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The Nativity: A Labor of Love

Each year, two Vero Beach mothers work together to produce a new religious scenario for the Festival of Trees.

Beautiful miniature tiles and tiny Paul Pickel designed stained glass windows adorn this grand cathedral-style version of the Christmas creche.

Beautiful miniature tiles and tiny Paul Pickel designed stained glass windows adorn this grand cathedral-style version of the Christmas creche.

Picture the following scenario: You have just attended Mass one Sunday in November at Holy Cross Catholic Church, and as you are leaving you see two women greet each other. Nothing unusual there. Then one of the women exclaims to the other, “I have bad news: the Virgin Mary has exploded!” If this ever happens to you, do not be alarmed; you are probably in the presence of Charlotte Lajoie and Debbie Collins.

Each year the two longtime friends, ceramic artist and craftswoman extraordinaire respectively, create a Nativity scene for the local Festival of Trees. Each year their entry is exquisite and inspired. The creative process leading to the final product is an intricately choreographed collaboration between two very different personalities, often leading to amusing anecdotes such as the one recounted above. One year, just a few days before their Festival of Trees entry was due, Lajoie experienced one of the misfortunes dreaded by ceramic artists: a figure exploded in the kiln – in this case, the Virgin Mary. As always, though, things worked out and the pair made the Festival deadline.

Lajoie and Collins laugh as they recall another year in which, during the Festival setup, “We had to use potholders because the figures were still hot out of the kiln!” Happily, these close calls have not prevented this duo from contributing entries for 10 of the last 11 years and winning several awards.

Read the entire article in the November 2011 issue