Alicia Mary Retes

Beginners     Corn Husk Doll Crafting and Short Story - The No Face Doll

      All across the Americas, Indigenous People have a long history of making dolls from natural materials that are also used for other activities from nutritious meals, clothing and games to baskets, mats, ropes, houses and boats. Corn "Maize" originated in Central Mexico and plays an essential role in Indigenous Mexican culture. Every element of corn is used from the silks for medicine to the fungus on the kernels (huitlacoche).  

     Corn husk dolls are seen in nearly all cultures that harvest and use corn.  Native Indigenous Americans  produce dolls of varying styles based on their cultural traditions. European colonial settlers and African slaves learned from the Indigenous People and made corn husk dolls for their children too.

     Some Indigenous Nations like the Haudenasone (Iroquois), the Ani'-Yun'wiya' (Cherokee), Oneida and the Lakota have stories about why corn husk dolls traditional do not have faces. The "No Face Doll" and speaks to the perils of vanity.  Corn Spirit created corn husks dolls to help the adults by entertaining and educating the  children. The doll had a beautiful face, and began to spend less time with children and more time contemplating her own beauty. As a result of her vanity, the doll's face was taken away. Alicia continues this tradition with her dolls as well. She notes that a "no face" allows anyone from any culture to relate to the dolls making them multicultural, inclusive and like all humans, the doll is never stuck with just one expression.

     Students will gather to hear the story of the "No Face Doll" before crafting their own. Using dried corn leaves and tying knots with string, students will craft a basic corn husk doll representing their connections with the plant world. Dolls require a minimum of 5 - 7 knots.

For a successful doll making project, participants need to know how to tie an overhand knot.  

TWO OPTIONS AVAILABLE Either the staff teacher provides a ratio of 1 adult to 3 students  OR sign up for an extra 45-minute simple knot class prior to the crafting dolls.

K - 3rd grades with assistants. 4th- 8th grades and adult programs available.

2-hour crafting time,1 hour preparation and 1 hour clean up. (4hours total)

Requires electrical outlets for heating water to soak corn leaves.

$275 includes materials for one doll per student with a maximum of 12 to 15 students and teaching assistant.

$350 for a maximum 24 per workshop with assistance from school volunteer staff, teachers or aides.

   Inspired by many legends of The Three Sisters - Corn, Bean and Squash, Alicia's engaging Pan-American adaptation includes one to eight foot-tall colorful corn husk characters who reveal their Central and South America origins. Three Plant Sisters move into the audience to share their dreams, trials and tribulations of independence, respect, cooperation and community service.

     These three sisters are unique in their strength and weakness. Corn is the tall and older sister. She loves her vista view yet never rests. She vigiantly watches and warns her siblings of approaching predators. Her cooking skills are few. She is always hungry. Bean, the middle sister is quite slender, a skilled chef and never hungry. However, she can't stand up on her own and very vunerable to predators. Pumpkin the youngest, is rubenous, playful and loves to ramble out socializing with the neighbors. She is not a good chef and always hungry.

     How will they learn to keep their sense of independence yet work together for their greater good? What about their neighboring Plant People like Tomato, Potato and others who live in the area - how will they all get along? Corn, Bean and Squash have many difficulties living separately but by working together - they thrive.

Family oriented program adaptable for ages 5 and up.

45-55 minute program includes an interactive PanAmerican Earth song and introduction to playing Indigenous musical intruments.

Requires 45 minutes set up - upack puppets and instruments. 30 minutes to take down and repack.

$385 for a single performance, flexible rates for small non-profits and scheduling multiple performances. Travel expenses required outside Marin County.

Enjoy Original and Traditional Plant People Stories.

Experience Hand Crafted Corn Husk Story Characters.

Play Natural and Hand Crafted Rhythm Instruments.

     The unique gift  Alcia brings to storytelling is her absolute engagement of the story with the movement of her physical body, the voices, and the heart she puts into each character.   There were many responses of "oohs" and "aahs" and giggles and cheers.

Barabara Clifton-Zarate

Parent, Patawomack Tribe Descendent

Drum Keeper of White Buffalo Council

Indigneous People of throughout North America have unique stories about the Plant People.

Some reflect traditional growing systems developed by Indigenous peoples over many generations. For thousands of years, many Tribal Nations developed the sustainable method of interplanting beneficial plants together to nuture and increase crop yeilds. Today we know it as companion planting and permaculture.

Companion Plant Stories and Doll Making Workshops - Creative Arts, Literacy and Social Studies.

     Explore Indigenous ways of stewarding the Earth with Companion Plant agriculture and nutrition through this creative performing arts program.  Workshops include short stories. Beginners and Advanced Workshops serve as either a single-period classroom visit or as weekly residency units.

Multi-disciplinary Performance Arts Program

Supporting Team Work, Literacy, Nutrition, Gardening and Emotional Social Learning.

Laguinitas School District Students TK/8

Montessori, Open Classroom, Middle School

Three Sisters - Corn, Bean and Squash

Annual International Peace Festival

San Geronima Valley Community Center, Lagunitas, CA


Hand Crafted Corn Husk Story Characters by Alicia


     Alicia's innovative and highly interactive prototype program was a big hit for the Sonoma Community Center Youth Program. Afterschool students were joyously engaged with creative thinking and team work exploring the concept of companion plants with storytelling, puppets and plant- based meals.

Many thanks to SCC and their fabulous campers and staff Lexi Baker, Youth Program Manager, Kelly Autumn Co-creative Coordinator,Elise Sahota-Gonzalez Culinary Arts  Ana Rios Assistant Instructor, Sean Baskin Admin Associate and Elise Sahota-Gonzalez Culinary Arts Director.

Interactive Stories and Songs Tailored for All Ages and Events.

FEATURED PROGRAM          The Three Sisters - Corn, Bean and Squash

Alicia's adaptation of this widely known story is designed to promote a greater appreciation and understanding of Indigenous traditional ecological knowledge of caring for the Earth, plants, animals and peope in sustainable ways.

Climbing Bean Girl

Tantilizing Tomato Girl

Madre de Maiz - Corn Mother

Alicia offers both original and Indigenous stories and songs from throught North America and Australia that promote compassion, cooperation, diversity and respect – for self, others, elders and the Earth herself as a living being.

These Family Friendly Programs support State Standards for Social Studies, Literacy, Natural and Cultural History, the Creative Performing Arts, Environmental Studies and School Garden Programs.