Kristina Secinski lives and works in Bulgaria, where she makes high quality handbags and fashion accessories using leather, cotton, linen and wool, all by her own design, under the name 5PLUS. She was educated and worked for years in graphic design. But then something happened:
“A couple of years ago I was searching for a unique present for a dear friends’ wedding and I came up with the idea of making her a wedding quilt. Myself! “It couldn’t be so difficult” I thought, though I never made a single stitch in my life. That day was the first day I sat in front of the sewing machine. You can imagine I had hard times with such an ambitious first project but I did it. Now I wouldn’t be so proud with the final result, but back then I thought I could make everything.
And what’s more important: I loved the process!
That was the start. I used every minute for practicing. And one day I made my first bag and felt that that‘s what I want to do every day. I started making bags and sell them at a local store and little by little the thought that I could do this for living was not so absurd.”
This may seem strange, never having sewn anything, and then suddenly getting the urge to make something, but there is a bit of a history of sewing in the family, which stopped when Capitalism caught up, and western products started coming in:
“I was raised in a communist society where buying nice, fashionable goods was impossible. I remember my mother leaning over the sewing machine trying to make nice skirts, dresses and coats for us. At that time everything was home-made and we dreamed of birthday cakes from the store. Handmade things had no value at all.
When I was grown up, and the communism was over, for a long time nobody wanted to make something for themselves as we could find everything at the store, which we were missing for so long… My mother’s sewing machine stopped “singing”..
So in her early years she had her mothers’ example for sewing, and the roots for her designing and adorning also started in her early years.
But it took a few years working in an office before she set out starting her own creative business:
“As with many of us crafting happened to me accidentally. In my youth I loved to draw, arrange flowers and decorate garments. But a “serious” job was a must and after many years at the office it was only the idea of making a wedding quilt for a friend (without making a single stitch in my life) that showed me the way to a new way of life – sewing. Making my first bag was the breaking point for starting my business and has become my passion for the past years. And still is!”
Having your own business is hard work though, and like many artists Kristina is struggling with finding a balance between having a family, promoting herself, and the actual creating:
“To be fair I can’t find the right balance! I feel like I’m wasting my work time when I’m on the computer promoting my work, when at the same time I know how important promotion is for running a business.
Most of my days look the same. I check the news (of the world and my shop) with my morning coffee, answer my messages, sometimes I spend an hour at the gym. And then work – every day, usually in the weekends too. Evenings are for my family and promotion.
If I could afford to outsource something it would definitely be the promotion. I’m not good at it, at all!”
When we take a good look at her product photography we do not really fully agree with that statement …
Kristina loves to create though, and this, among other things, is what keeps her going:
“Even if I had million dollars I would hardly change a thing in my creative process (except moving to a bigger studio and buying a couple of new machines). I love every little part of the process – from the first line in my sketchbook till the final stitch.
I’m in that stage of my life that I will not do anything just for money, sometimes it is even hard for me to part with bag that I like and know I will never make again.
But I do this for a living, so selling is really important. And a happy customer is a huge boost for new creations!”
We asked Kristina if there was any artist she especially admires and who inspires her.
“I really can’t point out just one name. I admire every searching soul (not necessarily artists or craftspeople) – I admire anyone who asks themselves questions and always think that things could be made better. “
And she now very much appreciates unique, handmade products:
“Nowadays we are overloaded with products made in big companies without a soul, and I’m happy to see that there are many people who prefer buying things made with love, unique, one of a kind products, charged with the positive energy of the creator.
I recently saw a woman in a documentary about the sweatshops, who was making the same stitch on the same sweater, 8 hours a day, and she had done this for the last 14 years! Do you think she loves her job?”
Her own creative process is unique among the artists we encounter, once she starts she finishes…
“When I have a design on my mind (sometimes the idea appears suddenly and sometimes it is forming days and weeks in my mind) I make it right away, before the inspiration is gone. It may be strange, but I don’t have unfinished projects. “
However, when we raise the subject of her working space we get the usual answer: more light & space would be very welcome.
“Looking at the working spaces of other artists I must admit mine doesn’t look as the pictures you’ve seen. My studio is usually messy and I’m always searching for something, but this is the place where I forget about time and problems and where I want to be every single day.
The only thing I really miss there is better light for my product photos and some additional square feet.”
Kristina loves her country, but dreams of endless summer (don’t we all?).
“I live in the capital and sometimes it’s noisy and crowded. But every morning I see the mountain from my window on the 11th floor and every summer evening I’m watching the sunset. I love sun and warm weather and though I love my country I always dreamed of living in a place with endless summer.”
Coming from an office job, and having given this up to do what she loves to do was not an easy decision. It is hard work, and starting a business for yourself and building up your brand and name is not that easy. But she loves what she does, and gets much support within the online artist community.
“After more than 2 years I almost manage to live off my creations, but the beginning is always hard.
“I have been given really good advice from the wonderful artists within the European Etsy team, without their support I would probably have given up many times throughout the years. Hard work and patience is what you’ll need most when starting a new business. That will be my most important advice to a starter – be patient and don’t be discouraged too easily.
I love to take a day off during the week once in a while, it reminds me that I’m free as a bird!”
And to close off, her way of life in a few words:
“I try to do what I like as much as possible and to enjoy life. My motto is a famous quote by Margaret Thatcher “Being powerful is like being a lady… if you have to tell people you are, you aren’t”
I like it especially because you can change the word “powerful” with almost everything and it would still be true. Kind, clever – you name it.”
In her shop 5PLUS on Handmade in Europe you can see – and buy – her handmade & unique bags and accessories