TraditionsProjectLearn more about the Artists.


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AFS - American Folklore Society
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Alkaline-Glaze - A glaze consisting of ground clay, sand, and wood ash. Numerous variations include the use of lime, flint and glass. Mixed with water, the glaze becomes a creamy suspension into which unglazed pots are dipped prior to firing. Edgefield, South Carolina is considered the birthplace of the alkaline-glaze pottery tradition in America.

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Applique - A quilting process, involves sewing small pieces of cloth to a solid layer of material to form a patchwork design.

Apprentice - A person who studies with a master artist, learning first-hand about that artist’s skills, traditions, and culture. An apprenticeship is both in-depth and gradual, involving both verbal and hands-on instruction, as the apprentice learns the intricacies of the tradition being taught. A successful apprenticeship requires a tremendous commitment of time and energy from both participants.

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Ballad - A narrative folksong that tells a story of drama, adventure, or love. A ballad usually focuses on specific event in a sensational manner. Songs can also be about historical events and characters, although ballads are usually undateable, reflecting their fluid nature and basis in a preceding tradition.

Banjo - The banjo is almost always a 5-string instrument and the fifth or thumb string is mounted next to the bass string and is not fretted, but is usually tuned to the tonic or fifth of the key in use. It's traditionally played with a fingerpicking style rather than with a pick. There are two basic banjo styles, the frailing style, generally used for old-time songs and dance music, and the clawhammer or Scruggs style, generally used for bluegrass as well as other tunes. The banjo is said to be based on similar African instruments and is also said to be the only true American instrument.

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Billet - A small stick of wood, as in white oak cut for a basket.

Bones - Two “bones” held loosely in the hand produce a loud rhythmic clacking noise when the hand is shaken or the bones are passed along the fingers of the open hand. Usually played for fast dance tunes and can be compared to “playing spoons.”

Cast Net - A fishing net which is operated by one person throwing or "casting" the net out over the water. The net then sinks, catching fish beneath it as it falls through the water. Traditionally made by hand, each one can take a talented maker several days to weave. Once a thriving industry along the coast, there are only a few cast net makers actively working in South Carolina today.

Clogging - Or “step-dancing.” Generally done to fiddle tunes and usually in groups of four or more, the steps are energetic and rhythmic, but less flamboyant than tap dancing. There are several types of clogging, including flatfoot and buckdancing.

Community - A specific group of people who share a worldview that is based on cultural, biological, or ethnic shared traditions, constituting a folk group.

Country Dancing - A communal dance with European origins, that gave birth to the American squaredance. Another variant is the contra-dance. Country dances are usually performed in lines, with the participants crossing over or swinging partners. Contra-dancing is more structured than the energetic country dance, and the dancers often wear costumes.

Digital Image - An electronic photograph scanned from an original document, made up of a set of picture elements ("pixels"). Each pixel is assigned a tonal value (black, white, a shade of gray, or color) and is represented digitally in binary code (zeros and ones). The term "image" does not imply solely visual materials as source material; rather, a digital image is simply a representation of whatever is being scanned, whether it be manuscripts, text, photographs, maps, drawings, blueprints, halftones, musical scores, 3-D objects, etc.

Digital Preservation - Refers to the series of managed activities necessary to ensure continued access to digital materials for as long as necessary. Digital preservation refers to all of the actions required to maintain access to digital materials beyond the limits of media failure or technological change.

Dobro - In the 1920s, popular music was going through an extraordinary transformation. The recent emergence of the Hawaiian steel guitar added to this new, complex musical environment. As music became louder and instrumentation more complex, the need for mechanical amplification of the standard six string guitar was evident. The story of the Dobro revolves around two brothers, Slovakian immigrants John and Rudy Dopyera. The brothers perfected a design involving three aluminum cones, or resonators, and a metal body to increase amplification. They then produced a wood-bodied version that was marketed under the name Dobro, combining the words DOpyera and BROthers. The popularity of the Dobro and resonator guitar lasted until the mid-1930s, when a shift towards electric guitars gained momentum.

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Documentation - The systematic collection of research materials via writing, interviewing, audio and video recording, and photography. Involves a variety of ethical issues that must be addressed from the outset, including the clear establishment of intent and a defined relationship between interviewer/interviewee.

Drawknife - a hand tool with two wooden handles and a metal blade used for splitting or cleaving wood. Using both hands, the user can produce thin strips of wood or remove unwanted layers from a large piece of stock. Used with a shaving horse.

Fiddle - A four-stringed instrument played by drawing a bow across the strings. While the same as a violin, the term fiddle has become more a way to define a style of play than the instrument itself.

Fieldwork - Methods and ways folklorists and other social scientists use to identify and document traditional culture through directly observing tradition bearers and cultural processes.

Folk Music - Gospel, bluegrass, string band, blues - South Carolina is home to a wide variety of dynamic folk music. This music is community-based, learned and played in the family room, local church, social club, or street corner. Both sacred and secular, it reflects the strong interplay between African American and EuroAmerican musical traditions. Early African American spirituals, church hymnody, and blues formed the basis for the rise of gospel music in the 1930s. During the late 1800s, the Piedmont provided fertile ground for the cultivation of music traditions that combined Scots-Irish fiddle and balladry with African instruments like banjo and European guitar and mandolin. String band music was social music, played at dances, contests, and other community occasions. Musicians are also storytellers, performing songs of tragedy and revenge, love and friendship.

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Green Split - wood split from a freshly cut tree, before it has the opportunity to dry.

Hash - Like other southern stews, hash developed out of a need to turn leftovers, scraps and whatever one could find into a palatable one-pot dish. While hash variations are countless, three very loosely defined geographic regions can be identified. Lowcountry hash can consist of hogsheads and organ meats like pork liver, cooked down in a stock favoring vinegar and ketchup. Vegetables can include onions, corn, and diced potatoes. Hash from the Midlands typically consists of leaner pork cuts combined with onions, cooked in a mustard-based stock. Finally, upstate hash is largely beef-based with onions, butter, and no dominant ketchup, vinegar, or mustard base. Usually served over rice, hash is more than a mere accompaniment to barbecue and maintains an important role as a congregational food.

JAF - Journal of American Folklore
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Lay By - 1) complete the plowing, planting, and weeding of crops; 2) wait for the harvest.

Mandolin - The mandolin familiar to bluegrass enthusiasts is a small instrument with four pairs of strings tuned exactly the same as a violin. The sound is abrupt and players typically strum very fast, making it ideal for the rapid solos inherent to bluegrass. Two major types of mandolin forms include the F-style and the “Teardrop.” Bill Monroe popularized the mandolin and it is a key instrument in bluegrass music.

Patchwork - Needlework made of odd patches of cloth or other material sewn together.

Piecing - Sewing together small pieces of cloth to form a patchwork design.

Ribs - In basketmaking, splits used to support and shape the basket.

Shape-Note Singing - An a capella style of religious music. Instead of reading music by the placement of the notes on the staff, shape-note singers sound out the tune by reading the shapes - square, diamond, and triangle - associated with certain notes. It is also referred to as Sacred Harp singing, a reference to an early book of hymns with shape-note notation.

Shaving Horse - Usually made from unfinished stock or logs, a shaving horse provides support on which to clamp or hold materials being worked by a carpenter or basketmaker.

Split - (verb) to separate into two or more parts along the grain; (noun) a thin strip of wood flexible enough to be used in weaving a basket.

Sweetgrass - Sweetgrass (Muhlenbergia filipes) grows in bands near the high tide line in undulating sand dunes on the coast from North Carolina to Texas. Occasionally, plants are found growing on well-drained, sandy uplands bordering brackish marshes and in open maritime forests. Sweetgrass grows on many of the barrier islands along South Carolina's coast – Kiawah, Seabrook, Dewees, Bulls, Fripp, and Hilton Head.

White Oak (quercus alba) - an American oak of the eastern United States; particularly useful to basketmakers because of the open ducts in the annual growth rings which allow it to be flexible as well as strong.