This set was given to me over the course of a couple-three years by various members of my family. I started with the Mary & Jesus figure and the Joseph figure and built from there. The next iteration of Mary and Joseph were quite different, and put Jesus in the manger as a separate piece. Very traditional, I suppose. I’m sure it’s lovely (I’ve only seen photos).
For me, it is Mary and Jesus that make this set really special. I think you’ll agree.
Tom Clark is the artist. The originals are made from clay and then molds are cast. The material used to make these figures is a resin medium. The figures are painted and stained by hand (by a team of artists). The end result is one that gives the look of clay.
As in most nativity sets that include the wise men (or kings), this set has three. Funny how we have decided that there must have been three of them because there are three gifts listed. Anyhow, I’m glad that in this set they exhibit at least a bit of ethnic difference.
I suppose it is our tendency to make all the characters in the set to look “like us” that has made these characters often look so like the people they came to visit from afar. (And this is as good a time as any to note that I’m fully aware that these visitors likely came much later in chronology rather than on the night of Jesus’ birth. Our pageants and nativity sets have taken a good bit of poetic license. Let’s just own that and not worry about it too much. Can’t we all just get along?!)
One of the characters in this set that makes me smile each year when I bring it out is the Inn Keeper — really a fictional character based on assumption and tradition. We love to imagine this person with various personality quirks and attitude issues, from a cranky, overworked guy in a frenzy to a mild-mannered dote. I like that this man looks kind. Maybe he doesn’t know that Jesus is Messiah, but he at least seems to appreciate the wonder of this new life and the love of this “newlywed” couple.