Most of the time our articles come from personally meeting people or coming across businesses and artists by luck. Other times, I get a recommendation that blows me away. I found out about Ekaterina Yakovenko when DE reader Allison send me a private message telling me I had to check out Ekaterina’s work. She then sent me a photo of a plush replica of her horse that was just out of this world amazing (Thank you Allison!). I’d never seen anything like it and I needed to know more! I’m so excited to share Ekaterina and her work with each of you. By the end of this article, you’ll be dreaming of having one of her gorgeous creations in your own home.
Do you have a day job or is creating beautiful things what you do for a living?
It’s my only job. I think I couldn’t find enough spare time and inspiration to create as much as I do if I had another job. My art is my lifestyle and sometimes I prefer to stay home with an interesting project than go out with friends or on a date. Also, sometimes I need to be single for inspiration, because some relationships requires a lot of time and energy from me. That energy would be better spent for my creativity. That is the way I feel.
How do you create your beautiful horse models? How did you come up with the idea?
All my horses are sewn by hand, but it’s not just the sewing of soft toys. I am a sculptor, artist, and seamstress at the same time and I need to have a knowledge of horses and harness/tack to make my plush models. I create my horses from the pictures of real ones. It’s pretty difficult to capture all their features and character, but I love it. I have done this all my life since my childhood. My mom is a professional seamstress and I have learned how to work with a fabric from a young age with my mom’s help. I was always a horse lover so I created these soft toys for myself. No patterns, no lessons, just my fantasy and vision and many attempts and mistakes.
How did you become an artist and how long have you been doing it professionally?
I graduated from a prestigious Kiev University with a degree in model business management, but I love to make art. After University, I didn’t find my dream job and was so busy I had to forget about sewing, horses and art for many years. They were very hard times for my family, and I worked hard to pay the bills. Seller, cashier, boring office paper job…I hated it, but it was a stable income and that is what we needed.
One day I decided to go back to my hobby and made a plush horse in proper sport tack just for fun. I brought it to work and she warmed my soul during my work days. But suddenly I received a proposal to sell it. I took a little money for that horse to buy materials again to make my next horse. This happened again and again… Then I had some photos of my works posted on the biggest Ukrainian equestrian forum, and I got my very first order. That was the beginning of my path as a professional artisan. I do take orders and have shipped worldwide since 2010.
What is your creative process? How do you get inspired?
I get inspired from anything around me! As I said before, sometimes I need to be single and alone for inspiration, but I never feel lonely. I’m an Introvert and I have the whole Universe inside me. I take the energy from myself and from my vision of the world around me. I was born and live in Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, and I adore to walk alone with a camera around my beautiful city to learn our history and ancient architecture. I love to work in my small garden (I love plants and flowers). I love to ride a horse alone and enjoy the sounds and views of nature around me. It is gives me a lot of inspiration for my work!
I love fabric shopping and I can often find some new ideas just from a color of plush, feathers or a single metallic decor element on the shop window. I can see some pieces and it gives me the whole image about a future horse’s look in the details – breed, pose, tack design (if we’re talking about my own projects for sale, not commissions). Also, I love to make the tack for my plush horses, especially bridles and breastplates. I can get so many ideas of design just from a piece of leather or some decorative hardware I find.
What is a typical day for you?
My typical day is waking up with a black coffee and a visit from my cat. I wake up pretty late – about 9-10 AM (except for the days when I go to the stables). Lying in bed in the morning with coffee, thinking about my plans for this day, hearing “purrrr-purrr” and stroking my cat’s fur – these are the little pleasant moments that I appreciate every morning. Then I look through the mail and messages respond. Many of my clients are American horse lovers. We live in much different time zones and we can communicate directly online only in the evening on Ukrainian time. Next is shower, breakfast, a little time to spend in the garden and I get to work.
My working desk is by the window. I love to hear birds singing in the summer or watch some nice movie or listen to music when I’m working. Sometimes I am completely passionate about work and I forget about my lunch, but a coffee break is must have. After lunch, I can go to buy materials for work or to take a finished work for a photo shoot. In the evening I continue to work and I spend time chatting with my fans and customers online.
That’s my regular working day.
What is your history with horses? Tell us a little bit about the most important horses in your life.
I think I was born loving horses. We live in a huge city and it was a problem to keep my own horse or take riding lessons. It’s really expensive here.
My story with real horses began pretty late – when I was 27 years old. I found a little horse club at the edge of city and I visited it every week for lessons and nice horseback walks in the forest. I worked at another private stables about 1 year, then the Kiev hippodrome, and at the end I ended up back with my very first riding teacher, who became my good friend. Now she owns a big horse club near Kiev in the countryside and I can visit anytime.
The most important and beloved horse in my life is an old buckskin gelding Armageddon or simply Ryushik (his pet short name). He arrived to my friend’s club in extremely poor condition. He was literally dying, but Tanya (my friend and his owner) made impossible things happen and he’s still alive and doing great. Yes, he has some limits – he’s over 20 years old. He’s not young and fast anymore, but I can ride him alone in the wood safely. He is my best (4 hooved) friend and my partner in crime. He has such a sweet personality. He’s always calm and safe for his rider, and I love our slow trips just for two.
Also, I would love to mention another horse whom I love. Kiss Cool is a 9-year-old grey paint gelding. He’s beautiful and tall (my favorite size), calm, well-behaved, but forward under saddle. He has a nice personality and I love spending my time talking to him at the barn or taking him out for a fast ride in the fields.
What do you like most about your job creating these beautiful horse models?
I love all of it. From communication with a potential customer to the feedback and photos from my horses when the go to their new home.
I doing it all with great passion and love while enjoying all the stages. I love challenges and I like to make unusual colors of horses, and special and difficult tack design. Also, one of my favorites is to work on Friesian horses. As mentioned before, I love to create special fancy bridles and breastplates for the plush models and hobby horses.
But my most loved and special moment of the whole process is when I take photos of the finished horses here in Ukraine and then later get to see the photos of them in the US, South Africa, Australia or Malaysia…thousands of miles away from Kiev. It’s like magic to me. I have a lot of grateful and devoted customers, and I feel their love and support all the time. It means a lot to an artist!
Do you have a website or web store I can share with our readers?
I don’t have at website and I don’t use Etsy. I do not consider myself a seller, but an artist. I want to keep my business personal and one-on-one. I love to be in touch with customers to learn more about them, their horses, and their lives and customs in other countries. It’s really wonderful to share moments and photos and to make good friends from all over the world through my art. I send and receive some lovely gifts from my foreign friends on Christmas every year. We are always in touch and they are important people in my life. I’m so thankful. I love to share with my fans all about Ukrainian culture, tradition and my own photos of my city on Facebook.
Do you have anything else you would like to say or focus on?
Some of my customers say my creations have a magical influence on their life. My works become a prediction of good events, health and healing and bring positive changes in their lives. People say that from my work comes a strong positive energy that heals people and makes their dreams come true. I find it hard to believe, but the thought makes me happy.