Going native

Craftswoman melds love of arts with passion for history

Sue Campbell’s cornhusk dolls will be featured at The Village Tinker during Last Friday Art Walk on Sept. 24.

Sue Campbell’s cornhusk dolls will be featured at The Village Tinker during Last Friday Art Walk on Sept. 24.

Sue Campbell loves arts and crafts. She also has a passion for American history. At Maryville Arts Coalition’s September Last Friday Art Walk, visitors can see how Campbell has combined her two loves in a way that has gained her national recognition and had her work at the White House.

Campbell, who will be the featured artist on Sept. 24 at The Village Tinker, 417 West Broadway, makes cornhusk dolls that are very detailed oriented and capture the history of the region.

The craftswoman has been voted as one of the “Nation’s Top 100 Artists” in Early American Life magazine in 2003. She was recently featured on WBIR-TV’s afternoon show Live at Five at Four.

The American history buff said, “I once made 750 angel ornaments for Al Gore when he was vice president for his Christmas tree in the dining room. They gave those out to their friends.”

The artist said she has a particular fascination with Native American history. “My dolls are made in the Native American tradition, so I use all natural materials.”

Campbell said she primarily creates Native American cornhusk dolls but also creates dolls around other themes or special occasions.

“I get a lot of special orders,” Campbell explained. “A lady was getting married in a country-themed wedding. I made a replica of her wedding gown, and I used the lace from her bouquet.”

Another request she received was from a mother who wanted to honor her adopted daughter’s Polynesian heritage, so Campbell customized a doll for her.

Currently Campbell is also working on holiday cornhusk dolls, like Halloween witches and Christmas Santa Clauses.

She said her dolls are “very detailed. People always tell me that’s what they like about my dolls.” She even dyes her own cornhusks and corn silks, which is used for the doll’s hair.

The Seymour resident said she is rooted in arts and crafts. “I come from a family of people who like to work with hands.” She said her father did wood-working and made baskets, and her mom makes quilts. Her parents and siblings all also did needlework.

Campbell has been creating cornhusk dolls for over 20 years. She credits her daughter for introducing her to the cornhusk doll craft. “When she was going college, she met a master craftsman, and that’s how I got into it.”

Not only will the artist demonstrate the craft at the Village Tinker next Friday, but her work is also regularly sold at the store.

She also sells dolls at shops from New Jersey to East Tennessee, including the Carousel Gardens store in Gatlinburg. The artist also accepts requests and can be reached for more information by email at skcampbell2395@charter.net.

September 24th event will be the artist’s first Art Walk. Campbell said she enjoys interacting with spectators during her demonstrations.

September’s Last Friday Art Walk will feature numerous artists throughout downtown Maryville from 5:30 to 8:30 with a Harvest theme. There will be a special Farmers’ Market on Broadway. For more information, visit their website at www.maryvilleartwalk.com.

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