”I learned all of the traditional designs from my mother and grandmother, but I wanted to introduce new forms that no one had ever thought about doing…that's what I continue to do” 1 – Mary Jackson
Mary Jackson, a native of the Charleston area, is a fiber artist who specializes in the art of sweetgrass basket weaving. Sweetgrass baskets are an old art form with roots in African ancestry. These baskets were typically used as functional objects to aid in the work of slavery. The art of basketry was passed down from mother to daughter over many generations. As a child, Ms. Jackson learned the technique from her grandmother.
Ms. Jackson is known world-wide for her unique baskets. They are beautiful works of art that express her special talents within this traditional form. While she remains true to the historical and cultural roots of sweetgrass basketry, she is innovative in her use of materials and creation of unique designs.
Ms. Jackson’s work connects her to her family, her culture, her community, and her environment. Her family is involved in the production and presentation of her baskets. The baskets reflect expressions of African American experience. She is a founding member of the Mt. Pleasant Sweetgrass Basket Makers’ Association. She received the Environmental Stewardship Award of Achievement from the South Carolina Aquarium in 2008, recognizing her advocacy for the wetlands where sweetgrass grows.
Ms. Jackson’s baskets have been featured in the Smithsonian, the Vatican, the American Craft Museum, the White House Collection of Arts and Crafts, the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, the Museum of Arts and Design in New York, and the Museum of African American History in Detroit and in the collections of Prince Charles and Empress Michiko of Japan. Her creative genius in basket weaving has also brought her awards like the MacArthur Fellows Program, United States Artists Fellow, and the National Heritage from the National Endowments for the Arts. She has garnered much renown for her work that originates from humble beginnings.