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Ki’ikau Printers
Permeating Positivity
Founded in 2022

By Sarah Hodges

A photography mentor once told me, “Photographs are physical things. It’s not a photograph until it’s printed.” This message eventually led me to Ki’ikau Printers.

I resisted the idea of printing my photographs for a while, not feeling qualified to make my work so “official”. I had begun as a painter and recently find my work transitioning into predominantly photography. In school many years ago I’d printed my own photos in a darkroom and later made engagement photobooks for clients, but since getting into fine art photography I’d not felt ready or qualified. I finally got up the courage to start looking around for a local print shop where I could make bring the images in my camera into life.

That’s when a good friend told me about Ki’ikau Printers in Kaka’ako. I looked them up and was happy to see it was a small business. As I looked at their website I immediately got the impression that this was a welcoming place where I could feel comfortable getting my first art prints made.

I emailed my files to the shop, talked about what paper I might choose, and felt met by incredibly warm and supportive staff over the phone. I felt taken care of.
I remember having heard in high school about developments planned for Kaka’ako. The word going around said it would become a space for artists and entrepreneurs. I imagined how it might transform from the industrial, somewhat run-down urban sprawl and the prospect sounded exciting. In those years, I hardly ever went to what is now the Kaka’ako SALT part of town, except for the occasional salsa Latin nights to attempt some recently learned dance steps. About five months ago I was happy to find myself back in the same building, now refurbished, on that second-floor hallway – this time for an entirely different reason.

To my surprise, this week when I got to talk with Ki’ikau’s co-founder Kiani Wong about why she created Ki’ikau Printers, she immediately spoke about this experience I’d had without even hearing about my nervousness to print my work. She understands how creating art can be a vulnerable and even scary process, how all the tiny details of getting a print “right” can feel overwhelming. Kiani envisioned a space where people from all walks of life and experience levels could feel comfortable and supported to bring their creative visions to life in print form. She wanted to provide a judgment-free, friendly environment for artists to make prints.

I can honestly say, I’ve been to other print shops and I’ve never felt this supported through the process.

I also learned that Ki’ikau is a family-run operation, co-founded with Kiani’s mother, Napualani Wong, who is a Hawaiian cultural practitioner, a kumu hula, and a dedicated art collector, especially of artworks that perpetuate and celebrate Hawaiian culture. Each time I come into the shop, I can feel a sense of family amongst the staff. The staff and customers share warm smiles and laughter. Kiani mentions that customers often come and just ‘talk story’ for a while before getting their prints. I’m always happy to go and pick up my prints, knowing I’ll get to touch this collective enthusiasm, if even for just a moment in my day.

Kiani loves being a part of the budding Kaka’ako community and taking on the challenging but very rewarding path of an entrepreneur. She also owns Kaka’ako Kasuals, a sister company with Ki’ikau Printers that sells locally designed slippers. As a small business owner and entrepreneur, Kiani supports Hawai’i in the unique way that she feels a calling towards: creating non-judgemental spaces that uplift Hawai’i and the people of the islands. I can see how her mana and heartful approach with her businesses initiates a ripple effect, sending out waves of positivity, dedication and excellence into the Kaka’ko community, through her customers and staff, and beyond.

Learn more about Ki’ikau Printers at https://kiikauprinters.com/
Check their events page to see what upcoming art workshops you can attend!

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This post is also available in: 日本語 (Japanese)