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Life & Work with Abenezer Mengesha

Today we’d like to introduce you to Abenezer Mengesha.

Hi Abenezer, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
I grew up in Ethiopia where things were very simple and very free, we had to learn to make our fun, which allowed for a lot of creative exploration. I remember building towers with Cassette tapes and cutting up my clothes to make my barbie some outfits. I grew up with my mom and younger sister. A lot of my childhood consisted of watching my mom do things around the house, exploring the area with my friends and annoying my baby sister as she remembers it. My mother was a very creative woman. She was capable of planting a beautiful garden and also fixing all the electrical wiring of a stove. I learned a lot watching her growing up – not just technical skills but also on how to approach obstacles. After coming to the states, I attended a Christian boarding school, where I really got to explore creatively. I learned how to sew and paint thanks to art class. I remember practicing for Project Runway where I would give myself a day to recreate a dress from a magazine. I decided I wanted to be a designer around 9th grade. When it came time for college, I naturally wanted to be in New York but was too intimidated to apply to Parsons, The New School – so I decided to go to a small college in upstate New York.

During sophomore year, I decided I wanted to transfer to Parsons where I studied design and management for my undergrad. After a few internships and a grueling career in fashion design and production, I decided to fully shift my career to Graphic design and explore fashion design on my own where I could take full ownership of my exploration and work. Over the years, I got to work with a lot of great brands like Apple and GlamGlow in digital and Packaging design. I recently Launched Abojel, a slow fashion brand. As an artist, the divine feminine has always been a fascination of mine. I have been painting her for as long as I can remember. Growing up Christian, I was always wondering where the divine feminine or the feminine version of GOD is in the grand scheme of things. Painting helped me grasp her essence. Naturally Abojel is an extension of that exploration of the physical form. All my pieces are handmade in limited quantities. Each collection explores the spectrum of her duality. From tulle to latex she does it all. Understanding the vastness of the divine creator and us as a reflection of that we must explore it all.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
Not at all, leaving my mother at 11 was very hard, learning a new environment that was so different from what I was used to was very challenging. But once I found my groove, I was able to use that as an anchor to keep me going. Knowing I got through that helped me overcome a lot of smaller challenges along the way. There was a time I lost almost everything because I gave away my power. I had to rebuild from scratch in a way, I had to grow in my career and fix my living situation. During that time, I worked over 16 hours a day everyday and sometimes overnight. That experience was the catalyst that allowed me to fully own my power and set my spiritual foundation. We often disconnect our life journey from our creative or professional journey neglecting its impact on how we approach and handle professional and creative obstacles. Merging these experiences and approaching all aspects of life from my spiritual lens, and making sure that my intention is the driving force for all my actions has really allowed me to not only center my energy and come from a well thought out space but also feeds my creativity in alternative ways that weren’t visible to me before… A lot of lessons aren`t very pretty but they will serve as a template for future challenges so they won’t seem so grand anymore. Obstacles are inevitable. I’ve learned to go through them and take the tools I need from those experiences. Coming to this understanding took a number of obstacles and a few repeated lessons.

Thanks for sharing that. So, maybe next you can tell us a bit more about your work?
As a creative, I give myself full freedom to explore. One of the biggest challenges while growing in my craft was that I was interested in a lot of different things, and I invested a lot of time in exploring and developing each craft. Attending an arts college where a lot of my friends specialized in one specific craft, I felt a bit out of place. Introducing myself and what I do compared to others around me that specialized in a specific craft was a bit disheartening at times – especially after noticing that I wasn’t often taken as seriously because I was multi-hyphenated. Now that I have worked in these industries and gained experience, I am fully confident in my craft and ability to do multiple things very well. My art is my portal to explore the universe within me and around me. At different stages in my life, that exploration takes different forms. Fully understanding that I am a limitless being that came from the limitless creator has helped me understand we are not all creating the same things and some of us require a selection of crafts for our ultimate masterpiece.

I’ve been doodling for as long as I can remember, but I hadn’t taken painting seriously until I took my first art class in high school. After that, I started to paint and draw regularly. I kept a lot of notebooks of fashion sketches throughout high school. I also started sewing and designing then. Throughout college, I got to seriously explore my technical skills. I learned how to work with charcoal, pastels, spray paint, digital art, clothing construction and collaging. After exploring I was able to hone in on two of my strongest passions; Fashion design and the visual arts. Now I am able to merge these two crafts in the creation and sustenance of ABOJEL. Utilizing my design skills, I am able to create original limited-edition collections and translate my pieces into words, images and overall personas that allow my creations to have a life of their own. This process really taught me that I’m able to use all the skills I picked up along the way to create my own world. And it doesn’t end here. I recently ventured into jewelry making and design, further growing the collection offerings for ABOJEL. This is just the beginning of ABOJEL, I am excited to see where this journey takes me.

What do you like and dislike about the city?
I love all the natural beauty that surrounds LA. The fact that you can explore the beach, the dessert, the snowy mountains and city in one day if you choose is pretty great. I love all the beautiful botanical gardens, Los Angeles County Arboretum has to be my favorite although it’s in Arcadia. I also love that LA has some of the most talented and creative people and I`ve been able to work with a lot of them. I really like that there is such a huge network of creatives here, it allows for a lot of beautiful collaborations and friendships. My least favorite part of LA has to be the plethora of empty conversations and surface-level interactions that seem to be big in LA. Moving from NYC, I thought the culture would be similar but I was very wrong. It couldn’t be any more different. But the weather, natural beauty and the creative community are definitely worth it.

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Image Credits

Main Image Fanny Chu (@fannychuphotography) other photographers Michelle Sharp ( @unlikelymichelle) Lauren Sepulveda (@isepulvedaphoto) Asist Jackie Sepulveda (@vozcollective)

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