Lowcountry native Angela Stoneworth learned to create sweetgrass baskets in early childhood while working alongside her grandmother and mother.
Later, her husband and business partner, Darryl Stoneworth, began to learn the art form and, in 2009, DNA Baskets and DNA Sweetgrass Baskets were born.
“I raised my children by creating baskets,” Angela Stoneworth points out. “There were nights when I stayed up sewing rather than sleeping.”
“Sewing” refers to how the baskets are woven together, using threads of sweetgrass and a tool, usually either a fork or spoon handle with the mouth cut off. In fact, Darryl Stoneworth wears a basket-weaving tool around his neck, a silver token of his devotion to the art form.
Making the baskets—and other types of basketry and furnishings out of this Southern bounty—is a careful process, which begins with harvesting grass from the fields along the South Carolina/Georgia border. Besides sweetgrass, materials used in custom pieces include palm fronds and long leaf pine needles. Interestingly, Darryl Stoneworth is one of the first sweetgrass artists to incorporate palm and pine needles for the purpose of creating intricate designs.
“I think it’s creativity that has brought us success,” Stoneworth comments. “When I started paying attention to other baskets, I noticed similarity. But I rarely make the same basket twice— each piece has its own style.”
Angela, too, puts her own special touch on every basket. Each comes with a poem she wrote called “Gifted Hands.” A few pieces come with an additional poem, if they have a story behind them.
“In order to keep the culture of basketmaking alive, we seek to show our unique creativity as artists,” she explains.
Though the Stoneworths have been part of various organized markets—including downtown Charleston (for five years) and a kiosk at Northwoods Mall—the couple currently shares their work through the company website and private presentations.
When they aren’t creating and sharing baskets, Angela and Darryl make it a point to seek out artists like themselves— those who revere the history and meaning of sweetgrass design. They’re also involved in teaching their own children and passing down a rich heritage that has evolved through the generations.
“It’s our family craft,” Darryl says.
Marie Sebastian is a freelance writer based in Charleston.