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  • Writer's pictureEllen Harris

Celebrating Black Music Through Art Quilting

Just got back home from attending the 17th Annual African American Fiber Art Exhibition, which will run May 1 – June 16, 2024, in N. Charleston, SC. This annual juried exhibition featured works by 60 African American artists from 25 different states. Torreah “Cookie” Washington, an award-winning and nationally exhibiting textile artist, created and curated this exhibition, which showcases original and innovative work by African American fiber artists using a variety of traditional and non-traditional techniques.

I’m a budding fiber artist and really appreciate the opportunity to submit and be selected to exhibit one of my art quilts. I describe myself as such because I’m self-taught and just beginning to venture out to share my work. Years ago, I did a lot of machine-sewing, but for whatever reason I stopped.  Now as I'm aging the desire to hand sew and create fiber art fulfills my inner spirit. I create hand sewn quilts and Saori weaving pieces. I incorporate my love for earth tone colors, yoga, and gardening into my pieces. I feel like my hands are guided by my female ancestors, who all did hand work, especially my mother and grandmother.  To me my work is organic and meditative.

My piece for this exhibition is called “Sound Healing Meditation.”  It features a sound healing bowl, with musical notes, the yoga Ohm symbol, and Adinkra symbols for peace, wisdom, gratitude, freedom and energy.  The piece, also, was embellished with African beads and brass ornaments on the sound healing bowl. These are all embodiments of music for the spirit. While my piece may not reflect a typical depiction of Black music, this art quilt represents a celebration of using music to heal the soul during these very traumatic times.

Last week was the opening and I spent two wonderful days at the exhibition. The experience most definitely met my expectations. I met new fellow artists, learned about new techniques to add to my skill set, and was exposed to a fantastic fiber artists community of African American women and one man from all over the country. Last but not least, I enjoyed sharing an Airbnb with a sister friend and 2 other ladies, all fiber artists.  I left N. Charleston thrilled and inspired to carry on.

I’m sharing below some of the amazing work at the exhibit.

Three very unique pieces stood out. One was of a life-sized wooden guitar with all kinds of fabric, beading, yarn, and brass embellishments.  The other two pieces were art quilting clothing made out of various forms of paper. The only brother in the show made them both and darn if I didn’t get a picture of him.

Always a lover of public art features, I captured some fantastic elements on the Navy Yard base where a group of us went for lunch on the first day.

And on the last day, Cookie treated the fiber artists to a lunch sponsored by a local Panera Bread restaurant. There she was presented with various fabric postcards of appreciation made by fiber artists last year; some of whom were there this year. I was too busy running my mouth to capture pictures of some of the show-and-tells where folks shared existing or work in progress projects. Lastly, ever the teacher, Cookie demonstrated the art of Gullah rag quilting and had us each add to a community piece she’s currently working on.  I loved the technique and will probably add it to future projects.

Signing off very fulfilled and much wiser.

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