The Process Part 1

Today I begin the process of creating #103 in my Nativity Series. I am inviting you into my home to observe my work and be as amazed as I am as this sculpture takes on a life of its own. Neither you nor I know what the final result will be…

First things first. I gather my boxes of materials and tools and set up my work space. Oh,and importantly, preheat my hot glue gun. Can I add that this is a vintage hot glue gun. It belonged to my mama. She passed away in 2002. I owe a lot of my creativity to her. She was born in the mountains of NC . Her life was extremely hard. The family traveled with a saw mill company as it followed the logging companies. Not much money in that. Although her life was hard,it was also interesting and the stories she shared proved it a miracle of God that I am here to tell them.  Perhaps  at some point I will share more about this amazing woman here on this blog, but for now I will say I gave her the very first corn shuck doll I ever created. that was back in the late 70’s. After mama passed away my sister and I were going through her things and I found that she had kept the doll safely tucked away all the years in a drawer, encased in a little see through box. Never, ever forget, its the little things that are the big things…


This little lady is Vintage . She’s pushing 40 years old! Back then I painted doll faces. That is no longer part of my process…but who knows… it could happen again, although if I should , at some point, decide to paint faces again I would go for more realistic features.

God bless,  and check back tomorrow for a process update!



The Process Part II

My soundtrack this morning…”Straw Against the Chill”  ~by Kathy Mattea~

Yesterday you saw the beginning process for figure 1 in the third piece of my Nativity series. (#103). Today I am going to show you how the beginning evolved into the frame work and partially complete figure I am working with today. As a side note to the unexpected turns my work can take  let me tell you that I had tentatively intended the first figure to be “Joseph” but the shucks and their quirks and qualities had other plans. As the form emerged it was perfect for a Mother who was still carrying her precious one safe in her womb, so as so often/ alwayshappens I went with the pull of creation and am excited to see Mary as she stands silently, peacefully on the table waiting for completion and more importantly waiting for Joseph.

Then I am going to show you some new techniques I am trying out with my second figure


The first photo tile shows the form for the head and the inside twists which form the arms. I am trying some new techniques to help the joints bend more realistically. Notice that the arms are wrapped and tied in several places. This helps the shucks to bend.

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The string wrap will be removed after the shucks dry. Hopefully the shucks will retain the shape. I am allowing Mary’s dress to dry while I begin on Joseph this morning. And as I mentioned before I am trying something new with Joseph.IMG_20151201_101449 (1)

I’m hoping to be able to soak and paint the shucks in order to give me more diversity of color than is allowed by my limited (at the moment) colors of dye. These shucks will form the sleeves of Joseph’ robe.


And here as you can see, the painting didn’t work that well, but it did leave a subtle washed out brown tint which I think I will leave as it is. In fact it inspires me to do this entire piece in rustic more natural toned colors as opposed to the vibrant colors of editions #101 a #102.


And finally about seven hours later….working off and on I have the frame-work of my next nativity together. The fun work will begin tomorrow (or later tonight if I get a free hour or two before bedtime). The detail and embellishment comes next along with positioning and gestures. I can barely wait to begin!

The Process Part III

My Morning Soundtrack…”Good  News” ~Kathy Mattea~


YES! Joseph is here…took most of yesterday to form him. Now for the fun part. Let the embellishments and detailing begin. My morning goal is to give Mary her hair. I will post pics below of how I do this with corn silk. A little extra information for those who are asking…”Where do you get corn shucks…Where do you get corn silk?” Well lets go back to that very first doll I made. (Her photo is posted in The Process Part I).

Once upon a time a long time ago in the 1970’s a group of highschoolers led by their teacher began a project to preserve the ways, the handcrafts and the traditions of the Appalachian mountain folks. The people who time  had passed over, still living as the generations before them, unchanged, undiluted by modern progress.

Deep in the valleys and high on the mountain sides these students traveled to interview the oldtimers and record their lives, their hardships, their blessings, their superstitions, their wisdom and their mountain crafts. Out of these interviews was born a series of books called “Foxfire”.

An old friend of mine, who over the years  I’ve lost contact with, but who I think of with fondness and prayers whenever I create a corn shuck sculpture, introduced me to the art of crafting corn shuck dolls.  She also introduced me to the Foxfire Series of books that had taught her how to make them. It was late in the fall and beside her home was a large field of dried corn. Late one evening we slipped into that field and pulled a few ears to shuck and use to  make our dolls.The shucks had some spots of mildew and in places there were worm holes. We soaked them and cleaned them as best we could, then used them as they were.

So, I first learned to create dolls with shucks straight from the field. These dolls were very true to the Appalachian tradition. We created them completely with shucks and string, no glue of any type was used. Even the hair was tied on with string resulting in a very primitive but charming corn shuck lady.

I later began to purchase shucks from a craft supply store and to save the cornsilk from my daddy’s field of silver queen corn he planted yearly. The craft shucks were much nicer than the field shucks, but honestly they were expensive and my circumstances didn’t allow me to buy them very often.

I let the craft lay by the wayside for many, many years until my circumstances changed AND I began to notice the grocery stores were carrying large inexpensive bags of corn shucks in their Hispanic aisles or produce areas!

Yep, you guessed it.

I now purchase food grade corn shucks from my local grocer. The silks I still save from the corn patch I plant each spring. You might wonder why I don’t keep the corn shucks  as well as the silks from my planted corn? The answer is…I have tried but the drying process is much too time consuming and the shucks tend to still be coated in places with mildew ,dark spots and worm holes.. So purchasing the shucks results in a much nicer end result and fits my time management plan much better.


I spent a lot longer explaining shuck and silk acquisition than I planned. I do tend to ramble off the beaten path quite often. That is certainly a part of who I am!

Back to the process…Mary’s hair.


FINISHED my morning goal! Time for a lunch break….Part three to be continued later this afternoon. My afternoon goal? Joseph ‘s hair mustache and beard. Of which the mustache is the most tricky part. If I’m not careful it can end up looking like cat whiskers!

The Process Part IV

Soundtrack- “Good News” `Kathy Mattea~ track on repeat – “Mary Did You Know”

Here is a photo on day four. These figures are still very much in the “rough” and…. if you will notice , I did have trouble with Joseph’s mustache! I’ll be cleaning him up with a trim during the “clean-up period of my work. Today I am playing around with positioning and gestures. During this process I realized that Joseph’s right arm was much too short and I added an extension to it.


Here is the result of the end of day four


I actually wound up adding an extension to Josephs left arm as well so I could position his hand on Mary’s shoulder.



The Process Part 5

Listening to…”Confidence in Troublesome Times” by ~ Dr. Charles Stanley~

If you have been following the process you know we have made it to day 5. The end of the work week and I am hoping the completion of edition #103 in my Nativity series.

In the first photo notice that I have reached the cleaning process and I am using a soft baby (oops sorry,  to my little grandson Scott, I will have to buy him a new one!😉 to gently brush away any loose fibers, corn silk or hot glue strings. I also use a pair of tweezers to go over the figures removing all the visible glue and fiber that brushing does not  remove.I have a small pair of manicure scissors which I used to trim the hair, mustache and beard.

The second photo shows the drying process. Because the shucks were soaked to make them pliable they are still damp, especially the inner parts of the robes. I want to be sure they are completely dry before I move on the the next step which will be to add several coats of spray lacquer. To dry my work I set it in front of my fireplace blower.


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The sculpture is complete except for tagging with my CABIN Creek logo, signing and numbering this edition and registering in my records!