Friday, October 12, 2012

All Smiles When It Comes To These Silly Steiff Sweethearts

Over time, Steiff products have been described as authentic, realistic, high quality, friends for life, and other superlatives.  But how about "silly?"  Yes, just plain goofy.   The kind of thing that can't help but put you in a better mood, even if you are having a terrible day!  Take a look at these three treasures which couldn't possibly be designed for anything else but smiles!

You can't help but have a ball when this pretty kitty's in the house.  Here we have Steiff's Ball Katze Sulla or Ball Cat Sulla.  Sulla's body is extremely rounded, that is why she is called a "ball cat." Sulla is 16 cm, sitting, and made primarily from dralon.  She has a jointed head, front facing limbs, and a squeaker. Her face is detailed with oversized green and black slit pupil eyes and a pink hand embroidered nose.  Her feet pads have been stenciled with black paw prints. Sulla was only produced in this size from 1960 through 1961; at the same time the company also produced a pug and rabbit model based on this playful ball design.  Overall, Sulla and her companions are relatively hard to find, especially in good condition—because they were designed to be used as playthings and stuffed with foam, which deteriorates over time. 

And what makes Sulla so silly? First of all, check out her proportions; her head is almost as big as her body, giving her a rather adorable cartoonish look.  And second, well,  Steiffgal just needs to get this off of her chest. Check out Sulla's torso.  She's got a quarter-sized round patch of mohair right on her upper carriage, as do all of Steiff's ball animals.  Why?  Steiffgal thinks this gives Sulla a rather 1970's "disco" feel to her... even though she was made a decade before!

Our next silly sweetheart has a leg up - or four - on the happiness scale.  Here we have Steiff's Lulac Esel or Lulac donkey.  This farm friend is 35 cm, unjointed, and made primarily from grey mohair.  His face is detailed with shiny black eyes, an open felt lined mouth, and pert ears highlighted with black around their edges.  His forehead and jowls are made from slightly longer, shaggier mohair, to give these areas a bit more definition. Esel has a grey felt tail that is finished with a tuft of long black mohair.  His pawpads are made from black felt, and his hooves are airbrushed in black.  Lulac is standing, sort of, as his limbs are super long and floppy.  Lulac Donkey was only produced in this size from 1960 through 1961.

Many collectors are familiar with Steiff’s cartoonish “lulac” creatures—animals with exaggeratedly long limbs and torsos. The German verb “to laugh” is lachen, and the word for smile is Lächeln; suggesting that this style was designed to have a goofy appearance and to bring a smile to the face of the owner. The first lulac animal, a rabbit, appeared in 1952, and is still being produced in modified form today. A large menagerie of species have been produced in the lulac style over the years, including frogs, dogs, tigers, and cats.

And what makes this donkey the laughing stock (in a good way!!!) of the barnyard?  Like Ball Sulla, his proportions are just plain silly.  His legs are so long that he could be the next great supermodel.  And, Steiffgal is certain that both Democrats and Republicans can agree he has a face and expression only a mother could love!  

Please don't feel henpecked with this last example of Steiff's silliness.  Here we have Steiff's Floppy Huhn or Floppy hen.  This shut-eye sweetie is 17 cm, sitting, and unjointed.  She is made from tan mohair that has been gloriously hand airbrushed with a yellow and pink cast, and then highlighted with brown dots and lines to represent feathers.  Her wings and tail are stretched out towards the back of her body.  Her face is detailed with a red felt waddle and comb and a peach felt face and beak.  Her closed eyes are indicated by little black stitches.   Floppy hen was produced in 17 and 28 cm from 1958 through 1962.

This hen is part of a long series of Steiff's beloved “sleeping” style animals produced in the 1950 through 1970 time frame.  These included a Zotty Teddy and panda bear, fox, Cocker Spaniel, Siamese cat, tabby cat, seal, and elephant, among others. They were all prone in position and referred to as “floppy” or “cosy” animals. Most were made in two standard sizes, 17 and 28 cm; all were stuffed with soft foam. Each animal “sleeping eyes” as a key part of their designs. All of these delightful bedtime companions were simplified versions of well-known Steiff animal designs - including this hen!

No need to shake a tail feather to see the humor in this happy hen!  Perhaps the biggest question of all is WHY did the company make a sleeping hen at all... given dozing poultry isn't top of mind when it comes to children's bedtime companions!  And, hens don't actually sleep with their wings and tail feathers splayed outward, so her body position doesn't really make any realistic sense either.  But, it's safe to say that this fine feathered friend - who in reality is rarer than hen's teeth - rules the roost in her silliness.  

Steiffgal hopes this discussion of Steiff's comical collectibles has put you in a jolly mood today!

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

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