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For Chicago artist, weaving textiles is a 'cathartic release' after years of trauma

Weaving textiles is a 'cathartic release' for artist after years of trauma
Weaving textiles is a 'cathartic release' for artist after years of trauma 03:41

CHICAGO (CBS) – As we celebrate Black History Month, we meet Chicago textile artist Bryana Bibbs.

While she creates pieces bursting with texture, she also creates safe spaces for people dealing with the trauma of domestic violence. And as CBS 2's Audrina Bigos told us, her own story is woven through each piece and every conversation.

"It's cathartic for me, so being able to use this repetitive hand motion," said Bibbs. "It allows me to relax and that's what I need."

In her Bridgeport studio, Bibbs uses textures to tell stories, her own stories of strength and survival.

Textile artist turns to weaving to heal and help others 05:24

"Ooff, 2019, I had just gotten out of a really traumatic off-and-on relationship that lasted about a decade, and then felt very lost once that relationship ended," she said.

After enduring years of domestic violence, she found healing through weaving.

"A lot of the works that I'm doing now are basically my stories of dealing with narcissistic abuse and what that looks like," Bibbs said. "The love bombing, the hovering, the value, discard phases that are talked about, very much embedded into my practice."

BIGOS: "So how does creating and doing your art help you in your own process of healing?"

BIBBS: "One of the ways was accepting what I had gone through. I think that within itself was a challenge, because so much of it was in denial. Having that, and then using the weaving as this cathartic release, to process what I had gone through, I think really helped tremendously."

And she wanted to help other victims and survivors.

"And I thought, 'What if I get a group of folks together?'" Bibbs said. "It can be a small, intimate gathering of five to six people, and we just sit down and we talk about our experiences and weave."

Those conversations happen in art studios like one in Evanston. Bibbs provided the materials, teaches the craft and creates a safe space.

"Just talking, having conversation, really hard, brutal conversations at times and then amongst that, is creating," she said.

One weaving workshop led to another and Bibbs birthed the "We Were Never Alone" project in 2020, at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"If you're put in a space where there's people that have gone similar traumas, I think being in that community has been really helpful for people," she said.

As they create, they use pieces from their past, to add texture to their work. Their story and strength, like Bibbs', are woven though each piece.

"It's been really fulfilling for me to be able to have people trust in me, trust in each other, and trust that we're going to keep each other's stories private," she said. "And trusting the process truly."

Bibbs' next "We Were Never Alone Project" weaving workshops are set for March 25-26 at the 1100 Florence Gallery in Evanston. She has a solo exhibit beginning in April at the Oliva Gallery in Logan Square.

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