Monday, September 22, 2014


As a collector, I don’t only collect what I like. I also collect because I see possibilities in many things—whether they be tattered, old, or missing a piece. Therein lies my problem—in my house, I have many odds and ends in various stages of decay, but which I never throw away. My instinct often tells me that these once-loved objects can be a. restored b. salvaged c. re-loved d. adapted for re-use. Which often leads to challenging projects like this Belen project which took about half a year to complete.

 It started with an old wooden sleeping Niño that I found in a provincial antique shop. It was not exactly an impressive piece—it had been thrown in for a song, together with a large San Antonio I had purchased separately. Nothing remarkable about its carving . In fact, it even had a chipped foot.

But sleeping Niños are always hard to come by—be they expensive ivory or plain wood. So, I took it home, repaired its foot (using epoxy clay) and set it aside—in an old urna shared with its original occupant, a bigger sleeping Niño.

 So for months, there it lay—until one day, I saw an unusually small wooden structure in another antique shop I frequent. It was topped with a cross, so I assumed its an old altar, but it has such an intriguing design—there are no indications if the open parts were covered in glass, no doors, no hinges.

 It had a sort of a headboard with a circular flower cut-out, a motif I have seen on old bauls and comodas. The top also had a carved leaf-like appliqué which looked askew. Could this be a miniature toy furniture? Or a mini-urna?

 Anyway, I took it home and envisioned a wooden casing for my homeless wooden Niño. The first thing I did was to strip off the layers of greenish paint that have accumulated as a pasty muck on the wooden surfaces. I decided to remove the carved wooden trim too. 

 After I filled in some holes and other imperfections, I sent it to my frame-maker for a quick week-end paint job. Then, I had the 3 open sides outfitted with glass panes, using the same rubber glue for installing windows. The back, which had the “headboard”, was left open (I put a small curtain to cover it, instead.)

 As the “pediment” looked bare without the carved trimming, I checked my stock of “collectible junk” and found an old brass ribbon trim, that I neatly tacked on top. I used vintage lace to decorate the front and the sides of the altar, then sewed a velvet cushion pad and a pillow for the Niño.

 Maybe I’ll decorate it with some mother-of-pearl flowers when I find the time, but for now, I consider my Babe ‘n Belen Project completed---just in time for Chirstmas!!

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