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Christchurch’s Ami Muir is mad about writing and opened a stationery store to help us all share the love.

Ami Muir wasn’t intending to start a business, but while on maternity leave from her career in advertising, a touching moment with her son inspired her to write a book. Self-published under The Kiss Co moniker, her illustrated children’s story I Got You Some Kisses led to a second book, and the next thing she knew she’d branched out further and was working with local illustrators to produce The Great NZ Wrapping Paper Book and a range of gift tags.
When an opportunity came up to take a space in Christchurch’s redeveloped Arts Centre, Ami felt compelled to open a store: Pepa (Maori for ‘paper’). “I’ve always wanted to create a beautiful space for others to enjoy,” she says. “I just never thought it was something I could actually do.”

ABOVE Ami outside the beautiful heritage Arts Centre building. She says she did everything she could to be part of its history. “To me, the space is a physical embodiment of what I want a stationery store to be – nostalgic and contemporary in one.”

Ami, what’s special about Pepa? There’s a saying [attributed to English poet John Donne] that “letters mingle souls”. Something about writing to someone we love with a pen and paper creates a bit of magic, and Pepa is all about reminding people how good it feels to write, and giving them a place to do it.
Writing lets us dream and escape, and offers us mindful moments in our very busy world, so we want to inspire people to do it for themselves and others. I believe everyone has good intentions to really connect through writing, but no one feels like they have the time. We offer two tables for our customers to write at, as well as gift-wrapping, postal and courier services.

Who did the fit-out of the store? Bonny Beattie has been my photographer for The Kiss Co for the past year and a half. I’ve always loved her photography and the feel she manages to create in her images, so I asked if she’d consider styling the store for me. The timing was perfect, as moving into styling was something she’d already been considering.

ABOVE Photographer Bonny Beattie styled the store’s interior and describes it as “warm, inviting and contemporary, with some mid-century goodness”. Vintage timber vessels and lamp stands team with custom-made writing tables and String shelving, the palette of white and wood both a neutral canvas and a nod to the heritage and restoration of the building.

If Pepa had a muse, who would it be? It’d be a mix of Lena Dunham, Jack Kerouac, James Dean, Marilyn Monroe and Sofia Coppola – romantic types who I bet would write a good letter. On top of that, it’d be grandmothers who write to their grandchildren.

What sort of stuff is on your shelves? The first thing people asked when I told them I was opening a stationery store was, ‘How will you source the products?’ The reality is I have enough stock to twice-fill the store and a very long list of brands I haven’t bought from yet.
I’ve tried to get a good mix of different moods in the store; to me stationery should make you feel something: inspired, motivated, validated. I’m proud to have given Pepa a feminist edge for its opening, but I think the vibe of the store is something that will continue to shift as I grow and change.

What are some key trends in the world of stationery right now? At the moment, there’s a definite trend towards floral and plant-based designs. Being real, honest and kind to yourself and others is a big one too. I feel like stationery tends to be created by good people who have a message they want to get out into the world, and I love that it’s so current, with some brands launching new releases three times a year.

How do you discover new ideas? I have a terrible Instagram addiction and I’m
a design junkie, so new ideas just seem to find me. I follow Nole Garey’s Oh So Beautiful Paper blog and stay up to date – from afar – with what’s new at the National Stationery Show in New York each year.

Do you have a favourite brand? I’m obsessed with People I’ve Loved – their messages are a beautiful mix of kindness and humour. It’s been so rewarding to see that this brand seems to be a favourite of my customers as well.

Words Lisa Morton
Bonny Beattie

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