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Teacher Spotlight: Hannah Brook Smith

Teacher Spotlight: Hannah Brook Smith

Words and photos by Olivia Bauso

We all read books, write notes and send cards. Paper is a part of our everyday lives. . . so why not get a little crafty with our paper usage?

Hannah Brook Smith is a native Rochesterian taking paper to the next level. Through her art business, Honey Brook, Hannah creates and sells paper products and teaches paper-related workshops to the community. I sit down with Hannah in Glen Edith, where she spreads out her journals and pens and tells me about herself.

Hannah attended St. Lawrence University in Canton, where she earned her degrees in Fine Arts, Art History, Environmental Studies and English. Following graduation, the University employed Hannah in the art department to work with their first year program, and was eventually hired into the history, outdoor studies and English departments. She was also hired as a freelance art educator for special events like the annual week long Peace Paper Project public outdoor paper making workshop with Drew Matott (owner and founder of Combat Paper as well as the Peace Paper Project).

Though Hannah never intend for teaching to be such a large part of her career, peers and teachers have always encouraged her to do so. Hannah tells me, “It really comes naturally. I love being able to pass on my knowledge and help another person open their eyes and mind to a new challenge. I just love to do it.” In addition to teaching at St. Lawrence, Hannah worked with the North Country Children’s Museum and The Peace Paper Project, where she learned the craft of making paper by hand.

After some time living off the grid in Canton, Hannah decided to move back home to Rochester. Here, Hannah has worked for several sustainability-forward organizations over the past few years, and would love to expand her work in that field. Though her day jobs have varied, one thing has remained constant since her move to Rochester: her art. Hannah says, “The one underlying note of everything I’ve done since I’ve gotten back has been my art business and passion for making. I’ve been trying to make a positive impact through my craft.”

While in school, Hannah developed a love for printmaking after meeting a book arts professor who helped everything just click. Hannah explains, “I didn’t have any intention to be a fine arts major because I never considered myself a real artist. But, there was something about the texture of the wood that still felt alive and present.” Wood block carving and printmaking became Hannah’s primary medium.

Hannah worked for Caliban Press, a letterpress up North, where she continued exploring book arts, paper and ink beyond college. She has found since, however, that due to overexposure to toxic materials it has become harder for her to practice printmaking and ink play in a safe environment. Hannah tells me, “It’s funny because you don’t really think about art impacting your health, but now I’m focused on creating art in a sustainable, healthy environment for myself and my work.” She has also shifted her focus away from printmaking and over to journal and paper making as a result.

Paper crafts are something you can learn at any age, they simply vary in approach. Hannah has taught a range of ages, and affirms that everything she teaches can be modified for 3 year olds or expanded for adults. Either way, you don’t need to be an “artist” to create with paper. Hannah holds workshops for woodblock carving, paper making, journal making and more. She is currently working to expand her classes, like adding drawing or poetry components to her journals. Hannah says, “I love making sure everyone can leave with something unique, beautiful and meaningful. I want to share with them a product that they will keep for a lifetime. That’s an empty vessel people can take out into the world and use however they want.”

Wherever Hannah heads in the future, it’s certain that she will bring her art with her: “This is what I love to do and share, and what I want to educate other people about.”

Honey Book journals, prints and cards can be bought at Little Button Craft in the South Wedge, Chase the Art on Park Ave, and up in Potsdam at Grace Boutique. Hannah’s work can also be viewed and bought online. For orders and special requests, contact Hannah directly.

Hannah will be teaching an interactive history of papermaking class and journal making workshop during this month’s What a Crafty Weekend: Playing with Paper. Individual tickets and weekend passes for all of the classes are still available.

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