HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (AP) — The 91-year-old woman begins another day of carving with three pocketknives that are no longer manufactured and a bucket of buckeye and red cedar, her favorite wood.

With pocketknives from Sears, others from J.C. Penney, all of them now unavailable in department stores, Polly Page has made crafts that are in the Smithsonian and a museum in Cuba.

By her count, people from every state in America and in 27 foreign countries have visited her workshop in Pleasant Hill, Tenn., a town of about 500 in the Great Smokey Mountains.

After 70 years of making crafts, after carving for Dolly Parton and advising Jane Fonda on how to play a dollmaker in a 1984 movie, Page made her first appearance at a workshop on a recent weekend.

She and DeAnn Cote, a longtime carver from Everett, Wash., were the featured carvers at a gathering of the Dixie Carvers at the Radisson Hotel in Madison.

Cote and Page joined carvers from Connecticut, Maryland and Virginia, among other places.

Patt Grethmann of Huntsville, who organized the Dixie Carvers, brought them here.

“Master carvers,” Grethmann calls Cote and Page.

Each uses vastly different tools and materials to produce their crafts.

Cote relies on power tools that she likens to “what a dentist uses to drill teeth.”

Page uses a Craftsman pocketknife from Sears to produce Uncle Pink and Aunt Jenny, two mountain people who once lived in the East Tennessee hills.

“I’ve worn out eight of these,” she says. “This one is getting pretty much worn, too, but I’ve got some waiting at home if (this one) wears out. I learned my lesson when J.C. Penney quit putting ’em out. Now, I know the numbers, in case I need one. They’re on the shelf (of a shop) in Gatlinburg.”

Cote began carving in 1984, after she had worked for a large jewelry manufacturer.

In precious metals, she had carved details in rings, pins and pendants, among other things. But the work made her ill.

“I breathed in the dust and I had to stop,” she said. “I’ve been carving (wood) ever since.”

Page’s experiences with crafts began when she was in the third grade. In the 1930s, she began attending Pleasant Hill Academy, a school designed to educate mountain boys and girls.

A teacher there ignited her imagination about crafts. From her experiences at the school, she learned to carve with a pocketknife.

“I need one point that’s very sharp,” she says. “The other (blade) is blunt. I never use the middle blade.”

Cote considers herself a meticulous carver. Sometimes, it takes her a month to complete a project, such as the frog she made from fossil ivory.

Page has been known to carve a doll in one day.

“If I pick up a knife early one day before I get to the breakfast dishes, it’s goodbye breakfast dishes,” she says.

All her life, she has carved in the same shop that she’s had for 60 years or so. One day in the early 1980s, Parton and Fonda showed up at the shop.

Fonda was seeking advice on her role in “The Dollmaker.”

“Did you see the end of the film?” Page says. “She didn’t (carve) with wood. She did it with a potato. I said, ’Jane, you chicken.’ “



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