Artist on the Edge: Azmara Asefa

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London- Azmara walking on the bridge connecting Primrose Hill and Regents Park- part of the route for her morning runs

Azmara Asefa’s designs caught my attention for their intricate and ornate details as well as their deep connection to “home”. Her work is not only aesthetically pleasing but connects to much deeper meaning within her work. Read and view more about the architectural and design work of Azmara Asefa!
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Bete Giorgis, Lalibela, Ethiopia, freestanding rock-hewn church from the 1200s (Azmara’s sister, Azmara’s aunt, Azmara)

1. How did you connect to the work you are currently involved in with design and architecture?

When I was 7 I took a trip to Ethiopia and knew I wanted to do (design) architecture upon crossing a bridge in Behar Dar near Tis Abay (waterfall at Lake Tana- source of the Blue Nile). I thought about how experience could be better if the infrastructure was beautiful and connected to the aesthetic. Lasting experience that inspired my Masters thesis based in Ethiopia connected to refugee work.

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Tis Abay- Lake Tana, Behar Dar, Ethiopia (L to R, Aunt Belaynish and sister Mannen)

In terms of fashion I don’t know when it started exactly. When I first started to make clothes it was in high school and worked on a sewing machine from then.

Somehow all of the elements come together: things I’ve researched, worked on, people I’ve met. All have connected at random times in my life to create opportunities I’d never imagine were possible.

2. Can you talk about your process of creativity?

Two main ideas:

  1. Never force an idea, It won’t work.
  2. Ideas come to mind through letting mind wander

3. Your Master’s thesis was inspired by your background and culture. Please explicate more on it.

I was looking at nomadic tribes and how the architecture and clothes have a literal connection usually the same fabric).

Thesis was focused on Wearable environments in which tribes of the African horn was the main focus. The tribes I focused on were Afar, Gabra, Beja, Borana, Fula, Somali and other nomadic tribes outside of the region like Kazakhs and Bedouins.

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photo credit to James Drakeford- Azmara Asefa Collection 2014. Folded Dupont tyvek jacket, tyvek and felt skirt, wood veneer necklace, wood veneer bra.


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photo credit to James Drakeford- Azmara Asefa Collection 2014. Laser cut felt gown with laser cut wood veneer beaded onto it.

Idea of building connected to the designer Gottfried Semper- architectural theorist wrote about a concept of “the primitive hut” (a common theme in architectural theory) –hypothetical scenario- “clothes” came before “buildings”…primitive communities used the cloth from their bodies, made them larger and stretched them over “sticks” and this created tents…the tents where community shelter…the weaving in the textiles influenced the way building were built even when new technology developed like brick buildings the staggering of brick is reminiscent of the weave of the textile…and he goes on…but basically buildings are derivative of clothes….i took this to mean if clothes are “shelter for one” then buildings are “communal shelter” …this theory seemed to really fit with the nomadic tribes I researched.

Gojo Bets- housing type in central Ethiopia…The tops of the huts inspired the hats that were worn in the line

Gojo Bets- housing type in central Ethiopia…The tops of the huts inspired the hats that were worn in the line

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photo credit to James Drakeford- Azmara Asefa 2014 Collection. Lasser cut felt jacket and navy Mennen cotton shorts. Goat fur hat.

Techniques between clothing and architecture: start with one, rigid, foldable “shawl” that connects to others to form a tent or canopy, contactable – communal canopy or tent- can connect as a building, connect to another person , connect to a shawl). All techniques relate to a
sense of community building made for and by the relocated nomads researched in the Masters thesis.

(In the following photos :This series of 4 images is a study for thesis research using the technique of folding and the material of tyvek (both folding and tyvek are used in clothes and buildings 1 unit connects to the others))

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The materials used in the presentation are Dupont tyvek, wood veneer, and felt to model these “shawls” in a series of prototypes.

After conversation with woman in the fashion industry who was on my Master’s review board on review board, I got the idea to develop the thesis into a fashion line that premiered at CMH Fashion Week.

4. When was the idea for CMH Fashion week blossomed?

Opportunity came from home (Columbus, Ohio), when I connected with a friend from high school who I hadn’t seen in years. She volunteered with fashion week before and told me to try out.

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photo credit to James Drakeford- Azmara Asefa 2014 Collection. Laser cut wood tiled shirt with magenta Mannen cotton from Ethiopia. Folded Dupont tyvek skirt. Goat fur hat.

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photo credit to James Drakeford- Azmara Asefa 2014 Collection. Close-up of the tiled wood veneer and pleats of the Dupont tyvek skirt.

5. Any other places you consider home?

  1. London – loved it because of so many cultures, meet so many people, hear amazing stories, good food, had a “family” of international roommates that I lucked into finding through a gumtree ad (like Craigslist)- still keep in contact today
  2. Columbus – born and raised, family and community here
  3. Ethiopia – family, heritage and you feel connected to things bigger than yourself. Connecting to history that is part of you.

One of my personal mantras: Make the most out of any situation and take every opportunity

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Columbus: At Azmara’s parents house (note the white aluminum siding and deck furniture) doing a typical Asefa sisters photo shoot

Last words from Azmara “Interesting that you chose home as the connection- the thesis is about giving people who have lost their homes the tools to make their temporary space a new home.”

Azmara’s contact info:

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Ethiopia- “I miss this kid! My cousin’s son, Robel, was the unofficial tour guide on my last trip” – Azmara

2 thoughts on “Artist on the Edge: Azmara Asefa

  1. Pingback: Top ArtEdgeNYC posts of 2013 | ArtEdgeNYC

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