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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Rescued Nativity Set

It was a sad day when the tip shop closed in Launceston last year.
This is one of my favourite finds.
I had for a long time wanted a nativity scene but couldn't find one I liked or the ones that I did like were out of my price range.
We found a cardboard box crammed with figures and criss crossed with dusty packaging tape and the words "Nativity Set" inked across it and "$10". It was a bit hard to really see but I thought well it's a start.
I was enchanted when I unpacked the figures. They reminded me of the ones in old churches from my childhood.
They are made from cast plaster I think over a wire structure for strength and support, then hand painted of course. (Note the sad looking donkey in the rear above)

(a real flock of sheep)
They seem to be perhaps from the 1950s from the style and colouring. Quite a bit of damage had been sustained but after researching in my restoration book I found out how to repair using a special two part epoxy putty often used by people who make model trains and planes etc. I also used small pots of enamel from the hobby shop to touch up the figures.
My goal was not to make them like new again but to repair and minimise the signs of damage without taking away the integrity of the pieces. I think the beauty is in the age of the pieces.
This is my favourite figure and he was also the most damaged, as you may have imagined with that beautiful long neck. Can you see where his head was hanging literally by the wire stem inside the plaster? If you click on the photo you should be able to view it larger.
You will also be able to see where I have literally touched up the paint to make the chips less obvious rather than to re-paint the entire figures.
It is still a work in progress and the shepherd's crook is the next repair.
So have you noticed how entwined our traditions are at Christmas? The wreath is a throw back to paganism and the nativity set from my formal Catholic upbringing. I find it impossible to separate the two and in fact it was exactly what the church was trying to achieve with the whole feast and festivities calender when they enmeshed it with paganism rituals. What they had hoped was to obliterate one....but it is still there.
 I celebrate God the Father but also Mother Earth.
Whatever your beliefs, have a blessed Christmas Yuletide.


  1. Tanya it is so lovely! For a number of years I have displayed a Nativity in my classroom. Mostly I used a knitted one which I bought at a craft market years ago. I was always prepared to put the set away if the principal should 'get a complaint' from a parent about my having such symbols in the classroom. I never got a complaint and the students loved them! One boy remarked how similar the clothes on the figures were to people on some Xmas cards...he had no idea of the 'story' of Christmas.

  2. what a lovely find... It was a very sad day when the tip shop closed as it was my favourite of all the local secondhand shops, and I was constantly amazed at what people would throw on the tip instead of say give it to a charity shop...My best tip shop find was a $10 brand new tupperware picnic set (the basket was all taped up as it had a broken hinge but the tupperware inside was still all wrapped in its plastic.


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