Hana Perinova can only be described as a beautiful soul. She is a thoughtful artisan who makes books from reclaimed wood. Her items are hand crafted in the most traditional sense of the word, hewn from a blend of love and mastery. You can’t hold one in your hands without feeling a sense of reverence. I bought one several years ago – it holds my wedding photos.
I think what draws me to her work now in particular is that it’s so clearly analog. So much of our lives are currently dominated by the digital world – even the screen you’re reading this on. But Hana’s books are earthy, real, tangible. You don’t just look at them; you hold them in your hands. You smell them. You breathe in the scent of a warm tobacco pipe, or the soft wax of polished wood. You feel the surface that’s been sanded down for hours or generations.
I asked her to reflect on her creative process, and she shared her lovely story below.
I identify myself as European. Having traveled, I see that there is a certain perspective of the world connected with it. I was born in the “Eastern block” country and tasted a bit of the communist bittersweet dream before it was gone. One of the very few positive heritages of those times was, and still is, free university education. I took advantage of it and studied at two universities what I loved: languages, art education, and fine art.
On my Erasmus study in Portugal, I discovered that there is something much more physical to be loved – a man! A summer passion grew into a lasting relationship and I am now after many years still living between the green hills not far from the Atlantic Ocean. Portugal was not a thought-through choice, but life was faster than my mind and living abroad taught me just what I needed. First, moving away from all that I knew made my feet strong to walk. I became a mother soon; we had almost nothing and we were living in the middle of nowhere. Soon I found out that there was a way to make a living with my project of upcycling old wood from my man’s furniture restoring studio. I was focused on making a living and learning how to be a mother and wife so intensely! I wish somebody had told me to slow down at that time and not to worry so much.
I was working hard, trying to produce in quantity and sell cheap because I was too insecure to ask fair money for pieces that would take time, and I could enjoy doing what I really liked. I was always somehow comparing my financial possibilities to my customers. Silly, I know. These were not easy times – I see it now. As a couple, living isolated in a tiny house with no neighbors, we were learning the hard way how to deal with all the illusions and expectations of a young relationship and raising two children at the same time. It was a very long journey along which I learned to rediscover my sources, to find what gives me energy and what takes it, what is and is not my responsibility… We did make it as a family over many challenges, and hopefully we are both stronger than before, standing together but both on our own feet.
I still do create unique books from old reclaimed wood but I keep the joy alive. I do say no to crazy rush orders and I do ask the just value for my work. I also split my time in two very different creative projects which allows me to gain some necessary distance for both.
All the parts of the process of bookmaking may be joyful even after 13 years, once I am in the present and trusting tomorrow. Not all steps are super creative, but even the trails we walk often feel very good… I take old furniture apart, appreciate the mastery of old carpenters, clean it from all varnish, and rejoice to see the beauty of the wood coming out. I cut it, and enter in the rhythm of sanding the wood down. It takes a long time to achieve the right smooth finish but it’s worth it. I contemplate the unique smooth board in my hands, let my fantasy flow, listen to what the material asks for, and then work in that direction. The process of working the materials, either by engraving or very diverse applications, is always fluid so the final result may be surprisingly better than what my mind was able to imagine.
As for the bookbinding, I prepare the sheets of paper, fold, and cut them while listening to my favorite audiobooks, music, or just absorbing the sounds from our garden. Stitching books is like knitting, great when friends come to chat or for long phone calls to my faraway homeland. I work many times completely alone but now it is possible to not think so much. Every day I am getting better at it.
I also work on custom orders and create photo albums and books following other people’s dreams. Here, what motivates me most, is to be part of a loving intention. Over the years I witnessed so many ways people want to express their care, love, gratitude, and support… all this makes my faith in humanity strong.
Along the time, I discovered other things that make me happy. I love long walks and animals and I love working with people. I occasionally give some workshops and the joy was evident. For many years I was collaborating with residents of a local residency center that helps homeless and socially fragile people. Some of the wooden boards were being sanded there by these people. The work visits were quite short but regular and I loved the moments of getting to know the residents a bit better every time.
Then I saw a short video about a creative space for artists with disabilities and I got that shiver down to my spine. I knew that change had to be made in my life.
Soon, I managed to make some savings and get back to the studies! Now, two years later, I have already completed my course Art Therapy for groups. Simultaneously I undertook one year of Art Psychotherapy to experience its qualities on myself. What I created during the sessions, many times with no clue what I am doing or want to express, always revealed to be a direct mirror of my actual mental or emotional state. The fact that there is always a reflection following the creation, was crucial for self-acceptance and understanding. On contrary to words that flow, the creation stays and places us face to face with many aspects of ourselves that were unconsciously or suppressed for long. The work of the psychotherapist is to make sure we are ready for such an impact. It definitely gave me the confidence I was missing and the notion that reality is fluid. It changes with our focus and perspective.
Art Therapy perfectly combines my belief that the capacity to create (whatever way) is completely essential for all humans and that our ability to express ourselves through art heals. No predispositions needed.
As proof of the fact that I have always been very blessed in my life, and that the pieces fall together when the time comes, I was offered to lead the art atelier at the very same social organization I collaborated with my bookmaking project. The willingness of the men with a very troubled life history and with many psychic problems to open themselves to a completely new experience in the art field is amazing. It is extremely rewarding to observe them discovering a new language of communication with the world and with themselves, to see them finding new self confidence and joy. I am sure that all humans would benefit to find some kind of safe space daily, either physical or mental, where our limitless creativity could strive and by such a natural action our wounds could be healed and spirit refreshed. We are naturally equipped for such processes. We are all born with creativity.
What a beautiful sentiment ~ thank you Hana for sharing. Wishing you success on the next chapter of your journey.
You can find Hana’s gorgeous work on her website, Lacuna Work.