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Guild of Craftsmen designer reveals inspiration

PUBLISHED: 13:30 17 August 2013

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“Designing my own bags means I always have a new handbag. Well, I have to test out the proptype to make sure it works of course.”

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This one sentence alone could well make Eva Kecseti the envy of women everywhere. And she isn’t joking about always having a new bag.

“I never buy any other bags. Every time I design one I make a prototype and I have to wear it for two or three months so I know what works and what to change on them,” laughs Eva.

Eva has successfully set up her own brand for her contemporary designs, which she sews herself and then sells online. She also offers customers the chance to own a bespoke bag by taking their ideas and turning them into reality using good quality leather.

Eva studied Textile Art at the Romanian Academy of Fine Art in Kolozsvár and completed her degree in Leather Design at the Hungarian University of Applied Art in Budapest.

“I have been designing handbags since finishing university in 1997. In Hungary I designed bags for myself and for friends, stitching them by hand. Then when I moved to England, I saved up some money and bought a sewing machine.”

Eva, 41, met her English husband Brian in Hungary where he was working, but when his contract ended they decided to make the move to England.

“It was a sudden decision. I had three months before I had to leave my family and everything I knew behind. It wasn’t easy; when I moved to England everything was different and it was hard to get used to,” she recalls.

But after 10 years living in Somerton with Brian and daughters Hannah, 13, and Bella, eight, Somerset has become not just home but also inspiration.

Eva, a member of the Somerset Guild of Craftsmen, also based in Somerton, says, “Somerset is absolutely brilliant. It’s the best place to move to. The people are so friendly. Before I moved here a friend who was living in London said ‘don’t move to England because everyone is unfriendly’. I soon realised that was not true. I have been here 10 years and everyone has been so friendly and helpful.

“A lot of my inspiration comes from Somerset. I go to a lot of exhibitions and art festivals, like Open Studios, and I look at the art and watch the artists working and I get my ideas from them.

“I try to use local leather if I can and source all my leather from a warehouse in Cheddar. Some comes from Italy or America but when there is Somerset leather I can use then I will choose that.”

Much of Eva’s inspiration also still comes from her home country and she remains fascinated by the wild places and folklore of Hungary, which is reflected in her simple, practical designs.

She explains: “Some of my ideas come from the farm and from shepherds and the sort of leatherwork they do; how in the past bags were made by hand. I like my bags to be very practical, like satchels and cross-body bags. I don’t like pockets or zips and the most important thing is for it to be simple.”

As well as working in leather, Eva also enjoys creating sculptural pieces of art when time allows and has exhibited in several European countries, including France, Spain, and Denmark.

The works are based around the theme of natural materials and abstract ideas, some of which occasionally evolve into one of her handbag designs.

But then it seems design is very much in the blood as her mother Gabriella Kecseti is a renowned textile artist in Hungary and her designs have also been exhibited in England.

“My mum is the most important person to me,” says Eva. “When I was preparing for university she was my teacher. We were doing lots of drawings together and she was behind me every time. Even now she pushes me on and I just love her mentality.

“She creates large textiles using natural materials and she even invented a couple of techniques. She doesn’t advertise herself; she doesn’t sell her work as she would rather just give it away. I am very similar to her in that way.”

After struggling to find a design job outside London in the hope of advancing her own skills, Eva has now decided to go back to basics. Although she will continue to design, make and sell her own bags and commissions, she starts a new chapter after being offered a job working at Mulberry when the brand opens its new factory in Bridgwater this summer.

“I like doing my own work but I wanted to find a job as a designer and that is hard to do as there are not many design jobs around in this area,” she explains.

“A lot of the design work is in London and I don’t want to move there, I want to stay in Somerset. So I decided to start at the beginning as a product operator sewing bags at Mulberry and hopefully in the future I will be a designer for them.

“At the moment designing my own bags is more like a hobby. It would be my dream to design for my own company but I don’t have the best mentality for that. I am like my mother; I wouldn’t sell them, I would just give them away, but I know I can be a good designer for another company.”

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