Playfully Upcycled: Creating an Experience with Inspired Gift Wrapping

October 22, 2021

Playfully Upcycled - Inspiring Creative Gift Wrapping Tips from Nadia Hassan

One part surprise, one part nostalgia, two parts charm: the practical advice you didn't know you needed on upcycling everyday found objects into artful gift topping accents—straight from a design professional.

Pattern designer Nadia Hassan is the type of gal who stops to smell the flowers or ponder an intriguing crack in the sidewalk. Her playful designs grace many of our best selling holiday wrapping papers, and over the years we've grown fond of another of her talents, her completely unique style and clever knack for gift wrapping.

Categorically her look starts with an unabashed blend of patterns, then layers on multiple textures, sprinkles in some element of surprise, and finishes up with a quick dollop of whimsy. It's so good. Every. Dang. Time. How does she do it?

We begged and she conceded to teach us the method to her cute-as-heck madness in the following Q&A. She styles her gifts to create an experience, she tells us, by scouring thrift stores, craft store bargain bins, and always keeping an eye out to upcycle an interesting find. Her playful spirit and sweet intentions inspire us to re-learn all the rules. Let's begin...

All photos styled and taken by Nadia Hassan.

Upcycled Gift Wrapping Materials

What do you look for to serve as the initial spark of inspiration to gather and curate your materials?

My approach is to gather first, curate later. I don’t always know what elements will end up being the stars of the show, but in order to begin the gathering process, I have two main questions:

  • Do I like this material/object? 
  • Is it fun, unusual, beautiful, or compelling in some way? 
  • If the answer is yes, I consider its functional potential. I ignore for a moment what an object is meant to do, and think about what it COULD do. A roll of raffle tickets becomes a ribbon of sorts. Patterned tissue boxes and old holiday cards are perfect for making into gift tags. 

    Cute Gift wrapping Idea with Upcycled Materials and Eco-Friendly Wrapping Paper

    I find that I am constantly scanning materials and matching their characteristics to that of the basic gift wrap components: wrapping paper, ribbon, tags, bows/toppers. I source the vast majority of my supplies from thrift stores throughout the year—once you start thinking of everything in terms of gift wrap potential, it’s hard to stop!

    ADD TO CART: Upcycled Treasures Gift Topper Kit - Personally curated by Gift Wrap Artist Nadia Hassan

    Explain your process, do you plan out the whole look (layout and colors) in advance or assemble the design as you go? 

    I usually do all of the wrapping first, before starting with the add-ons like ribbons/toppers/tags, simply because that is what my workspace allows. Once all of the boxes are wrapped, I find that my decorating process is very intuitive and spontaneous, because that’s the most enjoyable for me. Some people might prefer to do more planning, and there is nothing wrong with that! I’m mostly concerned with having fun, and it’s my opinion that you should be, too. :)

    Cute Gift wrapping Ideas with Upcycled Materials and Eco-Friendly Wrapping Paper

    Tell us your tips for mixing colors and patterns, please.

    One of the rules I live by is, “if it doesn’t go with anything, it goes with everything,” so when it comes to mixing colors and patterns, I have a high tolerance for wacky-tacky. 

    However, even my weirdest combos tend to have one unifying element, and one contrasting element. Sometimes I mix wildly different patterns together to create contrast, and the color palette is the unifying element that holds it all together. Other times I might repeat the same pattern and change up the scale and/or color (e.g. big blue dots + small black dots). My preference is for things to feel coordinated without being too matchy-matchy, but you may want an even crazier or far more reigned-in look than I do. There’s no right or wrong—just play around and let your excitement lead the way.

    Cute Gift wrapping Idea with Upcycled Materials and Eco-Friendly Wrapping Paper

    Do you plan on creating a theme to each gift?

    I never set out to have a theme, but perhaps because of my art + design background, a clear aesthetic seems to emerge anyway. Once I see a specific look coming together, I tend to lean into it pretty enthusiastically, while still making a point to tailor some details to each specific recipient. 

    ADD TO CART: Festive Holidays by Nadia Eco Gift Wrap Bundle


    Cute Gift wrapping Idea with Upcycled Materials and Eco-Friendly Wrapping Paper

    How do you evoke an emotional response from your recipient?

    This is the real reason I am obsessed with wrapping gifts: it feels so good to connect with my loved ones by creating a special experience just for them. Simply giving a gift that was wrapped with thought and care is enough to do the trick, but don’t be afraid to take some risks. The most memorable presentations are the ones that are a little quirky and unexpected, that were clearly created with the recipient in mind.

    Cute Gift wrapping Idea with Upcycled Materials and Eco-Friendly Wrapping Paper

    How do you incorporate an element of humor?

    From time to time, I’ll wrap a gift in multiple layers of paper, or in multiple layers of boxes. Not only is this mildly prank-y in a good natured sort of way, it prolongs the opening experience, which is a gift in and of itself. I’m also a big fan of googly eyes and comically oversized lollipops to get a laugh. 

    Invoking Nostalgia

    A dear friend of mine often saves the wrap from gifts I give her, and uses it to wrap gifts for me at some point in the future. I love seeing the items being reused and remixed. Not only is it extra eco-friendly, it’s such a sweet reminder of our past holiday get-togethers, and one more reason to look forward to the next one. 

    Cute Gift wrapping Idea with Upcycled Materials and Eco-Friendly Wrapping Paper

    Happy wrapping!

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    Meet the Artist: Nadia Hassan


    Gift Wrapping Artist Nadia Hassan - Headshot

    Nadia Hassan is an artist and designer from Greensboro, NC. She created her first repeating pattern 10 years ago as part of a class assignment while pursuing her BFA, and hasn’t stopped since. Nadia’s signature style is defined by bold graphics, clean lines, cheerful colors and a healthy dose of playfulness. She draws inspiration from nature’s endless supply of beautiful forms, the legacy of mid-century design, and the moments in everyday life where the mundane meets the serendipitous. Her process is as much about play as work; it’s an exciting investigation of ideas, colors, shapes, textures, and scale. Read on...