this thing's incredible

These Paper Napkins (I Got at Wegmans) Are Like Tiny Works of Art

Photo: Courtesy of the vendors

Last Sunday, I — along with colleagues from Grub Street and hundreds of others — spent a rainy morning at the debut location of the city’s newest grocery chain, Wegmans. In the two hours I roamed its aisles, I witnessed the fervor and community among customers and employees that many say is what sets the grocery store apart. I also saw a lot of stuff: most of it either your standard supermarket fare and brands or things made by Wegmans, like its fresh chocolate-chip cookies (which have their own Reddit thread) or bountiful meat-and-cheese plates that made me want to plan a party just so I could have a reason to go back and buy one.

Being the “upscale” grocer that it is, Wegmans also has a selection of kitchen tools and other nonfood products for the home. Among them are some paper napkins decorated with scenes and patterns made by a company called Caspari. The prints genuinely looked like ones that places like Kaas GlassWorks or John Derian would use to make a fancy decoupage tray. I left with some autumnal napkins sporting an intricately painted turkey surrounded by acorns (my husband and I are hosting Thanksgiving) and, not being familiar with the brand, did some Googling when I got home.

Some may laugh at the thought of “museum quality” napkins, but the term isn’t that far-fetched here. Caspari, which has been in the paper-napkin business for some 70 years, produces some napkins in partnership with cultural institutions like Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts and others with heritage luxury-décor brands like Scalamandré. While MyDrap napkins are stylish for their minimalism, Caspari’s — which are not linen but a sturdy “triple ply” tissue — are for making a visual statement. Were it not for small, telling details like those little dots paper napkins have around the edges, you could honestly stick one in a frame and pass it off as art (albeit cheap but expensive-looking art). While they may be cheap for art, they’re not the cheapest napkins — but if you’re hosting a party or holiday meal, one set will go a long way toward completing your table décor. And for the right super-specific person, a pack could even make a nice host or hostess gift. Best of all: You don’t have to go to Wegmans to get them, as many of the brand’s most interesting napkins — including 12 of my favorites, below — are sold online.

These blue-and-white chinoiserie-style napkins look a lot like Blue Willow china. A note: All of the napkins come in various sizes. Cocktail is the smallest, luncheon is slightly larger, and dinner is the largest; if you like any on this list but want something bigger or smaller, be sure to click the link to see what other sizes are available.

The napkins Caspari produced with Scalamandré look just like its beloved (and far more expensive) wallpaper.

A set of tulip napkins created with artist Karen Kluglein (who Caspari notes “taught botanical painting at the New York Botanical Garden”).

These napkins, which Caspari produced with artist Lulu de Kwiatkowski, recall the color-study prints made by the Cut’s former Instagram editor Emily Sundberg (which two different friends of mine now have hanging in their apartments).

A stately set with a geometric bamboo print that Caspari made in collaboration with the U.K.’s Royal Horticultural Society.

These moody floral napkins were produced from a print by the London-based Collier Campbell studio, which has worked with blue-chip fashion brands like Liberty and Saint Laurent. If you don’t like the black, these also come in a white background.

Perfect for a Christmas-dinner table, the print on these was inspired by Scottish tartans (and, to the naked eye, kind of looks like real fabric).

Produced with the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, these bear a replica of The Great Wave off Kanagawa, the famous woodblock print that Japanese artist Hokusai created in the mid-19th century.

This set, made in collaboration with Bridgeman Images, features a detail of artist Gustav Klimt’s work Hope, II, highlighting “the intricacy of his ornate decorations,” according to Caspari.

Finally, the set I bought for our Thanksgiving table. It’s a collaboration with artist Pamela Gladding, who Caspari says looks to her “garden as well as the birds, and bees, that visit” for inspiration.

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These Paper Napkins (I Got at Wegmans) Are Tiny Works of Art