Saturday, January 24, 2009

Turtle Ornament from Lauscha

My husband and I have been collecting Christmas tree ornaments for many years. This past Christmas our new ornament was a glittery, gold hand blown glass sea turtle purchased in a Greenwich Village gift shop. The store clerk thought it was made shortly after World War II in a German town called Lauscha.

Lauscha has long been famous for glass production. By 1597 glass blowers from Swabia who settled there were making drinking glasses and bulls eye panes. Legend has it that around 1860 a glass blower, too poor to afford real apples and nuts to decorate his Christmas tree, made painted glass replicas. While we can never know if poverty was the motivating factor, surely the invention of the glass mold was the enabling factor, and from 1860 onwards glass ornaments became increasingly popular. In the years that followed, toy wholesalers from Sonnenberg began exporting Lauschan ornaments all over the world. Around 1880, F. W. Woolworth, founder of the first chain of discount department stores, brought Lauchan ornaments to his store in Lancaster, Pennslyvania, and by 1900 Woolworth's business was such that he could order 200,000 ornaments for sale in America.

World War II and the split of Germany created difficult circumstances for the continuation of hand blown glass, where molds and methods were passed down from generation to generation. Some of the glass blowing families remained in Russian occupied East German Lauscha, while others moved to the American occupied region of Neustadt. East Germany's need for commerce dictated that hand blown glass ornaments made by artisans be replaced by mass produced glass ornaments made in state owned factories. By the time German unification arrived, times were hard in Lauscha, and the glass factory with its 1300 employees was languishing. In the early 1990's Krebs Glas, a leading West German manufacturing company, gained control of the business from the state. Krebs returned to the historic hand blown methods, opting for quality over quantity. That decision returned Lauscha to its rightful place as the "world's capital" of hand blown glass ornaments. Prosperity has returned, and most of the people in this small village make their living from the glass businesses.

I didn't know anything about Lauscha or the history of blown glass ornaments, so I found all this information fascinating. Also, I'm intrigued by the idea that someone in a landlocked, mountainous region thought it would be cool to hang a sea turtle on a Christmas tree.

I'm not sure how to confirm the age of my ornament. Given the history above, it's more likely that the ornament was made in the 1990's than in the late 40's or early 50's, so maybe it's not really an antique. However, googling around the internet has convinced me that my glittery, gold hand blown glass sea turtle is definitely unique. I found other turtle ornaments, but nothing quite like my little guy. I'm sure I'll look forward to his appearance on our tree for many years to come.

Photo by Michael B Hood, used with permission

Facts for this post were drawn from the following websites:
  1. German Christmas Ornaments History by Chrysta Baker
  2. The History of Krebs Glas Lauscha GmbH
  3. For a Special Christmas, Glass Ornaments from Lauscha (great pictures)
  4. German Christmas Ornaments
  5. The History of Glass Christmas Ornaments from Lauscha
  6. How a Christmas Ornament is Created!
  7. Lauscha Glas Creation (ornaments for sale)

© 2009, Linda Mason Hood
Truffles, Turtles & Tunes Copyright Statement

Thursday, January 01, 2009

2008, in summary...

Photo by Michael Hood, used with permission

Happy New Year! I've chosen to start 2009 with a few reflections on my third year of blogging.

The Truffles category – representing my vegetarian aspirations -- did not have a single post this year. I am, however, still a vegetarian. Participating in Farm Sanctuary and Humane Society of the United States email campaigns for better treatment of farm animals, I've learned much about how meat and poultry are raised and slaughtered. At home I'm using more cruelty-free products (products not tested on animals). I plan to have more Truffles posts in 2009 because vegetarianism and treatment of farm animals has become a more focused interest in my life.

The Turtles category – representing my interest in animals, particularly turtles – saw 4 posts in 2008. I was very pleased and gratified to be mentioned in one of the newsletters that Anita Salzberg (The Turtle Wife) distributes. There will be more Turtles posts in 2009, guaranteed, because I want to move my turtles to a larger tank and set up a small tank for growing aquatic plants as food for them. Expect pictures as well!

The Tunes category – representing my interest in music – grew by a whopping 14 posts. Yes, I had a good year, musically. The decisions that accompanied the order of my new flute accounted for many posts. Whenever I could find time, I continued taking flute lessons with Mike Rafferty and on September 30 posted a tribute to him. I was very pleased that Brad Hurley included a link to that post on his site, Guide to the Irish Flute. And remember last year's goal of attending more sessions around NYC? Well, I now attend a session nearly every week. As for performances, in 2008 I performed with 3 different Irish groups, but the vast majority of the performances were with the Washington Square Harp and Shamrock Orchestra, sponsored by Mick Moloney and New York University. This group has become the mainstay of my music life. Musical standards are pretty high, and as performances increase I find myself spending more time on the music at home in addition to the weekly group rehearsal. Next year holds the promise of more and better performances and the arrival of my new flute, so look for many Tunes posts in 2009.

Altogether I wrote 25 posts in 2008. 18 were classified as either Truffles, Turtles, or Tunes. The annual New Years post added one more, so that's 19. I wrote a Copyright post after doing some reading on copyright ethics as they apply to blogging. Now we're up to 20. The other 5 posts were in the new Technology category. 2008 saw a technological revolution in our household. I converted to Mac, purchasing a MacBook for my husband and an iMac for myself. I also switched our DSL carrier and installed an Apple Time Capsule which does automatic backups while serving as a Wi-Fi base station for our wireless home network. I hope to extend my Mac expertise in 2009, so I'm sure there will be more Technology posts.

So what categories were not present in the posts of 2008? Books, Travel, and MMF. I'm embarrassed to say I started about 6 books and haven't finished any of them. I did some US travel which I intended to write about and may still. I performed less music in worship services at Manhattan Mennonite Fellowship, but I was very involved in Menno House activities. As a matter of fact, I have a Menno House post under construction right now.

When I expressed frustration over fewer posts this year, a friend responded by saying that I spent so much time living that there wasn't much time left to write about it. While I think there's some truth to that, I'd like to strike a better balance in 2009.

Overall, nobody is sure what to expect in 2009. We hope we won't lose our jobs. We hope President-elect Obama will make a difference here and in US relations abroad. On a less political note, may we all stay healthy, find avenues of growth and enjoyment, and discover ways to work towards a better world.

© 2009, Linda Mason Hood
Truffles, Turtles & Tunes Copyright Statement