Sunday, August 10, 2008

(St.) Cecilia Was Breaking My Heart

I belong to our church choir, so I spend quite a bit of time in the choir loft, yet I had never noticed the small statue that was standing on a shelf against the back wall. She first came to my attention last fall, when our pastor asked the congregation to help give the interior of the church a thorough cleaning. I had volunteered to work in the loft, and it was then that she first caught my eye. Covered with grime, and sitting on a very dirty cotton doily, was a lovely but battered St. Cecilia, the patron saint of music.

At some time in the distant past, Cecilia had obviously taken a tumble, because she was missing fingers and her paint was chipped in quite a few spots. She also had a crack in the top of her head, yet despite her "injuries" and tattered garments, she valiantly continued to play her lyre, and her countenance remained ethereal. This poor woman deserved better. I knew right then and there that she'd be coming home with me. She needed a lot of TLC that would take time, concentration and paints and materials that I had at home. At the end of the work day, I carefully wrapped her in the dry towels that I had brought for the cleaning, placed her in my wash bucket and drove her home. Our relationship had begun.

Now I'm not an expert restorer, just a crafter with quite a few years of experience, so I'm not sure if Cecilia is plaster or chalkware. I do know that water is poison to both, so I was extremely careful when I started bathing her. I used dozens of barely damp cotton swabs, toothpicks wrapped in bits of fabric, cosmetic brushes and eye makeup applicators. Once she was clean, I allowed her to dry for several days, then started to touch up her paint. The results were amazing. She was slowly returning to her former glory, but the finger repairs had to wait. I'd have to research the 'how to' and our litugical year was starting. To make things busier, we were also starting the year long celebration of our parish's 150th anniversary. Sadly, I returned Cecilia to the shelf in the choir loft and she remained there until one week ago.

Last Sunday, we had to clear everything from a large section of the choir loft to make way for a renovation project. Before we left, my husband and I took our music with us and I decided to take Cecilia home too. There was no sense leaving her in the way of the construction, besides, she's losing her shelf! This was the perfect opportunity to work on those fingers and finish the painting.

I've been working on Cecilia all week and she's almost done. I wish I had thought to take pictures before I started to build her new fingers! It really is miraculous!

Here's Cecilia with her new digits. It took four thin layers of spackle and a bunch of toothpicks to build them and I used a tiny piece of fine emory board to sand them down between applications. She's pretty petite at 13 inches so these fingers are teensy.

When I started painting, it became apparent that I needed to do more sanding! That one finger looked broken! I also decided to add some bling to C's outfit, so I broke out the metallic paint. I don't recall one Bible passage that prohibits a saint from being a fashonista.

The sanding did the trick, but now I had to add shading for definition. Custom mixing colors may have been the most difficult part of this project!

The finished project. Isn't she lovely??? I do think that I will try to make the hand a little more sallow to match C's face. I'll decide tomorrow in natural light.

And this I just couldn't resist. If a woman has a "new" outfit, shouldn't she have a new 'do'? Well I couldn't create a new hairstyle, so I just gave Cecilia highlights. Wish my hair looked this good!
I'm going to miss St. Cecilia lounging around my kitchen counters, but at least I'll get to see her at rehearsals and when we sing at Mass. We're going to have to find her a new safe spot, and I think I'll stick some museum putty on her base so she doesn't fall again.


  1. Good morning :)

    Cecilia looks beautiful! You did an amazing job restoring her and I love her new "do" :)


  2. Hi again :)

    In order to make it so that you don't have spaces... make sure you put in all your pictures first. After that write in what you want to say.

    If you preview the post and it has gaps, go back to edit and save the post, then click edit posts and it will take you back to all your other posts and the one you are working on will say edit. Click on that and then check it again to see if there are spaces. If there are then you can back space the pictures and words so that they are closer. Does that make sense?


  3. This one made me cry Nancy Jane. What a blessing you are! Saint Cecilia is beautiful. An amazing restoration!


  4. Dee from Tennessee

    What a great job!

  5. what a great job you have done!

  6. I found joy in your narrative of St. Cecilia's restoration. Maybe you have found a new vocation! I also enjoyed the music.


  7. hey!!!! I can hardly wait for your garden post! I have been waiting all summer for it!

  8. What a touching story about your restoring the little St. Cecilia statue. Crafting tiny fingers and matching the skin tones is a work of precision and love. I like the bling and the highlights, too. What a beautiful face. Yes, museum putty is a good idea! Fieldstone/Pam


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