Hammond brings sweetgrass art to O.P. Earle

Published 7:57 pm Thursday, January 10, 2013

O.P. Earle Elementary School will host Charleston Sweetgrass basket weaver Sarah Edwards-Hammond as its visual artist in residence.
The Mary F. Kessler Fund, Polk County Community Foundation funded the residency. Hammond will work with third graders the week of Jan. 14-17.

Hammond, one of Charleston’s finest sweet grass basket makers, learned this unique form of art at the age of 7 by her mother, the late Mrs. Estelle Edwards.

Enslaved West Africans brought the oldest art form of African origin to the South Carolina Lowcountry in the late 17th century.

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Sweetgrass baskets – another dimension of the African experience in America – vividly illustrate the beauty of a diverse culture. Sweetgrass baskets are made with sweet grass, palm, bulrush and pine needles using a tool called a nail bone.

South Carolina has designated as the state handcraft, the Sweetgrass Basket.  Sweetgrass, being native to the coastal dunes of the Carolinas, provided the perfect material for African slaves to utilize their traditional skills and produce a tightly-woven coiled basket.

This handcraft has been passed down through generations and a high concentration of basket weavers is still found near Mount Pleasant.

This collaboration between related arts teachers and third grade level teachers is an example of arts infusion. The exceptional story of South Carolina is the focus of third-grade Social Studies Academic Standards. Students make authentic connections between the study of South Carolina social studies and the visual arts.

By incorporating the arts into academic instruction both disciplines support and strengthen each other.

A Kessler Cultural Evening reception honoring Mrs. Hammond will take place on Jan. 15.

– article submitted  by Paula Brooks