A VALUABLE INVESTMENT
basketry is an African art form that has been practiced continuously in South Carolina for over three hundred years. Wherever rice was grown on the South Atlantic Coast, coiled baskets were used in the
harvest. During the long decline of rice production from the Civil War to World
War I African American basketmakers continued to Sew baskets on plantations and on the small family farms they had acquired.
All the basket shapes from this era may be seen today on basket
stands along Highway 17, on street corners in Charleston and yes, even in Georgetown, South Carolina. Material, functions and techniques of construction have changed.
Sweetgrass sewn with palmetto leaves have replaced bulrush bound with oak splints or palmetto butt as the preferred
materials in the baskets. The wide winding trays called fanners, which once served
to separate the chaff from the rice, now might hold magazines. A century ago,
vegetable baskets carried mountains of produce to market. Big open baskets are
still made but for indoor use. Covered Storage baskets, in the Plantation Era,
might have contained grain, yarn or sewing supplies. The grain they once held
is long gone, but sewing and yard baskets remain staples of the trade.
The division of baskets by function has antecedents in Africa. Heavy field baskets tended to be made by men, while mats, smaller baskets for storing
and serving food, and women made fancy baskets that were use inside the household. On
Low Country Plantations, basket making was usually reported to have been mens work.
Handicraftsmen made all the baskets that were used on the place. The baskets
were designed to withstand years of hard labor. They were bond with an interlocking
stitch, the binders of a row passing under the stitches of the row before.
The Gullah Basket as they are sometimes called, has been in continuous production since the 18th Century. Low Country Coiled Basketry is one of the oldest craft of African origin in America. Today Museums and art collectors through out the world purchase them. Each basket reflects the cultural heritage and history of a unique people.
Each is an original sculpture that reveals the artists skill as both designer and technician. A baskets value increases with age and with proper care will last indefinitely. Examples of Low Country Coil Basketry exist today that are well over a century old.