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Some thoughts on building models of all types and sizes

Some thoughts on building models of all types and sizes

Welcome. If you have not visited Minature Buildings before can I suggest you begin with my Aims and Scope article or at the Home Page. If you have visited before - welcome back. I hope this article is of interest to you.


Nativities are primarily about figures. But they commonly feature a model of the stable. A completely unrealistic stylisied quasi-medieval version of a stable.

This is mine. With figures from Santons Fouque of Aix-en-Provence, who we visited in the summer of 2019. Both the Provence and Italy have long traditions of nativity villages. The Provence tradition began during the French Revolution. The holy family and the shepherds are of course central but the village scene goes much wider than this with a range of charecters from everyday life. The 'santons' are the clay figurines made in Provence. Some explanation can be found in the Notre Provence site. A long tradition but very different from the German and US style of winter villages.

The roofing was a plastic sheet which (I think) came many years ago from Model Builders Supply of Ontario. I suspect it was sold as 1/24 scale, so a little bit big for the (nominally 40 mm) figures which are around 1/43 scale). But I'm reasonably happy with the effect. Looking at the photo I think I should have detailed the front edge of the tiles a bit more. And weathered it. Maybe I will modify it once it comes off the Christmas display table - or when it comes out of the box next December. Or maybe not!

The walls are two different downloaded Scalescenes textures printed onto canvas photo-paper. I like the fact that it is not a completely smooth surface. The floor is sawdust. The paint is nothing fancy - tester pots of emulsion.

And here is an example from someone much better than me. I think it comes from the workshop where I bought the litle Santon figures I used. It is in a bigger scale using more complex, and much more expensive, figures than those I bought.

You may have noticed that both images include a knife grinder. This is no coincidence. I have a particular affection for this character. At the end of WW2 my father served for a while in the South of France. And brought home just such a figure, which now sits as a memento on my bookcase.

As far as I know there is no Santon tradition in Brittany. But I stumbled on this window display in ??? . Simply a local artist who liked the genre I suspect. My snapshot through the shop window is, frankly, c**p.  So I went online looking for 'Santons de Sainte Barbe of Paimpol' and found some much better images.  Buildings do not really feature; it is all about the figures.  The artist appears to be Céline de la Fouchardière The style might be described as naive but I find them charming.

She has taken the tradition of illustrating local people and transposed it to Brittany.  To great effect.  Traditional costumes, the naval tradition, bagpipers echoing the peculiar Neopolitan tradition of a shepherd with pipes.  But a druid in a nativity may be a step too far.  The photos are shamelessly lifted by me from specialist shop Le Sacre Choeur, I hope they do not mind.  An article on her work can be found in the Le Telegramme site.  Her figures are each hand made and painted, which puts them a bit outside my budget I'm afraid.


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David, 3 January 2020 updated September 2022