Jack Chandler’s art supplies have taken over his family’s dining room table.
It is cluttered with bowls filled with wine corks, raw cotton, bottle caps and bullet casings; bins that contain wood scraps, tree bark and sticks; and a rotary tool for sawing and drilling that he bought himself.
After about four hours in Jack’s hands, the bark becomes a stable, corks become wise men, pecans become the heads of Mary and Joseph, and cotton becomes sheep.
Jack, 11, has sold about 10 of his handmade Nativity sets and has orders for about a dozen more to be completed after Christmas. His parents have pitched in assembly-line-style to help fill orders on time. He said he is surprised his hobby has become a seasonal business.
“It’s kind of overwhelming,” said Jack, who attends Episcopal Day School.
It started last year when his mother, Kristen Chandler, needed a centerpiece for a Christmas party. Jack, who long has liked to build and fix things, already had made a structure out of Popsicle sticks. He offered to make Mary, Joseph and Baby Jesus to turn it into a Nativity scene.
Friends who saw the set offered to pay Jack to make them one. More orders came in after he entered one in an art show.
Each set is unique. Some have large stables with pitched roofs. Some have small stables with flat roofs. Some of the clothing is traditional, and some is a little more funky. It depends on what the buyer wants, his mother said.
The earnings gave Jack spending money for the family’s trip to New York last week. Now he wants to save for a trampoline to share with his brother and sister.
Ever since he was small, Jack has liked to build things. His mother said that when he was very young he would strap on his Bob the Builder tool belt and go into the backyard to “fix it.”
He has his own shop space in the back of the garage.
“I’ll come out with sticks and stuff tied together,” Jack said. “I made a bow and arrow out of string and two pieces of bamboo. It shoots about 60 feet.”
Of the Nativity sets, Jack said the people are his least favorite to build. The figures are made out of small sticks that are draped with cloth. Pieces of Popsicle sticks create a stand to support them.
“I like to build the cradles and the shelters,” he said. “Those are easier to me.”