By: Jconnphoto

Sep 03 2010

Tags: , , , , , ,

Category: Culture

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Focal Length:50mm
Shutter:1/0 sec
Camera:Canon EOS 40D

Photo blog day twenty-one, September 3, 2010

Sweetgrass baskets are as much a part of Charleston and Low Country culture as sweet tea is.  All the years I have been coming here I have been surprised by the detail and skill required to make these baskets.  Sweetgrass basket sewing is a craft, handed down from generation to generation is usually learned from childhood.  Baskets require a great deal of patience and creativity, as there are no set patterns.  The women who make the baskets are as sweet as the grass they are weaving.  I learned very quickly though that if you ask to take their photo they shy away and even will cover their face or turn away.  One woman explained to me that over the last 10 years or so tourists are exploiting their image and not supporting the culture by purchasing a basket.  Another person explained that they do not want their image captured as they feel the camera could steal their soul.  Well, believe me, I felt terrible as I had done exactly as tourists before me had, I attempted to take an image without buying a basket.  Although my motive is not to exploit them so much as to share their story with people who may not know.  As I mentioned above weaving the basket takes a great deal of skill, patience, and time and I would say the prices of the baskets are even modestly priced if you compare it with the time it takes to learn the skill and weave the basket.  I was not in a position to buy a basked today but one woman I met was willing to have a photo of her hands taken in exchange for a small fee and the images being sent to her.  I was happy to oblige.  You can find women weaving their baskets all over downtown Charleston, but specifically you will find them in the Old City Market, the Four Corners of the Law, and on Highway 17 just north of the Charleston bridge, in the Mt. Pleasant area.  If you find yourself here do your best to support this culture by purchasing a beautiful hand-crafted piece of history sure to last a very long time.


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