Making a Corn Shuck Doll with Jan Morris

Beginning with natural corn shucks

And hand-dyed corn shucks

Making the doll's head

And arms

The doll's body

And skirt and apron

Finally the dolls are ready for a hike at the Folk Art Center.

Usually a studio conversation takes place at an artist's home or business, but in the case of Guild member Jan Morris, a conversation in the lobby at the Folk Art Center made just as much sense. It made sense not just because she is a regular craft demonstrator there, but because, throughout her life, Jan has made her studio wherever she is. Whether in a classroom at AB Tech or an elementary school, or at a craft fair or bazaar, or at her own dining room table, Jan has been making things and sharing her love and expertise with the world around her. Last week Jan was kind enough to teach April and Janet how to make a corn shuck doll.

Jan Morris became a member of the Southern Highland Craft Guild in 1982. She was making things by hand well before that, though. She started making pine cone wreaths and other decorations in the 1950s. One of her teachers was Mrs. Leonard Miller of the Sandy Mush Community in Buncombe County. When Jan asked Mrs. Miller if she could teach her, Mrs. Miller said she couldn't because her methods were trade secrets. In the next breath she added, "But there's nothing to stop you from watching me." Through the years Jan would develop her own methods and teach others the art of working with natural materials. She developed a strong friendship with Guild member Ann Buchanan and together the two taught each other.

Jan Morris became a professional craftsperson in the seventies. In 1972, her husband, Clyde D. Morris Jr., died. With children still at home Jan knew she must provide for them. While being a single mother is challenging in 2011, the difficulties back in 1975 were much greater. Employers were much less flexible and affordable childcare options were limited. At one point, Jan had to choose between a good-paying job and being with her kids on Sundays. Jan made the decision to become a craftsperson so that she could be home with her children. Jan joined the High Country Crafters and took several marketing classes. She made wreaths and other decorations and started teaching classes. She taught at AB Tech, Warren Wilson, Montreat, and area elementary schools. To create a more diverse body of work, Jan also started making corn shuck dolls. She recalls admiring the work May Deschamp at the Guild Craftmen's Fairs held at the City Auditorium in Asheville long before she became a member of the Guild. Eventually Jan would also begin wheat weaving, an artform she has perfected over the years.

In addition to demonstrating at the Folk Art Center, Jan also volunteers her time at Guild special events throughout the year. She and Guild member Sandra Rowland work with children at Fiber Day, Clay Day, Wood Day and Heritage Weekend. She enjoys working with children and being a part of the Guild community.

April Nance, Janet Wiseman, Jan Morris