welcome to paper trails

a cozy column filled with the writings + makings of Kimberly Kuniko

As a mixed-race Nikkei American illustrator, collage + mixed media artist, and poet born in what’s now known as Los Angeles, California, on unceded Tongva land, my Japanese roots inform my art through my love of paper and the way it can hold memory, a curiosity to find connections between things, a fondness for balanced detail, and a joy for layering stories together. I enjoy designing for my stationery brand, Lacelit, and hosting her Creativity Club + virtual guided retreats for creatives of all mediums, and the Dream & Scheme Community for fellow small business owners.

in this space, you’ll find…

Little Chapters // Journal entries including creative process, pages from my art journal, what’s on my bookshelf, and what’s inspiring me lately

Poetry // My own writings in poetry form, including free-verse, collaged found words, haiku + micro-poetry

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a little story for you

it begins with a map

There’s a map tucked away in my imagination — the kind you might find at the start of a fantasy novel to help you gain your bearings in an unknown world. It has endearing, hand-lettered labels to designate places of note, sketched mountain ranges and clever forests, and arterial rivers snaking from one square of the grid to the next, refusing to be boxed in.

This map outlines the route I took to get from there to here, marking a creative journey that’s nowhere near finished, and telling a story that isn’t linear. The chapters are winding and curious, marked by detours or back-trackings that may appear to be time wasted, but I will never agree with that because they were a part of me learning to find my footing, and that will never be a waste of time.

My creative life began with stories. Stories read aloud to me before I knew how, chapter books read aloud in the company of siblings because it was magic, and novels read late into the night by flashlight because bedtime couldn’t dare keep me from the next paragraph.

My love of stories led me into music, dance, theatre, choreography, and piano composition where I could express things in the movements I made, lines I delivered, and sounds I created. It took refuge in words and poetry and anonymous Xanga posts when my bravery was still growing. It found a friend in photography and the way a story could be told within the frame of a single shot. And it found a home first with illustration, and then with collage and mixed media art. Yet through it all, there’s been one consistent thread weaving throughout my map — words.

Writing has always been there, layers folded into every creative medium I explore. No matter what I make or how I make it, there are always accompanying words rising up to join because that’s how I see the world: IN WORDS.

I have aphantasia, which is the inability to visualize (also known as image-free thinking). When I imagine, it’s not visual in any way. If I close my eyes to imagine, say, a cat, I see only black. Instead, I imagine in words and descriptions. When I sit down to draw, I think, “A tabby cat curled up in a crescent shape, tail wrapped around its body, head tucked under its paw, eyes squinted shut.” There’s nothing visual in my mind as I think those words — thinking them “aloud” in my mind is the way I imagine.

Words and I are kindred spirits, and it’s probably why I love stories so much. They’re made up entirely of descriptions — wonderfully creative, imaginative descriptions! And I want to spend more time with them, creating sentence-strings of my own.

So, my friends, this corner of the interwebs is where I’ll set words free to tumble out in chapters and impressions and poems… and where I’ll share them all with you.

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You are most welcome here, friends. Thank you for being here with me.

Kimberly Kuniko

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a cozy column filled with little chapters on creativity, storytelling, and art-making with art journal pages, poetry, and personal writings


Nikkei American illustrator & collage artist. Her Japanese roots inform her art through her love of paper, balanced detail, & layering stories together. She designs for her stationery brand, Lacelit, & hosts retreats for creatives of all mediums.