Collis creates corn shuck dolls

By Jessica Swink | May 14, 2014
Photo by: Jessica Swink Karen Collis was accepted into the Southern Highlands Craft Guild back in February of this year with her piece “Shipping Out,” depicting a Navy man embracing his sweetheart before leaving for war.

The Red Barn Museum on the way to Maggie Valley is a welcoming place for visitors, and there are some more recent additions to greet any guests.

Karen Collis has been making corn shuck dolls, and these little people line the walls of the inside of the shop, ready to say hello.

She’s been making corn shuck dolls for about three years now, but she originally learned to make them as a Girl Scout. They were just side hobbies at first, but it didn’t take her long to start making them seriously.

She started out dying the corn shucks with vegetable dyes, but quickly learned that the dyes wouldn’t hold. This led to lots of experimentation with dyes, as well as different sorts of patterns for the dolls.

“Sometimes I’ll sketch out a design on a pattern and work from the design,” Collis said. “I’ll use colored pencils to figure out what colors I’m going to work with, and sometimes they just evolve as I make them. It’s a challenge to turn out something different from the last one.”

The dolls that line the shelves have a wide range of character, from leprechauns to moonshiners to farm ladies to witches. There’s even a range of Maggie Valley girls wearing her traditional pink clothing.

Visitors can order custom dolls or adopt pre-made dolls as gifts to name after family members, such as the angels that hang from the ceiling. She’s even working on a bride and groom for a cake topper.

“It’s been fun, Collis said. “Each is different and has its own personality. You never know what you’re going to turn out. I’ve had a blast making them this past winter.”

Collis was accepted into the Southern Highlands Craft Guild back in February of this year with her piece “Shipping Out,” depicting a Navy man embracing his sweetheart before leaving for war.

More of her work can be found on Shuck Dolls by Karen on Facebook.​

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