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Star-Bulletin Features

Tuesday, April 11, 2000

By Kathryn Bender, Star-Bulletin
Carole Mito, center, helps Lynette Espirito, left, and
Jeana Ramirez at Carole Mito's Craft Design.

Craft therapy

Those taking craft classes
at Carole Mito's new school
enjoy an uplifting sense of
camaraderie and spirit

By Betty Shimabukuro


IT'S cheaper than a psychiatrist and safer than booze, yet provides equal measures of stress relief. Craft work, say the ladies at the Carole Mito's Craft Design, calms the mind, lifts the spirit ... "and you get away from the MEN!" calls out Jeana Ramirez.

Something about the focused repetition, the attention to detail and the tactile nature of crafting is good therapy. Not to mention the gratification in seeing a little piece of art work take form right there between your fingers.

Mito, owner of the brand-new craft school on North King Street, has known this feeling since she was 9 years old and started making corsages. Crafting has been her release and reward in the decades since, and she's shared it in classes at Flora Dec and Ben Franklin stores.

By Kathryn Bender, Star-Bulletin
This origami dragon takes three days to complete.

But the time came to strike out on her own, and so three weeks ago, Mito opened her design center, a small place where she can sell supplies, but mostly where she can teach -- all morning, every day but Friday.

Flower arranging, origami, beading and Fimo sculpting can be learned here, but Mito's claim to fame is the ribbon lei, created in dozens of silky varieties that mimic real flowers.

Sunday morning, 16 women filled the work tables, carefully turning out ribbon versions of pikake, ginger and cigar flower lei, while soaking up the crafters' camaraderie.

"This is like ohana," says Lynette Espirito, who has studied with Mito since 1997. "We all have a lot of fun, all these girls."


Bullet Carole Mito's Craft Design: 888 N. King St., near Tamashiro Market. Open daily except Friday with classes starting at 9 a.m. closing times vary. Evening classes offered Wednesdays at 5:30 p.m. Grand opening is 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. tomorrow. Call 841-9499.

Bullet "Hey Jude": Televised craft sessions air on cable Channel 52, 8 p.m. Tuesday and 3 p.m. Friday

Classes are $5, no matter what the topic. Mito sells supplies, but she doesn't care if you bring material in from somewhere else. Classes start at 9 a.m. and run about two hours, but hanging around later to chat and finish up is fine. Students can bring lunch, store drinks in the refrigerator, grab coffee.

There are few rules here, except that you must remove your shoes at the door. Keeps things relaxed and the carpet nice.

Some simple lei projects can be completed in one session, but others become homework. An amazingly complex origami dragon takes three sessions to complete.

By Kathryn Bender, Star-Bulletin
Ribbon leis are Mito's specialty. She teaches the craft, but also
takes orders and makes them for $7 to $45, depending
on the complexity of the design.

Just about everyone in Sunday's group is a regular, some of them veterans who've followed Mito from Flora Dec to Ben Franklin to here. They visit a few times a week, moving from one lei project to the next as graduation season approaches.

Ramirez has been with Mito so long she's moved up from student to "sergeant-at-arms," sort of a teaching assistant. In the same category is the one guy among these gals, Ed Isobe. "He enjoys being with all these ladies," Mito says. "We call it 'Eddie and His Harem.' "


Mito actually began her career as a hair stylist, working with her mother at Aiko's Beauty Studio near Ala Moana. After that came 20 years selling Tupperware, a successful career that involved a great deal of travel.

But six years ago, Mito's daughter fell victim to cancer. It became necessary to stay home more, so she turned to designing floral arrangements and teaching at Flora Dec.

Mito eventually lost her daughter. She works through her loss with her craft "therapy" and the support of the second family she's gained through teaching.

She says she can teach anyone, and has coached students with physical limitations. Her soft-spoken, easy manner does seem to make it easy to learn. "Anyone who can sit in a chair is fine to join us," she says.

By Kathryn Bender, Star-Bulletin
Carole Mito teaches how to make money lei as well, which
is a popular class during graduation season.

Many of her students are retirees, and she sought out her new location with that in mind. "I decided to make it easy for seniors. That meant bus lines, ground floor, storefront location, a private restroom, parking, a safe place."

She found this spot, just a few doors down from Tamashiro Market, after weeks of searching, and just one week before she was scheduled to leave Ben Franklin. "I always say, my daughter guides us."

Class is in full swing when Linda Siruno stops by. She's been sick lately and is nursing her mother through an illness. There hasn't been much time for visits to Mito's.

Her craft projects sustain her in this difficult time, Siruno says. They're relaxing and give her something productive to do while sitting in doctors' waiting rooms, which she's been doing a lot lately.

She can't stay long, but she's greeted with hugs and warm wishes. She's laughing by the time she leaves.

"She's my stress relief," Siruno says of Mito. "If it wasn't for the classes I don't know what I would do. ... Every time I can't come, I get more depressed."

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