Gift For A Gardener + Backstory

Gift For A Gardener, 2019
Handwoven Charleston Palmetto Roses, palm leaves, wood, brick
82 x 48 x 20 in.

In the Lowcountry, the rose is both a vibrant wildflower and an intricate craft. For the 19th century African American women, it was a tool for beautifying the yard. It was uprooted from surrounding woodlands and replanted to created elaborate gardens that acted as vibrant buffers from the outside world. For 20th century women, commonly known as the Flower Ladies, the rose was an entrepreneurial tool. It was transported from its rural home to Charleston's historic district and sold as a colorful decoration to locals and tourists. The enterprise was prohibited in the mid 20th century because selling tactics proved too aggressive for the gentile city. But, its removal led to the ascension of a new form of the wildflower, the Charleston Palmetto Rose.

The Charleston Palmetto Rose has become a dominant motif in my work. I use it to chronicle a history of African America tradition, elevate the work of local artisans, and to extend the use of creative adaptation. Gift for a Gardener is not just a configuration of place and practice, it is an expansion of traditional craft into the local artistic discourse. It is within this discourse, an area predicated on the preservation of ideas and practices, that the Palmetto Rose reclaims its status as an unregulated cultural asset.

Gift for a Gardener is a ceremonial totem that pays homage to African American horticultural expertise and long-standing entrepreneurial strategies.

- Fletcher Williams III