Monday, March 12, 2018

The Sweet Grass Baskets of Mt. Pleasant,

When we visit the Charleston area, we like to stay in the town of Mt. Pleasant, just across the Ravenel Bridge from the city. I'm fascinated by the history here and the remnants of Gullah culture which endure through the descendants of the African-American people formerly enslaved on nearby plantations. I love watching the women of Mt. Pleasant weave sweet grass baskets using the methods taught to them by their mothers and grandmothers.

In order to preserve this culture, the Rt. 17 corridor in Mt. Pleasant has been designated a National Historic area and the basket makers' stands are prominent along the route.

I love to stop and talk with the ladies and learn about their work, their art.

This is Marie, whose stand is right in front of the local Walgreen's. There is an interesting article about her in The Post & Courier, which is where I found this photo.

This my photo of Marie's stand. Sadly, she was not there on the day we stopped by. I would have liked to meet her.

I did get to spend some time talking with Del on Saturday. She makes baskets and sells them at her stand on Rt. 17, D & D Creations. She started the stand years ago with her late husband, Donald. Del learned to make sweet grass baskets from her grandmother.

Del explained that every sweet grass basket contains some bulrush because of the Bible story about the baby Moses being hidden in a bulrush basket. She showed me how to spot the strands of bulrush among the pine needles and sweet grass. (They are darker and rounder).

"One thing that makes sweet grass baskets special is that they aren't made with typical weaving techniques like plaiting or twisting, which are common in other parts of the world. Instead, Gullah artists employ the West African tradition of coiling. Dried sweet grass is bundled together and coiled in circles. Thin strands of palmetto fronds hold the piece in place, and bulrush and pine needles are then added for decoration and strength."  ~from South Carolina State Handicraft

An average-sized basket takes Del about 20 hours to make. She says she likes to work on them in front of Netflix!

The bulrush can be seen in about the center of the basket pictured below.

The handmade baskets sell for fifty dollars and up because of the time involved in making each one. The one in the two photos above was priced at $200.00.  A basket-maker at Magnolia Plantation told me, with a twinkle in her eye, "We don't work for free no more." Nor should she!

So, if you go to Charleston, be sure to drive over the bridge to Mt. Pleasant. You can tour the Boone Hall Plantation, learn about Gullah culture, and meet the ladies who carry on the tradition of weaving sweet grass baskets.

It's worth the trip.

Tomorrow we're off to Georgia. I hope to share more of the culture here in South Carolina before we pack up. What a beautiful place!

Linked to:
Amaze Me Mondays at Dwellings
Wow Us Wednesday at Savvy Southern Style

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