Charmayne's Push Puppet Page

Jan  Stephani and Karl Heinz Bilz, master craftsmen.



Jan Stephanie and his wife
 

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Jan Stephani

Jan is the grandson of Kurt Stephani, who founded the family business in 1931. Herr Stephani was from a toy maker's family. Dietmar Stephani continued the traditional style of Seiffen wooden hand crafts, passed the examination for his master craftsman's diploma in 1960 and took over the business from his father in 1980. Jan received his master craftsman's diploma in 1993. He is the push puppet maker I met at the family's shop. What a privilege! I am sure he and his wife thought I was crazy but to meet a maker of these fabulous little toys is very special. Of course Jan makes many wood items and actually the main production item from his workshop are the smoking men. Five men and three women work in Jan's workshop, crafting the push puppets, Raachermann'l, carved trees, bunnies and chicks for Easter, etc. I bought his new monkey for my collection. The monkey is a very sweet little guy.

 

 

 

 

Herr Bilz

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Karl-Heinz Bilz

 

Karl-Heinz is also a third generation Master Craftsman, receiving his status in 1973 and later, in 1990, taking over the family business. We were so happy to meet him in 2007. Of course I bought several new puppets: four football (soccer) men and the train conductor. Herr Bilz invited us into his office (workshops are kept top secret by both Jan and Karl-Heinz!) where we got to see his puppets and other figurines, candle holders, Easter & farm animals, etc. Most interesting were the Master Craftsman's certificates on his wall. Not only his, but his grandfather's and father's. Richard Bilz received his in 1940 and Helmut Bilz became a Master Craftsman in 1952. This family has a long tradition of fine wood- working. Their push puppets are wonderful: they are so detailed and extremely responsive. I especially love the little clown and the boy with his ball. If you bend them over just right, they can pick up the top hat or ball.


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