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Judy Davis
A San Franscisco Bay area Collector and Friends of the Creche Vice President
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Judy Davis surrounded by her collection of the Kubastas, and other nativities, she loves.

A visitor's eyes are dazzled — by the panorama of San Fransisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge outside her windows and the entrancing nativities unfolding inside Judy Davis' home…

This wood carved nativity, from Judy Davis' world creche collection, by Zambian artist Oscar Seke, substitutes an elephant and a rhino for the traditional ox and ass. It was commissioned in Botswana in February 2002, and became part ot the collection in August of that year.

The setting sun colors the panorama outside in gold. It's a breathtaking view that includes San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Bay Bridge, and the St. Raphael-Richmond Bridge.

But yours eyes aren't just dazzled by that incomparable view: inside, all around you—on the dining room table, on chairs, on walls, shelves, even on the kitchen counter—you see creches, creches, and more creches!

"Welcome," Judy Davis says with a smile."

Judy, the Vice President of Friends of the Creche, and Coordinator of Convention Planning for the Friends' annual conventions, has graciously opened her San Francisco Bay area home—and her creche collection—for you.

She leads you into her sunny living room, the one with that incredible view. But who can sit still, with all of those creches beckoning? That's when Judy's husband, Bob, joins you. "Hello," Bob says. "Welcome to Casa Mitsuhashi."

A pop-up Kubasta from the Judy Davis collection.

"Bob used to do business with Mexico and Japan," Judy explains, "hence the name. It means "House of the Three Bridges."

It's easy to talk to your friendly, cosmopolitan, well-traveled hosts. You mention your trip to Napa Valley, and Bob returns with a bottle of his own label, Casa Mitsuhashi wine and offers you a drink. Judy suggests you take the bottle with you, and soon Bob comes back with fine Greek Metaxa brandy—just the thing to warm you up in this typical San Franscisco bright, but cool, afternoon.

Then it's your turn to offer a present: a Crechemania.com reproduction of a German vintage creche, printed on extra heavy paper, and ready for cutting-out and assembly. Then, the conversation turns to creches.

Judy, when did you start collecting?

I bought my first creche in 1966, but started seriously collecting 3-dimensional nativities from around the world about 1980. And paper creches only recently.

The paper nativities, the Kubastas? Probably not more than six, seven years ago. When I started collecting pop-up books, I became acquainted with Kubasta, discovered pop-up creches—and it went from there. I think his work is beautiful.

Images of the Nativity fill Judy's home—a Byzantine icon painted on wood.

What is it like to hold a creche Open House?

To have an open house and be able to share my nativities is a wonderful feeling for me. In fact, someone who just joined the Creche Guild was just here yesterday. There are times when I've had a display of up to 300 creches at my church before Christmas. That's really a special occasion, because then hundreds of people can see them. In California, you find a fair amount of interesting nativities. The Mormon churches also hold big exhibits, which are very popular.

What is the reaction of people who may be seeing creches for the first time?

Most people, I think, are acquainted with can relate more to the 3-dimensional nativities; see them more as folk-art. They may not be as familiar with the paper creches. We grew up with paper cut-outs: the girls played with cut-out dolls, the boys with nativities at Christmas time.

Sometimes, since seeing my collection, people become interested in collecting themselves, as a friend recently did. Not paper creches, though, the3-dimensional ones, but it doesn't really matter.

Another element—and some of us in the Friends of the Creche have had this conversation—is cost. Sometimes a collection starts with paper creches, because that's all people can afford. And, in a lot of cases—such as yours in Greece—that's all that may have been available.

Of course, many of the new people in the Creche Guild are excited about the paper creches—because they can download and make them themselves. Annelies, from Holland, has written about 30 miniature nativities that she made from patterns that she downloaded.

What was the first creche of your collection?

A carved, painted creche, from the Czech Republic.

It came from Mexico. I was traveling there in 1966, and decided, since I had grown up without any nativities, that I should buy one, so a did. A Mexican set I liked: Mary holding the Baby; three wise men; and a couple of angels.

Since then my collection has increased. Manuel Jiménez was the man who basically popularized wood carving in the Oaxaca region of Southern Mexico, near the Guatemalan border. He's a great artist, and such a character: he thinks that there should be a statue of him in the main plaza, pointing towards his house! He's a very nice, kind man, who's getting older and more feeble now. When we visited him in 1985, he interviewed us, to be sure that we were going to provide a good home for his nativity. We read the Bible and prayed together, had many good conversations. He's a very special man. We've visited with him and his sons many times since that first time.

I'm so thankful for Bob! He troops me around from nativity artist to nativity artist, and nativity museum to nativity museum. Recently, in the Czech Republic, we must have visited eight museums before going to the Friends of the Creche Congress.



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