Charleston is hot. We’re not just talking temperature or the fact that it continues to be named the best city in the country.
It's also a hotbed for local artisans who are returning to old Southern traditions – and creating new ones.
"The city is so rich with creative and unique talent, our store now focuses exclusively on local makers and their incredible crafts," said Andy Archie, Director of Retail Operations at the Preservation Society of Charleston. "The Makers program was envisioned as a way to provide a storefront on King Street for the many makers who couldn’t afford to be there on their own."
You can also find work by local craftspeople at Charleston City Market, at shops throughout the city and, for those who can’t visit in person, online.
Here are ten of Charleston’s best:
Corey Alston Gullah Sweetgrass Baskets
Sweetgrass basket weaver Corey Alston at Charleston City Market — Photo courtesy of Corey Alston Gullah Sweetgrass Baskets
Sweetgrass basket weaving is a proud tradition of the Gullah culture which Corey Alston is determined to keep alive and relevant.
A fifth generation weaver, Alston handcrafts these historically significant baskets outside the Charleston City Market. The coiled woven basket style was originally introduced to the Lowcountry by enslaved Africans who used the baskets for rice cultivation. After they were emancipated, they continued to weave these lovely baskets for their own household use.
Alston’s one-of-a-kind baskets, which he can customize for you, are pieces of art – and pieces of history.
Wine-scented candle from Rewined — Photo courtesy of Charleston Area CVB, ExploreCharleston.com
Raise a glass to these great-looking and great-smelling candles made from hand-cut repurposed wine bottles.
Adam Fetsch founded Rewined after working in a restaurant and seeing thousands of wine bottles being discarded. At home, he started blending natural soy wax with custom fragrances to mimic the notes of popular varietals from cabernet and Chardonnay to Pinot grigio and zinfandel.
Rewined candles are now sold in more than 1300 shops. For oenophiles, they’re, well...intoxicating.
Brackish Bow Ties
Handcrafted feather bow ties from Brackish — Photo courtesy of Brackish
Southern gentlemen know a thing or two about bow ties, which seem to be popping up on men all over the country, thanks to Brackish.
In 2007, Ben Ross created a set of turkey feather bow ties as unique gifts for the groomsmen in his wedding. Today, he and Jeff Plotner – one of those groomsmen – personally choose each sustainably-sourced feather and work with a team of artisans who handcraft one-of-a-kind pieces of wearable works of art. These masterpieces reflect and respectfully repurpose the beauty of nature.
No wonder their signature wood packaging is becoming as highly-coveted as that little blue box. (P.S. They also make amazing feather earrings.)
Handmade bags by Libby Mitchell from Add Libb — Photo courtesy of Add Libb
Southern girls love their purses, and Libby Mitchell offers a variety of styles for every occasion. Using materials that beg to be touched, she’ll even custom design a bag just for you, giving you the option of adding a chain, standard leather or adjustable leather strap, as well as gold, nickel or antique brass hardware.
Every one of Add Libb’s gorgeous handbags is lovingly made by Mitchell in her Charleston studio, so you know you’re in good hands. Order one (or two), but be prepared to continually answer the question, "Where did you get that bag?"
Goldbug Collection from Croghan's Jewel Box
Goldbug collection by Mini Hay at Croghan's Jewel Box — Photo courtesy of Croghan's Jewel Box
A Charleston institution for more than a century, Croghan’s Jewel Box is the oldest family-owned jewelry store in the city.
Representing its fourth generation, Mini Hay designed a line of jewelry and accessories to honor Charleston’s unofficial mascot, the Palmetto bug (known, not quite as affectionately in other parts of the world, as the cockroach). Her quirky yet surprisingly elegant Goldbug collection is named after a short story by Edgar Allan Poe, who wrote it while living on nearby Sullivan’s Island.
The gilded bugs are becoming as omnipresent as their real-life counterparts, although they’ve received a much warmer reception.
Continue reading below...
Handcrafted cast iron skillet from Smithey — Photo courtesy of Smithey Ironware
Led by what he calls a "mild obsession" with vintage cast iron, Isaac Morton started Smithey because no one was making modern cast iron skillets with that same smooth surface finish he had come to admire and appreciate.
Each Smithey cast iron skillet is finished by both hand and machine, receiving hours of attention and polished to a glassy smooth cook surface, making it naturally non-stick and easier to clean. These skillets are built to last and designed to become heirlooms, passed down with a rich history of all the meals that nourished a family set into its foundation.
Lune Mer Porcelain
Ceramics from Lune Mer Porcelain — Photo courtesy of Lune Mer Porcelain
Artists Rena Lasch and Ruth Ballou teamed up in 2014, and their delight in the unpredictable results of their collaboration – with both each other and the porcelain clay they use to create functional ceramics and sculpture – is infectious.
Their beautifully-shaped vases are ideal for showing off Charleston’s signature camellias, and their patterned mugs, filled with splashes of color and texture, are the perfect way to start the day. For a real boost, be sure to pick up a pair of matching mug earrings.
Yoga tote from J. Stark — Photo courtesy of J. Stark
Paying tribute to Jim Stark, James Dean’s iconic character in Rebel Without a Cause, Erik A. Holmberg creates timeless bags and wallets that become even more treasured with age, reflecting a life well-lived.
Made of practical yet sophisticated wax canvas, these artisan-quality totes and weekenders combine form and function to take you wherever you need to go – in style. The yoga tote is especially brilliant, with a handy sleeve for your mat, beach towel, umbrella, whatever.
Made by real people for real people, these durable bags may just achieve what Dean himself always aspired to: immortality.
Handmade jewelry from Hermosa Jewelry — Photo courtesy of Hermosa Jewelry
Haley Keisler has been designing jewelry since she was twelve years old, and her passion is obvious in every head-turning piece.
Hand-selected semi-precious gemstones, vintage finds and unique clasps are just a few of the ingredients she mixes together with a totally Southern flair. Check out her must-have tassel earrings, which you'll want in every color, and her new collaboration with fifth generation sweetgrass weaver, Henrietta Snype. You'll immediately understand why her company is named Hermosa.
CHI Design Indigo
Shibori and Katazome linen pillows dyed with indigo grown in South Carolina from CHI design indigo — Photo courtesy of CHI design indigo
Textile designer and natural dyer, Caroline Harper, celebrates the revival of indigo production in South Carolina with beautiful hand-dyed clothing, pillows and table linens made with her own natural indigo dye.
Deeply rooted in Charleston history, indigo was one of the major crops grown on plantations in the 18th century. In fact, it was so important, it was used as the background of the state flag. Harper remains true to Lowcountry culture, working with cloth woven from natural fibers to create an indigo renaissance.
As her collection of shibori-inspired pieces continues to garner attention, having the blues is suddenly something to desire.