Reform Toys by Deutsche Werkstätten
Artworks for Play
The historical toys produced by Deutsche Werkstätten are a topic at the colloquium 'Reform Pedagogy and Art Industry' from 22-23.9.2023 in Hellerau. They tell their own exciting story about Deutsche Werkstätten that goes beyond home furnishings and wooden houses.
It all began with the first Art Educators' Day in Dresden in 1901. After attending, company founder Karl Schmidt was enthusiastic about the idea of a reform toy as it was propagated there. This toy should be simple, robust and stimulate the imagination. Schmidt added another criteria: the new toys had to be artistically designed and serve the aesthetic education of the child. He asked artists to provide Dresdner Werkstätten für Handwerkskunst (today Deutsche Werkstätten) with appropriate designs.
The company began manufacturing in 1903. The first designs came from Hellmuth Eichrodt, Richard Riemerschmid and Frank Wedekind, among others. As with the furniture, contracts were concluded with the artists and their names were mentioned. Schmidt hoped for a marketing advantage.
As with the furniture, contracts were signed and the designer’s names were mentioned as a marketing strategy.
Karl Schmidt originated from Zschopau in the Erzgebirge, where toy manufacturing was traditionally at home. However, at the beginning of the 20th century it found itself in an economic and quality slump. To change this, Schmidt founded his own toy department in his hometown on 18 February 1905.
The products came onto the market under the name 'Dresden Toys'. In addition to villages and animals, now miniatures, play cabinets and puppet theatres were also created. In 1909, Karl Schmidt sold the entire toy production to Erzgebirgische Spielwarenfabrik Theodor Heymann. Production continued there under the name 'Dresdner Spielzeug' until around 1914. The brand even got its own logo, a dwarf shaking the 'hand' of a stork.