Germany From 1919

The Bauhaus art school opened nearly a century ago in Weimar, Germany in 1919. Bauhaus, which could be translated as “the School of Building,” began with the idea that the ultimate purpose of fine arts is architecture. The school brought together design, industrial arts, fine arts, craftsmanship, theatre, and many other fields to produce a large number of designers, architects, scenographists, and artists who would go on to have a major impact on the world. Even after closing its doors in 1933, the school continued to influence life in the 20th century through those who continued to expound its philosophy. Today, daily life is punctuated with objects and circumstances infused with the Bauhaus philosophy and spirit.

Some wonderful customs and handicrafts are gradually disappearing around the world, and Germany offers valuable hints for ways to keep these delights alive.

 

Bauhaus
Dessau

There is a story behind Bauhaus moving to the newly industrialized city of Dessau. The move was during a period when the German population was growing and handicraft production could no longer keep up with demands, that Bauhaus began to focus on industrial design. Under the school’s first director Walter Gropius, who was also an architect, Bauhaus would move beyond pure academia to the design of buildings as part of Dessau’s urban development, working in the manufacture of products in collaboration with airplane manufacturers and other companies.


Deutscher Werkbund
Munich Berlin


The Deutscher Werkbund was formed in Munich in 1907 by architects, craftsmen, and a number of companies, with the goal to improve the quality of products made in Germany.

The Deutscher Werkbund came out of the Werkbundarchiv, which operates the Museum der Dinge (Museum of Things). This museum collects and displays industrial and everyday products during this period, giving visitors an overview of modern German manufacturing to the present day.


Letterpress Printing
Munich


Germany is also the birthplace of modern letterpress printing. Christa runs an active letterpress studio to this day. Growing up, she gained a great deal of experience at her parents’ printer shop and went on to become west Germany’s first meisterin (a female master) in typesetting. She works to pass on the techniques for handling letterpress printing type to future generations, promoting this type of printing and displaying print work. The vast array of printing type in her studio attests to the volumes of time she has dedicated; and the collection is a work of art in itself.

DIM
Berlin


DIM (Die Imaginäre Manufaktur) operates a brush factory in Berlin and this is where these brushes have been meticulously produced by hand for over 100 years. Thin bristles made of plant-based materials or of goat and horse hair, are planted into tiny holes on the wooden base.


Reifendrehen
Seiffen


Seiffen is located in the Erzgebirge area, along the German-Czech border. Woodworking is a booming industry in this village, and here we fi nd Reifendreher, a special woodturning technique artisans use to craft traditional wooden toys. The logs are sliced crosswise and shaved into rings with a cross-section that forms the outline of an animal. The ring is then cut into thin slices, creating the wooden blocks in animal shapes.



Spanbaum and Miniatures
Seiffen


In the Erzgebirge area, a chisel is used to create miniature trees, where each thinly shaved piece of wood curls into an individual branch. These trees are another type of the traditional crafts for which the area is known and the technique used to create the miniatures is called Spanbaum, is the most fundamental of the master craftsman’s basic techniques.


Baking
Pulsnitz and others


In the small village of Pulsnitz, you’ll fi nd many shops selling nothing but Pfefferkuchen, a spicy traditional German treat. Some people enjoy the special recipes of different shops, while others are loyal customers of their one and only favourite. The German custom on weekends is to bake sweets and bring them along when visiting friends, which explains why German shops are fi lled with baking tools and utensils. The streets here are infused with baking and Pfefferkuchen, almost as if one has stumbled into the ‘candyland’ we read about in fairy tales.


Local Beer

The beer changes with the different landscapes as one moves north, south, east or west through Germany. Each area brews its own local beer, and this passion carries over to the beer glass as well. The German beer glass is shaped to deliver all of the hoppy goodness to the senses as you bring the glass to your lips. In every German town today, the streets still ring with the sound of laughter and the clinking glasses and beer mugs.


Measuring Line in the Beer Glass

If you happen to glance in your empty beer mug while filling up on all the flavourful sausages, mashed potatoes, pretzels, and schnitzel, you will perhaps notice a distinct line etched inside. Germany is serious about its beer, and it is against the law here to serve a beer if the foam starts below this measuring line. This is a rule that seems to have come about in a very German fashion, as such a typical scene often ends in a fight. “Don’t try to fool me! This is more foam than beer!” All glasses and mugs used to serve beer in Germany are therefore etched with this all-important demarcation.


Brandy Distillery
Eigeltingen


Think of a German drink, and one thinks of beer, but that is not all the people here brew. In southern Germany, drive through stretches of country roads lined with sweeping grape vineyards and you can reach Stählemühle, a small brandy distillery. We happened to visit on the first day in two years that the distillery was open to the public. Despite its distance from the city, crowds of people milled around the distillery to taste-test the “glasses of fruit” amidst a landscape that evokes the area’s rich, fertile soil.


People in Germany

On this trip to Germany, I stumbled on hints for being a better consumer everywhere I visited. These are customs that are not necessarily unique to Germany. In fact, these are traditions that have long been part of Japanese culture as well. The basic rule is one of not keeping many things for oneself, but sharing what there is with others. This is equally true for our natural environment. It is about deciding what volume of natural resources we will consume in a year and then keeping to it. The German people understand that there will not always be enough resources, so they adjust while still meeting their needs.
It is likely that you know someone who is good at this - that friend who really understands how to use what they have and puts it all to use in own their unique way. Looking at how this person lives may be your best source of inspiration.


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