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Gifts With a Certain Presence


Holiday gift wrap has shot way beyond the drugstore cellophane-wrapped rolls with the matching loopy stick-on bows. Gift-givers now have their choice of hundreds of imported and domestic handmade papers, plus sheer, embroidered and wired ribbons, cording, tassels, tulle, faux and dried flowers and fruits, colored wire, beads, gilded leaves, pine cones and even fabric wraps. And these products are available no farther away than the nearest stationery and gift shop or craft and art supply store.

Even the wrap-phobic needn't be intimidated by this mountain of stuff. Papers silk-screened with detailed Japanese designs or embossed with patterns of leaves and flowers are so exquisite they only need a simple bow to embellish them.

The wrap revolution started several years ago as handmade papers entered the market, met by eager consumers who use the papers not only for gifts, but also for hand-bound books, invitations, photo albums and lampshades. Still, creating a beautiful gift seems to be the No. 1 priority.

"I think people may not be spending as much money on gifts as before, and with great gift wrap, they can turn an ordinary present into something extraordinary," says Margaret Yasuda, owner of Mimio, a stationery, paper and gift store in Pasadena.

"When you buy something online, it usually arrives with just a computerized note, so when you make the effort to wrap a gift, people really appreciate it."

Wanda Wen, owner of Soolip Paperie & Press in West Hollywood, says she's always been a paperphile but didn't realize others shared her passion until she opened her store five years ago.

"I think there are a lot of people out there who appreciate the honesty and simplicity of paper," says Wen, who also carries a wide variety of ribbons and embellishments. "It's a very tactile thing in this digital world, and it speaks to a lot of people's hearts. When you're wrapping a gift, everything is chosen for a certain reason, which makes it special."

Customers at Elements in Irvine used to wonder what to do with the wall of handmade and specialty papers until store owner Deborah Hefter enlightened them: "We told them they could wrap gifts or cut it up and layer it for invitations. Once people started to see all the possibilities, that woke up something in them. They started asking for things to put on the gifts, and they started becoming more three-dimensional."

Those dimensions include textured papers, metal charms, shells, ribbon flowers and dried skeleton leaves. Hefter suggests "starting with something you love the most and work from there," playing with various pieces until the mix feels right. When in doubt, she adds, "Clean and simple is always elegant. Sometimes the simplest thing speaks the loudest when it's done tastefully."

To give a package a personal touch, Hefter suggests attaching photographs or color copies of photos to the gift or the tag. She also turns her 4-year-old daughter's butcher paper paintings into gift wrap. "What grandparent wouldn't love that?"

Here are a few more tips from the pros:

* The backyard holds a wealth of package embellishments, including fresh and dried leaves, herbs, twigs, flowers and vines. Dried foliage, such as pine cones, can be gilded with metallic spray paint. Check each item carefully for insects, dirt and fungus before attaching it to the gift.

* Some specialty papers can be expensive--up to $25 a sheet. Instead of using one sheet for one gift, stretch it as a decorative element over several small gifts.

* Shimmery sheer organza and moldable wired ribbons have so much body they need only be tied in a simple bow.

* Use an eye-catching greeting card, without the envelope, to punch up a gift.

* Oversize or odd-shaped gifts can be wrapped in fabric, abaca (a loosely woven fiber), decorative dish towels and napkins or scarves.

* When giving cash or a gift certificate, don't stuff it in a plain envelope. Many stores carry decorated boxes and bags that will make an impressive presentation.

* Don't toss nonperishable embellishments. They can be used for centerpieces, tree ornaments or next year's gifts.

* Gifts don't have to scream "holiday;" try colors such as purple, fuchsia, teal and orange for a different look. A touch of something metallic automatically elevates a gift to holiday status.



It's a Wrap at These Area Stores

Here are some of the area's stores that carry various combinations of gift wrap, specialty and handmade papers, ribbons and embellishments:


38 S. Raymond Ave.


(626) 685-9090

Gift-wrapping service, plus classes in gift-wrapping and other paper crafts.



4255 Campus Drive


(949) 854-3690

Gift-wrapping service available.


Arts & Letters On Main

2665 Main St.

Santa Monica

Gift-wrapping service available for items purchased in store.

(310) 392-9076


Wrap Scissors Paper

at Party On La Cienega

350 S. La Cienega Blvd.

Los Angeles

(310) 659-8717

Gift-wrapping service available. Call manager Cynthia Lavender for gift-wrapping class information.


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