We chatted with Kristen of Bubo Handmade to learn a little more about the lady behind the leather. Keep reading to learn more about her passion for beautiful bags, her favorite crime podcast, and her big-city perspective on Nashville traffic.
Who taught you to sew?
My Mom. She sewed and made a lot of my and my sister’s clothing.
What was the first sewing project you ever completed?
I remember making scrunchies (when they were cool the first time). The first big thing I can remember (other than the scrunchies!) is a dress.
What’s your process for creating patterns?
I’m always doodling ideas and shapes and most of the time I’ll jump right into making the pattern. Pattern-making is just a process of cutting out shapes in pattern paper and figuring out how they fit together. It involves lots of math, so it’s a good thing I loved geometry in high school!
What’s one of your favorite items you’ve made that you don’t sell?
The bag I’m carrying right now is a donut crossbody bag! I don’t know why I made it. One day, I was just craving donuts and trying to come up with something new, and voila! Donut bag was born.
Do you still sew for fun when you’re not working?
I do! I’ve recently started making clothing again from store-bought patterns. I was just thinking I need to find another hobby that doesn’t include sewing, but I guess you stick to what you know?!
Do you have any favorite music you listen to while you're sewing?
Actually, I listen to a lot of podcasts. It probably sounds weird, but music is too distracting for me. I’m really into any and all crime podcasts, but my favorite it the history/comedy podcast, The Dollop.
How did you end up in Music City?
I grew up in Dublin, Georgia, but ended up randomly living in Savannah after college. One day I decided to “follow my dreams” and apply to the Accessory Design Master’s Program at SCAD (Savannah College of Art and Design). For some reason, they accepted me! After graduating, I worked in New York, Los Angeles, and Dallas for various design companies. While in Dallas, I was able to quit my job and fully invest into Bubo Handmade. It was then we realized we could live anywhere we wanted, and we landed on Nashville after only one visit. It’s close to family, and it’s a good-sized city without feeling too insane. Yes, traffic is bad… but try a commute in LA, and then we’ll talk!
What’s your favorite thing about working for yourself?
Not having to answer to anyone else (other than the customer!).
What has been a surprising challenge for you as a one-woman operation?
Oh man, everything? Right now, it’s keeping up with online trends, and figuring out things like algorithms for advertising on social media. Aside from it being time-consuming, feeling like I have to maintain an active online presence is challenging, because I’m kind of a private person. You have to put yourself out there and promote yourself, which is something I’ve never been good at.
What’s a milestone in the growth of your business that’s made you really proud?
West Elm reached out to me a few years ago about participating in their WE Local program. They feature local artists in many of their stores, and for a few years I was also featured in their online shop. They gave me a lot of valuable advice on wholesaling and making my brand look more professional. They were great to work with, and it really helped me grow in my early years.
How have you seen tactile, skill-based fields like sewing evolve over time in today’s internet-based world?
The internet has changed everything! It has given makers and artisans the ability to present our work and cast a much wider net. It can also be a great educational platform for acquiring the skills necessary to sell our products more successfully. However, major online shopping platforms have also changed a lot about how people shop, and reshaped how makers have to sell in order to stay visible and competitive. There is increased pressure to conform to the practices of larger online stores, and artisans like myself are trying to figure out how to entice shoppers who have gotten used to speed and a quick turn-around.
What’s your favorite thing to do outside in Nashville?
Shelby Bottoms Park is my favorite spot to take a lunch, people watch, and just sit and enjoy the day!
What are some other locally-made, artisan brands you like?
There are so many! I encourage everyone to get out to local craft shows. You’ll be blown away by the talent! A few of my faves are Black Sheep Goods, Garner Blue, Simon and Ruby, and Twigs and Roots—all women-lead!
Follow Kristen on Instagram @bubohandmade! Find Kristen's handcrafted leather products at Batch, located in the Nashville Farmers Market at 900 Rosa Parks Blvd.