I met Hannelore Sotzek at an industry event in the Niagara Region. It's where I discovered her business, Hannelore's Story Works and the beautiful books she creates. The brand uses the tag line, “Everyone has a story. How will you tell yours?”

Get yourself a cup of coffee or tea and enjoy reading this interview we had about life in general, the creative process, books, and stationery.

Where did you grow up?
I lived in Thorold for the first 24 years of my life. Since then, St. Catharines has been my home. I’m a born and bred Niagara resident.

Did anything in your childhood point you toward a future in stationery?
There's no watershed moment, but I’ve been on a trajectory toward books and stories since my earliest days. In childhood, being read to and reading was a comfort, refuge, and natural pastime. Some of my fondest memories of my mother include books. Creating content became a fascination in high school when on the yearbook committee I discovered the joy in making something meaningful and lasting on the blank page.

In university, I studied English literature, understanding more deeply the power of words. From there I worked in the publishing world. Over the years, my hobbies included photography, calligraphy, and sketching—exploring imagery and putting pen to paper. The transition to making books was yet another step in a logical life progression.

Are you right-handed or left-handed?

What aspect of stationery appeals to you most?
I adore the tactile and tangible nature of paper. There is a physical connection between a person—people—and a page. From heart and head to hand. I love that the blank page is a vessel for ideas and emotions. It’s essentially a time capsule. Ideally, long after it’s author has gone, their story still remains.

What gave you the idea to create Hannelore’s Story Works?
Most people don’t know that at the beginning I’d seriously considered felt storybooks for children. My children were young at the time and making a tactile, interactive book was timely. At the same time, however, I’d taken a bookbinding workshop because I was deeply curious about book construction. As it were, the light shone down and the choir sang. In the end, paper won out! But it’s always been books and stories. Stories and books.

What inspires you when you create new products?
Beautiful materials are key when I create. Using high-quality prints and fabrics, unique antique books, and authentic vintage papers inspires me to make a book to the best of my ability. Investing in a rainbow of colours of Irish linen thread has also been key to my process. I feel indebted to the raw elements to create a product that reflects the beauty of its parts.

Who's inspired you in your life and how so?
I am constantly in awe of my fellow artisans and their resiliency to create, especially in these times of great uncertainty. On top of the very real work of making one’s products available for the public to purchase, there is the full-time job of actually creating them. Adapting to changing consumer demands while being true to one’s art is its own kind of determination. Picking oneself up and trying again and again and again because creating is just part of who they are—that to me is inspiringly human.

Are there any colours or styles you’d avoid using and why?
Experience has taught me that choosing what feels right to me is far better than than guessing what people might like. I resist jumping on trending bandwagons. Rather, I’ve discovered that when I’m genuinely excited about a pattern or colour option, my enthusiasm is reflected in how I present my work to others. When I believe in what I’ve made, others do too.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
One of the most liberating things I’ve ever been told is that there’s more than one way to do a good job. I’m a perfectionist by nature. While this quality can be an asset when making, it can also have a paralyzing effect. Learning to just start and see what happens is far more productive than being fearful of trying because you are too focused on making it “the best.”

What are the best books you've ever read?
Oof! There have been so many! Rather, I can name some books that over my lifetime have given me pause and affected me deeply:

Little House in the Big Woods, Laura Ingalls Wilder
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl
A Room with a View, EM Forster
The English Patient, Michael Ondaatje
The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, Michael Chabon
Girl with a Pearl Earring, Tracy Chevalier
A Gentleman in Moscow, Amor Towles

Anything else you’d like to share?
I’m often asked where my business name originated—if there really is a “Hannelore”? To set the record straight, my name truly is Hannelore. It’s an old-German one, which is a nod to my heritage.  

And why Story Works? I believe that a book is an inclusive object. I make them, so they are an extension of who I am. Once they leave my hands, however, they are now a blank slate—a vessel—for someone else to use. To become something that will capture someone else’s self and story. And eventually, hopefully, to be passed down and shared with others.

Personal stories are active. They are unique and yet they are universal. They matter. People matter. Everyone has a story. How will you tell yours?



We're grateful to Hannelore for taking the time to answer our questions, and to you for reading it all. We hope you've enjoyed getting to know one of our local makers. Now, when you see these beautiful books in the shop, you'll know a little more about their story!

Have a lovely, sunshine-filled week!

August 23, 2022 — Antoinette D'Angelo

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