When we first came across Shiho Masuda’s YouTube tutorials on Japanese gift wrapping techniques – from how to wrap a t-shirt without a box to how to wrap a gift in under a minute – our inner OCD selves immediately took a liking to the geometric angles and razor-sharp pleats from Shiho’s techniques that would elevate the act of gift wrapping to a product akin to a work of art. Since for most of us, wrapping is often an afterthought in the act of gifting, we chatted to Shiho as part of our newly-launched Gifting and Receiving series about how growing up in Japan and the concept of “Omoiyari” had an impact on her career in gift wrapping today.
What was it about Japanese gift wrapping that appealed to you as a little girl growing up in Japan?
As a little girl in Japan, I was fascinated by the colors and patterns of beautiful gift wrapping created at gift shops and department stores. My favorite was a Sanrio shop where they combined gift wrap papers together with stickers of popular Sanrio characters along with little ornamentations, like a bonus gift. If the sales clerk was skillful, she would create a cute ribbon decoration as well. I think that I was often more excited about getting the wrapping than the actual product inside.
In what way is the focus on beautiful package design and gift wrapping a reflection of the Japanese culture and aesthetic? How is this different from North American values?
The culture of gift giving in Japan is based on “Omoiyari” which means being considerate or compassionate. I’m very much influenced by this philosophy and believe that the manner of gift-giving is as equally important as the gift itself. I pay attention to the details when trying to create a beautiful presentation, including choosing a color combination, appropriate paper and ribbon and incorporating a personalized design element – all of it just to make the special occasion more memorable and to bring a smile to the recipient’s face.
Was a career in teaching others the art of gift wrapping something you always wanted to do? If not, at what point did you decide to pursue your passion as a profession?
I actually never thought that I would be teaching others the art of gift wrapping. I just always love creating beautiful packages that made people smile and others started asking me to teach them. So I started teaching individuals and eventually performed organized group lessons at various institutions. One day a friend of mine mentioned to me that I should upload a tutorial video on YouTube. I was excited about the ability to reach a more global audience. At first I started with 5 subscribers, which grew to 30 then 100. I felt motivated to continue after reading the viewers’ feedback and comments about how much a tutorial helped, or when they sent a thank you message. It was mind blowing and really amazing to know that my tutorials could make a difference in enhancing someone’s day. I think that all these layered experiences helped me develop more of a passion about creating new gift wrapping designs and teaching others.
What are the basics of Japanese gift wrap and design, for someone who doesn’t know anything about the art?
Instead of hiding the seam, which implies that you made a mistake, try incorporating the seam into part of the design by creating even more in a pleating design, for example. Every fold and movement is created with a purpose, there are no accidents.
What’s the best part of your job?
I’m always surrounded by beautiful papers and ribbons! Also I have been able to travel other countries to find creatively designed materials and inspiration, conduct gift wrapping workshops and meet with other passionate people. In the past couple of years my travels have taken me from Hawaii to Japan, Thailand, Italy and India, meeting amazing people and having memorable experiences all along the way.
What’s the best gift that you’ve ever given? What’s the best gift that you’ve ever received?
The best gift I’ve ever given were tickets for my family to visit me in Hawaii. It was a dream come true for my mother, who had never before traveled overseas in her life. We had a wonderful time together. The best gift that I’ve ever received was my dog. He came into my life with a tiny blanket in a crate and has since joined me on many gift wrapping projects and photoshoots. Who knew that this little dog would be the center of my life?
Which BRIKA item tops your wishlist as a gift you’d like to receive?
There are so many interesting craft items but the Pastel Dreamers Fragrance Warmer by Motiph has caught my eye. I imagine taking a relaxing hot bath or just meditating aided by the sunset invoking pink-purplish light!
Fragrance warmer, $69, Motiph
Japanese pleating 101: Envelope gift wrap, from Shiho’s YouTube channel