Mayang Frigillana: Elevating Gift Wrappers to a Fine Art

How designer Mayang Frigillana turned her passion for watercolor painting into Swathe, her ever-growing collection of exquisite wrapping papers. By Bernice Calupas

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Designer Mayang Frigillana has turned her paintings into lovely gift wrappers

The most wonderful time of the year is upon us and with it comes the flurry—some would say frenzy—of gift shopping and gift giving. In this hectic, happy season, with everyone pressed for time, it’s a precious find indeed to come across a present that’s wrapped with much care and attention.

Designer Mayang Frigillana confesses that she is one of those who go the extra mile when wrapping gifts. Little did she know a few years ago, that this penchant for gift-wrapping, as well as her love for nature and watercolor painting, would lead to her own successful business.

A stroke of business

It began, as many good ideas do, with a simple question: what if… “It was March 2014, while painting orchids and succulents, I wondered what if I turn my paintings to patterns and print them on paper? That way, I could use them as wrappers for my gifts,” Mayang recalls. “Initially, it was just for personal use, then I started offering them to friends and family.”

With that little kernel of possibility, Swathe was born. Since then, Mayang, an Interior Design graduate of the University of the Philippines in Diliman, has released 21 gift wrapper designs, two of which were collaborations.

Wrapping papers from the 2017 collection. From left, Poinsettia, Little Things, Flamingo, Squee the Cat (a Swathe x Karla Rey collaboration)

Her designs run the gamut from dreamy florals to intricate arabesques. There are cheery slabs of meat, seashells, insects and fat tabby cats (a collaboration with friend and landscape architect Karla Rey)—all rendered in painstaking, exquisite detail that gives each 24” x 36” wrapper a handmade feel.

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Instagram inspiration

Mayang’s love of nature is the common thread that runs through her creations. “My works have always been guided with themes of plants and flowers,” says the self-confessed ‘plant lady’.

“I am in constant awe of nature,” she adds. “It has been my lifelong dream to own a sustainable flower and vegetable farm. I follow a lot of flower farmers and florists from all over the world on Instagram. Living in the middle of the city leaves me uninspired some days, but seeing their flower journey makes me still feel connected to nature.”

Flamingo work in progress turned to gift wrapper

Mayang turns to Instagram to find inspiration, surprisingly not just with images, but words as well. “Recently, I’ve discovered a lot of amazing poets on Instagram. Reading these poets’ works make me want to create more meaningful art.”

“I paint not only to visually replicate, I want my works to also touch and connect with people like words do,” she explains. She notes Clare Therese (IG: claretheresegray), a surface pattern designer based in England, as someone she particularly admires.

In the little things

Outside of Swathe, Mayang teaches Color Theory and Interior Design at the College of Saint Benilde. “Teaching lets me continue on my own journey as a student, as it requires continuous education,” she says, adding that it allows her time for Swathe, too.

Also, “I tend to my tiny vegetable garden,” she shares with a laugh.

Mayang describes Swathe as “still a one-man business,” and it’s quite apparent this single-handed operation is a labor of love. “I do all the conceptualizing, painting, layouts and even rolling of papers.”

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In the spirit of the Christmas season, Mayang has been painting holiday wreaths

She’s excited to add to Swathe’s line of products. This December, she hopes to launch her plant-dyed silk ribbons. And as for the future? “I’m also dreaming of seeing my designs on tea towels and scarves. Maybe someday.”

When asked if she has a favorite design, Mayang’s answer reveals her passion for her craft and, perhaps, Swathe’s raison d être: “One of the designs in the 2017 collection shows leaves, flowers and weeds that I’ve collected on my walks. I call it Little Things. Not only that it took me awhile to paint all of them, it’s special because it reminds me to slow down and take life one day at a time. It’s about finding happiness in the little things.”

To get a hold of Mayang’s intricately designed wrapping papers, you can head over to Common Room in Katipunan, Quezon City or in its branch in Alabang Town Center. You can also inquire at swathe.manila@gmail.com. All photos courtesy of Mayang Frigillana

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