Sunday, November 3, 2013

It's No Fish Tale When It Comes To This Steiff Water Baby!

Steiffgal's grandmother had a favorite saying... that "fish and company stink after three days."  Although this may be the reality in some situations, it certainly is the opposite in the case of this extra-special and extremely rare Steiff fish, pictured here on the left.  Take a look at this most unusual Steiff water baby and see what makes him so unique from the design and historical perspectives.

Do you want to fish or cut bait with today's featured guest?  Here we have Steiff's Forelle or Trout.  He is 40 cm and made from tan silk plush and is stuffed with excelsior. His fins and tail are made from vivid turquoise colored felt which is lightly painted with stripes. His fishy face is detailed with oversized brown and black pupil eyes.  Trout's body is fantastically and elaborately hand airbrushed in shades of blue and green, with hatching on his back to resemble scales.  Trout appeared in the line for one year only - 1950 - and only in this size and coloration.  

Keeping things to scale, this little fish has many big and interesting features to discuss.  

First is his material.   Trout is made from silk plush -  a synthetic and poor wearing substitute fabric that Steiff used on several items right after the factory reopened after the war in the late 1940's.   This material was used as felt and mohair were in extremely limited supplies at the time.   Steiff items produced in silk plush in general are harder to find on the secondary market as far fewer were made, and they tended to not have the durability as products produced in more durable fabrics.

The second is his decoration and design.  Trout is truly an original pattern; he has no pre-war ancestors and fish were not a standard line species until "Flossy" was introduced in 1960.  It is curious to note that despite Trout's very simple design and construction, and relatively "cheap" materials, Steiff spared no expense to give this fish the royal airbrush treatment.  It is really hard to imagine the amount of work or skilled precision that was necessary to get this look - this trout is simply a work of art, and that's no fish tale.

The third is his place in history.  This trout was the very first United States exclusive to be produced and sold post WWII.   It can take many months, or even years, for a product to go from a concept in a designer's head to being sold on a toy store's shelves.  Thus, it is quite possible that this pattern may have had its origins pre-war, or perhaps was one of the very first new designs on the drawing table in the late 1940's.  The overall design also suggests that the company was very anxious to get back on the global stage, and tried to use the best of whatever materials and skills it had on hand to do so.  Fabrics were clearly in short supply, but Steiff more than made up for this by pouring on the handiwork, which apparently was readily available.  Although it is not clear where this exclusive was sold in the USA, both FAO Schwarz and RH Macy were larger accounts of the time.  It is most likely that Trout was available at one or both of these stores; this particular example was purchased at FAO Schwarz in New York City.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's early silk plush trout has "fin"-ished in a most satisfying way for you.

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