In a small corner of the second-hand bookshop she runs with her fiancé in Arad, Romania, Alina Bunaciu of hanaletters works her needle and felt magic to create her very own enchanted fairy tale world.
Inspired by her love of illustrated children’s books, vintage postcards, dolls, miniatures, and Korean pop culture, Alina has tapped into the very essence of “kawaii” cuteness with her sweet and whimsical doll characters and wee forest friends.
Ever since Cornelius first spotted Alina’s Nerdy Teddy a few months ago, we’ve been smitten with her handmade brooches and necklaces. We definitely have a thing for animals wearing glasses and adorable/slightly cheeky girls donning animal hats and mustaches.
Simple lines, bright colors, charming details, and a feeling of innocence define Alina’s creations. She named her business, “hanaletters,” after the Japanese word for flower. She designs, cuts and sews everything herself, and there’s a flower growing in a hidden place on each of her brooches. ✿
* * *
❤ MEET ALINA BUNACIU ❤
Name of shop or business: hanaletters
Year established: 2010
Items you make: felt brooches and necklaces
Studio Location: Arad, Romania
My shop: www.hanaletters.etsy.com
My blog: http://hana-wordsinabox.blogspot.ro
My flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/hanaletters
Three words that best describe your art: childlike, bright, storytelling.
Self taught or formal training? Self taught for sure, I have no studies in design or anything related to this subject.
Tools of the Trade: paper, felt, embroidery thread, needles, scissors.
Inspirations and influences:
I am an avid admirer of small animals like hedgehogs, rabbits, squirrels and have a passion for children’s illustrated books, vintage children postcards and manga books. I also take a great interest in dolls, wooden toys and feminine illustration.
Three significant milestones in your career:
- Opening my Etsy shop in January 2010, definitely the biggest step I dared to take towards the handmade marketplace.
- Having my first wholesale order going to Japan. Being a fan of Japanese culture it was mind-blowing news.
- Creating brooches for 70 people that participated at the baptism of one little girl, this was my greatest accomplishment as an artist so far. It was a breathtaking experience thinking that so many people will wear my brooches all at once.
Food that inspires your best work:
Definitely strawberries and cupcakes, needless to say that I am completely addicted to both.
My most wanted brooch is the Nerdy Teddy but the Mint Fox and Annoyed Urban Fox are also quite popular.
What is your earliest memory of being creative? What is the first thing you ever made as an “artist”?
I remember that the first thing I created was a red and blue knitted dress for my Barbie doll, back then I was really proud of the result but it’s true that I was only 10 years old. I always loved to do something with my hands, from knitting I moved to needlepoint, which remained dear to my heart as you can see in some of my latest brooches and necklaces.
How did you become interested in working with felt?
Before opening my Etsy shop I kept an eye on the site for about 2 years; there is where I discovered that you can make wonders with felt. I was interested in finding a light, colorful and easy to sew fabric, so felt was the perfect choice for me.
Who are some of your favorite children’s authors and/or illustrators, and which ones have had the most influence on your work?
I created brooches inspired by Little Red Riding Hood and Peter Pan but my favorite children’s books are The Wizard of Oz and Pinocchio and also my favorite illustrator of all times is Rebecca Dautremer with The Secret Lives of Princesses, a delightful feast for the eyes.
I’m fascinated that you speak so many languages, especially Korean. What sparked your interest in Korean and Japanese pop culture, and how has that influenced your work?
My passion for Japanese culture started at an early age with Sailor Moon, of course. As for Korean culture I discovered it 6 years ago through Korean dramas and instantly fell in love with it. The differences, the bows, the eyes, the lifestyle, the relationships between people, the way they eat, the writing, in a word everything attracted me to Korean and Japanese cultures. I believe the influence of these two cultures can be seen in the way I always try to create cute characters, girls or animals.
Tell us about your favorite creation so far, and what inspired it. What part of making felt brooches and necklaces do you like best?
My favorite creation is the girl with the red hedgehog on her head because I feel it represents me and my love for hedgehogs and red color more than anything.
The best part in creating brooches and necklaces remains the embroidering of the details, the eyes that give the expression, the blushing, the ribbon tattoo my girls carry on their neck, such small details make the difference for me.
I’ve noticed a lot of hedgehogs in your shop. Are they your favorite animal to make? And what’s up with all the girls wearing animal hats?
Hedgehogs! Yes, they are definitely my favorite animals followed by guinea pigs, rabbits and squirrels. I absolutely love spying on hedgehogs while they search for food. I also love the story coming from mythology where God invested hedgehogs to separate the day from the night with their spines. Hedgehogs, with their self defense “system” are without a question the most fascinating animals for me.
As for the girls wearing hats they were an inspiration from the Korean culture I admire so much. I have seen in Korean dramas how they, children or grown-ups, wear animal hats whenever they go to have fun at the amusement park. I liked the idea so much that I had to make it part of my work.
Describe your studio. How have you fashioned your work environment to enhance creativity and maximize productivity?
My studio is actually a small corner, with no natural light unfortunately, hidden behind the red velvet curtains of the second hand bookstore I run together with my boyfriend.
I do have dolls and toys all around me and my walls are full of vintage postcards and illustrations I find very inspiring and they are all special objects to me.
I usually listen to radio while I work, meaning music, news and even programs about the economy of my country but my favorite remains the so called “radio dramas”, there are plays performed at the radio, more precisely listening to voices and trying to imagine a whole stage performance.
How do you chart your growth as an artist? How do you define success?
For me success equals with perseverance and seriousness in everything you do. If you are serious and dedicated to your work positive results will always appear. As an artist there is still room to grow and to improve but I believe I managed to create a recognizable style which is more than satisfying for me.
What do you like best about the creative life? Is there a vibrant, supportive arts community where you live?
I like everything about my creative life. From the moment I wake up and start thinking about the task of the day until the actual sewing process. Usually everything is quite a mess, both in my head and on my desk, I struggle really hard to choose what to sew in a day, but ohh… THE FUN, nobody can take the fun of sewing from me.
I live in a quiet and small town so the community is also small, I do have this one really good friend who is an artist herself and with whom I share ideas and opinions and make marketing plans for our Etsy shops.
Any new projects you’re especially excited about?
I excitedly work on some new hedgehogs with the title “Radiography of a hedgehog”. They are a mixed media of felt and needlepoint, following trends like chevrons and ombre.
* * *
Thanks so much for visiting, Alina. Your “happy brooches” are just what we need to chase away the winter blues.
* * *
Copyright © 2014 Jama Rattigan of Jama’s Alphabet Soup. All rights reserved.