The Apple Doll Carver

Apple picking season is pretty much over, but for one lady in rural Tennessee, the season is year round.

Sallie Swor swears apples are the best, not just for snacking, but also relaxing while she carves the fruit into a work of art. She shapes and shaves the juicy flesh into a face, but it can be a challenge.

“I guess just getting it carved right, so it looks really good then watching it dry to see how it dries,” she states. “It’s a challenge to try and make it look one way and then having it end up not being as good.”

When she is happy with its facial features, it is submerged in a salt and lemon solution. This helps to keep them from turning brown. Then the little heads are hung out to dry.

After about four weeks at room temperature, the fruits of her labor are revealed. The natural shrinkage has turned the apple into something resembling a person.

Swore has made hundreds of these apple dolls. Each one with its own persona. There are grandmas and grandpas, witches and warlocks.

They do age and grow darker over time, but can last for years. One of her favorites is this group of Christmas carolers. Part of the craft is creating the body out of fabric scraps and handmade caps. Definitely a long process, but as the youngest of six, you learn to have patience. Her father was a carpenter by trade but also grew corn. He did it all by hand.

“He never had a tractor. He cut corn by hand... I remember him when he got ready to cut the corn and pick it off the stock...and he would put me up on the shock and I got to ride and that was fun,” she adds.

Sallie’s love of sewing and doing anything by hand was something she fell in love with as a little girl growing up in east Tennessee: “There were no real classes for anything. If you wanted something you just figured out how to do it and you did it.”

Many an afternoon, Sallie settles into her sofa ready to grapple with an apple. Hoping that a doll face will emerge, and one thing for sure, as long as she has a desire to carve this tasty fruit, she will never starve.


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