This week I made a simple Christmas nativity scene using some wooden blocks I picked up from a craft store. Painted in muted colours and with twists of wire, modelling-clay and wooden accessories, they make a calming and beautiful tableau.
I bought a selection of different wooden shapes (mine were from A C Moore in the US; Michaels in the US and Hobbycraft in the UK also sell similar). I chose sets of three shapes to form my shepherds and wise men, and then picked out shapes that could be crafted into the other key figures in the stable…
I gave Joseph and Mary two layers of pale grey paint, and then rolled out a rectangle of white modelling clay to form their clothes, pressing a wooden button into each as it dried. Baby Jesus too just has a thin sheet of clay to swaddle him; his cradle is a giant coat button and a soft handful of dried moss.
Our shepherds have simple clay headcloths, tied with a small length of leather cord; their crooks are wooden pins (designed to use with wooden wheels in toy-making I think; but any piece of twig or stick would do).
The wise men have simple crowns made by rolling out a length of clay and cutting it with serrated scissors (If you don’t have these, just use a craft knife to cut out triangle shapes). Their gifts are little wooden squares (repurposed from a rubber stamp alphabet kit!), topped with the same little buttons as Mary and Joseph’s clothing.
And finally Gabriel; my favourite angel. Hand-cut wings of clay are pressed into his back, and a thin length of gold wire thread around his head to form a halo, topped with a tiny clay star. He stands on a wooden block, keeping watch and centering the scene. He makes me smile.
A simple nativity, that looks all the better for being a little rough and ready and unformed. It’s a very satisfying project for a winter’s afternoon… and the first sign of Christmas to appear in our home!