Johns Island, SC
Mary Jackson creates sweetgrass baskets, the oldest art form of African origin in the United States. It originated in West Africa and was brought to the United States by slaves who settled in the coastal areas surrounding Charleston, South Carolina. The techniques were traditionally passed down from mother to daughter, and Jackson learned them from her grandmother. She began producing baskets full-time in 1980, developing contemporary designs using traditional techniques. Her baskets have been shown in prestigious craft venues and museums, and are in the collections of Empress Michiko of Japan and Prince Charles. She is a teacher and spokesperson for the art form, which she has updated with new proportions.