In Sofia, Bulgaria – where visual artist Aleksandra Georgieva AKA Sa6ettu grew up – there is a cultural tradition where, when a child turns one and takes their first steps, the parents place a whole range of objects around them. Each of these objects represents a different possible profession and the first object the child picks up signifies what they’ll also pick up as a career in future. It comes as no surprise that Aleksandra picked up pencils and brushes to the resounding cry of “She’s gonna be an artist!”
Ever since, Sa6ettu has subconsciously known that a creative career was on the cards, constantly scribbling, she tells us, “from my first childish abstract drawings to my grandmother’s flowers in vases which she drew very carefully with pencil and I coloured them,” she recalls to us. Following years of drawing (and colouring) anything and everything from “popular cartoon characters, portraits, landscapes, animals, basically everything I saw,” she went to art school where she initially studied graphic design before switching to illustration at Sofia’s National Academy of Art. In between classes, Sa6ettu has worked as a drawing teacher – “which wasn’t my thing at all” – and a tattoo artist which has helped Sa6ettu to define her practice. Trying out each of these mediums is all part of her general creative attitude too, one that has developed “only because I forced myself to step out of my comfort zone, take risks, try something new, be brave and confident about the thing that I love to do the most – drawing.”
Filled with illustrated friends, jokes, winks and nudges across paintings, illustrations and even rugs, Sa6ettu’s work is full of character. It’s a winding path that’s led her here but it’s the combination of the three that “has brought me so much happiness and good experiences, new avenues to explore and new people to meet.” Cementing her place on this year’s line up for this amalgamation of delights, let’s here from Sa6ettu herself for more insight.
It’s Nice That: Your work has such a lightheartedly charming yet slightly ironic perspective, how did you develop your tone of voice?
Sa6ettu: I have real fun when I draw and I want the same for the people who see my work. I like the bittersweet taste of irony and sarcasm in my illustrations. I’m trying not to take myself very seriously, I just do what I love the most and express it through various techniques and images.
In my work I like the paradox of finding a sweet object or character and then turning them into this little evil creature – just by putting on some grumpy eyebrows. It’s like you’re not exactly sure if this “thing” now wants to hug or kill you. It’s a silly metaphor for society, for hypocrisy, and how we’re often putting on masks and hiding the ugliness and natural feelings from one another.
“In my work I like the paradox of finding a sweet object or character and then turning them into this little evil creature”Aleksandra Georgieva
INT: We loved how you describe your work as “representing the world the way you see it”. Tell us more about the witty characters and interesting objects that fill your illustrations?
Sa6ettu: I like absurd stuff, and silly faces is how I describe my influences in one sentence. I’ve always been fascinated by strange looking, interesting objects and people – more specifically all the different absurd characters in everyday situations.
In general, I like cartoon-looking funny images. I like interpreting them in my own way, adding something that I’ve found from pages of generated photos, or even absurd situations I’ve been in myself. I also enjoy the process of walking around the city, taking trashy photos of interesting objects or funny characters, and then redrawing them in my own way.
This process got to its highest point with one of the last projects I made, my first independent publication called Unusual Images. It started when I found this ridiculous page on Facebook with the same name which was very absurd, insanely funny, and full of ridiculous photographs of people or other creatives. I started drawing every image that I found interesting, making my own interpretation of it, or just redrawing it the same because it was already absurd enough. The final zine featured 40 of those photographs, combined with my illustrative interpretation.
INT: Your illustrations work so well in both tattoo and textile format too! Why and how did you start working with such different mediums? Do they elevate your practice in different ways?
Sa6ettu: The tattooing part happened quite spontaneously, actually. I’ve always admired it as a culture and knew I would have a lot of tattoos myself, but never thought I would be able to do them. In my mind it looked like something very serious and responsible – I’m the exact opposite of those two things. I'm someone with two left hands and who drops or loses everything I have. But a lot of my friends encouraged me and it was at a time when I was looking for big changes in my working career, so I took a risky step and gave it a try. It’s turned into a second vocation after illustration and I want to add a big thanks to the people at the tattoo studio I work at for teaching me how to do this!
“It took me a long time to realise it, but I don’t want to limit myself only with illustration”Aleksandra Georgieva
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Textiles started out as a spontaneous experiment too. I’d never held a needle in my life, never sewed anything, but I wanted to experiment and try something, even if the result was a failure. The outcome is that I am now a total maniac for textiles and I’m planning some bigger projects with it in the future. Next is pursuing ceramics.
It took me a long time to realise this, but I don’t want to limit myself only with illustration. I adore experimentation and I’m not a big admirer of the saying “make only one thing, but make it very good”. The worst thing you can do for yourself is staying in one place where you’re already comfortable! Life is about constantly learning and we should explore, be curious and experiment all the time with whatever thrills our minds. I also really enjoy collaborating with other people and I think there’s a lot you can learn from that, in every aspect of the process. I’m more productive and creative if I’m working with someone.
INT: What’s the most valuable lesson you learned during your time at university?
Sa6ettu: I can't say I was the best student in university, at all. For me it wasn’t the best experience, due to many reasons, but I admit that I’m very wayward and prefer creating my own ideas. It was a battle not only for me but for my professors also, especially when it came to pushing me to do something that I didn’t agree with or didn’t find interesting. For that reason, I probably wasn’t liked very much as I was focusing more on my own creative path, and always trying to somehow step out of the frames of normality.
The education system is a very fragile. There is a fragile balance between learning all the technical skills well and falling into the trap of losing your identity as an individual artist. It’s important to focus on your studies but not forget your personal ones. Nevertheless I’m thankful to them, and for those four years. It taught me to be more organised I guess, which is very hard for most artistic people.
INT: Finally, which project of yours are you most proud of and why?
Sa6ettu: It’s really hard to say. Every personal project I’ve made so far has been a huge challenge. The pride that comes afterwards is not so much from the exact artwork, but more from a personal point of view for overcoming fears, learning from mistakes and creating something meaningful; not only to you but for the people who see it.
For me, art is the experience of research and the outcome of the product is just the visual bonus. But I guess I am very happy with the last project I made in February for a group exhibition in Sofia: Art Start – Young Artists to Follow in 2020. The topic was “comfort zone” which was really intriguing for me because the topic is very specific. It’s something I’ve been dealing and struggling with all my life like most people. I was really excited to connect with it and represent it through my art.
The work I showed was a latch-hooked textile tapestry installation (1.9 x 1.3m) made from wool. The technique is ridiculous – I was introduced to it by my sister who lives in the US and it’s super popular there. I found it extremely funny when she first showed it to me, and thought it could look super cool to turn my illustrations into something very big. The only problem was that I only had two weeks to make it and I’d never made one before. In the case of this project, the topic was connected more with the process itself than the final result but honestly… I wasn’t sure how it was going to look at the end. When it was finished, I was not only very happy with the result, it became my new form of expression and now I can’t wait to explore more of this technique. Expect more textiles in the future, presenting funny images and absurd faces.
About the Author
Lucy (she/her) joined It’s Nice That as a staff writer in July 2016 after graduating from Chelsea College of Art. In January 2019 she was made deputy editor and in November 2021, became a senior editor predominantly working on It’s Nice That's partnerships. Feel free to get in contact with Lucy about creative projects for the site or potential partnerships.