Make your own Créche
Figure 24 shows the three pieces of the Creche placdtendatively to the base before door and hatch are glued in. I use 8mm (5/16”) plywood. The corner in front of the barn has been cut of in a quarter circle to make the Creche more attractive.
The damage in the barn roof can be seen very well in this base-painted state.
Once the Door and hatch have been glued to the stable, we stain them as described in Step 10. After drying we add some Umbra green and black specks to indicate decay. The result can be seen in Fig 25 and Fig 26.
For the dirt floor we need to prepare some “Krippenmörtel”. To prepare this we first make some diluted wood glue (“Leimwasser”). For this we need to mix 1 part wood glue with 5 parts water and stirr well. The Krippenmörtel is then made by mixing one volumetric part of chalk with one volumetric part of saw dust. After mixing the two dry powders well, we slowly add Leimwasser and keep stirring until we get a creamy, plaster like substance. Krippenmörtel will last about a fortnight if kept in a watertight container (e.g. a jelly jar with a screw-on lit).
For the soil around the house and the dirt floor in the barn, we apply the Krippenmörtel gently with a brush, see Fig. 25. It is important that we generate a rough surface and not fettle it too much. The ground should be uneven and worn from use. The sides of the base board are covered with Krippenmörtel as well. For this I use a pallet – knife or a spatula from a stucco plasterer’s workshop, see Fig. 26.
The Krippenmörtel will have to dry for 6 to 8 hours before we can apply a base coat.
Once the Krippenmörtel has dried, it can be painted with the base coat. Here we use the same white external wall paint as we used in Step 7 for the rendering coat, see Fig 27.
While the base coat dries we can color the roof., see Fig. 27 In our area the roofs tend to have red tiles on the roof, so we can use the same colors as we did in Step 8 when we colored the bricks. With a dry brush we first take up very little red and brush it onto the corrugated cardboard. Some but not all of the ‚valleys‘ should be touched and most of the ‚hills‘ should have some red. We then add some brown and orange spots in the same manner. The final coat would be some red again. Fig. 28 shows the roof after we have added color to it. Still some of the gray base coat is visible. Adventurous creche makers add some purple and black spots as well, to make the roof more dramatic.
After painting the roof it is finally time to color the ground. This time we use the “dark on white” technique. This technique requires powdered paint and a liquid binder. Binders can be acrylic binder from the art store, technical gelatine (Hasenleim) or simply some beer with a twist off cap. In my aquaintance the beer is the most popular binder: first because after drying the paint can still be washed off with water and second because of the disposal of unused binder
The colors used depend on the type of creche. For a folkloric creche from Germany brown, two greens and some black together with some white for mixing seems appropriate. I make my green from blue and some gold ocre, see Fig 29. The typical yellows do not give nice greens for vegetation. Since the blue is such a strong pigment I keep it away from the other pigments on the pallet.
The first part is a thorough coloring of the Krippenmörtel covering the ground with side by side. It is important to color the ground thoroughly such that all crevices and valleys become painted. One cannot put too much color on the ground since the second step will be to wash all the excess paint off with a wet – not dripping – sponge., see Fig 30 It is important to keep the sponge clean and change the water regularly. If the sponge contains to too much pigment it becomes the paint brush
The wet sponge takes off the pigment from the elevated parts of the ground such that a nice lively pattern develops, see Fig 31. One needs to press out the sponge thoroughly. If the sponge is too wet, it takes off too much color.
Once the color of the ground has set, it is time to decorate. I like to use small pieces from plants and bits of sand to give the appearance of a lived-in place.
I use bird sand from a pet store since it is fine and flows well. The sand should not cover the ground completely but sit locally in dark corners or along well trodden paths. I first apply some wood glue with a small brush in the relevant places and then sprinkle sand with a spoon on it. The first layer of sand will be held by the glue once it dries. The rest can be blown off easily.
Small stones can be glued in strategic places as well. I tend to mix them with diluted glue (Leimwasser) and then spoon them on the Créche.
Small plants can be represented by pieces of lichen. Some sports of moss also resemble small flowers, when looked at closely. Glue them with hot melt glue in groups of three and four to give a natural appearance.
The big tree is a piece from a hornbeam hedge with some lichen on it. For trees “parts pro toto” works perfectly. If you want to represent a fir tree, use a bit of fir tree. If you want to have a beech, find some beech root, e.g. from a toppled over tree after a storm.
The final result with a small – maybe too small – nativity group can be seen in Figure 32.
Dear Friend of the Créche,
after eigtheen steps our Créche is done. In this discussion I have tried to show various techniques. Naturally you can build a Créche using only some of them (e.g. you can cover the walls with „Krippenmörtel“ instead of rendering coat. You are welcome to adapt and vary.
I hope you enjoyed our little tour and do post the results of your efforts in this forum.