Calmetto Art

August 2013
Written By: 
Chris Worthy

Cal Harrelson’s works of art embody life on the Carolina coast



Cal Harrelson’s coastal roots run deep and spill over on the pieces of plywood and lumber that serve as his canvases.

Harrelson is taking the state by storm with his bright Calmetto trees, which appear in original works of art, on locally printed T-shirts and, soon, on other items requested by customers. The trees embody the ease and depth of the traditions of coastal life.

“We’re representative of the South Carolina Coastal Plain and everything we enjoy outdoors,” Harrelson says. “We represent saltwater fishing, freshwater fishing, hunting, fish fries, the harvesting of peanuts and cotton, shrimp boats on Shem Creek, and oyster roasts. It’s South Carolina. The lure of the Palmetto tree goes far and wide.”

Harrelson began crafting his version of the state’s iconic Palmetto tree as gifts for friends. The lucky recipients of Harrelson’s colorful pieces of art encouraged him to offer them for sale. It took some coaxing, but when he finally relented, Harrelson found that buyers across the state were eager to have their own Calmetto painting.

“The paintings sold like crazy,” he says.

When Harrelson was encouraged to have Calmettos printed on T-shirts, he obliged. He started marketing the shirts at the start of 2013.

“Sure enough, they are selling,” he says. “It is proof positive that everyone loves the things Calmettos represents—our lifestyle.”

Harrelson, who sells real estate with Garden City Realty, is selective about where the paintings and T-shirts are sold, choosing locations that offer a real connection with the brand—like the gift shop in the South Carolina State House, a small store that is necessarily limited in its offerings.

“We have been fortunate and have hand-picked our retailers,” he says.

And as word spreads, customers are taking with them a bit of the lifestyle Harrelson represents with each Calmetto tree. He lives it—from the fishing to the oyster roasts—and those who share that life (or wish they did) are embracing his work.

“We do all that,” Harrelson says. “It’s part of who we are. This is home. Our roots surely are here and we plan to grow Calmettos from here.”

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