Most of us look at a broom as a mere housekeeping tool, but when you consider the history of the broom as a traditional folk art, a broom can be a thing of beauty. Berea College in Kentucky is a hub of traditional Appalachian crafts, and their hand-woven brooms have been in demand for a hundred years. The brooms are made by students for their work study program, in which they not only produce artful brooms but also learn about the history of Appalachian self-reliance.
“There’s something very nostalgic and wholesome about a handcrafted broom,” says Aaron Beale, director of student craft at Berea. “It’s an object rich with meaning, beyond its practical purpose.” The roughly 5,000 brooms made each year at the college are sold through a website and distributed to a number of specialty craft shops. According to Beale, Berea’s broomcraft workshop is the only one in the country to dye significant quantities of broomcorn, which requires a lot of time. And the brooms often sell out quickly. “We work at a fever pace to keep up,” Beale says.
Learn what broomcorn is and how brooms became such an integral part of Berea College at Smithsonian. The brooms are available here.
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