Cecilia Fabian—known fondly as “Chila” — never makes the same thing twice. Her crochet designs, which range from strange Alexander McQueen-inspired masks to intricate bikinis, are more than just unique. Her basement studio off Bushwick Avenue is more like a jungle oasis, adorned with hand-woven floral scarves and overgrown with colorful shawls.
“My slogan is ‘often imitated, but never duplicated,’” she told Bushwick Daily in her studio last Saturday, surrounded by her vibrant creations.
Life hasn’t always been so bright and colorful for Fabian. In fact, her crochet business blossomed during a very dark time in her life. In 2001, she was an audio producer working in the World Trade Center. She had been on maternity leave when the twin towers were struck. The death surrounding her—coupled with survivor’s guilt—submerged her into a deep depression.
The destruction also conjured memories of the civil war in El Salvador, her homeland. Fabian’s brother had been a teacher there during the twelve year civil war in El Salvador, where nearly 75,000 people were killed by government forces. They had fled the country, but he wasn’t able to find permanent work in the U.S. as an educator. He later moved to Guatemala and was murdered a month after 9/11.
Fabian soon turned suicidal and desperately sought solace. She turned to crocheting as a form of therapy. Two decades later, it’s her whole world.
“I feel that my line is not only fashion, but it’s also art. I try my best to create things I don’t see,” she says. “I make things you’re not going to find.”
Fabian is only one of the numerous artists that are a part of this year’s Bushwick Open Studios, which kicks off on Friday. The three day event promotes the work of local sculptors, painters, cartoonists and other fashion designers.
Opening her studio up at 963 Bushwick Avenue this weekend will be Fabian’s fourth year promoting her work through Bushwick Open Studios, an event that has been going on since 2006. Fabian says she only started doing that when Jazo Brooklyn took over the group in 2019. She sings Brooklyn’s praises.
“What she’s doing is really good for our community… and a lot of us are the ones with no funds,” she says.
In an interview, Brooklyn says she pretty much had to start “from scratch” when taking the event over four years ago. According to Brooklyn, it was the first time that Bushwick Open Studios was run by people that were from the community, namely herself. Unlike them, she says she felt she didn’t have any of the resources or “clout” that Bushwick Open Studios used to have.
It made it difficult to promote the event. That year, artists complained that they only found out about the event last minute.
This year, Brooklyn says, the goal is to get to know people a little more.
“If anyone deserves to make money and, you know, thrive financially through it, it should be communities like ours, because the money goes back to something so important,” she said.
Josh Rolon, another artist featured this weekend, has known Brooklyn for most of his life. The 25-year-old cartoonist, who goes by the artist name ‘Nova,” is showcasing a piece in a show called “Seeking Spaces” and comes out of a different program called Educated Little Monsters, which Brooklyn also runs and aims at young artists of color.
In fact, many local artists are displaying pieces this weekend for the first time.
Paris Souffrant, for instance, is a Brooklyn painter who works at The Active Space. Souffrant draws upon her Jamaican and Haitian heritage to create abstract works on large canvases. This weekend, she’s exhibiting a piece called “The Drum,” which evokes her relationship with the Creole language.
“You don’t know, really, what’s in your community,” says Souffrant. “You see this building with graffiti all over it, and then you walk inside and there’s a bunch of people creating and working.”
Bushwick Open Studios takes place between September 22 and 24. See the maps below for the lists of all the artists and galleries participating this year.
Images provided courtesy of the artists.
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