megumi has a couple Furoshiki classes up on Creativebug that could give you a start.

If you're in San Francisco head over to the Heath Ceramics tile factory to snap up some of the remaining Tenegui still in the store. I'm not sure if it will be a regular item that they'll retail but I hope so.

If you have any additional info to share about wrapping with Tenegui or cloth please share in the comments!

In case it's not obvious all wrappings are done by Megumi Inouye.