If you have been to Charleston, SC, you may be familiar with the art of making sweetgrass baskets. These baskets are handcrafted by locals in the Gullah tradition. As I drive between tutoring appointments, I pass dozens of stands selling these handcrafted beauties.
I often wonder how sweetgrass baskets are made, where do they get the grass, and is it a profitable venture. I finally gave into my curiousity and stopped to ask a few questions.
On first thought, I couldn’t believe the cost of a basket! You may think they are pricey, but have you calculated the cost per hour of labor? A small circle used as a drink coaster costs $15 and takes 4 hours of labor to create. That would amount to $3.75 per hour!
I purchased a trivet to prevent hot pans from burning my dining room table. The cost was approximately $40 and took about 8 hours for the artist to create. Now, the mathematician in me began calculating. This would amount to approximately $5 per hour of labor! However, it is even less, if you take into account the cost of the materials.
The women making these baskets purchase the grass materials from men that collect the materials here in the south. In the past, the materials were readily available here in Mount Pleasant, but with our population growth, the resources are dwindling. Now the materials are harvested in states like Florida.
When we take into account the labor and cost of materials, it seems we are getting quite the bargain for these beautiful baskets!
Want to know more about the sweetgrass basket tradition? The Charleston County Public Library has a brief description. You can also head out to the 2014 Sweetgrass Cultural Arts Festival here in Mount Pleasant on Friday June 6 – Saturday June 7.
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