David Baker recently traveled to the South Carolina coast and had a joyous reunion with Sarah Edwards-Hammond, sweetgrass basket maker and Folk School instructor. We asked David (Kaleidoscope instructor, Folk School massage therapist, and Brasstown local) about this magical afternoon. We love to see friendships and connections created on campus and in the studio. Folk School friends last a lifetime! Let’s hear from David…
Sarah Teaching Sweetgrass Basketry in Rock Room
David Making a Sweetgrass Basket in Sarah’s Class in 2013
One of the highlights of my recent South Carolina journey was a visit to see my friend Sarah Edwards-Hammond. On Friday night, I received a call from Sarah saying, “What are you doing in my community and not paying me a visit? I heard from Michele (Powell) that you were here, so when are you coming over?”
Of course, my partner Preston and I were thrilled to hear from Sarah, so we made a date to go to Sarah’s home on Saturday evening. Socially distancing ourselves outside for 3 hours, we visited her under the trees with the salty ocean air blowing. Sarah and I met at John C. Campbell Folk School where she teaches a class every year. It was there that I took her class in 2013 and made my first sweet grass baskets. We have remained friends ever since.
Sarah lives in Mt. Pleasant, SC, right on busy Hwy 17. This is the home of the Gullah people. This land belonged to her ancestors and the road before her home is named after her grandfather, Sam Edwards.The busy road is filled on both sides with little stands that are normally filled with sweetgrass baskets for sale, and inside the stands are usually the makers.
The Beauty of the Marshlands Near Mt. Pleasant, SC
Sand Dollar Collection
Sign at Sarah’s Place
Preston holds some of Sarah’s baskets.
This is a Folk School story that is tied to Folk School connections and relationships. Everyone I mention is connected by Sweetgrass Baskets. I always wanted to take Sarah’s class and finally did in May 2013. In this class, I sat beside Cheryl Prose (another instructor at school). During that week, I made a large round platter-sized basket for my partner, Preston Cook, as a birthday gift for him. One of my favorite memories of Sarah in class is that she would have her back turned at times and she would call us out and say to me, “David! Add some Sweetgrass to your basket!” It was as if she had eyes in the back if her head. During this class, we became instant friends.
Last week, Michele Powell, a former host and work study, asked if Preston and I would like to stay in her house near the South Carolina coast while she was out of town. Currently, Michele assists Sarah at the Folk School, so there’s the basket connection for Michele. Like I mentioned above, Sarah initiated calling me as Michele had told her that I was in town.
Preston and I arrived at her house around 5:30 p.m. Sarah was outside on the phone giving directions to a woman who had driven 3 hours to buy one of her baskets. She had us sit under her beautiful trees. It was 92°, but a gentle breeze from the close by ocean cooled us in the shade. The woman arrived and Sarah took her to a shed behind her house. Sarah only pulled out four baskets when the young lady said, “How much is that one?” That’s the one she wanted, and she gave Sarah her card. The woman told Sarah that she planned to pass this down to her newborn daughter. The lady also said, “I have a lot of bills due, but who cares? I have to have this basket. It means so much.”
This woman drove three hours to purchase one of Sarah’s baskets while we were visiting.
Preston and I looked on in joy for Sarah. Sarah had mentioned earlier on the phone that, like myself, the COVID-19 virus had put a hold on our prosperity. Her family didn’t want her going out to the public, and to be sure that she used social distancing. She is now the matriarch of the family. When Sarah sat down she, Preston, and I talked about everything you could imagine. From family, to ancestors, to the Folk School where we met, we touched on religion, politics, and racism. I had picked up an orchid at Trader Joe’s and gave it to her when I arrived. She loved it. As the evening went from dusk to night, she beckoned us to not rush off.
When it was time to leave at night, still sitting under those lovely trees, I asked as I often do upon parting if we could stand and just say what was on our hearts before we all parted. Each of us spoke from our hearts on her sacred land that was passed down from her ancestors, which were descendants of slaves. And at this very special moment, as we each spoke, we created another weave in the basket that connects us all on the journey we know as life. And as we bid farewell, Sarah climbed the steps to her house with her small white dog that had been with us the whole time. She turned and said, “When these times we are in move on, let’s go out to eat, or better yet, I’ll maybe cook you a meal.”
The next day she called to check on us and wish us well on our journey. See what happens at the Folk School? It weaves you in, and out, and connects us all.
Sunset at Pitts Bridge
Preston in the Marshlands
Sand Dollar Collection
Sarah teaching at the Folk School
About Sarah Edwards-Hammond
Sarah is a native of Mount Pleasant, SC, who carries on a basket-making tradition brought from West Africa by slaves over 300 years ago. She started making sweetgrass baskets at age 7, taught by her mother, the late Mrs. Estelle Edwards, who was taught the craft by her mother. Sarah enjoys teaching adults and children the art of weaving these beautiful heirloom baskets and delights in seeing their finished work. She is on the South Carolina Arts Commission Approved Artist Roster and on the board of directors of the Sweetgrass Cultural Arts Festival.
A Variety of Sweetgrass Baskets Made by Sarah
Watch a Video of Sarah on American Real
Video courtesy of American Real, MAVTV Motorsports Network.
David believes in living every day as if it were his last. His classes are taught from the heart and are guaranteed to take students on a journey of self-discovery. His use of other “media” is spontaneous and unpredictable. (We once saw him put a kaleidoscope inside a jellyroll cake!) David is a massage therapist, nurse, teacher, storyteller, quilter, stained-glass and kaleidoscope artist who believes in the healing power of color. His home studio is in Brasstown, North Carolina. He has taught kaleidoscopes at the Appalachian Center for Craft, and at the Folk School since 2002. Read a Folk School interview with David.