Most people wouldn’t consider their broom to be a piece of art.
Most brooms today are mass-produced household items we find necessary but best kept out of sight when not in use.
However, all brooms were once handmade. For 32 years, Sharon Gay Rossiter of Lewiston has continued this tradition. Rossiter crafts brooms from tree limbs and broomcorn, a type of sorghum that produces heads with fibrous seed branches up to 36 inches long. It has been used to make brooms and brushes for hundreds of years.
Rossiter will be among the artists demonstrating lost arts Saturday, April 13 at the 13th annual Demonstration Day at Artisans at the Dahmen Barn in Uniontown.
Treecorn Brooms is the name of Rossiter’s business. She has sold her work at craft and Renaissance fairs around the country.
Her brooms may have a coiled handle or a forked one. Natural grasses are hand-braided with yarn. Their uneven, scraggly ends make them better at sweeping, according to Rossiter, 72. She makes brooms in all shapes, including round and bushy, which was the most common shape of brooms in the 1800s. She sells flat brooms, turkey wing brooms and crumb dusters, ranging in price from $8 to $60.
Many people purchase her brooms for purposes other than sweeping away dirt.
She has sold her work to pagans and Wiccans who use the broom as a symbolic tool to sweep negative energy out of a space. Others have purchased her brooms for wedding ceremonies in which the couple jumps over the broom to leave their seperate lives on one side and meet their united life on the other.
“I sell a lot of wedding brooms,” said Rossiter, who makes a double broom with a forked tree limb for this purpose.
Jumping the broom is a popular wedding tradition among African-Americans as reminder of their heritage. It stems from the days of slavery when marriages between slaves were not legally recognized and families were often torn apart. According to scholars, jumping the broom became a symbolic way to show a couple’s union to their community during this time.
Scholars have also traced jumping the broom as a marriage rite back to 1700s Wales where people used it as a way to marry without the consent of the church.
Whatever its purpose, the humble broom continues to play an important role in daily life. You can find Rossiter’s handmade brooms for sale at the Dahmen Barn.
IF YOU GO
WHAT: 13th Annual Demonstration Day “Lost Arts and Crafts”
WHEN: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, April 13
WHERE: Artisans at the Dahmen Barn, 419 N. Parkway, Uniontown
Featured makers include:
Kurt Clausen of Moscow, blacksmithing
Gayle Havercroft of Spokane, printmaking
Clover and Carl Rinehart of Uniontown, leather craft
Hank Rardin of Clarkston, pyrography
Judy Fairley of Clarkston, scratch board paintings
Sharon Gay Rossiter of Lewiston, broom making
Weather permitting there will be ceramic studio pit-fire demonstrations