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Dec 08, 2014

Meet Cari, Owner And Maker Of Miemiko

Photos by Jonas Maon

With just one step inside Miemiko Atelier next to Mocha Java Café in Ward Centre, any visitor feels right at home.

The cozy store offers a warm and inviting environment for patrons, who quickly become immersed in fervent searches through everything from unique stationary designs and tags to cute baubles like mushroom figurines and shop-owner Cari Nakanishi's take on snow globes: small bottles filled with dazzling German glass glitter.

What is unique about this eight-month-old store is its use of the letterpress, a fascinating form of print creation that keeps people coming in for more. It all started when Cari was asked to make invitations for a Valentine's Day party and she was blown away by the compliments she received about them. "I've always liked paper," says Cari, who has forever been more fascinated with the packaging details of things she bought than the product itself.

Because she didn't have a background in design, she took a weeklong course in San Francisco to learn how to use a letterpress.

The first day that I got there and was in the class and you get your hands dirty, you have to wash your hands a lot … In the restroom, while washing my hands, all I could say was 'Thank you,' because I felt like I found something that I really connected with

Not long after, Cari was gifted a letterpress by a fellow printer. "It was like the universe was saying, 'You need to do this and you can't say no.'"

Opening her shop in Ward Centre was a nostalgic moment for Cari, who remembers visiting Paper Roses for inspiration and supplies. "My days off really consisted of coming here, coming to Ward and going to Paper Roses, coming here to Mocha Java to eat my omelet, and then buying my toffee almonds from Honolulu Chocolate Company. That was a long time ago. So in 2014, to open a store, a paper store here, is kind of a full-circle moment for me." Among the popular items at Miemiko are the Diamond Head cards, imported paper card sets, a variety of stationary, and custom invitations and business cards. Wedding invitations are also popular, each different, inspired by the couples and their requests.

What drew Cari to the letterpress was its tactile nature. "I am a lover of process and so it was just about the process of it all. It wasn't something that was immediate. It's an imperfect process and you learn through it too. You have to mix your inks, that's one step. You have to register your art, that's another step." And the list goes on and on.

Much of Cari's work is done in her garage where her press is housed (nearly 120 pounds and the size of a washing machine, it cannot be kept in her intimate boutique). She shares the garage with her husband, a carpenter who built the shop with her. Cari more than once admits to still being new to the craft, but she seems to be having more than enough fun along the way.

It wasn't about the end product, it was about the journey.

Cari Nakanishi, Owner miemiko/co.

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