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Wrap Star

Presenting the Pros

Tired of getting your fingers stuck in a bow? Many paper experts offer wrapping services if you'd prefer to have someone else do it.

Kate's Paperie in New York City recently opened a packing department , featuring boxes made out of handmade paper from Japan and a stunning array of hand- and machine-made paper from all over the world.

Designs come in holographic stripes, varnished prints, lace tissue, glitter paper and more.

A customer simply brings in gifts, selects from the private-label paper collection, and then the Kate's experts get to work personalizing each package ($8-$30 per item). Besides individuals, Kate's also works with corporate clients, so keep them in mind for mass wrap jobs.

Some husbands lacking creative finesse flock to Broadway Paper in Milwaukee, Wis. "We get a lot of men asking, 'Will you wrap this present for my wife?'" says store manager Heather Stuart.

Get your gifts wrapped in the store's signature style -- craft paper with a red satin ribbon -- or bring in your own wrapping paper and let the experts do the work. "It's not all red and green anymore," says Stuart of the shift in gift-wrapping styles.

Each gift is $3.75 to wrap, but if you buy one of the unique gifts in the store or online , the wrapping is free.

Japanese Tradition

In Japan, gift wrapping is rooted deep within the culture. There is a prescribed method for wrapping objects, from fans to tea sets to money.

"It's more about an essence of being discrete, respectful and showing care," says Vicky Mihara Avery, who is of Japanese descent.

Avery has been featured on the "Martha Stewart" TV show, teaching the art of Japanese gift wrapping, or origata, and owns family-run store Paper Tree in San Francisco's Japantown neighborhood.

A staple in Japanese gift wrapping is the use of layered and often pleated papers, mimicking a kimono. The package is usually tied with a mizuhiki, a paper cord which is often fashioned into elaborate knots representing cranes, pine needles and plum blossoms.

A Paper Tree Package
Photo: V.M. Avery

Color themes mimic the seasons and are not strict, but be sure to avoid the faux pas of using white for holiday gifts or weddings -- that's reserved for funerals.

"People love the idea [of Japanese gift wrapping]," explains Avery. "My job is to convince them that it's actually easy to do." Avery's DVD The Japanese Art of Gift Wrapping ($24.50) might convince you.

The DVD also covers wrapping with furoshiki, a traditional Japanese cloth that is perfect for wrapping that stubborn bottle of wine.

Purchase the DVD or her "Washi/Martha" paper set online , or make the trip to San Francisco to get your gifts personally wrapped at the store (1743 Buchanan Mall). But don't buy your plane tickets too hastily -- Paper Tree does ship across the U.S.

Just keep in mind: your special gifts deserve more than an uninspired wrap job.

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