It's not what you gather, but what you scatter, that tells what kind of a life you have lived.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

My New Nativity Set

I am the proud owner of a nativity set made by my grandchildren! I know Christmas is over, but I'm still finishing some things, so I'm letting you in on the fun.  It was one of the projects that I did with the kids over the holiday. I still have a couple of grandchildren that need to add their pieces, but they may have to wait until next year. For now, I have all the main pieces, some of which are in the oven right now, and I am starting the finishing work. I am doing the details and faces, etc., so they will be a matched set. They are so cute. Mostly they are short and kind of squatty, and I love them. They are made from salt dough, which my kids loved to use when they were young, and their children do, too.

Bags of salt dough!
We had to do a little experimenting, because I've never made free-standing stuff before, only ornaments that hang. The salt dough is really dense and heavy, so I finally figured out that we needed a base to build on. Aluminum foil was the best thing at hand, so I made these little foil cones, like something out of science fiction. (You can't hear me, but I'm humming the theme song from the Twilight Zone.)

As you can see in the before photo, they look white-ish and dried out after they are baked, but as soon as you varnish them, they look great. I am using acrylic paints and fabric paints to do the finishing details. If you make any salt dough stuff, you need to know that the paint doesn't stick very well to the plain dough, but if you put a coat of varnish or decoupage medium on it first, then you can paint it easily. Then give it another coat of varnish and it will be permanent. Here are some before and after photos.

You can tell Joseph isn't finished yet. He's waiting to be baked.

You can really see the difference in these photos. The before figures look all
dried and cracked and the finished ones look much better. Cute camel, huh?
He was too tired to stand up any longer. (So said the grandson who made it.)

The shepherds didn't get fancied up like the wise men, but this one had to have a crook. The other one, not done yet, has a lamb in his arms.

Salt dough is a very fun medium to work with, and truly inexpensive, too. If you have never worked with it before, you should try it. Kids love to work with clay and this is one of the cheapest ways I know of to create "works of art" that you can bake in your own oven and keep for years! I am going to make a tutorial, with all the things I've learned over the years about working with salt dough, so keep an eye out for that.

You know, the more I work with children, the more amazed I am. They are creative without even trying. They are SMART! I think kids today come out of the womb smarter than I will ever be. They are joyful. They spread joy without even knowing it. I love to watch them when they don't know they're being watched, to listen to them chatter and interact with one another, or just be by themselves, talking  to themselves or to imaginary friends, whichever the case may be. My little granddaughter sings ALL THE TIME. If she isn't singing actual words then she is humming, and I love to hear her making up her own little songs. Sometimes she drives me crazy because she sings the same line or phrase over and over and over again, but I still love the fact that she sings. As I leave you today, I want you to consider these words, written by Angela Scwindt: "While we try to teach our children all about life, they teach us what life is all about." Isn't that so true? Until next time,

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