Charmayne Nesbitt


Charleston County, SC


  • Folklife/Traditional Arts
  • Crafts

Geographical Availability

  • Upstate
  • Midlands
  • PeeDee
  • Low Country


Artist Bio:

I was born on July 1, 1969 in Philadelphia, PA. I grew up in the Gullah community St. Helena Island SC, just outside of Beaufort, South Carolina. Taught by a 4th Generation basket weaver, I started making sweetgrass baskets in my late twenties. The tradition and technique of sweetgrass basket weaving has been passed down from one generation to the next, originating with the West African slaves who were brought to coastal South Carolina in the early 1700s. I am best known for my sweetgrass basket weaving using traditional methods combined with contemporary designs. As a graduate from Savannah State University where I majored in Biology, I have always been fascinated with the healthcare field. The arts have also been a major part of my life. After moving to Charleston, SC in 1995 I started exploring the art of Sweetgrass Basketry. I have been making these beautiful art pieces for 23 years. I have baskets all throughout the U.S., South America, Canada and Dubai. It is an honor to practice an art that has been around for over 300 years. I have participated in numerous art shows and festivals to include the Sweetgrass Grass Festival held here in Charleston, SC, Blessing of the Fleet Festival, Cajun Festival just to name a few. I have begun a collaboration with Penn School located in beautiful St. Helena Island, SC. “A Gift from GOD” is a statement often used when exploring the rich history of one of the oldest art forms from West Africa.

Artist Statement:

Approximately around 2001, I was invited to be an instructor at a Sweetgrass Basket class at the home of my cousin A. Manigault for the youth at our church. I politely said to her “how can I teach someone how to make a basket when I had never made one.” After listening to her directions and instructions, I had created my very first Sweetgrass Basket. After that day, I have felt more connected than ever to the ancestors from West Africa. Twenty three years later, I am still creating these beautiful works of art. I especially enjoy the smell of fresh sweetgrass, bulrush, long leaf pine and the palm which comes from our state tree. Working with all natural materials that grows in nature inspires me to push and create baskets. There are hundreds and hundreds of styles to make but some of my popular pieces include the traditional and French bread baskets, Trinity basket, apple pie baskets, elephant ear, coasters, place mats and the Rice Fanner: key word, Rice. It is the big round piece with the flared edge. The fanner was a very crucial piece that evolved during the rice era. The fanner basket is among the most traditional and earliest coiled baskets made by African Americans and was used to separate rice grains from husks when the wind blew.
My work addresses specific themes and issues in a sense that I am playing a pivotal role in keeping this art form alive. This is a traditional generational art that is slowly dying out due to the fact that a lot of the older Basket weavers are transitioning out and a lot of the younger generations are not embracing it. Working in collaboration with the above named organizations will help in land preservation so that we can keep the materials to produce this beautiful art form readily available. “This art is a gift from GOD. What we do with it, is our gift back to HIM.”