Techniques

These elements have since the outset been handcrafted from a range of materials.

The figures of the people are supported on a plaster base which includes the feet and calves of the character. Attached to this base is a structure of metal rods, providing the outline of the body, legs and arms, to which foam is applied to give volume to the body and arms which can be seen. The hands are made from wire, foam and paper, which is then painted. The head is placed on top of this structure, carved from polystyrene and then painted, with the details corresponding to each character. Finally, the costume is made from bedspreads, cloth, blankets and other recycled materials, which are stitched and patched up to create the desired figure and characterisation.

Creating the figures of the Monumental Nativity Scene
Creating the figures of the Monumental Nativity Scene

The animals are typically built on a wooden base. They are given volume by covering a metal mesh structure with papier-mâché, which is then painted with acrylic paint. The animals’ heads and legs are made from plaster and sacking. For some years now, for both new figures and repairs, fibreglass has been used instead of a plaster laid on paper, which makes the figures more weatherproof (preventing them from suffering the effects of water or snow), as well as more lightweight and rigid, which allows for higher-quality paintwork.

Setting up the Monumental Nativity Scene
Setting up the Monumental Nativity Scene

The small animals are made in similar fashion, although the legs are of wood and the heads polystyrene.

Before creating the different scenes, the layout is sketched out in the form of a plan. This layout may change, and is open to new developments and the lessons learned from experience over the years.

Once the arrangement has been defined, sketches are produced of each of the settings, with their various constituent elements. The buildings are sketched out, any major structures that may be required are designed (bridges, support, platforms, etc.), and plans are made for any staging elements that may be needed (trees, market stalls, sea, river, desert, etc.).

The houses and buildings of the village are made from particleboard or MDF, wooden boards and slats, most of which are reused or recycled.

Setting up the Monumental Nativity Scene
Setting up the Monumental Nativity Scene

The supplementary staging is made from a range of materials, depending on the specific features. Sticks from the pruning of local trees are used for this purpose, along with fruit and vegetables donated by local businesses, living trees loaned by the plant nursery of the Autonomous Region of Madrid in El Escorial, plastic sheeting for the rivers, sea and lake, nets, wooden boats, fishing rods, palm leaves to represent the trees and mask the streetlights, sand for the desert, and plenty more besides, all of which contributes to the visual and textural richness of the Monumental Nativity Scene. Almost 90% of the elements are recovered for reuse, thanks to the repair and maintenance work performed each year.

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