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Berea College has been making brooms for 100 years

From Smithsonian Magazine

BEREA, Ky. —  The brooms that are made at Berea College, in the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky, aren’t just for sweeping—as anyone can tell just by looking at them. Some are made with corn that’s been dyed a fiery red or deep purple, and often there’s intricate braiding where the bristles connect to the handle. Coveted by craft aficionados, these brooms are decorative objects, worthy of being hung on a wall.

Berea is a liberal arts college, not a craft or art school, but nonetheless, students there make brooms by hand, in the country’s longest continuously operating broom craft workshop. Celebrating its centennial this year, the program carries on an American craft tradition that’s rarely practiced today.

“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 broom craft 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.

Read the rest of the Smithstonian Magazine story here.