Taking sweetgrass basket tradition into the future with 3D app

VIDEO: Taking sweetgrass basket tradition into the future with 3D app

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - One local artisan is taking a technological twist on a craft that's hundreds of years old.

"Basically I'm taking a 17th century art form...bringing it to new modern day technology," sweetgrass basket weaver Corey Alston said.

Alston, who has been refining his craft for the past 14 years and holds a booth in the Charleston City Market, developed the "Build Your Sweetgrass Basket" app.

The 3D customizable design app is part of his effort to help keep the Gullah tradition alive.

"I'm fifth generation by marriage," Alston said, adding his wife taught him to weave more than a decade ago.

"The art form has always been heard or told to be a dying art form," Alston said. "'What can I do to change that? What can I do to make this an ongoing proud heritage?'"

Alston worked with a web developer to create the "Build Your Sweetgrass Basket" app.

"It's a great way to keep the culture alive," Alston said. "A lot of us locals we miss it. We don't realize how unique the art form is until we move or we see it on PBS or read about it in an article on National Geographic."

The app also lets customers participate in the creative process.

"I think it's a good way to expand it in the future,' Lori Shelton, visiting from Easley, S.C., said. "Charleston is known to be such a historic city but this is going to allow people who never visit here to get a piece that's unique.  For him to be able to design it just for what I'm looking for, is just amazing."

The app, which can be downloaded for free, lets users pick their design and customize to their taste.

"The width, the height, the shape that they want," Alston said. "Put a handle on it, put a decorative sides on it as they like it at home on the 3D configuration.  They can hit 'buy now' and I can create it and ship it out. I wanted to take this culture and make it accessible for people worldwide."

It's part of Alston's effort to take one of the Lowcountry's rich traditions to the future at the same time.

"It's just new technology on an old craft," Alston said.

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