There's no better celebration of any season than the decorated tree adorned with the rich symbolism of nature—my ritual to inform and inspire you in the journey called life.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

made in Germany

RARELY  DO  I  see an evergreen tree around the holiday season that I don't instinctively want to decorate (or redecorate). I even joked with a friend the other day when seeing a large cell phone tower disguised as a pine tree that it could use some seasonal help. But trees are naturally beautiful all on their own (I'm not sure about the impostor cell phone towers).

GERMANY  has long been known to produce some of the best holiday decorations. The authentic ones are less commonly found outside of Europe. A number of German companies now have their ornaments manufactured in China. But it's evident that a lot of pride and care is taken with those that are actually still made in Germany by the craftsmen that have learned their art from previous generations. The glass ornaments are crowned with stamped metal caps that signify the company or family who made them. I always look for the stray box or two at discount stores that sometimes have little tags on their hangers or are in specially-designed boxes with hangtag information that proudly say "Made in Germany" and tell you the story of their origin. There are plenty of sellers that import a variety of authentic German decorations also. One of my favorites sellers online for authentic German ornaments is the Christmas Haus in New Oxford, Pennsylvania. Imported heirloom-quality ornaments are more expensive, but are well worth it when you see them.

ASIDE  FROM  THE  beautiful glass ornaments and heavy silver lametta tinsel (that ages with a beautiful patina), one of the most intricate and skilled forms of folk art are "span trees" (above) and the decorations and ornaments based on the tradition of Spanbaumstecherei (Erzgebirge wood folk art deftly crafted with intricate curly branches formed from a single piece of wood). Span trees are referred to by several 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 meticulously hand carved of linden wood, curl by curl, layer by layer. They are so beautiful on their own, they need no other ornamentation. An evergreen doesn't seem complete without glittery baubles attached, or tinsel carefully draped on its branches during the holiday season.

MARTINA  RUDOLPH  and her husband are among the leading woodcarvers who produce these trees, ornaments, and other large wall and window decorations. As a child in the Erzgebirge, she learned her craft (the family tradition of Spanbaumstecherei) from a well-known wood carver—her father Helmut Beyer. Practice made perfect and the skills that started as a hobby became a profession—the age-old craft was reborn for the world to see. In 1996, she opened her own small workshop in Seiffen to once again produce her family's unique Erzgebirge folk art. It's becoming a rarity to see folk tradition carried to the newer generations. All-to-often the art is being lost to industrialized production, which makes cheaper ornaments, but they aren't the quality of those made with the love and care handed down through generations of craftsmen. These ornaments composed of thin strips of wood can't be mass-produced, which broadens their aesthetic appeal, just like the quilt made by your grandmother's hand. Nothing less is as warm and satisfying either.

IF  YOU  ARE  serious about collecting ornaments, the ones made in Germany are crafted to become heirlooms. Some of my favorite German-made ornaments in my collection are from Krebs Glas Laucsha. such as this hand blown and decorated Pinocchio ornament pictured here (who, in the story was not carved by a German, but an Italian woodcarver named Geppetto). The small village of Lauscha in the middle of Germany lays claim to being the birthplace of modern glass tree ornaments. The art of glassblowing from Laucsha became popular all over the world, with some of the most beautiful designs being developed by the Krebs family. The bohemian art of Krebs glass work later moved to Thuringia. The handcrafted Krebs Glas Collection has long been a favorite of collectors like me.

SPAN TREES | (Top) Shown with a traditional German smoker (incense burner) representing a spanbaumastechcherei woodcarver, two beautiful span trees are nestled within three handcrafted 3-D wooden star ornaments (2nd from top) from Straco Land (Erzgebirge Woodcraft)

ORNAMENT CRAFT | (Middle) Martina Rudolph and her husband make these beautiful star ornaments, wall or window hangers based on the meticulous craft of span trees handed down from Martina's father. They are sold in the U.S. by The Christmas Haus in New Oxford, Pennsylvania. 

SHINY AND BRIGHT | (Above) Authentic German silver lametta tinsel is distinctively heavy, drapes well, and oxidizes to a rich patina like fine silver after a few years. The glass indent German ornaments shown here came in a box of four (found at Tuesday Morning) were not marked by a particular company, but made in Germany tags proudly marked each hanger. If anyone can identify the cap (that pertains to the company) on these ornaments, please let me know. The brown coloration and gold glitter are distinctively rich and typical of old world ornaments crafted by artists that take pride in an art handed down by generations.

WOODEN BOY | (Right) This spectacular hand-blown and painted glass ornament is made by Krebs Glas Lauscha in Germany. The popular book The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi told the story of an Italian woodcarver named Geppetto, who carved Pinocchio from a piece of pine, creating him as a puppet, but dreamt of him becoming a real boy. 

 ©2010 DARRYL MOLAND | ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Photography, collecting and styling by Darryl Moland

Spanbaumastechcherei ornaments, window, or wall hangers are handmade by Martina Rudolph (or her husband), photography courtesy of The Christmas Haus in New Oxford, Pennsylvania


  1. I love those wooden stars, aren't they beautiful? Wouldn't it be wonderful to go to one of the German Christmas markets?

    1. Hi Dan! I haven't heard from you in a long time. Did you get your house renovation complete?