Learn how resident Charleston artist, William Washington, creates masterful shrimp boat replicas and Charleston landmarks made almost entirely from popsicle sticks!
Saw, sand, clink, shave, chisel, break, glue, press. Mr. Washington closes one eye and uses the other to narrowly inspect the hull of a shrimp boat he’s just rounded out with his sandpaper. He blows off any remaining dust and picks up his paint brush to begin the next phase. Sometimes one project can take two weeks. Sometimes it can take eight months. All that matters is that he does it right and with such exact precision, that no detail is left out, no imperfection unattended.
The Early Years
Mr. Washington was born in Charleston but grew up in Miami. He decided to return to Charleston 38 years ago and has been here ever since. It was during his years in junior high that he picked up the skill of woodworking and making art out of popsicle sticks. He loved crafting something entirely his own. But as life does, he got busy and put the hobby on the back burner until picking it back up in 2003. First, he started by building a small boat for his wife’s friend who actually received an offer from another friend to buy it! And it was then that Mr. Washington realized his artwork could bring people as much joy as it did to him.
Mr. Washington got in touch with the Charleston Market and they offered the Charleston artist a spot right away. In fact, he heard the wait time could be up to 7 years (because vendors can pass their coveted booths down to family members to continue the family business) but he got a spot within a week! His friend who worked at the market told him that shrimp boats would be really popular. As a result, he started making boat in all shapes and sizes. He sold his artwork at the market for about a year before deciding to go in another direction.
A Daunting Project for a Charleston Artist
It was in 2011, eight years after picking his hobby back up, that Mr. Washington decided to undertake a massive project. Create a replica of the Charleston City Market! With the assistance of his wife’s computer to provide aerial and 360 views of the building, Mr. Washington took eight months to create a breathtaking model of the city market.
No stone was left unturned when it came to getting every detail right. For example, the number of steps leading up to the front entrance on his model are the exact same number of steps at the real city market. Some nights he says he would wake up at 2am and start working on his project throughout the night. Because when inspiration hits, like any artists knows, you just have to run with it.
The model of the market is so breathtaking in size and takes up almost the entire length of his living room. Mr. Washington hopes that it will live in a Charleston museum one day so that his legacy will live on throughout history. When asked why he chose the Charleston City Market, he replied because it is a piece of history and meant something to him. We can’t think of a more fitting place for this stunning replica to live than in a museum, honoring the artwork of Mr. Washington.
Next, Mr. Washington plans to create a model of the AME Mother Emanuel Church in Downtown Charleston.
Building a Legacy
When asked what advice he had for young, aspiring artists, he said to have patience. You have to be patient and know that your project will turn out. We can certainly agree that his artwork requires patience and it’s that calm perseverance that shines through each piece Mr. Washington creates, making them one of a kind.
To buy a local shrimp boat directly from Mr. Washington, check out our Facebook Listing on Marketplace.
Donate Supplies and Support an Artist!
Supporting local artists such a Mr. Washington is a wonderful way to give. See below to learn what supplies he uses the most and help him continue his passion for woodworking! You can also purchase donations from our Amazon Wishlist.
Wood Skewers or Small Wood Dowels
This list is just a suggestion and supplies can be purchased from any local craft store as well. Thank you for your support!! Make sure to follow us on Instagram and Facebook to stay up to date on Friends of Joseph Floyd Manor happenings!