High stakes competitive gift wrapping

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[Shasta Garcia] Three weeks ago I entered the high stakes world of competitive gift wrapping. The gift wrapping circuit is very small—as far as I know, there’s only one major event. I was one of eight contestants who received a free trip to New York to participate in the 2012 Scotch Most Gifted Wrapper contest. I got there with my video application. The prize on the line: $10,000, and of course the title, which is priceless.


I’ll spare you the suspense and let you know now that I did not get further than the first round. But the whole experience was a creative adventure like I’ve never had before.

Background: You should know that the Scotch Most Gifted Wrapper contest consists of three fast-paced rounds of wrapping oddly shaped gifts, some of which are oversized. The wrappings are judged on skill and creative use of materials. While speed is only meant to be important in the case of a tie-breaker, it was the number one thing I trained for, because I wanted everything to look polished in a short amount of time.

Two weeks ahead of the contest we were told the objects we’d be wrapping. We were also given pictures of the materials we’d have to use. Scotch also sent us a box of goodies including scissors, pop-up tapes, and their newest and most colorful Scotch Expressions tape. In Round 1 we would be wrapping a game box and an oversized rubber duck. Round 2 would be a tuba, and Round 3, an airplane with an eight-foot wingspan. Admittedly, I was most intimidated by the tuba and most excited about the airplane.

In training: With all the details in-hand, it was time for me to start seriously training. Like a runner who trains in the mile-high city, I decided to prepare with some extra challenges. I bought wrapping paper made of the cheapest quality I could find. And wow, was that a challenge to work with. (I’m happy to report that the gift wraps at the contest were much better.) Having quality paper is a key to wrapping successfully. The crisper the fold, the cleaner the finished packages.

I didn’t have access to a tuba so I created an awkward shape using some blankets squished into a space bag. Had I wrapped the tuba, I would have used a metallic paper and decorated the tree with tulle and a garland.

Because I didn’t know the exact time allotment we’d have for each round, I practiced based on past contests. Round 1, 10 minutes. Rounds 2 and 3, 13 minutes each. Ten minutes is not a lot of time to wrap two gifts; time (or lack thereof) became my biggest challenge. For each round, I practiced techniques to create embellishments quickly. My strategy was to have a detailed plan. I wanted to go into the contest knowing the order I would wrap things and the exact time it would take me to fold something.

This technique was for the airplane. The plan was to make it look like a parrot.

At the Top of The Rock in NYC

Pre-game: On the eve of the contest I arrived in New York bright and early (and very sleepy). I had a full day of wandering around 5th Avenue and Rockefeller Center awaiting further contest details at our welcome dinner. I was in for a surprise. We learned a few details that were game-changers. The tuba would be positioned in a stand, horn up (we’d all pictured wrapping it with it resting on the horn’s base). Tissue paper could be used for embellishment, but not as the main wrapping paper. Also, we would need to use the new Expressions tape in one of our Round 1 wraps.

I went back to my hotel room to revise my plans. Luckily, I had picked up a roll of paper (ironically in plaid) at Duane Reade before going to dinner. I could not rest peacefully until I had a plan for my rubber ducky. Finally an idea clicked and I was able to go to sleep—so confident that I started to fantasize about wrapping hilarious objects on the Letterman Show as part of the post-wrap PR blitz.

Ice skaters at Bryant Park. Photo by Donna Sickles.

Game day: At five in the morning I awoke, and by 6:30 my fellow contestants and I were walking to Bryant Park through very quiet New York streets. It was a nice contrast to the hustle and bustle that I arrived to see the morning before. We had a nice continental breakfast as the venue started to come to life. We conducted pre-interviews. We were all amazed that there were ice skaters to watch by 7:30. As 8:30 approached, the butterflies in my stomach also came alive. There were to be two heats of four contestants for the first round, and I was in the first group.


With the announcement of “Ready, Set, Wrap!” nerves were replaced with the need for speed and my internal dialogue.


“Stick to the plan. Ignore the cameras. Ignore the cheers. Wrap the box first, leave the bow for later. Now to the duck. Fold, fold, fold, tape, tape, tape. Back to the box. Time for ribbon. Do I have time for an extra embellishment? No. Just a nice big bow. Better to be cleaned up and finished than to be half undone. Can’t forget to make my space spotless. And, Time!”



That’s a wrap: With the first round over, I felt confident I’d be moving forward in the contest. I was very pleased with how my duck turned out, but as we stood in line and announcements were made, my name was not called. My ugly duckling was not a peacock after all.

After the initial disappointment there was still more contest to take in. There were more photo-ops and interviews. I’d gotten to know all my fellow wrappers and enjoyed cheering them all on, and in the final round, I rooted for fellow West Coaster Lia Griffith. She went on to take the title of Most Gifted Wrapper. I gotta say, she is gifted. She has done some amazing things with paper in the past, including making over 30 dresses. Congratulations Lia! You can learn more about Lia’s wrapping techniques and see some post-contest interviews at her blog. A contest highlight reel with the winning wrap can be seen here.


Shasta Garcia is a graphic designer at Weymouth Design in San Francisco, volunteers in the design community, and is a lifelong explorer of craft. She writes and shares her creative endeavrs at shastablasta wraps presents well.

Photos 01, 02, 12 ©Louisa Caragan. Photos 08, 09, 10 ©Annie Sexton. All other photos ©Shasta Garcia.


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Comments (2)

  1. Posted by report from the heartland on 12.24.12 at 1:53 pm

    PLEASE!
    Tape ruins good giftwrapping.
    Please review
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mmnlPVS07nk
    for a lesson and a philosphy of giftwrapping that celebrates the very soul of wrapping a present as part of the gift you are giving.

  2. Posted by Chandra Greer on 01.7.13 at 11:25 am

    What a fun article! Loved seeing how much time and effort you put into “training” for your competition. You’re still a winner in my book!

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