By Marci Shore for Island Eye News
Photos by Steve Rosamilia
Sarah Sanders took trash from her best friend’s frame shop in Mount Pleasant and began creating some boxes out of the discarded frames. Her line of Goat Island Treasure Boxes is now sold in the South Carolina State Capitol souvenir shop.
“We just received an order for 40 more boxes from the State Capitol store this morning,” said Diann Clark, who helps Sanders’ with marketing the boxes.
Sanders makes the Treasure Boxes out of discarded pieces of picture molding, in her woodworking shop on Goat Island, a tiny island on the Intracoastal Waterway that’s accessible only by boat, 200 yards from Isle of Palms, but some say, a world away.
A retired East Cooper teacher and coach, Sanders, 73, taught for 33 years. She has lived on Goat Island since 1969.
“For 14 years, I never missed a day of teaching,” Sanders said, in spite of the fact that getting to work every morning, rain or shine, involved a boat ride across the waterway. “It probably was mostly because it was more trouble to not go, since I had to take the boat across, and then get to the pay phone to call in,” she said, with a mischievous twinkle in her eye. (Until the mid-1980’s, there were no telephones on Goat Island.)
For a short time, she lived amidst the hubbub of downtown while teaching school, before buying from a friend who was selling their house on Goat Island. Curiously, Sanders said she’s never felt lonely or afraid on the island, even when she’s been its only full time resident, and Mother Nature, her only companion.
Sanders was the first full-time resident of Goat Island, following the deaths of the original occupants, Blanche and Harry Holloway, who lived a simple life with their herd of goats on the island until the 60s. Palm fronds were the couple’s main shelter.
Sanders now lives in her home with her dog, Callie, and, appropriately, two goats, Blue and Muriel. There are about 30 full-time residents on Goat Island today.
A one-person production team, Sanders picks and orders the wood, designs, cuts and glues together each box. There is fine detail work in making the 45-degree cuts, and then piecing the corners together so that the frame pieces connect as seamlessly as possible.
Since seriously beginning her production of the Treasure Boxes in 2007, she has progressed to 14 total lines of Goat Island Treasure Boxes, including The Charleston Hospitality Box, The Fort Sumter Box, The Sweetgrass Box, The South Carolina State Motto Box, The Turtle Hatchlings Box and 11 others that all pay tribute to some facet of South Carolina life.
Some boxes are what Sanders calls “orphans.” They are one-of-a-kind boxes created from pieces of frame she wouldn’t normally order, due to the high cost of special ordering it.
Her most recent line is the Sullivan’s Island Box, which features the customer’s choice of either a pair of dolphins or the crescent moon and palmetto tree on top, explained Clark, fellow Goat Island resident. When not helping Sanders with sales and marketing, Clark and her husband, Dennis, also own Goat Island Gatherings.
“People find their own uses for their boxes.
Some people use it to store locks of baby hair or keepsakes,” Sanders said in her production room, surrounded by boxes awaiting their finishing touches. “Someone else maybe will use it every day as a place to put their car keys.”
The Goat Island Boxes were touted as being among the most desirable gifts “that say Charleston,” for Christmas season, by The Post & Courier newspaper.
Right now, Goat Island Treasure Boxes are available locally at The Sandpiper Gallery on Sullivan’s Island, Isle of Palms Marina store and at Hudson’s Market in Wild Dunes. They are also available at several stores in Mount Pleasant and downtown. There’s a Goat Island Treasure Box Facebook page to see photos and contact information to place orders.
“It takes a special person to live here.
They need a real love of ‘place,’” Diann Clark said on the short jaunt of a boat ride from the IOP Marina to Sanders’ dock.
Sanders has had that love of Goat Island for nearly 50 years, as she still reminisces about the days before there were phones on the island, a lot of boat traffic on the waterway, and an airplane strip where the Wild Dunes Golf Course is now.
“I remember one of the first summers I was here, there were 18-20 children living on the island at that time. You heard squeals of delight all summer coming from the water.
The kids got just as brown as can be from being outside all day, swimming, crabbing, and fishing.”
In spite of the passage of time and loss of some of the primitive appeal of Goat Island, she considers these years of retirement as being among her favorite.
“I feel like this is the best time of my life,” she said. “I didn’t have any kids of my own, but I helped raise thousands of other people’s kids, and now I don’t have to please anyone but myself every day.”