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Julian Scicluna


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Once you cut around a layer, the resulting white space needs to be filled with artwork. Mouseover the image to see the empty space you need to fill. (Photo courtesy Julian Scicluna.)
Creating a framed, 3-D crèche

Julian Scicluna is most kind in sharing with us his how-tos in re-creating the 3-D Nativity in the Museo Del Presepio, Brembo di Dalmine, that inspired him.

First of all, it's important to understand that Julian did not start out with a crèche sheet (as I first thought myself) but a good photo of the framed, complete crèche.

In other words, he had to "re-draw" all the cut-out areas. You can see exactly see what Julian had to do by running your mouse over the image at left.) It's exactly what I did when I "recreated" nativities from the Santi Auguri! book.

Of course, you realize that you could create a nativity in this manner from a crèche sheet—so you wouldn't have to fill-in all the cut-out areas as Julian did. But, if you want to duplicate an existing nativity, as he did, then here are Julian very clear instructions:

"Cut" and separate the layers using image editing software

"I will attempt to describe how I made this crib starting with the very first steps.

"Some time ago I came across a wonderful photo of an antique Italian crib. Of course, the original in the museum is 3D, while the photo I had was flat. I began thinking about how I could recreate the 3D paper crib I saw in the Museum.

"Then I realized I could do it using using photo editing software like the popular Photoshop or Photoshop Elements or Correl Draw. First, I scanned the image using high resolution settings. Using photo editing software, I did some retouching, because the original paper crib had some torn edges and faded areas—it is over 100 years old after all!

"On the computer, I traced around the figures and objects so I could ‘cut’ and ‘paste’ each in a new layer, separating them in separate layered images.

"Of course, this leaves empty spaces where each figure is cut [Run your mouse over the image, left, to see this.] This space I filled by digitally ‘drawing,’ using the same colours and textures from the surrounding areas.

"Here some creativity is needed, since, in actuallity, it's anyone's guess wha would have been behind each figure in the original. If only one could carefully dissassemble the original Museum crèche, and scan each layer separately! However, by using bits and pieces from the same image I was able to "reconstruct" the missing areas (see column photo, below).

"For example, by digitally cutting, mirroring and rotating the stone slabs I could complete the archway. After cutting out the shepherd boys (image at left) I was left with a white cutout that had to be filled (run your mouse over the image at left to see it). Then, I copied stone slabs, and finished column, are shown in the image below.

When completed, print the layers on photo paper.

Then comes the cutting which requires lots of patience and care! Do not attempt it if you are having a bad day! Each part is then fixed on to thin but firm cardboard so that it will not bend. At this stage, the crib consists of 5 separate pieces: the main image and 4 layers that are placed on top. Actually the original crib had even more layers, but I could not successfully isolate the layers inside the archway.

The gold boxed frame I used to showcase the crib came with a thick cardboard backing which comes off to allow items to be placed inside the frame. This I painted with dark green acrylic paint to serve as the background for the crib. I used a thick paint mixture so as to get a textured effect.

Separate the layers with thin cork

Then I prepared several cork rings, cut 7mm thick, from bottle cork. These are required to separate the 5 layers from each other and from the cardboard backing. For neatness sake, I painted these in black using acrylic paint. When all paint was dry, I glued 6 cork rings to the cardboard backing and mounted the main image exactly in the centre. Then I repeated the process for the other 3 layers: glueing more cork rings and then gluing a layer.

The archway roof is glued last, slightly tilted.

At every stage, one must refer to the original image so that the layers are in the correct position.

Now, sit back and admire your work!

—Julian Scicluna

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Julian Scicluna

© 2021

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