Saturday, October 13, 2018

Oh, Shoot!

"Welcome to our world of toys!" When you think of those words, what comes to mind? F.A.O. Schwarz, of course! And the good news is that all Steiff, doll, and toy collectors will soon have the opportunity to hear that delightful tune again, as the store reopens for business on November 16th, 2018 in Rockefeller Center in New York City. It's the update we've all be waiting for, after tearfully saying goodbye to this world-class institution for what we all thought was forever in 2015. Do whatever you have to do... walk, take a car, bus, train, plane, or the subway to visit the new store when it debuts soon. Steiffgal is certain that you will experience "The Return to Wonder" the store promises! (The photo of a mini "pop up" F.A.O. Schwarz store shown above is from www.cnbc.com.)

As part of this grand opening celebration, Steiffgal (and her collection) had the pleasure of contributing to a short film that will be shown as part of the store's debut in a few weeks. The movie focuses on the remarkable legacy of the F.A.O. Schwarz company and the instrumental role the Schwarz family had in the world economy and business community from the mid-1800s onward. Here is a behind-the-scenes look at how a very long day of filming here at Steiffgal's house will help bring parts of that story to life.

After a week of frenetic planning, the crew from the Ewers Brothers film production company arrived on location around 9am. The team included a director, a producer, an assistant producer, a cinematographer, and an assistant cinematographer. All were fantastic, extremely professional, respectful of the collection and house, and just plain fun to be around. The team brought an enormous amount of movie-making items in hard cases, tubes, suitcases, rolls, and just about any packing case you can imagine. As the parking and traffic was crazy in Steiffgal's neighborhood at this time, load-in was a little complicated logistically, but everyone was in good humor and this task was accomplished within 30 minutes or so. Given the amount of materials they brought, these items took over much of Steiffgal's first floor, including the kitchen! 

Next, the crew toured the house to find the best place to "set up camp" for the interview sessions. They needed an area with an interesting background, the right light, and enough space to arrange what seemed like an infinite amount of technologies, a huge camera, multiple screens, and other filming apparatus. It was decided that this would take place in Steiffgal's living room, which is also the largest room in the house. Within an hour, this usually quiet space (which just that morning was where Steiffgal and family enjoyed a low-keyed breakfast and coffee) was transformed into what looked like an international broadcasting booth!

An important part of putting together a film like this is the inclusion of old photos, letters, catalogs, and other ephemeral things to round out the story and to ground it in history. Steiffgal, with the help of the Schwarz family and some wonderful and generous toy-colleagues, pulled together a table full of these items expressly for this purpose. The film team brought along an electronic scanner. The assistant producer studied these historical documents and scanned the ones that would be relevant and helpful to the project. It took her practically the entire day to complete this herculean task.

The main interview set took about two hours to arrange and finalize. This time was spent adjusting light levels, angles, volumes, noise controls, and other factors that all come together to make the ideal venue. Steiffgal was surprised when simple black metal chairs from her porch were selected as the interview seats, not the couch as she anticipated. All in all, the set from the interviewee's perspective consisted of two chairs facing each other, about two feet apart. The camera was behind one of the chairs. The person being interviewed faced the camera; the interviewer sat in the other chair and never appeared on camera. There were various lights, screens, and other apparatus all within that very small space. The producer held a device about the size of a tablet that allowed her to view what the camera saw and make adjustments as needed.

Overall, the crew interviewed three people during the day - two members of the F.A.O. Schwarz family and Steiffgal. Each interview took about an hour and was casual and very conversational. The interviewer had carefully prepared a slate of general questions for everyone, as well as specific questions per person. For example, family members were asked about their memories of the store and their relatives, what it was like to "grow up Schwarz," and the role of toys and play in their lives. Steiffgal was asked what the store means to collectors, why F.A.O. Schwarz editions are coveted even today, the role of the catalog, and all about Steiff's life-sized animals that are practically synonymous with the store. Because of street sounds and sirens, filming was occasionally put on hold until these noises passed. But for the most part, the hour long interview just flew by, and the interviewer did a masterful job at developing rapport and making his interviewees feel as comfortable - and sound as articulate - as possible! And, in case you were wondering, Steiffgal did indeed hold a special and meaningful Steiff animal in her arms during filming. So stay tuned about that!

Once the interviews were completed, the crew again rearranged the house for shooting "B" roll. These are shots or images that are used in the film between segments or as transitional visuals. It took at least another hour to set up the cameras and lights for this. The camera was positioned on a multi-wheeled dolly and could be fluidly and evenly moved to film panoramic images of the collection. The team was interested in capturing the size, scale, and variety of the studio pieces, as well as the beauty and range of Steiff animals that appeared on the shelves of F.A.O. Schwarz over the years. Steiffgal was delighted that Jocko chimps of all sizes and shapes, as well as a number of other collector's favorites, were prominently featured in the "B" roll shots. Here on the left you can see cinematographer Chris Ewers preparing a few familiar Steiff faces for filming.

The crew's final shooting location was the second floor of the house, including Steiffgal's study and her stairway landing, where a few cases of Steiff are on display. Many of the items from these areas have provenance to F.A.O Schwarz so it was important that these treasures were included in the filming. All of the movie making apparatus used for the "B" roll was brought into these small spaces and there was hardly any room to stand! But the crew did a masterful job in working around the limited footprint and truly brought the collection to life under their magic touch.

The full day of shooting wrapped up around 7pm. Everyone felt great about the quality and quantity of footage generated. The team quickly packed, bundled, and cased up all of their filmmaking tools and loaded up their vehicles. They also helped to reconfigure the house back to its original condition. Hugs and high fives were exchanged. Once the team left Steiffgal's home, there was no physical trace of the extraordinary things that had occurred in the space that day. But you can best believe that the wonderful memories of this once-in-a-lifetime experience will last forever!

Steiffgal's hopes that you enjoyed this sneak peak into some of the preparations going into the relaunch of the world's most favorite and beloved toy store in November, 2018. Steiffgal extends a huge thank you to the Ewers Brothers team for a job well done, and cannot recommend them highly enough for their professionalism, insight, humor, and just plain wonderfulness! Director Erik Ewers (here on the left, under the supervision of a Steiff Moorland sheep) and crew have recently completed a documentary on the Mayo Clinic, airing on PBS. You can read more about that by clicking here. For more information on F.A.O. Schwarz, please follow all the happenings and excitement at www.faoschwarz.com. Once this movie has been completed and launched, Steiffgal will share the link and post a copy here on the blog.

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

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Let The Good Times Roll With This Vintage Steiff Molly Dog On Wheels

Mark Twain once wrote, “The dog is a gentleman; I hope to go to his heaven not man’s.” And who could disagree? No company can match Steiff's attention to detail, quality, and appeal when it comes to our favorite canines. Next to Teddy bears, dogs have always been Steiff's most beloved and popular editions.  

Steiff's pre-war dogs on wheels could easily be considered the best of all worlds. These endearing, softly proportioned pets are adorable on their own, as well as the perfect pals for turn of last century dolls. Their wheels give them a distinctly playful - and old fashioned - appearance. So Steiffgal was more than delighted to learn of a very large - perhaps lifesized - 1920s era Steiff Molly on the go! This particular Molly on wheels is scaled to be either a large pull toy, or a small riding animal for a toddler. 

This Steiff pretty puppy is the wheel-deal indeed. She is standing, unjointed, and 35 cm tall. She is made from very long tipped tan mohair which has faded overall to a vanilla color over time, but is still very lush and full. Her floppy ears are "folded over" as they have been since her launch in the mid-1920's. She has oversized brown and black pupil eyes and a black hand embroidered nose and mouth. She rides upon four red wooden wheels. Molly on wheels was made in 28 and 35 cm from 1927-1943 overall. This example was made in the earliest part of that time frame, given that she retains her long trailing "f" button and traces of her red ear tag, as pictured here.  

Steiff's Molly the Puppy is a very important design for three key reason.

1.  First, she is one of the very few Steiff dogs that doesn’t have a “breed” associated with her. For example, Terry is the Steiff Airedale, Foxy is the Steiff Fox Terrier, and Snobby is the Steiff Poodle. This model is simply known as Molly the Puppy.

2.  Second, her 1925 introduction was so successful that she can be credited for opening the floodgates to a huge influx of Steiff dog designs. Between 1925 and 1938, close to 40 new canine species were noted in the Steiff catalogs after her debut. These included the now classic Bully Bulldog, Arco the German Shepherd, and Peky the Pekinese, as well as some lesser-known designs including Cheerio, the laughing dog, Putzi, a caricatured standing dog, and Lord the Great Dane.

3.  And third, she was a prime source of highly successful “theme and variation” product launches. Through the early 1940s, Molly appeared sitting and standing and in numerous color combinations, including red and white, green and white, and blue and white. She appeared as a puppet, purse, pincushion, music box, and Charleston animal, among other items. Smaller versions appeared standing on eccentric wheels, while larger ones, like the example under discussion today, appeared on centered wheels. Steiff used her basic appealing, endearing “young dog” pattern on other lesser known dogs of the 1920s and 1930s, including Trolly (a white, yellow, and brown St. Bernhard puppy), Flock (a blonde and white puppy), Zotty (a white puppy) and Fellow (a black and white puppy). A picture of Fellow and Molly are featured here on the left, the photo is from Theriaults. 

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on Steiff's prewar Molly the Puppy on wheels has been more fun than a joyride for you!

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

Sunday, September 23, 2018

This Huge Steiff Chimp Is More Fun Than A Barrel Full Of Monkeys!

What's on your Steiff bucket list? For the longest time, Steiffgal dreamed of adopting a Studio Jocko chimp. She had seen a few in photographs and immediately fell in love with their scale, playful looks, and charming personalities. Whenever Steiffgal asked her what she wanted for a birthday, anniversary, or holiday gift, she would jokingly exclaim, "a Studio Jocko!" Well, be careful what you wish for... because wishes - especially Steiff wishes - can come true. Please meet Studio Jocko, Steiffgal's new beloved Steiff pal. Here he is pictured on the left, relaxing on the couch with a few relatives. 

It's easy to go bananas over this great ape. He stands 150 cm tall (5 feet) and is head and arm jointed. He is made of really long, chocolate brown mohair. His face, feet, ears, and hands are made from tan felt and are detailed with light airbrushing to give them additional dimension and depth. He has typical Jocko chimp detailing, like pert eyes set into eye pockets, a white mohair chin, and an open, smiling mouth - albeit on a huge scale. Jocko has an internal rod metal skeleton for stability, and he stands on two flat feet. He is solidly stuffed with excelsior, which must have taken several strong men weeks if not months to complete. According to the Sortiment book, this big boy was produced in this size only in 1960 and 1967. Here on the left is the Steiff Display Animal catalog page from 1967 featuring him. 

Now let's take a brief "guided tour" of Jocko.  

As you can see, he really is a very big dude indeed. Here he is pictured with Steiffgal. Just for reference, Steiffgal is 5'5". It is Steiffgal's best estimate that if indeed he were real and made from muscle and bone, his girth and proportions would put him between 300-400 pounds. He actually weighs about 25 pounds.  

His handsome, proportionally large face is simply irresistible - and always smiling! It measures 22 inches from his chin to the top of his head, and 20 inches ear to ear.

Here is a close up of his dimensional and very lifelike ear. You can see the smallest 4 inch Jocko resting on it so you get an idea of its scale. Big Jocko's ears measure 5.5 inches high each. 

And here is a close up of his hand. Again, the smallest Jocko helps to put his size in context. His hands measure about 8 inches long and 9 inches wide.  

Jocko has flat felt feet to help him stand (with a little help.) They measure 14 inches long and 8 inches wide. 

As you can see, Jocko is extremely photogenic. If you are in the Maryland area on September 28th and 29th, 2018, Jumbo Jocko and Steiffgal will be attending the United Federation of Doll Clubs (UFDC) Region 11 conference in Towson, MD. We will be manning a Steiff table in the salesroom with lots of Steiff temptations for doll and Steiff collectors alike. Jocko looks forward to meeting as many Steiff fans as possible at this great event, and is available for once-in-a-lifetime selfies. Click here for more information on this UFDC celebration.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on her Studio Jocko has been a larger than life experience for you.

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

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Playing the Name Game With This Adorable Vintage Steiff Bear


Looks can be deceiving! This sweet vintage Steiff bear looks sad or thoughtful, but he's actually just trying to tug at your heartstrings. At least that's what Steiffgal thinks! This petite prince joined Steiffgal's hug over the summer, and she couldn't be happier about it! Let's take a look at his history and design and see what makes him so interesting from the collector's perspective.

What we have here is a smaller scaled Steiff Dicky bear. He measures 23 cm standing and is fully jointed. His body is made from blonde mohair and his muzzle is made from white mohair. His dear face comes to life with brown and black glass pupil eyes and a black hand embroidered nose and mouth. His mouth is somewhat asymmetrical, adding to his appeal and personality. Unlike the majority of Dicky bears, this particular example has plain tan colored felt paw pads and not stencilled velvet ones. 

Dicky was produced in blond, white, and brown in a wide range of sizes. All were five ways jointed and had the same distinctively shaped and constructed muzzle. His pattern was specifically designed to be as cost, labor, and material efficient as possible, given that he was launched during a period of economic depression and widespread unemployment in Germany. The blond and white versions were mohair and were made in 15, 29, 23, 25, 30, 32, 35, 43, 45, 50, 65, and 75 cm (measured standing) from 1930 to 1937 overall. A dark brown wool plush version was made in 25, 32, and 43 cm (measured standing) from 1935 thorough 1941. This particular Dickie has a long trailing "f" button and tiny traces of a red ear tag, dating him to the beginning of this production timeline.

One thing that has always been interesting to Steiffgal about this pattern is its name. Some of Steiff's bears and animals started having "endearing" names in the 1920's. Before that, most things were just cataloged as their species or breed. For example, Petsy the Baby Bear, Molly the Puppy, Bully the Bulldog, and and Charly the King Charles Spaniel all debuted during the "roaring '20s." A quick search of the most popular German boy names in 1930 reveals that "Richard" was the 50th most common of the year. So chances are, this bear was not named for popular cultural appeal. Steiffgal wonders if perchance he was named endearingly for Richard Steiff, the genius who invented the fully jointed Teddy bear as we know him today, for Steiff around 1903? Naming a model for a member of the Steiff family is not without precedence; it is thought that the company's adorable Susi cat, introduced in 1936, was also named for a Steiff family relative. Only Dickie knows for sure!

It's also a clothes call with Dicky's new wardrobe. As pictured above, Dicky arrived from overseas naked, and clearly had been someone's best friend for a number of years - given his somewhat "threadbear" presentation! Sometimes, if this is the case, it is a good idea to give a new vintage friend some protective clothing. As such, Steiffgal's sister jumped into action and handmade this sweet boy his trousers, red t-shirt, and grey sweater. Notice how the button on his cardigan matches the mushroom design on his pants! Isn't he stylin'? A shout-out to Steiff Sis for such a great job.

Steiffgal hopes this discussion on this pensive Dicky has been thought provoking for you.

Have a question about one of your Steiff treasures? Let's talk! Click here to learn more!
The teddy bear search engine