Friends and collectors from all over the world know and love the inimitable shapes of Erzgebirge Holzkunst® (‘Ore Mountains Woodcraft’) – each hand-made piece is an original. In this age of stateof-the-art technology, Erzgebirgische Holzkunst® embodies original handcraft at its best. That’s what Erzgebirge manufacturers stand for with their name and their quality stamp: “Echt Erzgebirge – Holzkunst mit Herz” (‘Genuine Erzgebirge – woodcraft with heart’).
Hardly any other low mountain range in Germany is as rich in tradition as the Erzgebirge. Centuries have passed since the first discovery of ore: when mining was at its peak, the workers would occupy themselves after their shift by depicting their tradition in the form of art. When mineral resources became scarcer during the mid 17th century, a new source of income had to be found – and as a raw material, wood was plentifully available. And so the people of the Erzgebirge turned their pastime into a profession and created a new livelihood in woodwork.
Since then, a unique kind of woodcraft has emerged in mostly small family businesses. Nutcrackers, incense smokers (in the shape of little smoking men), Christmas pyramids and all sorts of figurines are lovingly carved and turned, sawn, glued and painted.
Today, the 220 or so handcraft businesses are grouped within an umbrella association, which promotes Erzgebirge manufacturers and their woodcraft (which is guaranteed by a trademark). One of its most important tasks is image advertising, which since 1992 has taken place under the trademark “Echt Erzgebirge-Holzkunst mit Herz” complete with a picture of a little rider on a rocking horse.
It also supports members taking part in trade fairs both at home and abroad, in terms of professional training to become a wooden toy maker, as well as in legal matters e.g. in the battle against knockoffs. It provides attractive advertising material to specialised trade.
Every year since 1995, the association – together with the Mittlerer Erzgebirgskreis District Administrator – has awarded an annual prize for “Tradition and Shape” to promote the further creative development of Erzgebirge woodcraft.
The two ever-popular candle holders in the shape of an angel or a miner are closely linked to the mining industry. It was practically a duty for every miner to carve these wooden figures when he became a father: each daughter was given an angel; each son a miner. Placed in the window at Christmas time, it was clear how many children lived in that particular home. However, there was another reason why these wooden figures stood at the window.
For months, mountain dwellers would hardly see the sun, especially during winter. They would come and go in darkness; during the day they were at work underground. And so these shining candles would light their way home at the end of their shift.