Monday, January 30, 2012

Be A Doll And Take A Look At This Most Unusual Steiff Little Girl!

Well, hello Dolly! If that's not an enthusiastic greeting, then Steiffgal doesn't know what it. Having just returned from a magical weekend at IDEX, a very large doll and Teddy bear collectible show held each January, Steiffgal certainly has dolls on the brain. So perhaps it's the perfect time to introduce readers to "Erika", a most unusual vintage Steiff doll that Steiffgal just welcomed to her hug a few weeks ago.

Steiffgal "felt" she always wanted one of these treasures as part of her collection, but never had the opportunity until now. Erika, named after Steiffgal's paternal grandmother, is an original "pressed felt" face doll, produced from 1937 through 1943, and then again in 1949 and 1950. She is 35 cm, standing, three ways (head and legs) jointed, excelsior stuffed, and made entirely from flesh colored felt. Her arms are floppy and hang loosely by her sides. Her arms are bent slightly at the elbows, and she has very defined fingers. Her face is highly textured, with chubby cheeks, a realistic mouth, pert nose, and lifelike glass eyes embedded in eye sockets. Even her little ears are sculpted just like a child's. She is finished with a blond mohair wig, which is seamlessly integrated into her head structure.

Like all of Steiff's pressed felt dolls of the time, Erika is dressed to the nines. Her underwear consists of a white cotton "one-sie", which is trimmed with lace around the leg openings and bodice. It has thin little straps which fit over her shoulders to help keep it in place.  Her short sleeved white cotton blouse is removable and closes in the back. She wears a red cotton floral calico jumper that closes with snaps and is detailed with a ruffle around the waist area. Her footwear also is removable and consists of white cotton socks and red felt Mary-Jane style shoes. And the crown of her outfit must be her green molded felt Tyrolean style hat, which is trimmed with a light blue silk cord.

The history of these unusual dolls is pressing. Although Steiff’s center seamed dolls, introduced as early as 1903, were popular and sold well, the company had been experimenting with alternative ways of manufacturing felt heads since the 1920’s. The goal was to eliminate the center seam and substitute the face with one made from pressed felt. This proved quite challenging to do. The designers at Steiff chose to model their head mold for the pressed felt face on the sculpture of an idealized child created by Baroque sculptor Francois Duquesnois. It is interesting to note that the German doll manufacturer Kathe Kruse also based some of their doll designs on this sculpture. After years of trying, the Steiff designers finally mastered the art of creating felt pressed faces by reinforcing the molded material with a plastic backing. Soon after, they introduced a small line of these new dolls in 1936 at the Leipzig Spring Fair.

By the late 1930’s, these new seamless Steiff dolls became a significant product offering of the company
. Both boys and girls were produced in 35 ad 43 cm. All models had felt bodies and jointed heads and legs. Their faces were detailed with delicate, hand painted facial features, glass or painted pupil eyes, and mohair wigs. Their removable clothing was beautifully tailored with a look of cheery childhood innocence. They were promoted as...

“Continuing in the tradition of our early, popular, Steiff dolls, we now present our new dolls, with their sleek, long lasting workmanship and appealing, engaging expressions.” 

Instead of Steiff buttons in their ears, each doll was given a special red rubber bracelet that had the button and yellow flag attached like a charm. Overall, about 27 different versions of the pressed felt dolls appeared in the line through 1950. 

Steiffgal hopes this introduction to Erika and Steiff's pressed felt dolls has been as fun as child's play for you!

Have a question about one of your Steiff treasures? Let's talk! Click here to learn more. 

1 comment:

  1. Steiffgal...your posts are treasures...I love every word...thank you so much for sharing...


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