SOURCE: The Rare Orchid, LLC

November 25, 2014 11:56 ET

Small Business Focuses on Paper in an Increasingly Paperless World

Silicon Valley-Based Company Crowdfunds to Celebrate Hand-Silkscreened Japanese Papers

PALO ALTO, CA--(Marketwired - November 25, 2014) - The Rare Orchid, LLC, a small creative business founded by social worker turned entrepreneur Meredith Lee, has a mission to make ornate hand-silkscreened Japanese paper (known as chiyogami or yuzen washi) accessible to the world.

Traditional Japanese Paper
Chiyogami or yuzen washi paper (sometimes referred to simply as washi -- translating to "Japanese paper") requires a labor-intensive production and counts as one of the world's oldest paper traditions. The fibrous mulberry bark, or kozo, used as the base of chiyogami washi adds resilience to the paper that has made it possible for some Japanese art and documents to survive for centuries. The opaque paints are thick, brilliant, and hand-mixed to generate precise hues that cannot be achieved with other processes. Each sheet of paper is hand-silkscreened with different screens for each color. Some designs are generations old; and some have more contemporary patterns. The Rare Orchid takes a special focus on providing a collection of washi that uses traditional design elements with modern color palettes, and currently hopes to offer an array of 40 different patterns in a wide range of colors and designs.

The DIY Movement
The allure of the silkscreened colors and patterns specific to chiyogami or yuzen washi are a crafter's delight. Within recent years, the "maker movement" has grown into a strong community -- with websites like Etsy.com and Pinterest.com paving the way for creative minds to share ideas and craft a plethora of items for hobby or for sale. Card making, scrapbooking, and decoupage are just a few examples of washi uses. The high quality and beauty of chiyogami is highly coveted for those who want to make weddings and events extra special. Meredith, along with a team of friends, was able to create an entire Washi Wedding concept photo shoot with elements all of chiyogami to show case the many uses possible. Washi is a well-known material to paper lovers around the globe, but is not readily available outside of Japan where it is made. The Rare Orchid not only plans to fulfill the demand for this versatile craft material by building a website that offers a diverse collection of chiyogami, but also seeks to build a community for washi aficionados to share what they create.

Crowdfunding as a Game Changer
The Rare Orchid is using Kickstarter.com as a platform to fundraise the necessary means for an initial inventory to sell on www.TheRareOrchid.com, and is halfway to its $17,000 goal with 15 days left until the campaign deadline of December 10th. Crowdfunding websites such as Kickstarter are game-changers in the world of funding for small businesses. It is not only a way to raise capital from untraditional sources, but also a great opportunity for marketing. 

Rewards for Everyone
The Rare Orchid is offering a wide-range of rewards for its Kickstarter campaign. Makers are of course drawn to the sheets of washi. A newly introduced limited reward, "real" washi tape, is also popular -- riding the wave of the washi tape craze that has taken over the DIY movement. For those who simply want to appreciate the beauty of chiyogami, Washi Wall Art Canvases are the perfect way to decorate a home or office with customized, unique art. There are tiers that cater to those looking to incorporate washi into their wedding or event with party elements such as invitations and favors. Holiday shoppers are loving The Rare Orchid's signature clothespin magnet reward, as these items are ready to shipped immediately if the campaign is funded. All other pledge rewards have the option of a gift certificate and catalog booklet for holiday gift giving. 

About The Rare Orchid
Meredith Lee founded The Rare Orchid in 2006 while working as a social worker in Honolulu, HI after graduating college from the University of California Los Angeles. What started as a part-time handicraft hobby eventually grew into a full-time wholesale business with mass production in China and distribution worldwide. While The Rare Orchid originally focused mostly on products made with chiyogami washi, the economic downturn lead to a 3 year shift in focus to gifts for the Hawaii tourist market. A move back to her hometown of Palo Alto, CA prompted Lee to return to her true passion of washi, and a soul-searching trip to Japan lead her to connect with the amazing resources that has guided the development of this new chapter for The Rare Orchid.

To find out more about Meredith and The Rare Orchid, visit www.TheRareOrchid.com or visit The Rare Orchid's current Kickstarter project at www.Kickstarter.com/projects/tro/washi.

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