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The Golden Glow of Christmas Past

German Glass Ornaments

Hausdörfer Glas Manufaktur

Inge-Glas of Germany

Erzgebirge Wooden Folk Art

Kleinkunst aus dem Erzgebirge® Müller GmbH

Klaus Merten

Füchtner Nutcrackers

Martina Rudolph

Paper Mache Candy Containers

Marolin® by Richard Mahr GmbH

Ino Schaller

Hausdörfer Glas Manufaktur

Located 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.

Son 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."

The 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

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 Manufaktur workshop.

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Inge-Glas® of Germany

Beginning 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.

In 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 late wife.

In 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.

The pictures below are from a recent visit to the Inge-Glas® workshop in Neustadt-by-Coburg.

The vault of current molds.

Mouth blowing clear glass ornaments.

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.

Inge 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.

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MAROLIN® by Richard Mahr GmbH

The 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.

The 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 1990.

Today, 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 years ago.

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.

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The Schaller Family Business
Carl Schaller ~ Ino Schaller ~ Dieter Schaller ~ Thomas Schaller
from 1894 to the present

Carl 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.

Ino 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.

Thomas 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 Neustadt-by-Coburg.

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 in Neustadt-by-Coburg.

Roger Lund, owner of The Christmas Haus, and Thomas Schaller, 4th generation head of the family company.


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Erzgebirge Wooden Folk Art

The 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.

Erzgebirge Forest
The forests of the Erzgebirge

Early Erzgebirge Wooden Folk Art
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.

In 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.

The 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 enterprises.

Many 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.

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Füchtner Nutcrackers

Roger Lund at Füchtner doorway
Roger Lund, owner of The Christmas Haus, arrives at the Füchtner Homestead in Seiffen

Wilhelm 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 Striezel Market.

Wilhelm Friedrich Füchtner photo
Wilhelm Friedrich Füchtner

Today, 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 lathe
Volker Füchtner at his lathe

Roger Lund & Volker Füchtner
Roger Lund, owner of The Christmas Haus, and Volker Füchtner in the Füchtner workshop

Füchtner King Nutcracker

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Martina Rudolph

Wood Curled Trees
Wood Curled Trees

Some 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).

Span 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.

Martina 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.

Martina Rudolph
Martina Rudolph in her workshop

Martina Rudolph design Martina Rudolph Design Martina Rudolph Design

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Klaus Merten

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.

Klaus Merten's 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.

Klaus Merten

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 Craftsman

In 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.

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Kleinkunst aus dem Erzgebirge® Müller GmbH

Ringo 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 in 1899.

Müller's style is very different from others in that

he 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.

Another feature 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.

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© The Christmas Haus and The Summer House Collection, LLC, 2013