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, 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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The pictures below are from a recent visit to the Inge-Glas® workshop in Neustadt-by-Coburg.
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.
The glass christmas ornaments of my grandfather and great-grandfather is what determined the profile of my company. The handcrafted craftsmanship of our family business is documented in our elaborate handcrafted ornaments, which we distinguish by a great diversity and colorful splendor. A wide selection of old, traditional forms, which my grandfather produced, are at our disposal. In the meantime, we can let the experience of 5 generations flow into our small treasures.
Since 1848 Lauscha has been the birthplace of the family of glass Christmas decorations. Until this time, it was tradition to decorate the tree with apples and walnuts. According to one legend, the idea of creating colored glass balls made of glass as a Christmas decorations comes from a poor Lauscha glassblower, who in 1847 could not afford the expensive walnuts and apples. Even today, the Thuringian Forest and especially the region around Lauscha is one of the most important glass regions in Central Europe.
In the production of Christmas decorations made of glass, the glass blowers initially operated with rape oil and paraffin. However, only a very hot gas flame with the supply of air or oxygen allows the blowing of large, thin-walled Christmas tree balls. Today the burners are operated with natural gas or propane gas. The craftsmanship with which we manufacture our mouth-blown Christmas decorations is still the same.
With the registered brand name Lauschaer Glaskunst ®, an association of glassblowers and glassmakers from the region around Lauscha have made it their task to preserve the traditional production method of glassware such as Christmas decorations. We are also members of this association and are therefore allowed to market our Christmas decorations under the name of Lauscha glass art. By purchasing a product with this mark, you have the certainty to have acquired a product that has been manufactured in the region around Lauscha, according to old tradition.
Nostalgie Christmas ornaments are manufactured in the old tradition of craftsmanship such as artisans did it a 100 years ago. The precious, mouth-blown Christmas ornaments are made just like at the beginning of the 19th Century in Thuringia in restored original old molds, affectionately hand-painted, patinated and topped with stylish iron caps in the proper traditional style. The Christmas tree decorations and manufacturing methods are derived from the old Thuringian glass-blowing tradition at Lauscha. The forms originate from the collection of a traditional glass-blowing family, which is active in the third Generation already. Each mold has been carefully restored and is a work of art. With our tree ornaments you give your tree a special Christmas splendor! Collectors' hearts will beat faster, as many old decorations ornaments are now being manufactured in the nostalgic style and can be purchased at an affordable price.