Book Review: “All Wrapped Up!”

All Wrapped Up! Groovy Gift Wrap of the 1960s
By Kevin Akers
253 pages
Chronicle Books, 2005

When I first saw “All Wrapped Up!,” I was preparing myself for a book of wrapping paper samples from the ’60s that might resemble the big pile of vintage paper I just retrieved from my grandpa’s attic. But after spending a few hours reading up on the greeting card industry in America and how these samples reflected what was going on in popular culture some 40 years ago, “All Wrapped Up!” became more of a cool history lesson and a look at the past.

And of course, I was hooked.

I can understand why Kevin Akers wrote this book. A designer himself, the history of graphic arts is something he’s obviously drawn to, just like many of my crafty friends. The book begins with a brief recap of how wrapping paper came to be early in the 20th century as thoughtful gift-givers realized a pretty package just wasn’t complete with plain paper. Looking ahead a few decades, you quickly realize why Akers chose to focus on the ’60s for his book; what other time in history was so diverse, so action packed, and so, well, groovy during a 10-year time period?

One of my favorite chapters in the book is called “The Business of Wrapping Paper.” I learned how wrapping paper companies like Ben-Mont, Hallmark and Norcross were always on their toes to find the next big thing in design, whether it was a design philosophy or emerging artists. I can only imagine what it must have been like to have been a fine arts major, circa 1963, and being actively recruited by Hallmark after graduation to design baby shower wrapping paper.

That, my friend, is living.

Akers provides rich-color examples of different wrapping paper styles by way of themes, such as birthdays, animals, babies, and, of course, woman’s world.

Looking at the paper samples is like looking at a time capsule. Paper geared toward women focused on all of the typical 1960s stereotypes of what roles women should play, what they were interested in and even what the ideal female looked like.

You might be asking yourself right now, ‘Self, why is Lish reviewing a book about wrapping paper?! This doesn’t seem too craft-related to me…”

Well, think again! Besides the obvious fact that crafty people need crafty wrapping skills to give their great creations away, looking at these old paper samples gives your brain a creativity boost. The vintage typography, the use of bold color and sharp graphics, and the classic-versus-funky design schemes are all perfect means to give you a new perspective to your projects. I know that a trip to the DIA is sometimes a great way to give me a new outlook on my projects or making in general, and “All Wrapped Up!” is no exception. One read through this book and that artsy side of your brain will be on overloead.

And if anything else, you can use the “retro wrapping tips” found inside the front and back flaps to help your perfect your presentation skills. Martha would be proud.