Monday, April 11, 2011

Gullah Sweetgrass Baskets

My consignment client recently gave me some Gullah baskets to sell on eBay. The above photo is the actual basket – isn’t it gorgeous! These baskets have a rich history and can be quite valuable because they are very labor intensive to make. If you are not from the South, you may not be familiar with these baskets and the rich tradition surrounding Gullah. Here is a short history on this craft and how these baskets came to be.

South Carolina and Georgia carry a rich cultural history, blended from European and African culture. Slaves in the coastal areas of these states, originally from West Africa, brought their traditions to the United States and assimilated them into the unique culture known as Gullah. Many of the elements of this culture have survived to the present time, and local artisans practice handiwork that is highly valued by collectors worldwide.

One such tradition that has been preserved for decades is the sewing of Gullah sweetgrass baskets. These baskets, made of bundled and coiled sweetgrass, are sewn together by hand using thin strips of the saw palmetto plant. The baskets, made entirely of plant material, are handcrafted from bulrushes, sweetgrass, and pine needles. The various plants are combined to create attractive colors and patterns.
Gullah sweetgrass baskets, today, are a precious art form and prized by collectors. Many of the basket makers are located around the coast of South Carolina and the local artisan work is quite popular with collectors and tourists alike. The baskets are both durable and useful, and serve many purposes around the home. Some baskets are used for utilitarian reasons, holding keys, bread, or fruit. Others are displayed proudly in glass cases as beautiful collections of art, demonstrating the skill and craftsmanship of the artisans who created them. 

The most complex Gullah baskets may take weavers months to complete, and many such baskets now reside in the collections of private individuals and museums, including the Smithsonian Museum of American History. The creation of the baskets has been threatened, however, by coastal development. The habitat for the sweetgrass used to make the baskets is slowly being eliminated. The Historical Society of Charleston is working to establish nature reserves to protect the sweetgrass itself, along with the cultural tradition and rich history of Gullah sweetgrass baskets.

I learned a lot by selling this item for my consignment client. I had never come across one of these baskets before and did not know the history. This is one of the huge benefits of selling on consignment – you will be provided with items to sell that you never would have found on your own.
Click here for more information on how to get started with selling on consignment – an easy way to expand your product knowledge with zero cost for inventory. You can gain valuable knowledge and experience selling things that belong to other people.

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