Sweetgrass Baskets at Sweetgrass Festival in Mt. Pleasant | Photo via @newgirlontheisland
Charleston + Mt. Pleasant are home to a long Gullah tradition that has become a staple of the South: sweetgrass baskets. Anyone who visits the Lowcountry can experience the authenticity of this craft, as basket makers use a coiled weaving technique to create complex designs with their own ensemble styles – no 2 baskets are the same.
The art of weaving sweetgrass baskets – The official craft of the State of SC – was first introduced in the Lowcountry in the the seventeenth century by enslaved Africans. First built using bulrush – a type of swamp grass – these baskets are now made of a softer material sweetgrass which requires minimal care. Recognized as one of the the nation’s most valuable cultural traditions, Sweetgrass baskets evolved from agricultural + Housework timeless items works of art.
As one of the oldest surviving African art forms in the United States, basketry has been passed down from generation to generation. This process requires skill and patience. – this can often take weeks or months to complete detailed designs. This one-of-a-kind work of art is now part of a tradition that is a fundamental part of SC history.
The construction of Highway 17 + Cooper River Bridge allowed basket makers to bring their belongings to the roadsides. This increased the popularity of this art form, as they became directly available for tourists, museums, gift shop owners, and collectors. With more than 50 sweetgrass vendors in the Charleston City Market, it’s easy to see why this The tradition of gollah is so darling. Basket makers, such as local Mt. Pleasant Mary jackson, have received national + worldwide recognition for this profession. First selling her baskets at a town market stall in 1980, Mary’s work was featured in National Geographic and is in the White House + Smithsonian Museum of American Art. Describing his art as “a gesture of respect for the work of his predecessors,” Jackson’s dedication to basketry has earned him the title of MacArthur Fellow – also known as “the engineering scholarship. “
Today, the Gullah tradition of weaving sweetgrass baskets is a important piece of Lowcountry history. This intricate coiled technique is a legacy passed down from generations of Charleston families who aim to keep this tradition alive. Support local sweetgrass basket makers such as Andrea Cayetano-Jefferson, Tonya Aiken, Corey alston + Beverly Stock Exchange to Charleston City Market, as well as artists found along Mount Pleasant Highway 17, As Mazie Brown + married couple Daryl and Angèle.
Check it out recent news of The Netherlands and rwandan women who weave “hay baskets of peace”, celebrated on the occasion of the United Nations International Day of Peace.