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Necks't Please...

A crudely painted nativity king gets a makeover
A crudely painted nativity king gets a makeover

'Tis the season for Crib figure repairs. While crudely painted figures can benefit from a professional makeover; (see above) it is at this time of year that our most frequent patients are crib kings and shepherds with fractured necks.

Their heads are so near to the size and shape of a rounded door knob, (designed to fit snugly in the hand) that the temptation to grasp the figure by the head for easy transport from store room to church proves irresistible...until the neck breaks.

A further temptation is of course to repair said breaks without calling the professionals in;

We have seen some interesting repair methods which unless viewed at first hand, cannot be aptly described...

Such as the odd method used below, which involved using a dish cloth to attach a plaster head to its body. I recall that as I extracted it from the torso, it reminded me of a genii escaping its bottle. The romantic old song, "I dream of Genie with the light brown hair..." came to mind, amongst less pleasant grubby old socks perhaps.

I dream of genie ...mostly nightmares.
I dream of genie ...mostly nightmares.

That tiny hairline crack...

Shown right is a shepherd with a hairline crack to the neck. The glossy paint on the collar which didn't match the garments was the first clue that the neck had been repaired before.

The fracture looked quite innocent at this stage, until I began to remove the loose detritus and found the tell tale sign of grey-green putty on the fragments of plaster. A sure portent of problems ahead.

We always join plaster with plaster, as it makes for a good repair, the density being equal to the original material.

Plastic putties on the other hand do not breathe like plaster; they are dense which puts the plaster next to it under stress; it can be more prone to breaking where the two materials meet.

Putty Pimple Popper

As I removed the last putty fragments from the shepherd's neck, I heard a dull thud inside the figure. A large unused lump of plastic putty had been attached to the old repairs, and was now rattling around inside.

I decided it was best removed as it could possibly cause further damage to the statue. Removing it meant that the repair area had to be enlarged to release the hard lump of putty. Whilst the old novice repair required more work to correct than first appeared, I did spare a thought for Dr. Pimple Popper, appreciating the satisfaction she must have of removing unwanted foreign objects from her patients!

Pristine Plaster

My final photo is of the neck repair before I colour matched the tunic and flesh tones to the rest of the figure. It is clear that the extent of the new repair doubled - due to the old repair having been carried out with incompatible materials. With the work done, I can sleep happy knowing that I have made a sympathetic restoration, free of any nasty surprises should the statue need any future repairs. And know that at Christmas time, dishcloths can happily do what they were made for; washing up after Christmas lunch, without fear of being randomly glued to plaster heads...


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