For Your Inspiration: Charleston’s Angel Oak

ch6My trip to Charleston, SC started almost immediately with a truly fabulous tour given by the incomparable Mr. Al Miller. I had picked up my fellow guest star for the next day’s filming with The Quilt Show, Victoria Findlay Wolfe at the airport and barely had time to check in to the hotel before we hopped the bus and went off on a loopedy-loop trip around the city and it’s neighbors. I’ll introduce Victoria to you in more depth soon.

ch9I knew I was going to be filming on a plantation and had mixed emotions about it. I didn’t feel right about ignoring the issue of slavery even if it is a show about quilts, and not history. I called a few trusted friends who said “don’t rail against slavery, honor the contributions of the local black community.” So I called around ahead of time and found Mr. Miller and commenced to learning something about the black history of the area. It was FABULOUS!!! We took the Porgy & Bess tour, although I didn’t know that was what it was until it was almost over.

ch14Al was a treasure trove of historical knowledge, his non-stop story telling peppered with non-stop instructions, “get a picture of that yellow house on the right side of the bus,” “now get over to the left and take a shot of that!” We were the only ones on the bus so it didn’t matter that we were clambering all over the seats.

There were snippets about houses and slaves and people and politics. There were so many stories that I can’t remember most of them. One of my favorite stops was on a corner to see this house. It’s not really a house – it’s a work of public art that was built for the Spoleto Art Festival in 1991 by the artist David Hammons.

But my very favorite stop was at the Angel Oak tree. After a bit of a drive over to Johns Island dirt roads and spying white squirrels with a black stripe up their back like funny little reverse skunks we pulled up to a little cabin in the woods. As you walk up to this tree you don’t really realize what you are seeing. In the south the undergrowth is always just plain thick.

ch17 But this wasn’t scraggly undergrowth – it was ONE tree. One enormously spread out Southern Live Oak estimated to be over 1500 years old. It is 66 feet tall and shades over 17200 square feet. As I stepped under and over some of the outer branches and came under it’s canopy there was a sense of awe. Then my inner six-year-old needed a mighty and immediate leash to keep me from squealing out loud and going “all monkey” as we call the tree climbing urge around our house. This is a tree climbers paradise – except for all the signs that say absolutely NO CLIMBIN

ch15photo-2Sigh. Very big sigh. I really, really, really wanted to climb way up into it’s highest branches and lay back to feel the wind. (Except the wind was a little on the very cold side.) Ah well. I did find a most gorgeous sweetgrass basket made by the Gullah/Geechee artisans who are the descendants of the areas’ slaves. They are amazing works of art.

I was able to use it in as a prop on my segment for The Quilt Show filming and Ricky Tims was good enough to talk about it during my segment.

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Comments

  1. Peg Howard says:

    Glad you took that tour. I took a tour much the same- that included a stop and visit with Philip Simmons when he was still alive- he was an American Treasure. I lived in Charleston for over 25 years- I still find things to discover and think about every time I visit again. Angel Oak is awesome indeed. Glad you found some joy in your visit. The local baskets are some of my favorite momentos I have from there- Funny thing is- when you live there- you can find them at garage sales-for nearly nothing- I saved as many as I could- lol… Love your work-

  2. OMG! you replied :)… all the best with your quilting. Also, I followed the tutorial on using the copyright free images, but have you noticed that some pictures marked copyright free in the Library of Congress are marked copyright restricted on Wikimedia (The Common). I was sort of confused when I copied several pictures from the Library of Congress and I later discovered that those same pictures were not available. I wanted to email you about the picture issue but I was afraid. 🙂

    P.S. Thank you for your reply & Happy Quilting!

  3. Lyric,
    I read your blogpost and the Angel Oak tree is simply amazing to look at. The tree has so much history and it is just beautiful. The tree looks like a quilt spanning generations. Your post was so thoughtful and engaging, and the history of quilting including slavery should be discussed. Thank you for honoring the contributions of the African American community. As an African American woman, I wish that my great-grandmother were alive in order to see how much quilting has changed in society. My great-grandmother grew up in Tennessee and quilted by hand just to keep her children warm. I am a quilter now because of my great grandmother. Thank you Lyric for considering the whole historical aspect of quilting. I read your blogs from time to time, and I have watched on Quilting Arts. Keep quilting and your blog is GREAT! 🙂

    • Thank you so much for taking time to leave a comment.

      We have a couple of mixed marriages in our family, and my brother studies how higher education works (or doesn’t) for minorities. There are SO many issues that are in the front of my mind that I think simply don’t even show up on the radar for most whites. I’m really thankful that most of my family talks really openly – in a good way – about race. We all learn so much when we take the time to learn about and try to understand both history and our own times from many different perspectives.

      All my best wishes to you – and I’m sure your great grandmother CAN see what is going on in the world of quilting now – and that she finds great joy in the beauty you bring to this world through your art!

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  1. […] SC – The Angel OakCharleston, SC – ArchitectureThe Quilt Show – Magnolia Plantation HistoryThe Quilt Show […]

  2. […] a little bit of my thoughts and feelings about the plantation here.  I was also able to visit the Angel Oak, the most massively beautiful tree I’ve ever been privileged to be in the presence of. The […]

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