My Outlook: Pat Darcey, Creator & Owner of With Joy Nativities

Pat Darcey with her nativity setHow did you get started making nativities?

I was making sheep for sale when a bored friend asked to join me. A few sales later she suggested we make nativities. It took her four months to convince me everyone didn’t already have one of their own. She was right.

How long have you been creating these?

We designed and completed six sets of five pieces each. We were so pleased that we entered them in what I believe was the very first An Affair of the Heart in 1986.

What are your nativities made from?

Pine and oak are the base woods. We wrap them in hand-spun and imported yarns and embellish them.

How do you make them?

Meticulously. We wrap the wooden piece strand by strand in fine yarns.

How long does it take you to make a whole set?

In the beginning it took us about eight hours to make a five-piece set. The set has grown to 40 pieces and our skill level has increased considerably, but they are very time consuming.

How many nativities do you make in a year?

I have no idea! There are no pre-packaged sets. Every collector creates his own set from our pieces. Therefore we create the individual pieces rather than a particular set or sets. We also help select the pieces if the collector is unsure. 

Do you sell your nativities locally?

I have a home studio show once a year (the first weekend containing a December day). My studio is in Arcadia and I sell there by appointment throughout the year but do not sell to retailers.

Nativity Angel

Where is the furthest you have sent a set?

Hong Kong, maybe Norway.

When did you know this could be a business venture?

After the first An Affair of the Heart show we found ourselves still wrapping orders in February of the next year.

Do you create any other types of items/crafts?

We struggle to keep ahead of our nativity collectors. All other ideas have to take a back burner which looks unlikely to be lit, at this point in time.

Which part of the nativity is your favorite to create?

I like designing the new pieces best. Fortunately for me, I have Betty Bennett who wraps the individual pieces even better than I. There are a few steps only I do on the wisemen, stars, palm trees and saddles. 

Do you think nativities should only be reserved for Christmas or displayed all year long?

Some of my collectors keep them up all year. Most don’t. Every family has their own tradition. For example, one of my collectors keeps The Baby Jesus in the bread-box all year to remind her family where their daily bread actually comes from.

What is it about your business that keeps you going?

With Joy Nativities have an emotional impact on the people who are drawn to them. Each collector chooses which pieces, which colors and also which traditions they will establish with their set.

Is there anything else you would like us to know about you?

I am grateful for the way many things have opened up allowing this creation to unfold. People have appeared soon after we needed them; excellent woodcutters, wrappers, even helpers for the Home Show. All of them love what they do. I am very grateful for the people who have contributed ideas and opinions that impacted the collection. And I am amazed at the beautiful combinations the collectors put together before me.

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