19 Feb 2016

Revisiting my jewellery gift wrap

The excellence of a gift lies in its appropriateness rather than in its value.

Charles Dudley Warner

One aspect of my business that I’ve perhaps given more careful thought to than anything else, is how I gift wrap and package my jewellery for orders being sent out – it’s a thorny issue and there are several factors to address.

By definition, it has to be a compromise between several considerations, from being tempting and attractive to look at, protective of the contents, cost proportional to the piece being wrapped (more on what that means momentarily) and not wasteful or overly extravagant to suit the sensibilities of the environmentally aware.  To that end, I am happy that my gift wrap is either recyclable or can be used for something else.

which have an overlap opening and are fully lined with a contrasting fabric.
My fabric keepsake pouches, which have an overlap opening and are fully lined with a contrasting fabric.

In respect of the costs of the gift wrap, I don’t just consider the cost of the wrapping materials themselves, but the knock-on implications that their proportions or weight might have on the outer postal packaging and the resultant postage costs.   Here in the UK at present, our domestic postage is priced by both size and weight and the difference between something that is posted at 19mm deep and another parcel at 27mm deep is going to be £2.35 more in postage alone.  It will also likely need a more expensive outer box and more packing material and tape to finish the parcel.  So I feel that it’s important to keep gift wrapping both flat and light to keep prices as keen as possible.  I have always included gift wrap and domestic P&P in my prices and have written previously about my rationale for this.

Faux metallic leather and textured faux leather jewellery presentation pouches.
Faux metallic leather and textured faux leather jewellery presentation pouches.

So in deference to keeping my prices as low as I can for my customers, I have always worked towards fitting my orders into a slender ‘large envelope’ box to minimise postage costs.  It has the added benefit that for many customers, it is also small enough to go through most letterboxes, so they’re not inconvenienced by a potential delay whilst they go and collect it from the sorting office, if it can’t be delivered because they’re out at work.  And I like the idea of the protection of a box being on the outside.

Another important consideration, especially pertinent to my own business, is to present jewellery in a manner that will allow the recipient to open and examine the piece and return it to its packaging without any detriment to its appearance.

A little shaping cut into the pouch makes it a little more interesting than a square envelope.
A little shaping cut into the pouch makes it a little more interesting than a square envelope.

When pieces are being given as a gift, they are usually sent to the purchaser who will give the gift and understandably, they will want to have a peek at what they’ve bought before giving – I would certainly want to.  But I don’t want them to feel reluctant to examine it because it features an extravagant bow they’d be nervous to remove and have to re-tie, or some other aspect they might find tricky.  Just because I enjoy fiddling with gift wrap, doesn’t mean that others find it the same pleasure.  As many of my customers are gentlemen, I like to keep the order as straightforward as possible and know that this aspect is appreciated.

Textured faux leather jewellery pouch. The fabric has a soft knit backing, providing a further protective layer for the jewellery.
Textured faux leather jewellery pouch. The fabric has a soft knit backing, providing a further protective layer for the jewellery.

So it has been my practice for some time to use two types of gift wrap, a paper envelope or a fabric keepsake pouch – both of which I make myself.  I tie both of these up with a simple knot in ribbon, which minimises the bulk of the wrapping, but as a single loop around the parcel, allows the ribbon to be slipped off sideways, the gift to be examined and the ribbon loop returned.  As a generalisation, I use the paper envelopes for small and /or less expensive items and the fabric pouches, because they take much longer to make, for more substantial pieces.  I have used the same basic methods for my packaging for some time and am completely happy with how it performs in practice, with items travelling the globe safely for me and I’ve always had good feedback from customers.

Black faux leather jewellery pouch with red double satin ribbon.
Black faux leather jewellery pouch with red double satin ribbon.

Recently, I’ve had several orders, where a fabric pouch was the better solution, due to the shape of the piece or some other factor, but it wasn’t really justified by the price.  So this set me to re-examine my current arrangements.  Ideally, I wanted a soft packaging solution, but not one that took longer to make than the jewellery itself or cost more in materials.  I could of course have just used some commercially made suedette gift bags, but where’s the fun in that!  I’ve always prided myself on extending the hand crafted ethos to my gift wrap as well as the pieces, so I needed to design something to fit the bill.

To minimise the manufacturing time, I needed to eliminate the amount of sewing and processes, it needed to be simple in construction and easily repeatable.   My keepsake pouches are made in several stages, including cutting, several pressing stages, stitching and overlocking.  The first thing I wanted to cut out, was the tiresome task of neatening the fabric edges, so something that didn’t fray would be ideal, so I turned my attention to faux suede or leather.

All jewellery has a label attached and is wrapped in 2 layers of tissue inside the pouch.
All jewellery has a label attached and is wrapped in 2 layers of tissue inside the pouch.

I knew that I had a couple of faux leather cushion covers I’d picked up from a clearance bin for use for trimming, so set about to work some prototypes.  I was also keen not to make something the same as anyone else, (although there’s little that’s truly original) so spent some time with on-line image searches, eliminating some of my ideas as they were already in use.

As is often the case, you start with one design idea and as you work it, you fine tune the details.  Some things don’t work as you expected and often you realise that you’ve over-complicated it as you gradually eliminate stages and pare down the workflow.  By the time I’d worked a few examples, I was happy that I had a design that would tick all the appropriate boxes, in that it was inexpensive, quick to produce, hopefully attractive and with the softness and flexibility I wanted to allow the ribbon to be slipped off and back on again for inspection and to accommodate different thickness of jewellery.

Jewellery pieces are wrapped in 2 layers of matching tissue paper inside each pouch.
Jewellery pieces are wrapped in 2 layers of matching tissue paper inside each pouch.

Each pouch only takes two lines of stitching and most of the effort is spent in cutting them accurately.  As can be seen to the right, I decided that some shaping of the envelope gave a more pleasing result.

A visit to a local fabric wholesaler who did a good range of faux leathers and I now had 4 further colours, to allow me a good variety of finishes.  I’m very happy to add these additional pouches to my gift wrap options and feel that I’ve addressed a slight gap in my existing arrangements.

In the process of designing these, I also settled on two further slightly more sophisticated designs to allow for slightly bulkier pieces and will produce a few more of these shortly.  I’ve just started sending them out and hope that my customers will like them.


23 May 2010

Gift packaging – important and appreciated, or plain wasteful?

This subject comes up on craft selling forums on a regular basis and there are as many differing opinions on it as there are posters responding.

It seems to be an age-old and perpetual dilemma between creating a good impression, getting items safely and securely to your buyers, not adding to the cost for your customer and in also being mindful of the planet’s limited resources.

Some sellers feel that creating a good impression when buyers open their goods is vitally important and the presentation of your goods is one of the stages that just needs to be done right, along with prompt communication, good products and excellent customer service. Which is my view too. I feel that if you are proud of your work, it should be presented with care and I take that a stage further by hand making all my presentation materials too.

My jewellery is presented, wrapped safely in 2 wraps of tissue paper, inside my own made gift envelopes. I make a variety of sizes and colours and dress each one individually.

I think that people buy artisan made and hand crafted goods because they want something special, that bit different and I think that personal attention to the customer should be a part of that experience. After all, if they just want a pair of earrings to match an outfit, they can easily pick something up with their grocery shop and I’m sure that many people do just that every day.

I make my gift presentation materials myself. There is a downloadable tutorial below for the envelopes and a tutorial for the ribbon rosebuds was added later here on the blog.

But if they bother to look on-line and want something a little more unique, they probably expect to pay a little more for it too. But they also expect quality, craftmanship and when buying from an independent artisan, probably do so because they enjoy that direct connection with the artist that created the piece – and expect a little personal service. And as such an artist, it’s important to me to give it too. I want to give the type of service I’d like to receive.

I make my own small swing tickets to hang on each piece with the materials used and my logo and web address. They’re linen textured card and each one has a string of natural coloured glossy linen thread.

But for every seller that wants their customer to have a thoroughly pleasant experience, there is another who claims to throw everything away that comes in the parcel and say they won’t buy from you as you’re clearly wasteful and inconsiderate of the planet. I think each seller just has to do what they think is right for their business – the approach that sits most comfortably with them and is appropriate for their product and their chosen niche in the marketplace. I have carefully designed my packaging materials to give my customers a safely packaged item, that looks nice, is considerate of the planet’s resources and doesn’t add excessively to the cost of the item for the customer.

My outer mailing boxes – shown here assembled, but not taped – once they are sealed, they are very rigid and protect the contents well. They are thin enough to be posted as a large letter.

In fact, my current system, of packing pieces in flat hand made envelopes, then putting these securely in rigid box mailers, actually saves money as it ensures they go as large envelopes, not packets, a postage saving on each parcel of £0.76 from the outset – much more difficult to control and predict with padded bag mailers. The boxes themselves cost only a few pennies more than a bubble mailer, so save a worthwhile amount on every item I send out. I further save by making most of my presentation materials myself, which I think is appropriate for the hand crafted experience customers expect and appreciate. The feedback from my customers endorses my approach, the quality of my packaging is mentioned often.

Most of the material in my parcel is paper based, so can be recycled – and some items in themselves contain recycled material. Many of the ribbons I use are re-purposed from other packaging and I have quite a lot of vintage ribbon from a former family business and my own haberdashery shop. I actually only use a small length, per item and think my presentation strikes a good balance between achieving an attractive appearance without using too many wasteful materials – the resulting total weight of the parcel is also a factor when considering postage costs.

My items are wrapped in tissue to protect them in transit and inside a gift envelope. Each piece has a care leaflet outlining the materials used and how to care for them. I include my own made business cards and one of my photo greetings cards in which I always hand write a note. Where appropriate, I also include polishing and storage materials.

I think the product itself also strongly influences your approach – a large piece of glass or ceramics, or a large art canvas clearly has differing considerations from a pair of earrings and direct comparisons clearly can’t be made.

But as a jewellery maker, I fully appreciate that nobody needs my items. They’re not essentials, they’re a luxury purchase – and a luxury in difficult financial times. Whether the customer is buying to wear themselves, or as a gift for someone else, I think their trust in you should be rewarded with the best possible service you can give – across the board – from the quality of your workmanship, communication, speed of service and presentation.

I’m currently making my own full colour business cards as I can just print as many as I need and can vary the designs with what is current in my portfolio.

They want their items to arrive totally safely and in a timely manner, but also to feel suitably pampered by the experience. I love it when a customer says that opening their order felt like Christmas – that’s just how I want them to feel. That’s how I’d like to feel too.

So I make no apology for making the effort to present my work nicely. I’m proud of my work and take pride in presenting it to someone. I thoroughly appreciate all of my customers and it genuinely gives me great joy to think that it might just put a smile on their face when it arrives.

A selection of typical presentation materials I use when sending out orders.

Gift envelope tutorial to download:

I sell a tutorial on Etsy for an origami gift box and have always included a bonus section within this on how I make my own gift envelopes, as illustrated above. I’ve spent some time over the years in perfecting my methods to make them as efficient (in both materials usage and wastage-prevention and in time that they take to make) and attractive as possible, so thought I’d pass on this experience. They’re incredibly simple to make and only need a suitably heavy paper, scissors, a straight edge (or I use a scoring board and tool) and some suitable glue or double sided tape. I’ve included some tips on sizes and how to get the best results.

The tutorial has been extracted and expanded on a little from my single bonus page with the box tutorial and is available to download from here. It is 635Kb in size and available as a pdf document. If you click the link, it should open in your browser and you can save it to your hard drive from there. Please do not re-distribute this file (or printed copies of it) without permission or make it available to download anywhere else. Please direct people back to this post, so that they’re sure to get the latest version of the tutorial.