UNO Documentary: Honey Gifts

What: Honey Gift Co

Film By: UNO Student and documentarian Ryan Robinson

Editor’s Note: NolaVie partners with students of UNO professor László Zsolt Fülöp, pairing them with artists, non-profits, environmental groups, and cultural entities to facilitate a live curriculum that results in a short documentary. This documentary short was made by Ryan Robinson, a student in the Film and Theatre Department at the University of New Orleans, about Nicole Young and wrapping paper company Honey Gift Co.

|Read the full transcript of the interview below|

My name is Nicole Young, and I am an educator, a creator, and a writer. Honey Gifts Co is a company that I started years ago when I was actually living in Washington, DC, and I started it cause I was doing a lot of baking and side crafts and I thought: Oh, I should have a title for this work that I am doing.

But I actually ended up not using it for many years and then, when I was in New Orleans a couple Christmases ago, I started drawing Black wrapping paper. I just have not seen any in the stores, and I have a whole bunch of nieces and nephews and godchildren. And I have been going to the stores, and none of the cute stuff had cute little black kids on it. And so, I [thought] “I am going to just draw something. Let me just draw something and see.”

I was playing around, drawing it, and thinking: What if I made wrapping paper? I told everyone on my Instagram [and asked], “Hey, [I]made this wrapping paper, would you buy it?” And they were like “Yeah, we would buy it.”

I picked up the old Honey Gifts Co. name and decided to produce wrapping paper, and I sold out the first year that I did it. Honey Gifts Co is my umbrella that encompasses a lot of my different work.

I knew exactly what kind of wrapping paper I wanted, but I didn’t know what price point I can print it at, and I also didn’t know what was available to me in terms of local printers.  I specifically wanted to use local printers that were living in New Orleans at the time, so that part was difficult — figuring out what kind of paper was appropriate, who was a good printer, what was the reasonable price.

Also, trying to figure out what price would be that people would pay for custom wrapping paper was something that was a little bit difficult. I have reached out to a couple of small boutique shops around New Orleans to do custom paper; they actually make their own wrapping paper every year, and I asked “Can I get printed with you all?” And they were  not open to doing that, so then I went to a traditional print shop in town, and they were like “Oh yeah, we make our own wrapping paper every year so we can make your wrapping paper.” Just doing the legwork of figuring out how much it was and trying to price it appropriately and taking out what the right number to print was a little challenging, but it was fun.

I tried to find some local shops that would sell it, right, so the Community Book Store in New Orleans was a shop that sold the paper early on. I also sell it online.

I am always hoping that people will walk away, especially for Honey Gifts Co., with beautiful images of Black children. I think, you know, Christmas and the holidays in general are such a joyous time, and I remember as a kid for me it was really difficult to not always see yourself reflected in the holiday movies that would come on, [or] the holiday cartoons. I told Kelley [Crawford] once that my mother used to color in all of our things. So, if there was a white Santa on it, my mother used to color it in, make it Black, which is what you should do to make sure that your kids get represented.

But I want people not to have to do so much work in order to see their children and themselves represented, so for Honey Gifts Co I really  wanted it to be a place where there are joyful images of Black children for Christmas and underneath your tree. Your kid can look at it and say, “Hey, that’s me,” which I got so many my first year when I sold my paper; even last year, my second year selling the paper, so many people were like, “Oh the kids loved it. They kept being like, ‘Oh it looks like me, she looks like me.’” That kind of thing is really beautiful. 

I think, in general, a theme that is throughout all of my work is just an unapologeticness about being Black and about having conversation about race. In my microaggressions podcast, of course, we are talking about race and social interactions. In my writing I am talking about how I think even with my recent piece about Ruth Bader Ginsburg its like, yes, she was a feminist icon, but I wonder if we need to interrogate that through the lens of race because she wasn’t completely great on issues of race and issues that affected Black women in particular — Black women who are not white women. And so, I think in general there’s a frankness about race in all of my work, and a joyfulness about being Black and celebrating Blackness, yeah.


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