When we attended The White Company’s Christmas press day, we met super-talented paper illustrator Helen Musselwhite, who had created an extraordinary world of fabulous paper pictures, sculptures and present wrapping decoration for the company.
Her work is beautifully detailed and tells engaging stories via the careful slice of a sharp scalpel. Being stationery geeks here, we have already started to plan how to wrap our presents and decorate our festive tables (yes I know this is nerdy, but it’s just how we’re made…) but we found Helen’s work so enchanting that we caught up with her again recently to ask her a few questions about what she does and how she approaches Christmas present wrapping
TWR Helen how did you start with this paper sculpting idea?
HM I’ve been illustrating with paper for 7 years. My first foray into paper sculpture was whilst working with my friend in her jewellery shop. I made an angel from white cartridge and tracing paper to hang in the Christmas shop window. I loved making it and quickly realised paper was a fantastic medium to work with, easily available, relatively inexpensive, versatile and recyclable.
TWR Can you give us a few tips on how to approach our present wrapping this Christmas?
Choose good quality papers that you can fold and crease easily (in the right places!)
I use double sided tape on my presents. I think it looks more professional than sticky tape as I don’t like to see the tape on the paper, unless its Washi tape. But I f you do use Sellotape or Washi then cut it neatly with scissors or a craft knife and make sure all pieces are the same length.
Settle on a colour palette and with in that palette choose patterned and plain papers that you can mix. I like to use a base paper to wrap a large present and then use the contrasting paper to make strips in decreasing widths to wrap around in bands on top of each other, the bigger the present the wider the bands. You could also cut or punch festive shapes out of the bands to reveal the paper underneath.
On a small gift an over the top bow made with good quality ribbon works well. Take time to tie the bow neatly and without a lump of ribbon on the bottom of the gift where it crosses. There are lots of step-by-step guides on YouTube showing how to do this. It makes all the difference.
Make sure you cut enough paper to cover what you’re wrapping sufficiently and leave enough space for the double-sided tape. Place the gift in the middle of the paper with an equal amount of paper top and bottom and make sharp creases and folds.
TWR Where do you get your supplies from?
HM I like to buy papers for wrapping from larger Paperchase stores. My local store in Manchester always has a great selection of papers. I mix the hand printed luxury papers with craft papers for contrast. Ikea has recently introduced a stationery dept which has some great patterns and colours that come on wide rolls that are great for larger gifts.
They also sell thin contrasting colour ribbons in packs that are great too. Haberdashery Depts in department stores are good for ribbon by the metre as are independent fabric shops. Wrap your gifts on a large table or clear a space on the floor. A sharp pair of large scissors is essential.
TWR And what are you planning this year for your own present wrapping?
HM This year I’m going to use black and white patterned papers – spots, stripes and trompe l’oeil squared. I’ll mix these with textured white 90lb watercolour paper and pale silver thinner paper.
I have some black, white and grey twine/string that I’ll tie around the gifts and tuck hand written oblong labels under the twine. I’ve got a bright pink pen to write the labels with as a total contrast to the monochrome wrapping.
Helen’s work supported The White Company’s lovely Christmas collection, and she used the ingenious battery operated tea lights to light up many of the sculptures.
Below is Helen’s workspace desk she set up for the day…we’re impressed with how inspiringly tidy it is…must tidy up my stationery box!
It may take a while to get this good, but practice makes perfect….