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About Me

Audrey Rolfe

Corn Dolly Maker

It was in 1972 that I saw Corn Dollies first being made at a Steam Fair in Maidenhead.  My husband and I were then living in Marlow  on Thames in Buckinghamshire.  That autumn I noticed that there was an evening class course being given on Corn Dolly making in town and I enrolled for this class.  The teaching was very basic, but it did interest me enough to take this craft further.

  073-crumpets farm 9-001 The following year we were on holiday in Pembrokeshire and whilst visiting a craft shop in the village of Solva, the owner was actually sitting making Corn Dollies.  After a most interesting conversation with her, I gained further information of a 3 day course on this partictular craft, held at Eye Manor in Herefordshire.  At that time Eye Manor was owned by one of the top Corn Dolly makers in the UK,  Lettice Sandford.  During the year she ran a few  courses with assistance of Alec Coker, another very experienced maker with this rural hand made craft.  I made an enquiry and booked in for one of these 3 day training courses.  This was a full board teaching course actually staying in Eye Manor.  On this course there were only 5 other students.  This turned out for me, to be a very educational especially as I had Alec Coker teaching me most of the time. 

 

After leaving Eye Manor I purchased various other corn dolly teaching books and continued to teach myself the craft.  On returning to Marlow, I was approached by another craft maker who was setting up a craft group 'The Marlow Craft Association'.  This group grew and we ran 2 main Craft Fairs in the town each year, we had a committee (which I was part of) and met once a month to meet any new members and discuss our planning and shows for the coming year.

We, (my husband David and I) left Marlow and moved to Bridport, Dorset in June 1987 eventually meeting up and joining other craft makers at craft fairs within the area.  It was actually at this time that the skill of this craft really took off for me and our corn dolly range grew considerably.  As we had the opportunity to obtain some very 'fine wheat straw' we began to design and add miniature hand made jewellery to our range.  Having continued with craft fairs and meeting up with many skilled craft makers we opened a craft shop in Weymouth in March 1991.  It was then we picked the name of 'Corn-utopia' for our shop, we have continued to use this name. 

 

Corn-utopia Business Card

  Audrey with Stand at Craft Fair

 

At this time we had a very successful business, having as many as 32 different crafts in our shop 'all locally hand made'.  We traded for 7 years before opening a second shop in the village of Abbotsbury.  For over a year we ran both shops 7 days a week - it was a very hectic period!   We then closed our shop in Weymouth and continued trading in Abbotsbury until late 1998.  It was during these busy days of having our shops that we extensively expanded the range of our Corn Jewellery items; my husband getting more involved.  We also added to our range by bringing a selection of corn made Dolls House miniatures.   

 

I have been a member of the Guild of Straw Craftsmen (International) for many years.  I am also a member of the Dorset Arts & Crafts Association.  Dorset is the only county in the country that still hold an annual craft show of this kind.  This show is held for 5 days at the beginning of August each year, showing the very best of craft within the county of Dorset, 2014 was it`s 100 years anniversary.