Jason Rapp

From The State: Sweetgrass basketry fighting for survival

A tradition in peril


Sweetgrass basketry intertwines with South Carolina heritage in the same way that the grasses come together to form the renowned finished product.

But for how much longer will it be part of the present?

Today, Caitlin Byrd of The State tries to get a grasp on the situation (subscription possibly required):

Also driving up the price of baskets is the increased development in the coastal region, which continues to cut off access to the very plants Black families use to make sweetgrass baskets. And then there’s the concern about time itself, as a generation of sewers worry that this craft, which can trace its origins to the 17th century, will not be carried on in the way it once was.

This traditional art form is no stranger to The Hub or the South Carolina Arts Commission.

  • Sweetgrass basketmakers have been Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Award recipients many times since the first in 1990, and the most recent was in 2018. (The Folk Heritage Award is presented annually by the SCAC and its partner the University of South Carolina McKissick Museum.)
  • A basket by Mary Jackson, one of the most decorated artisans, is included in the State Art Collection and is included in The State’s story.

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