I've just returned from a really great week at Spring Island located in the beautiful low-country marshlands of South Carolina. This luxury coastal community is as dedicated to the arts as it is preservation of the land and creating exquisite living spaces, both indoors and out.
I arrived amid a torrential rainstorm but quickly found the cottage where I would be staying, thanks to my wonderful host for the week, a resident and member of the organization on the island which coordinates artist visits. She not only got me settled in my accommodations but insisted I have lunch at her home and then run out for a quick tour of the island once the rain cleared. We did and my introduction to the beauty of the island began.
If you've never been to Spring Island - or any of the southern barrier islands for that matter - they are like entering a primordial forest of wonder. As you can see from the pictures here, the vegetation is lush with towering live oak trees, spanish moss dripping from every tree and vines so plentiful, it made this basketmaker wish for another week just to explore the beauty! I also encountered the long-leaf pine and quintessential South Carolina palmetto, both of which don't grow here in the mountains. A welcome change.
During my time on the island, most of my days were filled with teaching a group of 10 students who are all residents - either seasonal or full time - of the island. We created a variety of different baskets, many of which were made from materials we harvested right there on the island. My evenings were filled with lovely times of food, wine and conversation around the table with new friends either in homes or at the Spring Island Club. On Wednesday night, the club hosted a very well attended artist reception for me in their Gathering Room overlooking the marsh and Thursday I was honored to give the "Trust Talk" to a packed house sponsored by the Spring Island Trust, where I shared my work and entertained questions from the audience.
My last day on the island, I was treated to a wine and cheese reception at the home of one of my students, who happened to become one of my clients. I was pleased to be able to install a beautiful wall hanging in their entry; the perfect addition to an already beautiful home.
So, as you can tell my time on Spring Island was very special. The best parts were connecting with all the people who made my experience so wonderful, selling my work to folks who loved it and experiencing the land. The second best? Being invited back!
For more information on Spring Island, check out their website at http://springisland.com/
Matt Tommey is a sculptural basketry artist working in Asheville, North Carolina's River Arts District.