Updated: Nov 15, 2021
In late 2020, I had the great pleasure of interviewing with the American Craft magazine contributor Jon Spayde for "Wrapture", an article he authored on the art of wrapping, featuring myself, artists Shiho Masuda, Megoumi Inouye, and Youngmin Lee. Not only did I learn more about the different traditions of wrapping across cultures and eras in this insightful piece, but after the article's publication, I also happily made a few new friends in the craft community. One such friend is the brilliant Shiho Masuda, a Japan-based gift-wrapping expert who has elevated the practice of gifting into an entirely new orbit, educating and delighting her audiences worldwide with a range of visually stunning ideas and techniques on her Youtube channel, in several virtual workshops and full online courses, as well as through her Instagram account @shihomasuda_giftwrapping.
Like Shiho, I share a deep reverence for the simple gesture of gift giving. To offer an artfully wrapped object or present is to me a sacred act, one that helps the giver communicate special intentions and wishes, whether they are expressions of sympathy, care, love, admiration or gratitude. According to Shiho, “Gift-giving is not a material exchange. It’s a way to express our feelings for the other person and to nurture the relationship.”
In Japanese culture, the art of knotting to decorate gifts and correspondence for important occasions including weddings, births, funerals, and to express get well wishes is known as Mizuhiki. When a gift is tied with a Mizuhiki, it means it's sealed and protected from the gaze of curious eyes or accidental opening before time. It adds an unspoken sense of "clean and new", a concept extremely important to the Japanese culture. The intricate weave of the Mizuhiki also symbolizes the idea of tightness, solidarity, and unification. In gift-giving, that becomes a beautiful expression of the wish for the relationship between the giver and the receiver to continue strongly and endure the passing of time. To my mind, Mizuhiki is one of the most poetic forms of exchange between individuals.
As we adapt our holiday traditions amidst the “new normal” and still attempt to cultivate togetherness and cheer between many a mask and long distances, the lessons of Shiho Masuda’s artistry offer an encouraging way to make this year's message extra special.
For my readers interested in getting their feet wet, I highly recommend Shiho's Youtube channel which is chock full of free tutorials on the art of gift-wrapping. Very soon, Shiho will also launch a free Mizuhiki course, so subscribe to her newsletter and keep a close eye on her website. And lastly, for those of you looking to take a deeper dive, Shiho's very affordable virtual workshops provide an excellent way of taking your presents from mundane to magnificent! With love and friendship, Betsy
"Even though you tie 100 knots, the string remains one." -RUMI
Images: Courtesy Shiho Masuda