About Our Handcrafted Products
German Handcraft Imports represents companies and craftspeople who uphold the standards of quality expected from German artisans. Most of our products come from the Erzgebirge, where traditions of woodcraft run bly through generations of families. Nestled in countryside much like the charming scenes depicted in storybooks and crèches, these artisans draw from their surroundings to give life to their work - everything from the scenery and the tranquil atmosphere to the hospitable villages’ love for children. Their reputation for quality has made Erzgebirge items a favorite of collectors worldwide.
For our non-wood items, we’ve turned to traditional craftspeople in other parts of Germany where their specialties were also honed in painstaking family traditions. For all these craftspeople it’s a matter of pride to create figures that closely adhere to the long-standing traditions that live directly in their regions’ histories. Whether our suppliers are larger companies or individual masters, all our products have a long history of fine workmanship.
Matthias Hillig is a younger craftsman (at the tender age of 43!) working exclusively in the old folk art tradition. His figures have more life-like arms and feet that are shaped from “dough” (a mixture of bone meal, sawdust and glue) and are attached to a wooden body. Few people work in this traditional, slow, multi-layered process, and he and his wife make only limited batches every year. We are proud to be his exclusive US distributor.
Among his fine work is a folk art nativity scene that portrays the heart of Christmas with elegant clarity. Along with the Holy Family, he includes in his crèches King Herod and his soldiers who persecuted the “newborn king.” The addition of these figures in nativity scenes is unique to the Erzgebirge. Hillig also makes incense-burning smokers, angels and figures from old-fashioned children’s stories and cartoons.
Klaus Merten has been producing figures since the 1980s when he retired from his job as a restorer in the Erzgebirge Folk Art Museum in Seiffen. He crafts his figures in the tradition of the first Smokers. Working out of a family workshop with his wife and son, Klaus imbues all of his carefully crafted Smokers with a warmth that comes from the heart of a craftsman. In fact, he puts so much into his work that his figures even resemble him! Klaus also makes figures with arms, feet and faces of dough like Matthias Hillig (special order only). His workshop also offers oversized nutcrackers—his son’s specialty.
Erzgebirgische Volkskunst Richard Glässer was originally a family business founded in 1932 when Richard Glässer started as an independent tradesman in Seiffen, an area of the Erzgebirge. When he added wooden figures to his list of wares, he quickly grasped their popularity and, in the 1940s, the company began producing the figures in-house. Nationalized during the communist era, the company was again brought under private family ownership in 1990 following the reunification of Germany. Glässer had always insisted that his figures maintain a friendly appearance and be of the highest quality while remaining affordable. As in the past, all the figures are still based on traditional motifs—from fairy tale figures to miners and angels. Since its inception, the company has grown and expanded its array of products to become a leading maker of pyramids, turned-wood figures (including smokers and nutcrackers), nativity scenes, candle arches and music boxes.
Christian Werner descends from a family of craftspeople. His specialty is building Noah’s arks, lathe-turned ark animal figurines and “Garden of Eden” pyramids. His workshop also offers products built by his father, who specializes in miner parades and scenes, and his brother Wolfgang, who creates mechanical toys and music boxes. Originally trained as a toy maker in his father’s workshop, Christian furthered his skills by going to school for toy making and later for lathe turning. He is now a master woodturner (one of only a few), who still cuts, carves and paints his figures by hand.
Wendt and Kühn (or Wendt and Kuehn), established in 1915, is an established and respected presence in the Erzgebirge toy craft tradition. Known for their delightful wooden figures, angels and music boxes, their products have been a mainstay at exhibitions and trade fairs all over the world. Their sensitively rendered figurines won kudos at competitions and at the 1937 World Exhibition in Paris, and their reputation for quality has never faltered since. Still manufactured by hand, their products are actively sought by collectors worldwide.
Dregeno Seiffen represents a number of small workshops. Focusing resources on their craft, these workshops go through Dregeno to market their products. All their goods are made with the excellence expected of Erzgebirge products.
Christine Blank Workshop is best known for their Angel Orchestra collectibles. Three generations of the Blank family have crafted these pleated-skirt angels, patented long ago by the grandfather. Using a meticulous process, a single angel requires 150 different stages to completion. Their Gruenhainicher angels with pleated skirts still comprise their flagship line.
Flade (formerly Flade & Wiltner) was started by two sisters, both daughters of a well-known folk art designer. Precipitated by the fall of the Berlin Wall, the company was founded when the Flade sisters found themselves jobless in a reunified Germany. Re-embracing the folk art design training that they received from their father, the sisters and their father began the company. Known best for their charming figures made with the trademark flax hair (instead of painted hair), their products are favorites among collectors.
The Lotte Sievers-Hahn family-run workshop has held a 70-year tradition of making striking limewood figures -- their signature. Each figure is an original -- carved entirely by hand and painted in rich oil colors. As such they are extremely collectible and remain popular gifts. We carry the crèches (nativity scene figures). Although these figures have their roots in the Erzgebirge tradition, their designs are quite unique among the folk art tradition.