in Haselbach, the small village over the mountain from Lauscha, where
German glass blowing began in 1597, Hausdörfer Glas Manufaktur is a
small family workshop.
Mario says, "I am a fifth generation ornament maker. I grew up as a
child learning about how the ornaments are made. It takes great
precision and patience to make these ornaments. I probably started when
I was four years old, watching my dad, and by 15, I was blowing glass."
Hausdörfer workshop has the use of over 1,000 different molds - some
dating back at least 80 years and others newly created each year.
Mario Hausdörfer blowing
glass, Roger Lund, owner of The Christmas Haus with Mario's father Gerd
blowing glass, Mario's mother Karin silvering the insides of
freshly-blown ornaments, and Mario and Roger in the Hausdörfer Glas
in 1597 in Lauscha, Germany, the Müller family created mouth blown
glassware. Two and one-half centuries later, in the 1860s, the
Müller-Blech family customized their craft to create mouth blown, hand
painted ornaments. For nearly as many years, a second family, the
Eichhorns, produced fine quality glassware as well.
1953, following the World War II Russian occupation of Lauscha, Heinz
Müller-Blech fled to Neustadt-by-Coburg, Germany, and there he
reestablished the family workshops. Today the company and its Christmas
ornament collection, Inge's Christmas Heirlooms™, bear the name of his
the early 1990s, through marriage, the Müller-Blech and Eichorn
families combined their traditions and skills. Inge-Glas® remains a
family operated business built by 14 generations of effort, heart, and
soul. And to this day, many of the ornaments are handcrafted in molds
that date to the 1860s.
pictures below are from a recent visit to the Inge-Glas® workshop in
The vault of current
Mouth blowing clear glass
Hand silvering the inside
of the ornaments.
Hand painting each
ornament—with drying time between each color.
Hand glittering each
ornament—again, with drying time between each color.
Roger Lund, owner of The
Christmas Haus, selecting ornaments with Klaus Müller-Blech, the 14th
generation head of the family company.
Glas and Old World Christmas: Between 1984 and 2000, The Merck
Family's Old World Christmas distributed Inge-Glas® German-made
ornaments in the United States. In 2001, Old World Christmas
began producing its ornament designs in China, no longer capped with
the Star Crown™, which is owned by Inge-Glas®. Since 2001, Inge-Glas®
has exported its glass ornaments under its own name, complete with the
exclusive Star Crown™, which continues to identify mouth blown, hand
painted ornaments from the 14th generation Inge-Glas® family workshops
in Neustadt-by-Coburg, Germany.
Richard Mahr company was founded in the 1900 by Richard Mahr in his
parents' home in the town of Steinach, Thuringia. Like many family
craft businesses then and now, the house was both a residence and a
workshop. His Marolin paper mache figures became known worldwide until
World War II stopped the production.
family lost control of the business to the East German government from
1949 to 1990. In the 1970s, the original family paper mache recipe was
lost. By chance, workers found the formula written on a cellar door in
Richard Mahr's granddaughter, Evelyn Forkel, and her son Christopher
operate the family company, molding classic Germany paper mache
figures, many of them in her grandfather's molds from more than 100
Figurines are poured into a form to create a hollow body.
Since the molds are made of plaster of Paris, they absorb
the moisture of the liquid and a thin layer sticks to the mold's walls.
The figurines are hand-painted, demonstrating the
decorator's masterly skill and love for details. Each piece takes about
one week to create.
Schaller Family Business Carl Schaller ~ Ino Schaller ~
Dieter Schaller ~ Thomas Schaller from 1894 to the present
Schaller started a company in his home to produce paper holiday
articles, including paper mache, flocked, and pressed cardboard items,
in 1894, in Neustadt-by-Coberg, in Bavaria, in west central Germany.
His pieces, especially the paper mache candy containers that open from
the bottom or middle, were exported to the United States by
Woolworth's, which had a warehouse in nearby Sonneberg until 1939.
Schaller inherited his father Carl's business, but by the late
1940s, he moved into pressed cardboard figures, and by the 1960s was
producing pressed plastic forms as well.
Dieter Schaller, Ino's son, also made cardboard toys
and figures, such as rabbits, ducks and Santas. Both Ino and Dieter
produced plastic plush-covered figures through the '70s and '80s, and
the family continues to produce them today.
Schaller, Dieter's teenage son, found his great grandfather's candy
container molds in the family's attic in the mid-1980s. Fascinated, he
sought the help of his father Dieter to revive the craft of mold
casting and pouring paper mache.
Today, there are many candy container "reproductions," but nothing
matches the integrity, quality and artistry of one made in the original
mold, by the same family, in the same house where the original family
business began more than 100 years ago.
The pictures below are from a
recent visit to the Schaller family home and workshop in
The process of making Ino
Schaller paper mache and composition figures takes seven days. On the
first day, the craftsperson combines liquefied paper, clay, glue, and a
few secret mineral ingredients.
On the second day, the worker blends the mixture to a smooth
consistency and pours it into a two-part plaster mold. In a short
while, the plaster draws out some of the water content, leaving a thin
paper mache shell.
The crafter pours out the
excess liquid, and the shell dries through the third day. On day four,
the artisan dips the paper mache form in liquid plaster, creating a
thin, smooth white skin for the hand painted details and trim. The
plaster skin makes this a "composition" figure.
On the sixth, seventh and eighth days, the artist applies layers of
paint, fine details, and glaze, with drying time between each coat.
Finally, the artists apply the finishing touches such as chenille,
cellulose shavings, ground glass and mica.
Roger Lund, owner of The
Christmas Haus, selecting candy containers in the Ino Schaller showroom
Roger Lund, owner of The
Christmas Haus, and Thomas Schaller, 4th generation head of the family
Erzgebirge is a low mountain range just north of the Czech Republic
border in the German Province of Saxony, south of Dresden. Although
originally known as a mining center ("Erzgebirge" means "ore
mountain"), the mountains have always been covered by abundant forests.
The forests of the
Early Erzgebirge Wooden
Folk Art (The original Wilhelm Friedrich Füchtner nutcracker is
in the center.)
Beginning in the early 14th
century, mining of silver, tin, iron and nickel fueled the area's
economy. By the late 17th century, making wooden wares for household
use became a second significant source of employment.
response to the growing demand for toys in the 18th century, more and
more woodworkers became toymakers. When the mines began to play out
around the middle of the next century, the miners turned to the cottage
industry of woodworking to support their families.
village of Seiffen, situated in a valley surrounded by forested hills,
is the present day center of the traditional Ergebirge wooden folk art.
There are about 200 full-time woodworkers in the region and perhaps 800
part-timers, mostly working in small year-round workshops and family
of the workshops represent generations of the same family, working in
the same surroundings, to preserve the heritage of wooden toys and folk
art designed by their ancestors more than a century ago.
Roger Lund, owner of The Christmas Haus, arrives at the
Füchtner Homestead in Seiffen
Friedrich Füchtner (1844-1923), known the world over as the "Father of
the Nutcracker" produced the very first "mass production" nutcracker
around 1870, using a water-powered lathe to turn the body parts rather
than carving each nutcracker by hand. His home workshop in Seiffen, the
small toy-making village in the middle of the Erzgebirge in eastern
Germany, is still the home of the finest nutcrackers.
His ancestors were carpenters and in the wintertime they were out of
work. In order to provide for their families, they used their
woodcarving skills to produce wooden figurines. In 1786, Gotthelf
Friedrich Füchtner sold the first wooden figurines at the Dresdener
Wilhelm Friedrich Füchtner
six generations later, Volker Füchtner honors his great-great-great
grandfather by still producing nutcrackers in the old tradition in the
very same home workshop—the birthplace of the nutcracker.
Volker Füchtner at his
Roger Lund, owner of The
Christmas Haus, and Volker Füchtner in the Füchtner workshop
of the most charming forms of Erzgebirge wooden folk art are "span
trees" and the decorations and ornaments based on the tradition of Spanbaumstecherei
(carving wooden trees with intricate curly branches).
trees are known by many names - span trees, chip trees, splinter trees,
shaved wooden trees, twilled trees, or curled trees. Using a method
developed in the 1930s, the trees are hand carved of linden wood, curl
by curl, layer by layer.
Rudolph and her husband are among the leading woodcarvers who produce
these trees, as well as ornaments, wall and window decorations and
lighting. As a child in the Erzgebirge, Martina Rudolph learned the
family tradition of Spanbaumstecherei from her father Helmut
Beyer, a well-known woodcarver. She practiced these special skills as a
hobby, and in 1996 opened her own small workshop in Seiffen to produce
this unique Erzgebirge folk art for others.
In 1985 Klaus
Merten opened his small family workshop in Seiffen to produce
typical Erzgebirge folk art as a master wooden toy maker. He patterned
his smokers after the designs of Gotthelf Friedrich Haustein, who
created the first smoking man in 1856 or 1857 in the small village of
Heidelberg, just outside Seiffen. Four generations of the Haustein
family continued to produce smokers until 1948.
Before opening his own workshop, Klaus Merten worked as a department
manager and restorer in Seiffen's Erzgebirge Toy Museum. Shortly after
the workshop's founding, Klaus showed his work at the Leipzig Autumn
Fair and won acclaim for his meticulous craftsmanship.
smokers, inspired by the historic Haustein models seen in the town's
toy museum, have grown from the initial 20 different styles to a
seemingly endless series of more than 100.
Like Haustein smokers, Merten's designs feature long thin legs, unique
bodies and heads, painted faced and wooden arms. Today, Merten's
smokers are still hand-turned and painted in small quantities.
The male smokers
feature the workshop's signature white pipe with floral decoration.
Each smoking man comes with a certificate signed by Herr Merten, Master
1998 the District Administrator of the Middle Erzgebirgskreis and
the Association of Artisans Erzgebirgisch awarded Klaus Merten the
greatest public recognition for his work, the prize "Tradition and
Form." In May 2000 Matthias Merten, Klaus' son, joined the workshop to
help to continue his father's traditional handicraft.
Matthias Merten and
Roger Lund, owner of The Christmas Haus.
Müller's family-run workshop in Seiffen is one of our finest
woodworking partners. Fourth-generation Ringo and his family take pride
in continuing what their great-grandfather Edmund Oswald Müller started
Müller's style is very different from others in that
uses dozens of
different wood types and then stains them to create the color and
texture that makes his pieces so unique. He uses paint very sparingly.
of Müller's work is his attention to detail. A single gift box on a
schwibbogen or candle arch is made of 7 different
pieces of wood. His
smallest figures can have as many as 20 different pieces to them.
While a little more contemporary that most woodworkers from Seiffen,
Ringo Müller's designs are certainly heirlooms of tomorrow.