A few years ago, my sister emailed me snapshots she'd taken of an outdoor nativity set. "Can you make me one?" She told me she had been trying for years to find a nativity set that was not too commercial and/or tacky and she was so excited to have finally found something she loved. Well I had been struggling with what to get her for Christmas so I went to work, trying to figure out how to make the thing, based on the pictures she'd sent.
All my life, I'd thought that my sister was more "artistically opinionated" than me, but honestly, I didn't think the thing was that nice. Being the perfectionist that I am, I decided to improve the design. That was the fun part. Making it was not.
Imagine taking a 50+ lb., 4'x8' sheet of plywood, laying out and cutting intricate patterns, filling all those gaps at the edges that are so prominent in plywood, sanding each piece, then priming and painting them all, front, back and sides. It took a long time. In fact, I didn't get it done in time for her to put out that year. But, she used it the next Christmas.
Then I got the phone call. Several of her friends and neighbors wanted me to make them one too. "And by the way" she says, "the winter was real tough on mine so it needs to be re-primed and painted". I wasn't sure what to do. People seemed to think it was wonderful. I agreed, but it was way too much work to make again. And if I were to make more, I'd at least need to find a material better than plywood to use so it would last longer than 1 or 2 seasons.
I talked to numerous experts about alternative materials and found the perfect stuff. (learn more) It should easily last... well... forever. And it's naturally white, all the way through, so there is no need to paint it. (However, if you want to, it does take paint very well.) It's got a real nice matte finish that looks and feels just like professionally painted wood. In fact, I get a couple emails per year from people who are upset that I sent them a wood nativity when they'd ordered a plastic one.
Anyway, that is how this all started. I'm going on my fifth year now and I just love it. It is a lot of work but I'm very proud of this nativity and the joy that it has brought to so many people.Inspirations for the artwork
I decided from the beginning that if I were to sell this nativity that I couldn't hand cut out each one. Not only is that too slow, but it isn't very accurate and I felt a responsibility to deliver exactly what people saw on the website. So, I have the parts all cut out by a "computer driven router" down in southern California. It costs more, but each part is just perfect. Then, they ship them up to me. I spend a good chunk of each week (Sept – Dec) stocking and preparing parts and packaging materials. Then on Friday nights, my parents come over. My dad glues all the stars together while my mom and I do other "boxing prep" stuff. On Saturday mornings the whole gang shows up on my driveway.
I am very lucky that I live in California where I can be outdoors in December, boxing nativities. It is strange to be outside; boxing a nativity for someone that I know is getting snowed in at that very moment. But, if I didn't have the weather I do here, I simply could not do this.
In my real life, I'm a residential designer (unlicensed architect) but my true love has always been art. I started school as an art major, but soon decided that art was a very difficult way to make a living. So, I switched to the only "real" profession I could think of that at least involved art. I do love what I do, but this little nativity business has been a wonderful experience allowing me to return to my artistic roots. In my spare time, I do a lot of woodworking. Mostly sculpting. I'm not very good yet, but I think that is how I'd like to spend my retirement, so I still have time to learn.
We bought ourselves a "fixer upper" 18 years ago, and we are still working on that. We've been a year or two from finishing for about 5 years now. We have 4 horses, a cat, a brand new Vizsla puppy (whew), and it seems that we (or at least our vegetable garden) have now adopted a few deer.
I guess that is all I can think of to tell you about me and this nativity business. I hope you enjoy the website.
Please email me if you have any questions.
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