This week, we are talking to Paula Connolly, of PRKC Corn Husk Dolls.
(originally appeared on the ADO blog)
Please tell us about yourself. What is your name? Where do you live? What makes you tick?
I’m Paula Kermiet Connolly, and I live in Boulder, CO in the foothills. I’m married with 2 sons, one in college and one in high school. My family roots are very much steeped in the folk arts. For 28 years, my parents ran a folk and square dance camp in Colorado, and I grew up dancing, learning and loving everything about traditional cultures around the world.
When did you start making dolls? Why did you start making dolls?
My mother grew up in Viper, Kentucky and was sister to folk singer, Jean Ritchie. Folk singing as well as other Appalachian folk arts were very much a part of our family. I learned to make corn husk dolls from my aunts, several of whom were very accomplished doll makers. My aunt, May Ritchie Deschamp, even has several of her dolls in the Smithsonian collection. Whenever we visited relatives in Kentucky, they were always making corn husk dolls, and I was always encouraged to make one. I probably made my first doll at about age 12. By the time I was 18, I was making and selling my own dolls. I’ve been making corn husk dolls for about 40 years now, and I’m proud to be carrying on the family tradition. However, I also enjoy experimenting with and creating my own unique styles.
Who or what influences you? Inspires you?
Besides my family influences, I’m inspired by fantasy characters and have made witches, wizards, fairies, elves, and my first mermaid. I’m also inspired by challenges to make dolls out of corn husks that are very unusual. Some of the more unusual ones that I have made are Darth Vader, the X-men character Nightcrawler, and Indiana Jones. Dancing influences have produced a couple dancing the Tango and clogging dolls. I also have made many wedding cake toppers to look like the married couple. In one of these, the man was dressed in a Scottish kilt, made out of husks of course.
Tell us a little about your dolls and your process for making them. Materials, preliminary sketches, inspiration, etc.
To begin with, I dye all my own husks as well as the raffia that I use. The husk are wet when you work with them and you can then shape them into the way you want the doll to look. The tricky part is finding a way to tie up or hold the doll in this shape until it dries. When dry, the husks harden and keep their shape. Then I glue all the layers of husk, add details, hair, and make any extra items. I make braided husk baskets, crocheted hats and baskets out of the raffia, miniature flowers, etc. The final step is the face. Due to the natural oil in the husks, a permanent drawing ink needs to be used. Mistakes can’t be fixed, so if you mess up on the face the doll is basically ruined.
Do you have a favorite doll? It can be handmade by you, handmade by someone else, or even (gasp) mass production.
I have several favorite dolls. The ones that are most special to me are the corn husk dolls that my aunts have made, the one and only doll that my mother ever made, and one of my grandmother’s dolls. They have all passed on now, so these dolls are extremely precious to me.
Besides making dolls, what do you do? Job, other creative pursuits, hobbies, etc.
Besides making dolls, I work part-time as a caregiver to the elderly who want to stay in their own homes, I call traditional square and contra dances, sell vintage items on Ebay, do scrapbooking and stamping, help with fund raising for our community volunteer fire fighters, play button accordion and penny whistle (at least I try), and I love to garden and read books.
Where do you see yourself in one year? Five years? Ten years? In one year, I hope to see my Etsy shop doing very well and to have my own website. In five years, I hope to be very successful in selling on the internet. In ten years, I hope to be able to retire and travel the world. Where can we find you on the internet? (blog, website, Etsy shop, eBay, et al.)
Where do you see yourself in one year? Five years? Ten years?
In one year, I hope to see my Etsy shop doing very well and to have my own website. In five years, I hope to be very successful in selling on the internet. In ten years, I hope to be able to retire and travel the world.
Where can we find you on the internet? (blog, website, Etsy shop, eBay, et al.)
My Etsy shop is prkc.etsy.com
My Etsy shop is prkc.etsy.com