Saturday, April 9, 2016

Clowning Around With This Distinctive Steiff Pressed Felt Faced Puppet

Steiffgal's not clowning around when she says she's over the moon excited about her latest Steiff acquisition. Just this week, she welcomed a delightful and most unusual Steiff clown puppet into her hug. Not only is he irresistibly adorable, he also has a really interesting place in Steiff's product development timeline. Check out this gentle joker and see what makes him so unique from the design and historical perspectives.

Please give a round of applause to this happy handful! Here we have Steiff's Kasperl Clown or Punch Clown puppet. He is 17 cm tall. His head, hands, and ears are made from felt. His body is made from a piece of red, yellow, blue, and green flowered calico fabric. He comes to life with brown and black glass pupil eyes, a dimensional face, hand painted facial features, and yellow mohair hair. His clown costume includes a blue silk neck ruff and a felt hat decorated with a red pom-pom. These accessories are quite similar to those seen on Steiff's Teddy Clown bears from 1926 through 1930. This clown puppet was made in this size only and took center stage in the Steiff catalog from 1936 through 1943. 

Steiff created a few "theme and variation" items based on this basic clown pattern.  The company often did this with popular designs and characters. As such, the clown was also produced as a 35 cm clown doll from 1936 through 1940 and as a 25 cm soft tumbling Roly Clown from 1937 through 1943.  For reference, the clown doll and Roly Clown are pictured below; the photos are from Pfeiffer's 1892-1943 Steiff Sortiment Book.

Doll version of the clown
There are several very interesting details and features about this clown puppet that should give collectors the giggles. 

The first includes his numerous "debut roles" in Steiff's product line.  This clown puppet appears to be the very first "non-animal" puppet manufactured by Steiff overall. In addition, he is the only "non-animal" puppet made by the company pre-World War II. However, Steiff did produce many "people puppets," including clowns, Santa Claus, dwarfs, and fairytale characters, from the late 1950's onward.

Roly version of the clown
The second is his actual construction. This puppet has a seamless pressed felt face head, not a center seamed head, like most early felt dolls made by Steiff.   Although Steiff’s better known center seamed dolls were popular and sold well, the company had been actively experimenting with alternative ways of manufacturing felt heads since the early 1920’s. The goal was to eliminate the center seam and substitute the "two part" face with one made from seamless pressed felt. This proved quite challenging to do, both from the manufacturing and design perspectives. The company finally solved the problem of facial integrity by reinforcing the molded felt material with a plastic backing - almost like an interior support mask. Once this process was put into production, Steiff manufactured at least 27 different full doll models with this pressed felt face design between 1938 and 1943, in addition to the clown pattern under discussion here today.

Distinct, sewn on ears
Listen up for his third design feature. Yes, this clown doll head design has very distinct ears. Unlike his other pressed felt faced doll cousins, this pressed felt faced clown has distinctive felt ears that are attached to his head via two stitches. All the other pressed felt faced dolls of his era have ears that are much smaller, less distinct, and integral to their heads. Clown's ears are more like those seen on most of Steiff's earlier felt center seamed dolls. It is interesting to note that this pressed felt faced clown design was launched on a commercial scale in 1936, one year before the general pressed felt faced doll line was launched. Perhaps the ear treatment on the clown head is a "nod" to the traditional ear treatment on the company's earlier center seamed felt faced dolls?

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this unique pressed felt faced clown hand puppet has been a one of kind experience for you!

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

No comments:

Post a Comment

The teddy bear search engine