Take Off: Mary Jackson, pictured in 1984 with baskets headed for the collection at the Charleston International Airport; it proved to be a pivotal year in her career, as the Gibbes Museum of Art hosted a solo show of her work and she exhibited her baskets at the highly selective Smithsonian Craft Show.
Artful Precision: Jackson’s baskets are true to traditional forms, but she weaves innovative artistry into their execution. Meticulous with her choice of materials and precise in her stitches, Jackson’s work demonstrates restraint and discipline, with hints of whimsy. Jackson is pictured here at the Smithsonian Craft Show in 2006.
One & Done: Commissioned by a patron who later donated it to the Gibbes, Jackson’s Never Again (2007, sweetgrass and palmetto, 42 inches) took three years of intricate work. A masterpiece of craft, the shape harkens back to the traditional flat rice baskets, but takes it to a soaring new level.
Modern Master: When the Gibbes reopened after an extensive renovation in 2016, the modern and contemporary galleries were named in Jackson’s honor. Her pieces are part of the museum’s permanent collection, including (center) Never Again and (right) Cobra with Handle (circa 1980; sweetgrass, bullrush, and palmetto; 15 x 16 inches), as well as (left) Diploma (sweetgrass, bulrush, and palmetto) which is on loan from a private collection.
Profiles in Grass: Photographer Jack Alterman has documented almost all of Jackson’s baskets with portraits that illuminate their distinct personalities and classical sculptural beauty.
Family Enterprise: Jackson credits her husband, Stoney, who specializes in bulrush baskets, for suggesting design ideas. He also harvests her materials and has been a steady presence throughout her career.
Enduring Form: Jackson reveres the versatility of this humble art form across cultures and centuries and collects baskets from around the globe.
Meet the genius, ambassador, advocate, and Lowcountry legend whose many titles and accolades reflect more than half a century dedicated to elevating the art of sweetgrass basketmaking