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November 5, 2012   •   VOL. 50, NO. 19   •   Oakland, CA
Other front page stories
 
Celebrating love and commitment
 
Bishop: Teachers must convey
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Rawn Harbor to retire
Nativity collection shows respect
for image, artisans
 
Judy Davis started collecting Nativities after a trip to Mexico.
josÉ luis aguirre/The Catholic Voice

Near the front door of Judy Davis' home overlooking San Francisco Bay stands a statue of St. Francis of Assisi, crafted from rough-hewn logs.

History credits Francis with creating the first Nativity scene.

Judy Davis has collected some of the best of the rest.

"A travelogue of the Davis Family vacations," her younger daughter has dubbed the collection, which includes 500 Nativities from 80 countries.

A particular affinity for the American Southwest — Judy and Bob Davis made their first home in El Paso, Texas — radiates in the collection, which is on display across four rooms of their home. It is a carefully curated collection, displayed with respect, and, in some places, whimsy.

Exhibits of the Davis collection had been a treasured Christmas memory at St. Clement's Epicopal Church in Berkeley's Claremont district, where more than 200 would be exhibited. Those who visited the Nativities made contributions to the Alameda County Food Bank.

Follow the Star

Nativities from the Collection of Judy Davis

Nov. 4 – Jan. 6
The Cathedral Shop
2121 Harrison St., Oakland
Open daily, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Closed Nov. 12, 22; Dec. 24, 25, 31; Jan. 1

Judy Davis will be
in the Cathedral Shop

Nov. 4: 1-2 p.m.
Dec. 1: Guadalupe Fiesta afternoon
Dec. 4: 11:30 to 1:30 a.m.
So you want to collect

While no Nativities in the Davis collection are for sale, there will be about 100 Nativities from around the globe available for purchase in the Cathedral Center Nov. 5-Jan. 6. In addition to manufactured Florentine-style Nativities, manager Michele Angeli Zaugg is offering Nativities made by folk artists, including many that carry Fair Trade certification.

Judy Davis' advice to collectors: "It's very easy. You buy the first one because you love it. It becomes an obsession. They say, 'bought one and all of a sudden I have four.'"

Other collecting resources are available at www.friendsofthecreche.org.
 
 
Three years ago, Davis held her last exhibit, which she put on every three years with the assistance of a group from the church's St. Mary's Guild, "I told my group we're not going to do it anymore."

But in 2012, she went to her group and said: One more time.

"Follow the Star," a collection of Nativities from the collection of Judy Davis, is on display at the Cathedral Shop, 2121 Harrison St., Oakland, through Jan. 6, the Feast of the Epiphany. Davis will make several appearances at the shop over the two months.

The 79 Nativities, which will be displayed in the glass shelves along the north wall of the shop, are not for sale.

A year ago, Bob and Judy Davis decided to end their collecting. No more, they told family and friends.

They are seeking a new home for the collection, which they would like to see on permanent or seasonal display.

Their collection began, as all good collections do, with one.

"I wanted a Nativity," Judy Davis said. "I thought it was important to have a Nativity at Christmas. The Methodist Church didn't have one."

On a trip to Mexico, she bought her first Nativity.

It was on a trip to Oberammergau, Germany — home of the famed Passion Play and woodcarvers extraordinaire — that put the Davises in a rare class of collectors.

They told each other, she said, that they would buy a Nativity there if they were going to become serious collectors.

"We bought one and that did it," she said.

The collection has grown over the years, including examples of local artisans to the places the Davises have visited.

"My husband and I bought things we liked and enjoyed," she said. Along the way, they got to know artists and their work and carefully documented their sources.

A striking Nativity from Samoa graces the dining room table of her home, the result of her having asked at the hotel gift shop if any local artisans made Nativities. Some time later, a package arrived at her door, with the carved pieces tucked safely inside.

Her favorite Nativity is a Portuguese cock, made of the brightly painted pottery, with the Nativity safely nested in the bird's breast.

The faces of the Southwestern U.S. pottery show "eyes closed in prayer, mouths open in song," she said.

There's a pewter miniature Nativity from Germany that is almost lost in the palm of your hand. Blue glass figures from Burma grace one shelf of a cabinet, while colorful hand-blown glass from the Czech Republic hold court on another.

There's some whimsy, too: The Baby Jesus in a Nativity from Colombia has a bottle in his mouth.

Among the interesting cultural differences to note in the collection are the gifts of the Magi, which vary from the traditional gold, frankincense and myrrh. In one, the Magi bring a blanket, boots and a wedding pot.

If it's an obsession, it's a lovely one, signifying the birth of Jesus.

"I especially like the folk art," Judy Davis said "Each artisan shows Christ as he relates to his or her daily life."

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