Corey Alston

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Corey Alston

My name is Corey Alston. I am a fifth generation Sweet Grass Basket Weaver. I currently run the family business in Charleston City Market. Sweet Grass Basket Weaving has been a major part of the Gullah Geechee Culture, dating back to days of Enslavement. This coastal artform has been recognized as South Carolina State Handcraft, and has been known to be found kept alive the longest along Sweet Grass Basket Makers HWY of South Carolina. This skill is one of the rare arts of our country that is founded know where else in America. Gullah Sweet Grass baskets are a national treasure.

Sweetgrass Basket

Viewed as a gift from God. Gullah Sweet Grass Basket Weaving has been handed down from generation to generation, usually learned from childhood. Baskets require a great deal of patience and creativity, as there are no set patterns.

Sweetgrass Basket Sewing

After the 1890's

Sweetgrass Basket Sewing

Viewed as a gift from God Gullah basket weaving has been handed down from generation to generation, usually learned from childhood. Baskets require a great deal of patience and creativity, as there are no set patterns. Each piece is unique, and each artist develops his or her style. Basketmakers pledge to continue their traditional craft as long as there are raw materials available, but development or rural areas are threatening the supply.

One of the Oldest

African crafts in America appeared in South Carolina during the late 17th Century. The first known baskets in the Lowcountry were fanner baskets used for rice production and processing, baskets had a very real and significant cultural connection for the displaced Africans. They were used in the planting and harvesting of the coastal money crops - rice, cotton, and others. Agricultural baskets were made of bulrush, sweetgrass, and split oak.

After the 1890's

Sweetgrass baskets began to evolve from agricultural implementations to household items. Sweetgrass, a softer, finer straw, replaced bulrush as the primary material, longleaf pine needles were added for contrast, and palmetto replaced split oak as binders. On plantations, such as Boone Hall in Mount Pleasant, basket-making continued even after slavery ended.

Sweetgrass basket sales surged with the opening of the Grace Memorial Bridge in 1929 and the paving of Highway17 in 1931. Mount Pleasant area basket makers began a longstanding tradition when one lady of vision, Lottie "Winee " Moultrie Swinton, soon followed by LydiaSpann Graddick, placed her chair along the highway to display baskets for sale. Thus, roadside basket stands were born. Sweetgrass baskets are very durable. Their uses range from practical daily use to showpieces. Basketmakers and their baskets are major tourist attractions in the Lowcountry. Today, Sweetgrass baskets are displayed for sale @ Historic Charleston City Market.

Sweetgrass Fesival

The Sweetgrass Festival promotes Gullah culture, heritage, and traditions by celebrating the creativity of sweetgrass basket makers and other Gullah artists. The Sweetgrass Festival, an annual, family-friendly event showcases Gullah Geechee performances, gospel music, folklore, and dance, along with the sweetgrass basket-making demonstrations and videos on the history of the cherished Lowcountry art. A vibrant array of sweetgrass baskets, paintings, and other handmade goods are displayed alongside delicious Lowcountry cuisine for all to enjoy.

Changing Times

In 1997, a historical marker was erected to commemorate the legacy and history of sweetgrass baskets and their makers. The marker was placed at the intersection of Hamlin Road and Highway 17 in the Seven Mile section of Mount Pleasant, on the Basket Makers Coalition and the Christ Church Parish Preservation Society.

Sweetgrass Cultural Arts Pavilion

In July 2009, Mount Pleasant celebrated the opening of the Sweetgrass Cultural Arts Pavilion at the Memorial Waterfront Park. This open-air pavilion is a tribute to the generations of men and women who have carried on the Lowcountry basket tradition for more than three centuries. The facility provides a venue for local sweetgrass basketmakers to sell their wares. Kiosks and panels tell the history of the craft. As a stop along the Gullah Geechee Cultural Heritage Corridor, the pavilion gives the public an in-depth look at one of America's oldest and most important African-inspired arts.