Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Linda Sienkiewicz - Rokki Handbags

Linda Sienkiewicz is the creator of Rokki Handbags on Etsy. Linda handcrafts purses and clutches from used books and record album covers. She also upcycles books into iPad and eReader cases from items she finds at garage sales, library used book sales, store closeouts and thrift shops. Linda shares her insights and inspiration in this interview.

Q: How long have you been doing this type of upcycling and what inspired you to try to make something with what might be considered ‘trash’?

Linda: About four years ago, I saw an album cover tote online that I wanted, but, later, I couldn’t find the link again. So I designed my own purse using my favorite LP: Morrison Hotel by The Doors. Soon I was making purses for friends, and this grew into a business. Most record sleeves take a beating over the years and eventually they fall apart, yet, for music lovers, they are symbols of who we are, of our passions. They are part of our collective and individual history. Turning them into purses is a great way to preserve them.

Three years ago, a friend asked me to design a purse using the cover from her recently published book. I’d never heard of a book purse before, but it intrigued me. Now, I’m scouring rummage sales for used books to make into purses and clutches. Many of the vintage books I use are literally falling apart at the seams, and it gives me pleasure to recreate them as something useful yet attractive.

Q: What have been some of your biggest accomplishments and proudest moments regarding your craft and/or shop?

Linda: I get a kick out of the fact that my grown children helped me. My eldest son urged me to push the style of the record album bags, and encouraged me to value the work I put into my creations. My other son helped me come up with the name Rókki by playing around with Finnish words that sounded catchy (I’m Polish by marriage only). Rokki means rock music in Finn; I put the accent mark on the o because people kept calling it Rocky. My daughter helps me make final decisions on fabrics for linings.

My biggest challenge was making seven book purses for a wedding party, using the bridesmaids’ favorite books. I was given titles ranging from Harry Potter to The Great Gatsby. And they had to coordinate with purple while looking like dressy evening bags. It was fun, and I was proud of the final result. 

I’m proud to have designed an iPad case and Kindle Fire case made from a book that converts to a stand or lap pad. 

Q: What are your goals for your shop? Where do you see your shop/business in the next few years?

Linda: I would enjoy doing more custom work. I also hope to keep the sales going steady. Trends change, and who knows what will be popular next year, but I like to think book purses are classic! Many authors have sent me their books to make into purses, and I’d like to continue doing that.

Q: What are your favorite items currently listed in your shop? 

Linda: I love the vintage 1969 “Auto Service and Repair” book purse with its vivid graphics and colors. I’m trying to find another copy, but if I can’t, I just may have to keep this one.  There’s also a little clutch from a 1909 book titled “The Silver Horde” that I’m fond of because the cover illustration itself tells a story (at least it’s telling me a story. Ha!) The vintage SciFi “Tom Swift and the Asteroid Pirates” clutch purse is great fun. 

But my very favorite is this book clutch titled “Silent are the Dead.” It’s classic noir. I like unusual things. 

Q: Where do you get your inspiration for your work? Or your inspiration in general?

Linda: I learned to sew when I was a girl, and grew up believing that handmade was better than store bought – as long as it doesn’t look handmade. It was more creative and thoughtful to make a gift than buy one. I wanted to set myself apart from the crowd, so I made my own blouses and dresses, jewelry, purses and hats, and embroidered and embellished nearly everything else. Now that I’m more “mature,” I focus on unusual accessories.

Q: What do you do outside of working on your shop? Other hobbies, career, family?

Linda: My educational background is in art. I’m also a published poet and fiction writer with an MFA. I have four chapbooks of poetry and my stories and poems have appeared in several literary journals and anthologies. My agent is patiently waiting for me to finish my novel.

Q: What else would you like to share with us?

Linda:First, what I make is designed to be functional. Second, I’m meticulous about details. My purses have straight seams, neat corners, and smooth linings. There are no unsightly lumps or bunched material. Buyers can see down to the inside of each purse on my Etsy store so there are no surprises—no one should buy a purse without seeing what the inside looks like! I also list dimensions and other important details so buyers know what they’re getting.

And third, I use my products, too. I carry a Nancy Drew clutch as my everyday wallet, use a Tom Swift book as a Kindle Fire case, and tote several different album cover purses on a daily basis, so buyers can trust that what I make is durable and practical.

You can also connect with Linda here:
Linda's Etsy Shop
Linda's Facebook Page
Linda's Twitter @MyOtherJob
Linda's Website
Linda's Email

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