Photos by L.G. Patterson
Libby Hampel is a surface pattern artist, an entrepreneur and someone who is making the planet a greener and more cheerful place. Not coincidentally, she has a lot in common with the eco-friendly gift-wrapping papers she designs, prints and sells through her online store at givemasu.com. “MASU is playful, thoughtful and bold — and that’s me,” she says. “I’m living my values and that comes through in my design and business.”
While competing in a field that is dominated by enormous corporations, such as Hallmark and international paper companies, Hampel has developed a niche business that combines creative designs and innovative color combinations to make gift giving or receiving an even more special occasion.
The idea for her business was born several years ago, when Hampel couldn’t find gift wrapping paper that she felt good about buying. “It had to meet my four criteria,” she says. It had to be 100% recycled, recyclable, American made and beautifully designed. “Finding two of those criteria in a paper was easy. Finding three was hard. Finding four was impossible,” she says.
Throughout much of 2021, she researched paper suppliers and printing companies, then launched her business last October, christening it with a name that combines two Japanese concepts for giving — agemasu, for giving to someone, and kuremasu, for when someone is giving to you.
Experienced in design as well as technology, Hampel had always wanted to work for herself. Like most entrepreneurs, she’s upbeat and confident that what she has to offer, the world needs. “Between my curiosity and determination, I thought that I could make this work,” she says. After graduating from the Academy of Art in San Francisco with a degree in textile design, she went to work for Apple, where she started as a salesperson, before going into tech support, then becoming a trainer. Her technology background makes it a snap to manage her website and market through social media.
Hampel creates some of her designs the old-fashioned way: with pen and paint. For others, she uses iPads and Apple design tools. Regardless of how she translates her ideas onto paper, the results are bright and distinctive — fun to look at and with names that are as creative as the designs themselves. Whether it’s her Cake Smash Birthday paper, Citrus Twist, Electric Leopard or her most popular design, the Flower Bomb, all her work is inviting and fresh. “We are showing that you can have products that look, feel and do good,” Hampel says. “People have the perception that recycled paper is nasty looking. We are trying to make people understand that you can have a luxurious, eco-friendly product.”
Although Hampel’s designs are used mostly to wrap presents, they also make stylish wall hangings or can add just the right amount of accent to a scrapbook or other DIY project. Each sheet is roughly 20 inches by 30 inches. For the time being, it’s the gift-wrapping market where Hampel is putting her energy and marketing emphasis.
“People think, ‘I’ve spent all this time getting this really cool gift for somebody, and I want something on the outside to match the thought, sentiment and the beauty that’s on the inside of the box,” she says. “I hope that people think about giving more often — whether it’s at Christmas time, a birthday, a special occasion or just a thank you gift.” She also hopes that when they do think of gift giving, they think of MASU.