Torreah “Cookie” Washington is a fourth generation needle worker. Born in Rabat, Morocco, she has traveled extensively, and has made her home for the last 33 years in Charleston, SC. Her mother, aunts, grandmother and great grandmother were all experienced dress makers, fashion designers and master tailors and she is proud to have learned at the knees of her mother’s family. Cookie is the first in this long line of needle workers to take up art quilting. Yet she feels her connection very deeply to her foremothers, whenever a needle and bit of cloth is in her hands. “I am a mostly self-taught quilt artist. I have been a fiber artist of some sort my whole life. At four years old, my Granddaddy paid me fifty cents for the first "Barbie" dress I ever designed.”
Ms. Washington's current passion is fiber art muralism that celebrates the Divine Feminine and the contributions of her African ancestral heritage. For 16 years Ms. Washington has been guest curator of the African American Fiber Arts Exhibit that is part of the North Charleston Arts Festival. The exhibit has become so popular that it travels to different locations around the American South. Through collaboration, Washington embraces her role as a creative facilitator that helps champion and shape an understanding on how art connects with community. A primary driver of her curatorial work is creating collaborative opportunities for artists of color for interpretation by all with an overall goal to foster introspection, communication, and provide a platform for public education.
When asked about her creative process, she states, “I want to make art that challenges people to feel, art that makes you soar and annoys, art that challenges them to learn more about the subject and their own feelings about it. I have a fire in the belly, a passionate urge to create art that is griot in nature. I want the viewer to come away changed after having experienced my work. I am not at all interested in creating art that matches your furniture.” Cookie says, “I find that textile design emits a spirit, a presence, an energy, a vitality unlike that of any other medium. Quilting is in my blood. Enslaved Africans used quilting to tell their stories. I wish to keep this tradition alive, and through my work validate our culture by weaving stories of the African or African-American experience, into my quilts, just as my foremothers did almost four hundred years ago. Even though I'm working in a medium centuries old, I believe we art quilters are shifting the historical to accommodate our new application. Art quilting, an emerging art form, is a fairly small part of the art world. I am thrilled to be part of it.”
In addition to curating & maintaining her studio practice, Cookie teaches “quilt as you go” classes to women in under served communities, gives educational lectures for students in public schools, and donates quilts to charities serving the homeless.
One of Cookie Washington’s proudest accomplishments to date is having been selected as one of 44 Master Art Quilters to create a quilt to honor President Barak Obama’s Inauguration in 2009. Cookie has been featured in documentary films about African American Art Quilters. “The Wayshowers”, which she shared executive producer credit on, with Susan Scott Hester, and the film “Skin Quilt” by Lauren Cross.