From The Blog
Sarah Edwards Hammond Brings Experience, History to Sweetgrass Basket Making at the Sandcastle
Even if you haven’t personally participated, many of you are probably aware of the sweetgrass basket making classes at the Sandcastle. These classes have been offered for years and have become incredibly popular among members. Recent classes in February were so well received that additional classes were scheduled for June 16 and 17 at the Sandcastle (visit kica.us/events for more info). You may not know as much, however, about the class’s instructor, Sarah Edwards Hammond, who comes from a long line of basket makers in the Lowcountry.
Sarah is Mount Pleasant born and bred. Her paternal grandmother was the first of five generations of basket makers in her family, and Sarah learned the art of weaving from her mother-in-law. By the time she was seven years old, she was happy to tag along with her mother and the other women in their circle as they gathered along the highway to weave, exchange stories and market their baskets. She says she was never required to learn the art, but it came naturally as a way of life. The young girls always assisted in carrying materials to the side of the road and setting up the displays.
Sarah’s mother was from the Snowden area of Mount Pleasant but her father came from the Seven Mile area and that is where the family ultimately settled. Both of her daughters know how to make baskets, her daughter Valerie often accompanying Sarah when she teachers some of her numerous classes. Two of her granddaughters also know how to weave and she is teaching her grandchildren.
Although Sarah still finds time to create her trademark original baskets, creations that are both unique and representative of this ancient art, most of her days are spent doing what she loves most – teaching others how to weave. A soft-spoken woman, with a gentle manner and easy-going approach, she nevertheless conducts her classes with the skill of a master. She thoroughly enjoys watching her students of all ages who come in looking a little nervous about a new experience, but eventually relax, weave and enjoy the camaraderie of working on a project in the company of others.
In addition to her adult classes, Sarah teaches third graders in public schools all over South Carolina. She loves to watch the young people who start by learning to make a trivet out of sweetgrass. She says they all want to begin going up the sides right away, but she encourages them to take on the simple project and do it right first. Sarah also teaches at the Juvenile Justice Department in Columbia and recalls a young man who came into class with quite a negative attitude the first time, complaining he did not want to make anything. After a few words with one of the supervisors he settled down to the task and ended up proudly producing his first creation. As they weave the students talk among themselves, sometimes singing and debating about who will receive their baskets as gifts.
Making a sweetgrass basket is an opportunity to learn on so many levels. Regardless of age, students become part of an art with its roots deep in history. They can chat with friends and neighbors around the table in a communal environment. Best of all, they can leave with a small treasure in their hands that will last forever.
If you are interested in checking out one of Sarah’s classes atthe Sandcastle, sign up early as spaces fill up quick. The next classes are taking place June 16-17 from 9:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. All materials are supplied and all levels are welcome. Cost fora class is $50 for members and $60 for non-members. Contact the Sandcastle at [email protected] or 843-768-3875 by Wednesday, June 14 to register.
Article contributed by Digest Member Volunteer Shauneen Hutchinson