You could hunt all over the state for authentic handcrafted folk art representing South Carolina’s rich and diverse cultural heritage.
Located in the Lowcountry just minutes from I-95, the state’s official folk art and craft center is a one-stop showcase for fine handmade crafts of every imaginable variety and media, from Gullah sweetgrass baskets to Southern face jugs, a craft tradition started in Edgefield by African slaves who worked on plantations as potters.
Along with the indigenous folk art created using centuries-old craft techniques, the collection also includes contemporary crafts and two-dimensional art.
Fittingly, the nonprofit gallery is housed in a restored eight-room Victorian cottage built in the late 1800s in Walterboro’s historic district. Inside you’ll find pottery, paintings, jewelry, quilts, mobiles, vases and furnishings, along with “agricultural art” – an assortment of homegrown food products from South Carolina’s own farms and fields.
The handcrafted art collection features the work of more than 300 South Carolina master artisans selected in a two-stage juried process that includes an evaluation by out-of-state professional artists.
Despite the high quality of the wares, the average sales price is a modest $23.
To be sure, there are plenty of pricier items among the collection, including a $3,500 sweetgrass basket made by a well-known Gullah artist using a unique coiling technique handed down from her West African ancestors.
One of the most impressive and expensive items in the center is a $53,000 one-of-a-kind wooden canoe handcrafted by Philip Greene, a local artist who lives just outside town. As much works of art as functional boats, Greene’s canoes are made from exotic and indigenous woods, fetching as much as $160,000 for a commissioned tandem.
As part of its mission to preserve and nurture art inspired by tradition, the Artisans Center also offers educational events throughout the year, including craft demonstrations and art classes. In 2018, the back porch of the house will be transformed into a cafe where visitors can sit outside and enjoy Lowcountry cuisine, coffee and scones, or wine and cheese.
After you’ve browsed through the gallery, be sure to walk down the block to the antique district in Walterboro’s historic downtown. The flagship store among the lot is Bachelor Hill Antiques, the go-to-shop for unusual, show-stop pieces, from vintage theater lights to a child’s tin cupboard with slag glass tea set.
Most of the shops are on East Washington Street where you’ll also find two great throwback lunch spots – Old Bank Christmas & Bakery, located in the old Farmers and Merchants Bank building, and Hiott’s Pharmacy. Opened in 1951, it features an old-fashioned soda fountain serving ice cream, fountain drinks and sandwiches.