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In Malta, Julian Scicluna — and 60 young enthusiasts! — enjoy a crib-making session

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"It looked like a scene from Santa's Grotto," Julian says, "with some sixty little elves busy at work making nativities!

Proud children of employees of Malta's Bank of Valletta Plc., with their Nativity glass paintings and mentor, artist Joanne Cassar. (Photo courtesy Julian Scicluna.) 

A crib-making invitation in One to One magazine of the Bank of Valletta, Plc., showcases a familiar image — the Crèchemania Svatava Nativity. (Photo courtesy Bank of Valletta Plc.) 
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The full page announcement, in Malta's Bank of Valletta Plc. One to One magazine, is guaranteed to warm a crèche lover's — and paper modeler's! — heart.

Under a color photo of Crèchemania's Svatava Nativity Free Download and the title, "Make a Paper Crib," is an invitation:

"Why not spend some fun time with your children making a paper crib?

"Discover the world of paper cribs which are also called fold-out Nativities, Pop-up Nativities or Paper Models. You can easily download these from the Internet, print them using a colour printer and then cut out and assemble. In a short time you have a finished crib to enjoy.

"Visiting This site is full of fascinating fold-out Nativiites which you can download. First experiment with the simple designs that are free to download. If you find this activity to your liking, you can choose the more elaborate designs which are usually cheap to buy.

"From the home page click on 'Downloads' and scroll to the 'Arches Crèche' which is very easy to cut out and assemble. Detailed instructions are available on the same page. All downloads require that you are registered and logged on, but this is an easy process. This is required so that you confirm that you will not sell the designs, which is understandable.

"The site recommends good quality printing on thick photo quality paper. However, if your printer cannot handle this, you should print with a 'Best Quality' setting on normal paper and then stick on thin cardboard (kartoncin) before cutting out. Alternatively, some stationers offer good quality laser printing which at times is more cost-effective.

"Want to try out something different? The site also has lots of other stuff like Advent Calendars, Christmas Cards, Puzzles and Christmas Tree Ornaments.

"You may run out of time, but definitely not out of ideas!"

This wonderful Christmas present — not just for the children, but for Crè — is courtesy of Maltese Enthusiast Julian Scicluna, who's noted for his three-dimensional nativities.

Crib-Maker-In-Chief Julian Scicluna (fourth from left) with brand new young nativity enthusiasts and Bank of Valletta Plc. colleagues Daniel Magrin and Aldo Micallef . (Photo courtesy Julian Scicluna.) 
"I was requested to write an article for my workplace One to One in-house magazine (1,500 families get it free)," Julian says, "and I used the space to promote the Paper Model Kiosk site. I hope to get more people interested in this fascinating world of nativities!

"Since my childhood I was always surrounded by papier mâché cribs, the local Maltese traditional way of making nativities. My father and brothers always created several cribs each year, which as Christmas approached, they gave away to friends and relatives.

"As a young ten-year-old boy, not having my own crib on Christmas Day made me resolve to remedy the situation; I made my own first crib! Crib making materials where at hand, and I had acquired the know-how by watching my family at work. From that time on I never stopped making cribs."

And this Christmas Julian, the Senior Manager in the Bank of Valletta's IT Department, decided to share his love of making cribs with the children of the bank's employees.

"After the announcement went out to 1,500 employees in our bank magazine," Julian says, "the response was overwhelming — we had to limit the applications to the first 60 children."

The crib-making session's large three dimensional nativity scene features an arched stable, palm trees, three-dimensional figures, and Bethlehem in the distance. (Photo courtesy Julian Scicluna.) 
A nativity-making session

Just before Christmas, in what turned to be a rather cold season in Malta's otherwise mild Mediterranean climate, Julian and the crib-makers gathered at the St. Joseph Institute in Santa Venera.

"A small team of work colleagues and I decided to give the children of our fellow bank employees a treat," Julian says. "An afternoon session of Nativity scene making. For once, allow the children forget their computer games, electronic toys and gadgets and get down to some old fashioned craft making!

"It looked like a scene from Santa's Grotto," Julian says, "with some sixty little elves busy at work! Sixty enthusiastic children, lots of crafts supplies, some great ideas — and this is what you get!

"Since I felt that paper nativities might prove less messy and therefore more attractive to the children than the traditional papier mâché cribs, we offered the children three choices: a nativity collage (especially designed for the younger ones); glass painting a Nativity Scene in a gold frame; and a specially adapted Nativity Crib.

Collage Triptych: "For the youngest children, I prepared materials for a collage (see photo, bottom of page). The children were supplied with 6 sheets of legal-size (8.5 x 14 inch) paper attached to thin card stock. They were guided to cut out the figures, sheep, houses etc, and use sticky foam pieces to assemble on the triptych. This gave the collage a 3-D effect. The background was decorated with coloured paper, and the whole piece was enhanced with stick-on stars and glitter glue. The figures and sheep where reproduced from vintage Christmas Cards available locally 50 years ago.

A young glass artist at work at Julian's Crib-making in Malta. (Photo courtesy Julian Scicluna.) 
Glass painting: "For our Nativity glass painters, I prepared a simple design of Mary, Joseph, and Jesus that the average 10-year-old could handle. We only had two-and-a-half hours, so there was no time for reverse-glass painting. To have children avoid handling sharp glass edges, each child was given an assembled frame with the coloured design on paper underneath the glass. Then the children were guided to trace the outline of the design using black relief glass paint, and then 'fill' the areas with coloured glass paint. I was wary that this might prove too difficult for them, but they*all got it right!

3-Dimensional Crib: "I timed the creation of the crib prototype to ensure that it could be completed in two-and-a-half hours — we didn't want to have children idle, or not have them be able to finish their nativities! I spent days (and even some nights) preparing the designs and materials: hundreds of colour printouts, hundreds of palm leaves, large bunches of pre-cut balsa wood, the list was quite long. But look at the photo of those happy children!

"None of it, of course would have been possible without the children's enthusiasm, the support of their parents, and the wonderful help of my colleagues Joanne Cassar, Doreen Agius, Daniel Magrin and Aldo Micallef, and by the end the satisfaction on every child's face (and that of the proud parents) was worth the effort!

"Already we have had great feedback and requests for next year's event.

"And Crèchemania must come to the rescue!"

Thanks, Julian! Just let me know what you'd like me to do.


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The youngest children in Julian's crib-making session with their nativity collage triptychs and mentor, craft enthusiast Doreen Agius. (Photo courtesy Julian Scicluna.) 

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Updated 12-30-2011 at 11:51 AM by Alexis ("It looked like a scene from Santa's grotto," Julian says, "with some sixty little elves busy at work maing nativities!")