Peter Werner, a retired Professor at the University of South Carolina, has been interested in traditional crafts for many years. Various members of his family practice some type of craft, ranging from jewelry making to quilting and knitting. Werner’s mother has sewn, knitted and quilted all of her life, perhaps fueling Peter’s desire to weave or “sew” baskets and brooms. Mr. Werner is an accomplished sweet grass and split oak basket maker winning several awards at the South Carolina State Fair. Since 1995 he has developed an interest in making hand-crafted brooms. He has taken master classes from Ralph Gates and Carlson Tuttle at the Folk Art Center near Ashville, North Carolina. He is a resident of Black Mountain, North Carolina and is a member of the Southern Highlands Craft Guild since 2008.
Hand-crafted brooms have traditionally been made in the Southeast by both African-American and Appalachian peoples. Hand-crafted brooms serve both a decorative and functional purpose. Essentially two different types of brooms are made – ones with wooden handles and smaller ones without handles. An avid canoeist, Werner finds many of his unique handles as driftwood along the shores of lakes and rivers he paddles. For handled brooms he uses unprocessed broom straw, or hurl, nylon line, a knife, scissors, a handmade press, and sewing needle. He begins by first driving a short nail into a selected handle. The nail is placed two inches from the bottom of the handle and serves as an anchor for the braided string which will attach the straw. One by one pieces of broom straw are added, up to three layers deep. The outer layer is woven using an over and under process to affix the straw to the handle. Finally, the excess straw is trimmed and the bottom of the broom straw is cut to form a level sweeping surface. His handled brooms range in size from smaller hearth brooms to full sized sweeping brooms. Cob web brooms are specially designed to sweep spider webs out of the corners and hard to reach places on ceilings. Werner also works with a blacksmith to make metal hearth brooms and a wood carver to make carved handled brooms.
Werner also makes smaller non-handled brooms out of processed hurl cut into uniform lengths. These brooms come in different styles including large and small whisk, duster, turkey wing, fanned turkey wing with and without plaiting, hawk’s tail, golf, pot scrubbers, veggie brushes and cake testers.
Peter Werner has demonstrated broom making at many different types of functions including Demonstrator, Folk Art Center, Asheville, NC; Mossy Creek Festival, Perry-Warner Robbins, GA; Shaker Traditional Crafts at the Georgia Museum of Art, University of Georgia, Athens, GA; Fall Heritage Festival, South Carolina State Museum, Columbia, SC; Appalachian Craft Festival, Waynesville, NC; Best of Our State Conference, Grove Park Inn, Asheville, NC; Pioneer Days at Andrew Jackson State Park, South Carolina; Revolutionary War Re-enactments at Kings Mountain, Historic Brattonsville, Camden, North Aiken, and Walnut Grove, South Carolina; Fall Folklife Festival, McKissick Museum, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC; the Jubilee Festival, Columbia, SC; 75th Anniversary Festival of the Blueridge Parkway, Cumberland Gap, VA; Living History Farm, Roper Mountain Science Center, Greenville, SC; and the South Carolina State Fair. His brooms are currently sold at selected craft centers such as Guild Crafts, Southern Highland Craft Gallery, and The Folk Art Center, Asheville, NC; The Arboretum, Asheville, NC, Carolina Clay Gallery, Kiawah, SC and The Cottage Craftsman, Bryson City, NC. Mr. Werner is also one of the featured artists on the South Carolina ETV production – South Carolina-A Natural State/knowitall.org and Roland Alston’s Making It Grow/SC/ETV/program 04-08-2008.