Sustainable gift wrapping ideas from some of our favourite Irish creatives

Half the fun of receiving a present is in the unwrapping, but unfortunately, the shiny, cheap wrapping paper with which we are all so familiar, is extremely bad for the environment. Have no fear, with a little creativity and fun you can end up with an even better solution. We asked some of Ireland's top creatives to sustainably wrap a present for Christmas 2018. 


Joanne Hynes, fashion designer

Joanne Hynes sat down with us to tell us about her gift. “I believe that scarves have multiple uses beyond the obvious neck-warming one. I like them worn as an artful turban on your head on a bad hair day, or as a dynamic framed piece to adorn your walls, or a pretty way to wrap a gift. It is the gift-wrap that keeps on giving! My Tiger Lady silk scarf was designed by combining multiple prints from the current and previous seasons to create a mosaic background behind the Tiger Lady herself. Because the scarf itself is the main gift here, it can be used to conceal something inexpensive but thoughtful, such as a box of homemade mince pies.”

Cliodhna Prendergastchef, photographer, stylist


Cliodhna Prendergast told us about her gift.  “I love wandering the woods out the back of my house in Recess, Co Galway and picking little bits as I go. I find very often that decay is as – if not more – beautiful than a new bud. For this reason, I like to mix the last of the green foliage with the end-of-life rose hips. I find dry leaf skeletons particularly Christmassy.

“My gift is wrapped in brown paper. I often use newspaper, collecting foreign papers when abroad for fun. The linen is an old piece, which I cut and pulled a little along the edges, so you can see the threads. I painted the back of a fresh fern (the back is where the detail is) using some old sample pots of household paint. Pressing newspaper on top to take the first layer and any excess paint off, I then turned the painted side onto the linen. I pressed a fresh piece of newspaper then on top of the fern and ran my hand from top to bottom before lifting it away and drying. The decorative green ferns on the side were pressed and dried in a microwave between two pieces of kitchen paper for about 1½ minutes. This was a little tip picked up from Irish floral arrangers Katie Smyth and Terri Chandler of Worm London. They look lovely placed alongside the print when wrapping. I used a small amount of
Auro natural glue to stick the linen to the paper.”

Eleanor Harpur, art director and set designer

“I used a tea towel tied in a simple knot, inspired by the Japanese tradition of Furoshiki, to wrap the gift. Plus, a travel bottle filled with washing-up liquid and a scrubbing brush to decorate the top. When possible, I like to try and add a bit of my personality and humour to every project I work on… As the youngest of five girls, I have such fond memories of Christmas, and this gift is inspired by one of our greatest and longest running family traditions –
the massive annual row over who gets to do the washing-up! This one’s for you, Deborah – your turn this year.”

Kate O’Dowd, founder of event styling company


“There’s little more iconically Christmassy than a decadently dressed dining table. Even those of us who generally chow down in the kitchen will dust off the good room and relish in the ceremony of setting it. It’s one of my favourite parts of Christmas day; a job that’s not at all taxing, but pulls us out of our sofa crevice all the same. The sense of achievement is marvellous, alongside a nice Baileys buzz. And I love the thought that a gift I give to someone dear will be enjoyed right away, as part of a glorious gathering.

“The tablecloth and napkins are used to wrap a table setting for two, including good quality taper candles, candlesticks and some decorative centrepiece items such as pine cones, baubles, and mini Christmas trees. The fact that the gift comes wrapped in itself offsets the fact of its opulence with the promise that not one scrap of its presentation will be wasted.”

Helen Steele, designer

"My inspiration for this gift was to have a multi-purpose pressie. All of my online sales come wrapped in hand painted canvas. But I wanted to go a step further this time so I wrapped a printed cashmere scarf in a soft canvas that was feathered with acrylic paint. This is two gifts in one . The scarf to keep you bright and warm and the canvas wrapping to hang on your wall."


Decoy, artist

"I decided to repurpose a wine gift box I had at home, and use this to hold a present for a child, it also makes a lovely present in itself. I hand-drew and created shapes from Balsa wood to appear like characters from a kids storybook. The wood was stained with watercolours which are known to be non-toxic and sustainable. Usually I use a mixture of spray paint, acrylic, emulsion, latex, as well as sometimes oil paint – but these are all petrochemical-based products. So this was all new to me! I used a vegetable based starch glue to position all the stained cutouts. Watercolour isn’t very water resistant, so I protected the entire lot with natural beeswax which is usually used to protect wooden furniture."

Audrey Hamilton, artist 

"I decided to use a pillowcase to wrap the gift as every household have old pillowcases. They don’t decompose so why not put them to use? I cut a heart shape from a piece of cardboard and after dipping the shape into paint I placed it all over the pillowcase. When it dried I covered the gift and tied each bed to give the effect of a sweet.

A pillowcase is such handy gift wrapping material as it can be used in so many different ways. You could also put presents in it like a sack and tie it at the top.  It’s so reusable that when the person receiving the gift opens it, the can then keep the pillowcase to reuse on another gift."

Jenny Huston, designer and owner at Edge Only

"For my sustainable wrap I tried to embrace reduce, reuse, recycle and keep it biodegradable and edible! I love black on black, especially with a pop of metallic. The cardboard box is wrapped in simple black kraft paper and tied with black cotton twill (repurposed from Edge Only carrier bags handles knotted together).

The organic gingerbread has a butter icing and edible glitter to give it a silver and gold sparkle.  The gingerbread people are in clear protective sleeves that are made from corn starch, making them fully biodegradable. They can be tied to the gift with the black cotton chord (a washed, spare shoelace!), or simply slipped beneath the cotton twill chord."

Photography and styling by Marlene Wessels 


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