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Shop at Drayton Hall Artisan Spotlight: The Works of Henrietta Snype

Art, Shop at Drayton Hall

drayton hall best plantation to see charleston scARTISAN SPOTLIGHT

Henrietta Snype

A native of Mount Pleasant, Henrietta Snype began learning the art of weaving sweetgrass baskets at the age of seven from her mother and grandmother. Her extraordinary skill in this traditional Gullah craft made her a celebrated artist for the singular and extraordinary objects she creates; Each a different and meaningful statement of survival and history woven tightly into a high art form.

The Lowcountry tradition of Sweetgrass basket making originated with a technique that originated in Western Africa. Baskets made here were almost identical in style to the baskets created historically in Sierra Leone, where learning to coil baskets “so tightly they could hold water” was an important rite of passage in West African tribes. This basket-making tradition came to South Carolina in the 17th century, carried here through the knowledge of enslaved West African people who were brought to North America to work on plantations. The climate and landscape of South Carolina, resembles that of West Africa and the knowledge of the enslaved people from that area was advantageous to plantation owners in South Carolina. .

Like many from the small Gullah communities of Four Mile, Six Mile, Seven Mile, Hamlin, and Phillips in Mount Pleasant, Ms. Snype grew up making baskets.She learned various techniques by watching, listening, and practicing. Today, Ms. Snype’s skill is universally recognized and revered. Her basketry work is exhibited in many museums, most notably the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African Art.

Ms. Snype views her work as a testament to the strength and longevity of Gullah people and her African ancestors. The benefit of her skills and memory have been passed on to her children and grandchildren and she has taught her artistry to the interested of every age at art institutes, preservation societies, and schools with an exhaustive commitment to demonstrations and classes throughout the nation. Her workshops provide instruction in the craft and generations of windows into its equally important history. Ms. Snype also speaks widely on our changing Lowcountry environment and the importance of the impacts of environmental decisions and changes that have forced her to learn how to adapt her art to the changing landscape of gentrification that has limited access to the once-abundant Lowcountry sweetgrasses.

The Shop at Drayton Hall carries Ms. Snype’s baskets for purchase, the next time you visit you will see them proudly displayed throughout the shop. Click below to see available styles in our online store.