Another visitor was Miss Philla Davis, a council craftworker who, travelling by motorcycle, passed a night at Eye once a week to give classes in the school or village hall. The motorcycle of this remarkable woman was hung round with whatever was needed for that week of craft work, vital bits of hessian, old legs for restored stools, rope and straw, bolts of cloth, men’s boots, goggles, rush for chair seats, dummy figures, half upholstered chairs.
I think, looking back, that she and my mother were at that time more in touch with the world of corn dollies, stone circles, ancient ritual than I was.
Inspired by Philla, my mother was to play a major part in the regeneration of the ancient craft of corn dolly making. She travelled far and wide on tours of discovery to learn the secrets of traditional makers, and regional variations. The closest maker of corndollies she visited was in the Herefordshire hamlet of Stockton Hennor, the furthest lived in Exmouth.
She wrote, and co-wrote with Philla, pamphlets and books, and for more than a decade hosted a long series of corn dolly making courses at Eye. Also she travelled to America to teach. Once, squirrels broke into the marquee in which she gave lessons in Willamsburg and ate many of her specially imported demonstration corn dollies.
Besides recreating the ancient models my mother also embarked on new designs of her own. Among the most unusual of all her creations were two gigantic seven foot ‘corn maidens’ for the harvest celebrations in the opera Eugene Onegin at Covent Garden.
Jeremy Sandford FanClub Archives
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