Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Iron Craft 2015 Challenge #25--Last Minute Decorations

For this challenge, we were asked to work on those projects that were floundering on our to-do list. The problem for me during this time of year is that I have so many projects that I do for other people that when it comes time for me to decorate my space(s), I am usually too tired to do something for me to enjoy. So Challenge 25 came at just the right time.

At the end of each holiday season, I try to decorate with the leftovers from other projects. These transform into gift wrapping accessories or table decorations. This year, I decided to decorate my space at the theater since I will be working Christmas night (a first for me since I have been there). 

This is the back stage area where I work and where actors' guests come to visit. Why not decorate it for the holidays?

The first decoration is our bulletin board. I decided to do a eucalyptus and branch swag tied with a silver ribbon.

Eucalyptus and branches
The second decoration was my security station. This is where I sit during the show. I decided to give a nod to the Winter's Solstice and Hanukkah with a blue and white theme. This is more eucalyptus but with white branches and blue lights This is tied with a blue ribbon. Among the branches are crystal embellishments which glitter when the lights hit them.

With lights off
With lights on
The final decoration is the area when I stand to greet guests after the show. I decided to make a red and white wreath as a nod to Christmas. This is a fresh Douglas Fir wreath that I purchased. I wanted to make my own wreath but I just didn't have the energy. I have always loved mixing fresh and artificial elements in wreaths. I am really happy with the way this turned out and the fir fills the area where I stand with an amazing aroma.

When I was first starting holiday decorating, I started with making wreaths for people. I teamed up with a Christmas tree vendor who would sell me the wreaths at cost; I would decorate them and return them to the lot where he would sell them and we would split the profits.

The hallmark of my wreaths has always been the hanging ornament in the center of the wreath. Usually it is hung with fishing line so that it appears hanging in air. I had to use thread for this wreath but the effect is still the same.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Iron Craft 2015 Challenge #24--Brown Paper Packages

For Challenge #24, we were tasked with decorating for the holidays. I decided to decorate with packages. As many of you know, one of the busiest times of the year for a paper artist is the winter holidays. I have several clients that hire me to decorate their trees, wrap their gifts, or decorate their homes for the holidays.

One client always wants his gifts wrapped with brown craft paper and then he chooses a theme or color for the embellishments. In order for him to choose, I have to make some mock gifts so he can see what  he might want. I then use these empty gift boxes to decorate under the tree. The trick is that the gifts that are to be given will have a gift tag. The un-tagged gifts are the ones for decoration.

SPOILER ALERT:  So for all of those beautiful trees that you see--most of the gifts are empty!

As I have mentioned previously, not all gifts are wrapped equally. Here are four variations of brown paper wrapping (not necessarily tied up with string).

Option One: Paper with a pretty ribbon.
I use wire edged ribbon which allows for a great looking bow. Sometimes, paper and a pretty ribbon really are enough.

Option Two: Paper with pretty ribbon and a bauble.
Here is the same package with a handmade glass ornament. I decided to use a complementary color for the glitter ornament. So here you have a gift with a gift.

Option Three: Paper with ribbon, bauble and nature
This is the same package with a different ribbon. This is a mesh ribbon that does not have wire. This allows for a big floppy bow. I used a hand painted marbled glass ornament. The final touch is a red berry garland. I have always been a fan of a monochromatic wrapping.

Option Four: Paper with ribbon, bauble and fresh nature
This is the same package as option three but with a fresh branch of eucalyptus that is tucked within the berry garland. The added benefit here is the fragrance. Fresh evergreen trimmings work well as well.

I learned my craft of gift wrapping from my years spent in Japan. The Japanese culture believes that a gift should represent three gifts: something on the package (even if it is a visual gift), the wrapping itself and the gift inside the box.

There is something very pleasing about this concept that I have taken to heart.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Christmas 2015 Wrapping Hints (Day Four)

I will be the first one to admit that beautifully wrapped gifts aren't meant for everyone. I normally don't pull out all of the stops unless I know that the recipient will appreciate the work and style presented with an amazingly wrapped gift.

Yet, this doesn't excuse the gift giver from the responsibility of a nicely presented and wrapped package. Similarly, if you have a coordinated look under your holiday tree, you can still wrap a gift so that it blends with the other ornately wrapped gifts.

In other words, you can still wrap a gift for an age-appropriate recipient that looks good under your tree.

For the next two days, I will share how to turn an ordinary gift into a thoughtful gift that still matches your other gifts.

Step One:
Wrap gift in base wrapping. In this case, I use craft paper once again.

Step Two:
Use a coordinating paper that you are using under your tree. Here, I chose to use the holiday themed paper as a belly band. Feel free to stop here or add a commercially manufactured bow. For little children, this can be sufficient.

Step Three:
Add some fun as appropriate. Here, I used baker's twine instead of ribbon. This is a great option for kids as you aren't using expensive ribbon that might not be appreciated. If you use twine, be sure to wrap around the gift several times in each direction so it doesn't seem to be an afterthought. You can stop here if you want. Even on this level be sure to make it look professionally wrapped by making sure that the loops are the same size. Similarly, make sure the tails are the same length.

Add additional embellishments as desired. Here a pair of jingle bells add a touch of shine that kids might enjoy.

Step Four:
Choose to add a personal touch/gift within the gift. In Japan, the gift wrapping is considered an added gift in addition to the item that is wrapped. Here is a handmade ornament that can be added to the tree if the recipient so desires. This ornament was made with sprinkles. The  topping is modeling paste that has been adorned with sprinkles as well.
Front view

Side view

Wrapping Tip #1
If you were sloppy when folding/measuring the flaps, cover them up with the belly band. There is nothing in gift wrapping protocol that says the belly band has to run parallel to the flaps--even though most people wrap this way. Break the rules some times.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Christmas 2015 Wrapping Hints (Day Three)

Today's entry is a continuation of how coordinated wrapping papers can be used to decorated your gift collection. I have a ton of these lidded boxes in my apartment. They are usually part of a gift of the month club or some other gift. I hate to throw them away since they are sturdy boxes.

During the holidays, I tend to use these boxes as part of my wrapping services. Unfortunately, they aren't always holiday inspired (like the box above).

Using coordinated papers, I will wrap the bottom tray in the non-holiday paper (in box making lingo, boxes are made of two trays--a top tray, the lid, and the bottom tray). The lid is usually shallower in order to have a reveal. I will then wrap the lid with the coordinated holiday paper.

The finished product
This is visually connected to the other gifts under the tree when you see all of the patterns combined. This is a great way to get rid of those boxes and paper scraps. Be sure to use thinner paper for this type of wrapping to ensure that the trays still fit together. Thicker paper will tear at the corners as you try and fit the lid to the bottom tray.

Wrapping Tip #1
Yesterday, I mentioned the grid on the back of the paper. Here is an example. I also mentioned about cutting only the piece of paper that you need and to leave the other paper attached to the roll. In the picture below, I demonstrate what I mean. As you can see, there is still a lot of paper in the sheet if I had cut the entire height measurement. Only using the size of paper that you need wastes less paper and prevents the unused paper from wrinkling or getting damaged.

Taking my own advice

Wrapping Tip #2
One of the difficulties of using commercially produced wrapping paper is the thickness of the product. Many papers are very thin and tear and mar very easily. Be care when securing your paper on the roll. Using rubber bands will wrinkle the the paper and can affect several layers below. If you can, use a ribbon or twine wrapped loosely around the roll.

More importantly, if you use a rubber band, only secure the top inch or two rather than travel the rubber band to the middle of the roll. If you secure at the top of the roll, you damage a smaller section of the paper and can use the rest of the roll for wrapping.

Use the rubber band at the top of the roll

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Christmas 2015 Wrapping Hints (Day Two)

Continuing the coordinated paper theme, today's hint is layered gift wrapping. Like yesterday, this wrapping idea uses a belly band; this time it is used twice. This is the same craft paper wrapped box from yesterday. For the first belly band, I used the coordinating non-holiday wrap as the first layer. This is the same size as the original belly band used (8 inches with a 3 inch reveal).

I then used a second belly band (usually half the size of the original) and centered it on the first belly band. This layer is 4 inches with a 2 inch reveal. Belly bands are a great way to use up all of that extra paper you might have left over.

Wrapping Tip #1
The grid on the back of your paper should be your friend. Most papers that are gridded use a one inch square. Use a cloth measuring tape to find the size you need and proceed.

Wrapping Tip #2
For gifts that aren't going to the same place, standardize your boxes when you can. Since this box is the same size as yesterday, I already had the paper cut to size along the width dimension. All I had to do was adjust the height of the top layer and the measuring was already done for me.

Wrapping Tip #3
Keep the paper on the roll. Because I cut from the back side of the paper, I know exactly how much paper I need. Many times, there is a lot of excess paper since the rolls are so tall. Rather than cut the full sheet, I simply cut the piece that I need and roll up the excess while it is still attached to the roll.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Christmas 2015 Wrapping Hints (Day One)

The latest wrapping trend is coordinated wrapping paper. This week, I will be highlighting how to use coordinated papers for your gift giving this year. Usually coordinated papers will feature one or two non-holiday papers and one holiday themed paper. The rationale is that you can use some of the papers throughout the year and then highlight the holiday themed paper for the appropriate holiday.

This week, I will be featuring the above papers to illustrate this point. These papers are available at Target, Duane Reade and Walgreens (although, I have only been able to find it at Target). The papers are printed and distributed by American Greetings.

The first design is to not use the paper as it was designed to be used. In other words, you don't have to cover the entire package with the paper that you have purchased. Instead, use the paper as an accent.

In this case, I wrapped the gift with plain craft paper rather than the purchased holiday wrap. I then used the holiday paper as a belly band around the center of the package. The package can then be embellished with ribbon or twine in a complementary color. To get the best effect, be sure to center the belly band on the package. In this case, there are three inches of reveal above and below the belly band.

Wrapping Tip
If you have a lot of gifts to wrap, go ahead and prepare the gifts to this point as time allows. Place them under the tree until you are ready to embellish them or take them with you to give. This is an easy way to decorate with gifts and wrap as time allows so you aren't overwhelmed with the idea of wrapping. I would go ahead and attach the gift tag so you don't forget which gift is for which recipient.

I always wrap until this point until I am ready to deliver the gifts to my clients. I will add the final embellishments (especially if it is fresh or silk flowers) at the very last moment. In doing so, you can guarantee that your wrapping doesn't get damaged.