Saturday, October 11, 2014

Getting A Leg Up On This Fantastic Midcentury Felt Steiff Stork

It's all good when it comes to Steiff's storks! And just why is that? According to German history and tradition, these long legged lovelies are associated with luck and happiness, and are very good neighbors indeed. So let's take the high road and check out a fantastic example of a mid twentieth century Steiff stork and see what makes him so interesting from the design and historical perspectives.

This very impressive tall drink of water is called Storch Adebar or Stork Adebar. He is 60 cm tall, unjointed, standing and made primarily from off white felt. His wings come to life with scalloped feathers and very light grey airbrushed stencil details. His tail feathers are made from black felt. He has delightful, solid orange felt legs with prominent, distinct knees and over-sized feet. His face is detailed with brown and black pupil eyes, black hand painted highlighting, and a most prominent, over-sized orange felt beak. He has a particularly charming and old fashioned look to him for sure - perhaps because he is made entirely from felt, which is Steiff's legacy material. Adebar was produced in 17, 35, and 60 cm from 1953 through 1969.

Storks have found their nest in the Steiff line from the very beginning - appearing in the company's debut catalog of 1892! Like most of Steiff’s first commercial toy items, these storks were produced from felt. Models were made in 7 sizes ranging from 14 to 100 cm through 1918. These earliest storks had metal legs that were wrapped tightly in waxed orange cord, a charming design treatment for Steiff birds through the 1920s or so. You may have seen this limb detailing on Steiff's hens, chicks, and roosters from this period. A nice example of a 1910-era Steiff stork is pictured here on the left; the photo is from Christie's. Early Steiff stork novelties included an ink wipe, produced from 1892 through 1894, and a hanging pram toy, produced in 1916. In 1925, Steiff updated its traditional stork pattern by changing the body shape slightly, wrapping the legs in felt instead of cord, and producing the birds with an open mouth. This model was produced in 43, 60 and 100 cm through 1939.

The "Adabar" stork pattern debuted in the early 1950's, a few years after the toy factory reopened for business post World War II. It was at this time that this big bird was finally was given a "proper" name. His pattern was a slightly updated and simplified version of the company's prewar model. Steiff also produced a 50 cm "studio" or lifesized stork in plush from 1980 through 1984; interestingly, he was not called "Adebar." This studio piece is pictured here on the left. In 1991, Adabar was brought back to the line, and was made in trivera velvet with plastic legs in 18 cm through 1993. And, more recently, Steiff produced a little felt standing stork holding what appears to be a little “bundle of joy,” clearly touching back to the reputation and legacy of this bird throughout the world.

So why are storks considered to be such lucky charms? This all started many centuries ago. For example, in Germany, there was the belief that if a stork built its nest on a home, then that dwelling would be protected from a house fire. In addition, this "neighbor" stork would insure good luck to all the people who lived in that home. Another tradition suggested that storks found babies in caves or marshes and brought them to households in a basket on their backs or held in their beaks. The babies would be delivered to new mothers directly, or dropped down the chimney! As such, couples that wanted children would put treats on their windowsills to attract storks. Even today, storks and new babies are universally associated with each other! 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Adebar sends some very good luck your way soon.

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