Sunday, August 05, 2012


Tuesday, July 3rd - It was a sunny morning in Charleston, South Carolina.  We decided to spend a few more dollars staying at a nice hotel that included full hot breakfast instead of the low budget motels that provide stale pastry.  It was comfortable when we ate breakfast in the courtyard.  Then the temperature started to warm up so we got on a sightseeing air-conditioned bus for a 90-minute historic tour instead of the self-guided walking tour.  The bus took us around downtown as the driver/tour guide pointed out beautiful mansions, famous homes, the Old Citadel, historic churches, and a stop at the Battery to view Fort Sumter.  The tour was fine but the tour guide kept making not-so-funny jokes and then when he laughed, he would make sounds as if he was spitting - yuk!   After the Trolley Tour, we went back to the Four Corners of Law (Broad and Meeting Streets) where the sweetgrass basket stands were set up along the side of the courthouse.
According to the brochure, the art of making the coiled sweetgrass basket was transported across the Atlantic by enslaved African people from the Windward or Rice Coast of West Africa.  When first appeared in South Carolina during the late 17th century, the first known baskets in the Lowcountry were fanner baskets used for winnowing rice.  The baskets were also used in the planting and harvesting of cotton and other crops.  Over the years, the sweetgrass baskets evolved from agricultural implements to household items, practical daily use to the current status of show pieces.  In 2006, the State of South Carolina named Sweetgrass Baskets the official state handcraft.
This is Sheila Taylor, the artist who created and signed the basket we just bought for $35.
Roadside basket stands began in 1930s and today, most of the roadside stands are found along Highway 17, just north of Mount Pleasant, or at the  Four Corners of Law and at the City Market in Charleston.  Important note:  When we first approached the stands, I was told that I could only take photos after I made a purchase.  I "obeyed" the rules but kept walking to the next stand where Ms. Taylor greeted me with a sweet smile.  I selected a basket, paid for it and took the photo of Ms. Taylor signing my very own sweetgrass basket.  One more important note: the large basket on the top row has the price tag of $150 or more.

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