One of the less ambitious projects in Daniel Beard’s summer chapter was to make a violin from a corn stalk. In his romantic view any young man would have a pile of dried corn stalks just piled up behind his barn. Well, we were lucky in that we had planted a “corn spiral” in our garden. In other ways we were not so lucky. The Indian Corn cross bred with all the sweet corn, and pretty much took over. Since we never actually ate any of our corn it had to be put to some good use. I researched a bit about the art of corn shuckery and decided that corn husk dolls were probably the most appropriate activity for the ages of the kids coming to our harvest party.
Gathering the corn proved to be very fun. In it’s verdant hay day the “corn spiral” was a bit too spooky for the kids. I imagined they would hold fort there all summer, playing idylically in the Keltic center. Turned out they were hesitant to even go in till the stalks had shrivled a bit and they could see through them. Since we never harvested much of the corn, it was high time for pickin’. The kids loved rustling through the stalks looking for corn jewels – every cob was a new surprise of magical colors!
The textures of the corn and all it’s various parts was nothing short of fascinating to the kids. All the children had a sense of wonder about the corn, but surprisingly it was the under 3 crowd that took the biggest interest. We had a tub of water out to soak the husks in. Soaking them makes them more pliable. The little kids were very busy at the tub, taking husks in and out, and squealing with glee over the jewel tones. At one point it was just too much and and several little corn goddesses threw diapers to the wind and hopped in!
Very few kids were actually able to make their own dolls. Fortunately we had lots of grown ups around to aid in the process. Even if they didn’t actually make their own doll this time, in a few years they will. I think just practicing with the material is good. Getting a feel for how resilient yet pliable organic matter can be is always a useful experience.
The dolls themselves had so much character. No two dolls were the same.
We even found a cob that had fallen near a water source and started to sprout, right there on the cob! The kids thought this was the greatest thing, “It’s growing” they all gleefully announced pointing chubby fingers and flashing missing teeth! Life is always a cycle. We honored the cycle by adding water and making the dry into talismans of sorts. Each of our dolls will keep us hopeful as the days grow darker, a reminder that summer will come again. Sure enough, we managed to time the harvest party for the last hours of summer. Just as everyone was leaving it began to rain, and it rained all night. This was the first rain in six months, and in California it marked a welcome change of season.
All you need for this project is:
Raffia or String
Click on the image or link below for printable corn husk doll making directions. The directions are very basic. I think it’s good just to leave the design “open” and let the husks tell you what doll they want to be. If you listen they will tell you.