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September 12, 2013 Posted by | Post & Courier | Leave a comment

Jewelry still holds fascination for owner of Beaded Venus

Jewelry still holds fascination for owner of Beaded Venus

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Jennifer Lowe’s been bent over beads since she was old enough to break into her mother’s jewelry box.

Lowe, owner of Beaded Venus, a bead and jewelry shop on Chuck Dawley Boulevard, doesn’t remember it, but she got hold of one of her mother’s rings, and an opal vanished. A self-deprecating Lowe holds up her hands to her face and says she assumes it disappeared into an orifice.

True beading came a few years later. She restrung beads and old broken things her family gave her. When she was old enough, she would drive to thrift stores and buy $1 bags of jewelry, an assortment of necklaces, broken chains and old watches.

Lowe says she always thought she’d work for the Foreign Service and graduated with a degree in international studies, but that didn’t work out.

She found herself moving from restaurants to home decor and furniture stores and finally put her hobby to work becoming a manager of a bead shop in Columbia.

She took a workshop with artist Joyce Scott in 1998 where she started “Venus on the Halfshell,” a prize-winning foot-tall peyote-stitched sculpture of the goddess. So when Lowe decided to open a shop of her own in Mount Pleasant in 2002, she already had part of the name. The shop, an old pink house, home to the Beaded Venus, was exactly what she wanted, at least from the outside. It was close enough to downtown Charleston that tourists could find her but still had room for parking.

Lowe spends most days at the shop repairing other people’s jewelry and teaching customers how they can fix or make their own if they don’t already know how.

She makes her own jewelry, artistic pieces that cost hundreds of dollars, at night from her North Charleston home. Necklaces with names such as “Strange Fruit” and “Sea Foam” are for sale in her shop along with $5 reproduction pieces. Beads from the globe can be found along the walls and in counter bins ranging in price from dimes to dollars. One bead behind a glass case called a Venetian chevron goes for $300. Lowe purchased it from an artist at one of her annual Venetian bead trunk sales.

Lowe said balancing artistry with business is one of her greatest challenges. She’s a businesswoman but not so good with numbers.

“I’m an artist. I’m not an accountant,” she says.

She also may be too nice. She gives out free advice, only to learn that her customers have opened their own bead businesses or have begun teaching classes of their own.

She shrugs, “But that’s what I do. I’m a teacher.”

She likes to show people who walk into the shop saying they can’t make anything that they are more creative than they realize. She or an employee tells them to peruse the walls of beads and pick out a few.

“We take you from there,” Lowe said.

Reach Jessica Miller at 937-5921.

February 5, 2011 Posted by | Post & Courier | Leave a comment

Students discover South Carolina for Halloween

History event substitutes for trick-or-treat party as Pinckney Elementary pupils learn about state heritage

By Jessica Johnson

The Post and Courier

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Charles Pinckney Elementary School’s Taste of South Carolina was a Halloween party in disguise.

Teachers dressed in costumes for Red Ribbon Week to say “Boo” to drugs. Third-grade students wore face paint, fake tattoos and pirate eye patches while making Native American masks, all while learning about South Carolina history.

In the past, some parents kept children at home on Halloween to dodge the celebration in hopes of avoiding candy, games and parties, said third-grade teacher Bridgette Marques.

So rather than having a Halloween celebration, the Taste of South Carolina is held the Friday nearest Halloween and focuses on state heritage, bringing up plenty of old ghosts.

Susan Fitz, a retired principal, dressed as a pirate, told third-graders about the story of Blackbeard. The pirate, Edward Teach, seized the city of Charleston in 1718, demanding supplies to restock ships, Fitz said. The blockade went on for days.

“Without firing a shot, we got everything we wanted,” she said.

Maybe it was the flag. Fitz showed the pirate’s banner, decorated with a skeleton stabbing a heart.

“What does that mean?” she asked.

Third-grader Reed Way raised his hand.

“They will kill anybody,” he said.

Students moved from room to room, where presenters incorporated activities with educational lessons. Marques called it taking six field trips at once.

The day began with Queen Quet, a professional storyteller and spokeswoman for the Gullah-Geechee Nation.

Then children learned about the state’s Catawba Indians and the pottery they made, as well as their pots and masks.

Sewee Visitor and Environmental Education Center educators taught students about the state’s birds and how their beaks and feet have adapted to help them survive. Then students dressed up like birds.

There were no tricks or treats except maybe the fake $50 Confederate bill presenter Bob Whitley passed out while dressed as a gray-coated infantry soldier at a camp outside the school.

Whitley talked to students about the reasons the war started: taxes and slavery. He also told of the hardships faced by Charleston residents when federal troops bombarded the city for 587 days.

His wool uniform was similar to what a Charleston soldier of the time might have worn. That and his Tower Enfield rifle were so convincing that one third-grader raised her hand to ask, “Were you in the Civil War?”

Whitley intended to wear the uniform as his Halloween costume.

But back indoors, Randy Burbage of the Hunley Commission, created by the state to restore and preserve the Confederate submarine H.L. Hunley, said his presentation had nothing to do with Halloween.

Teacher Jane Bullard said the Taste of South Carolina really isn’t about the holiday either.

Instead of candy, students sampled Lowcountry food such as collard greens, red beans and rice, shrimp and grits, peach cobbler, fried chicken, Carolina rice and sweet tea.

Most students didn’t like all the food, but they tried it all.

“Really it is just a taste and that’s about it,” Marques said.

Reach Jessica Johnson at 937-5921 or at

Copyright © 1995 – 2010 Evening Post Publishing Co.

November 13, 2008 Posted by | Post & Courier | Leave a comment

Sea veterans from Laffey refurbishing destroyer

Sea veterans from Laffey refurbishing destroyer

By Jessica Johnson

The Post and Courier

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The bunks that former destroyer Laffey seamen sleep on are a little thicker and lined with medicine bottles, but the camaraderie is as strong as they remember.

Twelve guys, most members of the USS Laffey Association, spent their days last week restoring the 65-year-old ship and spent their nights camping out in their former Navy ship sleeping quarters, now updated with air conditioning.

Twice a year, Laffey Association members come from across the country to repair the old ship, part of the Patriots Point Naval and Maritime Museum, situated just east of the aircraft carrier Yorktown. The association provides the food, Patriots Point provides the materials and the former shipmates do the work.

“It’s all a labor of love,” said Charlie Hall Jr., Patriots Point media and public relations manager. “It’s their ship.”

The men’s work helps keep the steel destroyer in shape. They are saving it as they once did in the service.

World War II veteran Ari Phoutrides was serving as a quartermaster on the bridge on April 16, 1945, the day the Laffey got its nickname: “The Ship That Wouldn’t Die.”

During the Battle of Okinawa, Japanese bombers and kamikaze pilots attacked the destroyer and other naval ships. The Laffey took five kamikaze hits and four bombs. A fifth bomb nearly hit the ship, but Phoutrides saw it coming. Men were busy blasting at attacking planes coming from one side. When a plane carrying a bomb came from the other, Phoutrides first saw the speck in the sky.

“It got bigger and bigger and bigger,” he said.

When he realized it was a plane carrying a bomb, he struck an officer to get his attention, pounding on his thick vest.

Then by some miracle, Phoutrides said, a gunner swung around and took two shots, striking the plane on its nose just 100 yards from the ship. It was one of nine planes the destroyer hit.

Phoutrides, 83, loves to tell the story. He drew a map of the attack afterward, he served as the official recorder, and he calls the 32 men who died that day heroes.

Phoutrides jokes to Sonny Walker, the Laffey Association’s president, that after the attack, Walker turned the destroyer into a cruise ship. Walker served as a radioman 1960-63, traveling in the Caribbean, the Mediterranean and the Red seas.

Cruises continued until 1975 when the Laffey was decommissioned and spent a brief period waiting for the cutting torch before the association was able to save the ship and bring it to Patriots Point for preservation in 1981.

Former sailors of the Laffey will meet in Charleston on Oct. 8 for the ship’s annual reunion, but a paint-flecked Phoutrides of Portland, Ore., said he prefers the work sessions. During repairs, tourists stop to listen to the men as they talk about their days on the ship.

“They learn about the ship. They know it has a story,” Walker said. “It’s not just a piece of steel sitting there.”

Just 30 association members are left. The remaining men bring sons and grandchildren and pass on the paintbrush, their stories and the desire to keep the ship in shape, Walker said.

Phoutrides’ son, Stephen Phoutrides, came to the work session for a second time, and said he enjoys the friendships formed between the former sailors most.

“The bonds are so close … because they cared about something bigger than themselves,” Stephen Phoutrides said.

Copyright © 1995 – 2010 Evening Post Publishing Co

September 18, 2008 Posted by | Post & Courier | Leave a comment

Artisan teaches students to sew sweetgrass baskets

Artisan teaches students to sew sweetgrass baskets
By     jessica      johnson

Thursday,June 26, 2008
“Who’s next?” Harriet Bailem Brown calls out to a line of children circled around

A dozen children ages 7-12 stand around a table in the G.M. Darby Building
waiting for Brown, their sweetgrass basket instructor, to show them what to
do next.

It’s the fourth day of a five-day sweetgrass basketry camp, and some of the
baskets are almost finished.

Brown was much younger than most kids in the room when she first coiled
sweetgrass, stitching it together with palmetto strips. She learned to weave at
age 4, 68 years ago.

“It wasn’t a pleasure for me, it was a must,” Brown said.
Making the baskets has been Brown’s livelihood for almost as     long as she can
remember. She continued to sew baskets even while she worked as a fabric presser
in New York City, ironing clothes for Macy’s Department Store windows. She sent
her works back home to her mother, who sold them at a family basket stand on
Long Point Road.

She came back to the Lowcountry in 1968 and has been a teacher for almost as

“Try not to snap a stitch,” Brown says to the children.

She shows students one at a time how to weave, and still keeps track of the
fidgeting kids behind her.

“I      know that was Jack,” she says, trying to get them to behave. A few
minutes later, the boys are restless again. Brown hears a soft thud, and then

“Billy? What happened, Billy?” Brown says.

The boy answers, “Nothing,” then climbs back into his chair.

“Oh, something happened, Billy,” she says.

She doesn’t look back but adds in new grass to a waiting student’s basket,
pushing it through pale palmetto loops and tightening the grass into place with
another palmetto strip.

Brown makes the baskets’ first coils, which she calls starters, for young students.

“The beginning is the hardest part,” Brown said.

The first knots are too complicated for a child to master in just five days.

At the end of each two-hour class, students take their basket homes to sew a few
more rows. Some days, they make a lot of headway, but not always.

“Some days,      you are just not always up to it,” said Rebecca Forry, 10, of
North Carolina, who was visiting her grandparents in Mount Pleasant.

Rebecca wanted to take the five-day class after she saw a basket hanging at
Charleston’s downtown Market.

“I thought they looked neat, and I wanted to make some,” Rebecca said.

Copyright © 1995 – 2010 Evening Post Publishing Co..

June 26, 2008 Posted by | Post & Courier | Leave a comment