Veronika Wick is a quintessential example of the Florentine dream, where her passion for past traditions led to the creation of beautiful new objects, made available through her artisan-based small business. Though from Austria, she came to Florence 30 years ago to study the restoration of art on paper, receiving qualifications from the Italian Ministry for Cultural Heritage. The choice was easy: after the flood of 1966, this profession was essentially born here, Wick alleges, when all the books from the National Central Library and city-wide museums were submerged in water. Tragedy turned into opportunity as Florence became the place par excellence to learn how to bind books and how to restore paper objects.
All photos by Olga Makarova.
Wick’s respect for paper has been long-standing. “I’ve always been in love with this material, which is so delicate and versatile. It’s the perfect support for artistic expression, but even more for holding onto history, passing stories and experiences at the same time, to speak about the present and the future. Especially in this age of social media, computers and eBooks, I think that handwriting and the use of paper is even more important. These old techniques allow me to create new things, and to get to know people through that.”
Thanks to her skill set, Wick runs two intertwining practices. Studio Restauro Wick is devoted specifically to the conservation and restoration of works on paper, a strict process with many rules, of which her expertise has allowed her to secure noteworthy commissions. As an example, she recently worked on some important large manuscripts from the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo in Pisa. “But every piece is important to me, even a love letter from some grandfather, or a 100-year-old photo… It’s not only the economic value of something that matters. I think every kind of piece has a story and is worth conserving.”
Studio Wick, on the other hand, remains the artist’s creative outlet, and the way she connects with her community. When asked how the two practices feed into one another, she says, “With restoration, you have to conserve it without inserting any of your own creativity. You have to be prepared in chemistry, in biology, in many materials like parchment and leather, in all the ancient techniques of book binding. But since I have a great need to express myself and my creativity, I began to produce hand-bound books, photo albums, sketchbooks, diaries, boxes and more. That’s where I have my fun.” Using a combination of very high quality soft leather and handmade marbled paper, the results are modern and colorful home essentials, whose character will surely stand the test of time.
When speaking about what she loves about the process of working with books and paper, Wick talks lovingly about all the small steps that have to come together to achieve a well-bound object. It’s not just about the aesthetic, which she says has its own set of rules; it’s also about the mechanics. A little error can go a long way. “That’s also why I like to restore books, you have to know how to sew a book, how they did it hundreds of years ago, you have to know the kind of paper, the kind of thread… There are so many different kinds of book bindings, and this is the beauty. Everything together creates the perfect book.”
Veronika Wick is a member of the cultural association Creative People in Florence, which supports an international community of artists, designers, artisans and creative thinkers with an emphasis on interdisciplinary collaboration and innovation. Find more information about Studio Wick on the new Creative People in Florence app, available for free in the Apple Store and Google Play.
Studio Wick – Handmade Paper Objects
Via Pandolfini 26, Florence (by appointment)