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Debbie from Bellabisinia

Hello – please tell us a little about yourself

Hello My Name is Debbie, I was born in Ethiopia but have lived in San Francisco since the age of seventeen. In 2010 I took a leap of faith and moved back to my birthplace. I have always loved colors and drawing. It is my love for colors, textile and soft textures that has allowed me to first become a jewelry designer. I designed handmade jewelry from 1995 on. In 2006 while working on my thesis on the on Art therapy, I fell in love with natural dies and that led me to take classes in weaving and knitting. I think the love of craft and anything handmade took me to a journey where my focus moved towards weaving and knitting. I work with my amazing weaving mentor and teacher Bonse who has been a weaver for 25 years, and without whom my work would be non-existant.

When did you know you wanted to design scarves?

When I was a teenager, I used to wear a small square navy blue silk scarf that uses to belong to my grandmother. From that time on, I have been known to wear scarves. I can say that be it spring or summer, I am always wearing a scarf or you will be guaranteed to find an extra scarf in my bag. I am known as the scarf lady. There was a time in my life, where I couldn’t find nice simple everyday scarves in the color combination that I wanted, which led me to come up with my own design.

Tell us about your design process?

I always travel with my sketchbook, colors/crayons and often my camera. If I see an eye catching color combination that I think is unique, or anything inspiring, I often make a note and then add more character to it. Also, it is often the actually material that often drives me to create the final product. This process pretty much goes for everything I create. 

What sort of creative challenges do you face?

It is not so much a creative challenge as it is a technical challenge. The most challenging part of the process is not being able to find a consistent organic yarn supplier. Also, not having many craft shops here in Addis Ababa does not allow me to create more things that I wish to. I would love to use milk cotton, Linen, Hemp and few other yarns but we do not have any of those supplies here in Addis Ababa.

Where are you based and where do you like to spend your free time and find inspiration?

I am currently based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. However I often travel to U.S as well as Asia and a few other places to source new materials. In the past I used to spend my free time and holiday time traveling to a tropical place. I'd visit museums, vintage markets as well as libraries and open market and farmers' markets to get inspiration. And it is through these travels that I often came up with ideas and collected materials.

Do you have any style tips for scarf enthusiasts?

Be creative, be authentic and play with the fabric.