I’m Corinna vanGerwen, a gift stylist whose expertly wrapped presents have appeared in film, online and in magazines such as Canadian Living and Food & Drink. I have demonstrated wrapping techniques in videos for GEICO, Indigo and Style at Home, among others, and have taught private and corporate classes in the art of gift styling. I’ve wrapped gifts for celebrities and CEOs, and have been featured as a gift-wrapping expert in top media outlets, including in Wired, House & Home, the Canadian Press and Ming Pao Daily News.
After graduating from the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design with a bachelor of fine arts, I worked in magazine publishing as a writer and editor, and have held senior on-staff positions at Style at Home and Cottage Life. I spent a year handling operations for a boutique PR agency, then launched my gift styling business in 2010. I continue to write and style for leading magazines and websites.
I was extremely fortunate to have grown up in a creative household — my mom is a painter and former illustrator, and my dad built sets for film and television. Not only did this mean that I got a lot of support and encouragement for any of my artistic interests, it also meant that I had access to a wide variety of art supplies: Both my parents would bring home whatever extra materials were left over from their jobs.
I had your common crayons and construction paper, sure, but I also had gouache paints and watercolour paper. I had rub-on Letraset typefaces in Helvetica and Futura. A rainbow of coloured light gels. I drew on the backs of film scripts. Built sculptures out of laminate samples.
Exploring all these materials, I learned that chalk pastels blend differently on tracing paper than on mat board, that markers slide across vellum but bleed on handmade Japanese paper. Each result evoked a different feeling, communicated something different.
By high school, I was collecting pieces of paper. There was the tabloid-sized ledger paper with its uneven grid in moss green; a small square of matte black paper embossed with a pebble pattern; the oil-stained pinstripe kraft paper from some long-ago-opened package. I still have them.
Like fonts, the subtle differences in papers tell different stories. Even two pieces of white paper say different things, through their weight, texture and tone. Think perfunctory photocopy paper versus a watermarked deckle-edged handmade paper from Italy.
I like to take advantage of this language — the language of paper — when I wrap gifts.
After art school, I started my career in magazines, as an editor. It was creative work, and I loved it, but I wasn’t making things anymore. And a year in management at a PR agency left me with virtually no place at all for my creativity to go.
Over those years, the gifts I was wrapping for friends and family started getting more and more elaborate, yet more nuanced — I became more purposeful in my choice of materials. I was channelling all my creativity and arts training into wrapping presents.
My friends and family noticed too. They would always stop before opening a gift from me. They’d stare at it. Exclaim that it was too beautiful to open. Take for…ev…er pulling off the tape. And they often kept the wrapping afterwards.
What I was giving them wasn’t just a gift, but an experience. There was the anticipation of waiting to see what was inside the gift, but more than that, the packaging heightened the specialness of the occasion. The packaging embodied who they were.
My sister is tiffany blue, boho-preppy with a whimsical touch. My aunt: rich-hued, thick textures, with a thread of tribal textile patterns from around the world. My Dad is nature, with feathers and wood.
The materials I choose — the papers I choose — help create an augmented experience. Unwrapping a present involves touching the paper — it’s not just visual. You feel it. The tactile becomes part of the message the paper is telling you.
Given my interest in branding and my background in publishing, where I worked closely with communications pros on a daily basis, I was able to see how my gift styling could apply to brands — how I can help brands tell the story of who they are. So I made up my own job — as gift stylist.
Every day, every interaction brands have with the media and with their audience is a herculean effort to break through the noise. My gift styling can help them touch someone in a very personal way. It can help them make someone stop and, for a moment, really pay attention to the physical object in front of them. My gift styling can help brands stand out — and be remembered.