Tube Tangle: Haste Discovers Waste

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.

Foam Tray Tinsel Fur

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.

Yard Sign Recycling

Can political advertising be converted into a charming holiday wrap? I just had to try.

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.

Cross Band Wrap in Recycled Florist’s Papers

All three papers in this wrap came from the purchase of cut flowers. The yellow and green material is some kind of thin felted fiber.

After wrapping the box with the white and purple vine paper, I began folding the yellow paper over onto itself, making it into a ribbon-like wrapping band. The paper had slices and tears in it from the way the florists cut it to embrace the cut flowers. So I had to use little pieces of transparent tape to stabilize it during folding.

The green paper is actually two fragments joined by tape. The tape join was hidden by sliding the green band under the yellow.

I chose the offset positioning of the bands to add a dash of asymmetry to what is ultimately a very traditional wrap. And then I made a quick drawing of the recipient’s initials; I cut that design out of black paper. I fastened it with rolled tape to the yellow band, positioning it uphill from the bands’  intersection.

This wrap represents the enrollment of typical throw-away materials into an easy interpretation of traditional wrapping.

Ribbon Tease

Some boxes are so beautiful that it is a shame to cover them up. Combine that with a desire to tip your hand on the celebratory contents of the gift, and you have a chance for a very quick but lovely wrap. One piece of red and green ribbon (with gold trim) was all it took for this wrap.

Alternately, if you have a gift that will trump the expectation of good Champagne, you can use these amazing boxes to wrap something entirely different. This worthy yellow brand provides boxes that have a big drawer that slides smoothly open.

(Yes, I’m still reviewing this past Christmas’ wraps.)

Scrappy Materialism

Coffee-cup insulators are made of a delightful small-scale corrugated paper. I think of it as the elegant cousin of the corrugated cardboard that so much of our gifts travel about in during their busy lives, before and after wrapping.

This wrap sought to integrate that material into the vocabulary of wrap. I thought some scraps of silver paper constituted a perfect contrast to the flat, plain color and dimensional complexity of the coffee cardboard. I wrapped the ends of the gift with two pieces. I added some solid green, contrasting in darkness and low reflectivity to the silver. Then I added the two bands of cardboard.

Blue gauze ribbon, placed in wrap’s traditional 90-degree style, brings yet another note to our chord of textures. I did not want to cut the ribbon scrap, so I overlapped it with an offset, emphasizing its transparency and gaining two additional visual lines in that plane.

The name tag is an office-supply folder label.

Snowy Mountains

Christmas is in two days. I’m going for simple wraps. I wrapped another person’s fed-exed gift in solid green paper. I cut strips of white foam from a food take-out box and sliced them into mountains. Hot glue holds them on the wrap. I added one piece of red ribbon, and a small name tag.

Silver Sun Screen Wrap

I was headed out to the dumpster to throw out the trash before beginning my early-morning work session. As I put a worn automobile-windshield sunscreen into the dumpster, I felt that twinge of wrapper’s inspiration that keeps so many things from entering the trash stream.

Back in the studio I knocked out this prototype wrap. A deep blue ribbon covered up a big crease in the silver mylar. A thin yellow ribbon provided the necessary graphic complexity. And last of all I took a silver plastic cosmetic-product cap that was sitting on my drawing table. I had saved it for months and had even tested it on numerous wraps. It had never made the cut until today.

The sunscreen is lined with foam beneath its silver mylar. That gives the finished package a very comfortable “hand.”

Round Wrap in Pie-bin Bottoms

Pies from our Whole Foods come in marvelous molded-plastic containers. Put the bottom halves from two of them together and you have a strange round device that resembles some kind of off-road tire, or perhaps the base form of a dark space ship.

Those two pieces of black plastic are glued together using 1-inch-long pieces of popsickle sticks. They are hot-glued into little slots conveniently located around the molded shape of the pie-bin bottoms

I next made the feet for this wrap using four lids from aerosol deodorants. Their plastic is metallic adding more machine aesthetic to this peculiar wrap.

I glued a sequence of bottle caps on ten of the twenty raised knobs that ring the pie bottoms’ flat central circle, adding to the visual theme of circles. Their detailed design and printing enriches the design by bringing a finer level of detail to the complex but larger forms of the black plastic.

It actually took a while to figure out what to put in that central, flat circular space. I cut out various magazine-ad photographs and also fragments of wrapping paper and art paper. Nothing seemed to be compelling. I finally decided to use my own photography. I made a circular crop of a photo I took last week while hiking in the Comb Ridge of southern Utah. I added a black “inner glow” in Photoshop. I printed it, cut it out and glued it into the circular recess.

In order to spare the recipient the potential anxiety of having to destroy such a curious sculpture, I cut out the circular recess on the back side and made it into an access door closed with simple tape fixtures.

Numinous Trashformation

An amazing quantity of exotic materials flows through our households every day.

As a part of 1) my quest to divert some of the more charming of these objects away from the dumpster and 2) my need to reduce the volume of my in-studio recycling bins, I made 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 leaves an almost-closed box; only the bottom is open.

Resolving to solve that later, I began to trim out the yellow box. 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.