I’ve been thinking about this one since we brought home some bison ribs from The ( inimitable) Fort restaurant in March. It was a dinner honoring Chips Barry, and presented by Patty Limerick, two of the funniest people in the world. The sharp wit and the excellent meat joined forces in my mind, and when we got home with the night’s extra (not to say spare) ribs in wonderful black foam take-out boxes, I began to see a samurai wrap.
The sides, shoulders and helmet are made from the boxes. The arm protectors, which are visible in this view only because of their three red stripes, are from a coffee-insulator sleeve. The vertical grooved panel is a plastic pencil tray from a Prismacolor boxed set. Black bag-handle string cleans up the lower edge of the package. The gold paper is actual wrapping paper (a scrap). The red and white details are craft foam.
Samurai enthusiasts will, of course, know how far this is from the truth of samurai armor; liberate us from perfection, as Ms. Limerick says. I do plan to make some more samurai wraps at some later date, and will make reference to the many other design details of samurai armor. But this wrap serves the initial vision I had been generating in the weeks since the black-foam take-out boxes passed through our kitchen.
Aluminum is a beautiful material. Yet it is one that passes routinely through our lives, used, ignored, and trashed. When I recently cleaned up an aluminum bake pan that had held a wealth of barbecued buffalo ribs left over from a banquet I organized at The Fort, I tried to roll it out flat, as I have often done with regular aluminum foil. But I could see that I did not have the right tool to flatten this substantial piece of aluminum.
So instead I decided I must embrace the wrinkles. Using my old trasher scissors, I cut a rectangle for wrap. I added a few more wrinkles. Then, with the help of a metal ruler, I wrapped the box in the traditional way, sustaining only two cuts from aluminum’s eager edge. I hot-glued the ends shut.
Experiments brings surprises; the resulting shiny, wrinkled wrap was remarkably dimensionless. Clearly I needed more elements to the wrap. So I cut a strip from the bake pan’s lid and tried out yet another experiment I had been thinking of; I put the strip through my oil-paint tube-crimper. That made the shiny ribbed band you see wrapped first around the package. It made a good texture, but the color was too similar, so I added the gold-foil paper band to finish off the package.
More experimentation may be required in this realm of trash aluminum, but this is a good start. This wrap has a substantial heft and texture when held; your fingers will say “This is not aluminum foil!”
One night while I was washing the dishes (and recycling plastics), my mind was wandering. I suddenly saw columns made with corks, and capitals on those columns made with milk-carton-caps.
This wrap is what I saw: a Doric temple in recycled materials. I wrapped a flat box using some used wrapping paper, pink with shells. I glued the corks onto the wrap. I glued the white milk-carton tops onto the corks.
Next, I had to construct the triangular roof. I cut pieces of plain cardboard, gluing the triangular pediments on the end of the roof and a base underneath. I wrapped this roof and glued it onto the columns.
I confess to a fondness for the plastics that pass through our kitchen. The foam used to package things from the meat counter are light, shiny and easy to cut. After making some stews with our new crock pot I sidetracked some trays into my wrap bin. As I continued washing the dishes I could begin to see fins emerging from a wrap.
I wrapped the present in red paper from a shopping bag. I cut and glued the fins. I put little dabs of hot glue on the fins and attached some recycled gold-foil-and-white wrapping cord to add an element of sparkle from the traditional wrap aesthetic. Last of all, I cut, fitted and glued the dark green rectangle to complete the wrap and make a frame for recipient’s initials.
I have been enjoying taking a more sculptural approach to wrapping. It opens the door for new uses of throw-away materials. And it is lots of fun.
I took a kefir bottle and cut off the printed wrap. Underneath it was a pure white bottle. I cut off the top area and then took scissors and cut down along the corners and back up again, four times. This made the four petals. I trimmed their tops to round them out. Working the petals with my fingers I was able to give them soft curves.
I wrapped the gift in orange tissue and placed it inside the lilly. Then I took the scraps cut from the four corners, and made the pistil stems. I made a small ring to glue them to and added yellow foam to the ends. It was necessary to add some ribbon around the gift in order to make the pistils’ ring stable on top of the gift. A few pieces of scrap foam made the orange gift more secure in its white lilly holder.
This is a quick wrap if you have been saving your carton-caps from milk or juice cartons. Wrap the gift in plain white paper. Glue on four caps. Now you have a scaled-up imitation of one very common piece of a common building-block toy.
I have saved up some green, blue and orange caps; next I must find the matching paper colors so that I can simulate more kinds of bricks.
Over the holidays a white plastic take-out food box turned up in our kitchen. It’s one of a new style of take-out box. Not the white closed-cell foam variety. It had a textured surface with rounded crenillations. It had two simple closure snaps. It had a square, raised protrusion in the center of the lid. There was something 19th century about its shape and detail. It only lacked some fabric complexity and a bit of metal.
I added grey cords taken from shopping-bag handles, gluing them into a molded groove in the box lid’s outer edge. Next, I added the red ribbon which surrounds the crenillations. I added some silver shopping-bag paper trim: a square with rounded corners in the central embossed medallion, and two little folded pieces on top of the closure snaps, to simulate metal hardware.
With the gift inside resting on tissue paper, I snapped the box shut and wrapped a piece of blue gauze ribbon around it all. I added the label sticker. It is hard to capture the odd charm of this wrap in a single photo. Humor plays a part in this wrap as a utilitarian box shifts into a new context.
This began with my stash of orange-juice-carton caps. Two caps make eyes. Two make ears. I reached for a large piece of silver paper which I had recycled from a particularly fancy shopping bag and wrapped the present’s box. I already had a vision of the robot’s mouth; I rendered it in red craft foam and added a black piece to give it dimension.
I spent some time positioning the eyes, from wall-eyed to narrow. Each position has an emotional impact. There are few more powerful templates in our brains than the face templates we build as infants. Adding the ears was easy.
My method for gluing on caps is based on the fact that hot glue will flow. I add two medium dabs of glue on the inner edge of the cap. I place it on the wrap surface. I wait. The glue inside the cap flows down and bonds with the surface. It stays pretty warm inside the cap; give the glue some time to solidify.
Making and gluing the mouth is simple. In fact this is a very simple, quick wrap overall, and one with the potential for many variations.
Things got a little busy on the afternoon of the 24th. I had to return to roots of wrap art: speedy work with just enough play to keep it lively. I wrapped this box with fragments from the recycle closet.
Then I remembered that in my box of juice and milk caps were some big, shiny caps from spray deodorants. I had saved them thinking they could make excellent legs for wrapped presents, short stubby legs like those one finds on couches, sideboards and other load-bearing furniture. I put two blobs on each cap, turn the cap upside down and place it on the wrap. The hot glue is still fluid. It slides down the sides of the cap and flows onto the wrap. You have to put the package aside and let the glue cool down; the cap insulates the glue so it takes a few minutes.
The leg/caps are made of a shiny, slightly mettalic plastic, and quickly loose any sense of their source as they join in this new context.
Why is the bow on the side? And a fold-end side too? At first I tested it on top of the package. It looked ok. But when I put it on the end, it had more the feel of a formal bowtie, on the shirt of the red paper. An alternate reading, in response to the shirt legs, is that the bow is either a head or tail of this strange creature.
I’ve been thinking about animal wraps since last year, when I made a robot wrap with popsicle stick legs and arms. So this is my first of the season. The legs, neck, horns and tail are made with a very thick packing foam that I found in my dumpster last fall. It is .5″ thick, and thus is capable of bearing an impressive weight when made into legs. It is also very easy to cut.
I am using hot glue, which is almost essential for sculptural wraps. The head is a small wrapped box itself, which could contain a second gift.