In the fall of 2020, just before the typical holiday rush, glass artist Lauren Wzorek Earl noticed an unusual surge in sales of one of her most popular products. A meme had taken off on Twitter that mainly commented on minimalist nativity scenes. There was her stained glass version, alongside other elongated wise men and faceless diamond-shaped baby Jesuses.
To be honest, it’s kinda funny. After millennia of endless, extravagant depictions of Christianity’s first family, these slick blocks and blobs are sure to be a distraction. While they might elicit a chuckle (imagine finding a delinquent wooden block simply inscribed with “Jesus” between couch cushions), these increasingly popular decorations have many fans — and can spark fascinating conversations about a cherished Christmas tradition.
Nativity scene then, Nativity scene now
View of a wooden nativity scene at the Christmas market on the Main Market Square in Krakow, Poland. Credit: Artur Widak/NurPhoto/Getty Images
But what about something… simpler?
Earl, the glassblower, has worked with stained glass and mirrors her entire career. After taking a break to build her family, she needed new inspiration. It came in 2017 when her sister-in-law sent her a stained glass nativity scene from Europe.
“It involved traditional techniques, with soldering and foiling. And I thought, ‘I have to adapt this to my style,'” she told CNN.
She filled pages and pages with sketches, adjusting shapes here and thinking about color and texture there.
“I didn’t want the piece to consist of real human figures,” she said. “So as it evolved, it became a series of shapes that resembled the scene. I love that you can know what it represents without those details. You can let it recognize your mind instead.”
“I think it’s funny. I know it’s not for everyone, but it’s a new option for people,” she says. “I’ve had clients who collect nativity scenes, or who say they’ve been waiting for one that really appealed to them. That’s what’s important to me.”
New art meets old traditions
Etsy shop owner Oliverfabel sells a minimal Bauhaus-style nativity scene for $25.86. Credit: From oliverfabel/Etsy
Brooklyn Swenson, an artist in Utah, says she drew on this inspiration for her brightly colored minimalist nativity scene.
Meaning, aesthetic – or both?
It’s no wonder those who make and buy these minimalist sets say they’re such a talking point.
They’re also a growing trend at craft venues and craft fairs, and artists like Earl and Fabel say they’ve had to fight counterfeit designs and even take legal action to protect their work in the few years since they became one. popular. The trend has also inspired decors that straddle minimalism and outright absurdity.
While people buy her art for a variety of reasons, Earl finds that a large portion of her sales are to younger clients. She states that some would like to start their own version of Christmas traditions, even if it doesn’t look much like a typical nativity scene.
“I think people like the idea of connecting with art, rather than just a set of figurines, which some nativity scenes are,” she says.
Her favorite part of her stained glass nativity scene is the figure of Jesus, a shy, downturned semicircle of mirrored glass.
“I didn’t want to put any color on that,” she said. “After all, we don’t know what these people looked like. We all have our own idea. And I love that people who look at the Jesus in this scene see themselves reflected.”
Top image: Lauren Wzorek Earl’s Etsy company, Szklo Glass, sells a modern stained glass nativity scene for $170.