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ANEXO 1: MUEBLES Y JUGUETES DISEÑADOS POR ALMA SIEDHOFF BUSCHER APPENDIX 1: TOYS AND CHILDREN’S FURNITURE DESIGNED BY ALMA SIEDHOFF BUSCHER El presente anexo se ha extraído directamente del trabajo de investigación de Amanda Boyaki “Alma Buscher Siedhoff: An Examination of Children’s Design and Gender at the Bauhaus during the Weimar Period”, A Dissertation in Fine Arts submitted to the Graduate Faculty of Texas Tech University in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirement for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy. An extract from the searching work of Amanda Boyaki “Alma Buscher Siedhoff: An Examination of Children’s Design and Gender at the Bauhaus during the Weimar Period”, A Dissertation in Fine Arts submitted to the Graduate Faculty of Texas Tech University in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirement for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy. Boyaki, A. (2010). Alma Buscher Siedhoff: An Examination of Children’s Design and Gender at the Bauhaus during the Weimar Period.

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Brendel was a furniture student and there is only the brief mention of Leudesdorff, a student in the weaving workshop (Winkler, 2004). Originally, George Muche had the children‟s room located on the opposite end of the house c. 1922, but it was moved to the location between the kitchen and the woman‟s bedroom (Winkler, 2004). The floor plan of the children‟s room was designed specifically so that almost the whole room could be seen from either door‟s vantage point. One door opened into the kitchen of the Haus am Horn, and the other door was connected to the woman‟s bedroom. The room contained a wash basin with running water; and a door to the terrace outside (fig. 4.3). One wall was painted with chalkboard paint so that a child could use the surface for drawing. Furniture Designs of Alma Buscher Siedhoff Children’s play cabinet [Kinderspielschrank] c. 1923 At the Haus am Horn, Buscher designed the children‟s room in this modest home attached to the kitchen, where a mother could easily keep an eye on activities while going about myriad tasks a household requires. She was making the most efficient use of space possible; she designed the play cabinet to fit along the wall and into a corner, maximizing its usage and space planning. This play cabinet (fig. 4.4) is a piece of furniture that could be put in any room and used for other purposes, after the days of playing had ended. The cabinet could serve as a display area, or for storage. There is a cut-out door that opens on the right side cabinet to feature a puppet show. This opening could be used as a display cabinet after the days of play and puppet shows had passed. The modular design allows for the three pieces to be distributed to other rooms. The series of boxes could serve double duty as storage containers and toys themselves or as impromptu seating cubes


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later on. The versatility of the design fit into the scheme of the room that provided a space for a child that belonged only in the realm of the child or children. The play cabinet was covered in a smooth, white, linoleum veneer that provided a durable surface. The linoleum was “attached to all seats and stepping areas and allows it to appear at purchase somewhat more expensive, but during the use it saves both children and parents much trouble – the constant new coat of paint and the really unnecessary scolding on account of little scratches” (Buscher, 1926). She was thinking about the future use of the cabinet, not only for a child‟s room but a piece of furniture that would stay in the family and be used for years. The durable linoleum and the neutral color white would Fig. 4.4. Children‟s play cabinet [Kinderspielschrank] Alma Buscher Siedhoff with Erich Brendel, circa 1923. Painted wood. Three cupboards: H. 140 x 68.3 x 30 cm; H. 140 x 94.5 x 27.8 cm; H. 140 x 64.3 x 29.5 cm; 3 boxes: H. 30 x 48 x 32 cm; H. 29.8 x 48.4 x 32 cm; H. 30 x 48.4 x 32 cm; 2 blocks: H. 20.5 x 32 x 25 cm; H. 19.9 x 32.1 x 25 cm. Photograph courtesy of Quittenbaum Art Auction House.

suite a wide variety of interiors for a considerable period of time, making it a wise purchase when choosing children‟s furniture. For Buscher, the climate of the consumer‟s attention was one paramount to

the success of her designs. Her emphasis and attention to the durability of the materials she chose, such as linoleum for her play cabinet, and the quality of her designs would have resonated with the bourgeoisie consumer audience. German consumers looked for quality of materials, according to Reagin (2007), so much so that there is an old saying


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“the best is the most expensive” (pp. 39-44). Seven boxes of three sizes were built to sit flush against the front of the longest section of the cabinet.94 These boxes were to serve as additional storage cubes, as steps for a child to access the higher shelves of the cabinet, and as toys. The boxes could be anything a child wished and the possibilities for creativity could change constantly. Swedish psychologist Eva Noren Bjorn states that “the problem with … [some toys] is a lack of creativity –„a log can become a boat or train or sofa; a wooden horse cannot ever be more than a wooden horse‟” (Hagströmer, 1997, p. 191). It is this approach to childinspired creativity that Buscher used when she constructed her play cabinet. Rather than presenting a possibility, she left the areas clean (“blank” would be another descriptor but it implies that she was not considering the space and its limitless potential). The idea of incorporating the aspect of play into the container, making that large piece of furniture in the corner of the room an endless place to inspire the imagination, is one of its best qualities. The largest of these boxes was originally designed with a shelf inside for a child to sit on, with four small metal wheels and a lid (fig. 4.5).95 In fact, it has a seat inside it for a child to use and let the imagination transform it into any type of vehicle. Two notches were cut out of the sides at the top of the box so that the lid could be easily removed.


The measurements I took of the reproduction are: large box 19 11/16” x 12 ½” x 9 7/8.” The measurements in metric of Alma Buscher Siedhoff‟s sketch (Siebenbrodt, 2004) are 32 x 30 cm. The smaller boxes measure 32 x 20 cm and 12 5/8” x 9 7/8 ” x 9 7/8” made from 5/8” medium density fiber board. 95 The metal wheels were not incorporated in the reproduction piece created by Vitra for its Kid Size exhibition that will be discussed later.


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Color was a crucial part of the design of the play cabinet. The boxes were painted yellow, red and blue. This coincided with the three fundamental colors of the Bauhaus theories (Wick, 2000). These colors were also assigned shapes according to Johannes Itten. The influence of Kandinsky, Theo van Doesberg and the de Stijl movement is evident (Droste, 2002; Siebenbrodt, 2004; Will 1997). Cleaning up after playtime was to be instigated by the child. The box with wheels also functions as a storage chest. Since the child could arrange and place the toys, Buscher was promoting self-sufficiency and a subtle approach to visual training. The boxes form a stage platform that a child could use to access the higher shelves without assistance, putting toys away and making the room tidy. In this regard, Buscher specifically designed the height of the shelves in the cabinet for children. The boxes that accompany the shelves serve a crucial role as steps to access the higher shelves. She designed the cabinet to be of a full height comparable to other book and storage shelves available. Wingler‟s (1969) Fig. 4.5. Detail of box on wheels. H. 46.5 x 64 x 31.8 cm. Photograph courtesy of Quittenbaum Art Auction House.

critique of the play cabinet states: In designing furniture for children Alma Buscher

always considered the latest psychological and pedagogical findings. The toy cabinet was made for the children to play and “build” with; most of it was arranged to be taken apart. The box units (in front) could be used as tables and chairs. Wheels were fixed to one of the boxes so that it could be used as a cart.


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The cut-out in the upper part of the door on the right section of the cabinet was designed to serve as a stage for a Punch and Judy show. The (impractical) shelves in the left section were meant for toys. (p. 311) The parentheses that surround the word “impractical” could be a translation notation that stayed through the printing process. For the purpose of this analysis, Wingler‟s choice of adjective will stand as it is printed and Wingler‟s opinion of the shelves can be dissected. The height of the shelves might be construed as impractical for a child due to the height. What Wingler perceives as an impractical storage solution reflects the adaptability of this cabinet that Buscher designed. Clothing cabinet [Kleiderschrank] 1924 A second cabinet that has survived from this period and the Bauhaus Exhibit is the clothing cabinet from 1924.96 German bedrooms do not normally contain built-in closets, even today. A traditional cabinet that can be taken apart and moved from location to location is a very common piece of furniture in a German home. The clothing cabinet that Buscher designed with Marcel Breuer has a lacquered exterior. Below the cabinet were two drawers. One door handle and two drawer pulls were large round handles. They are the same as the handles on the changing table Buscher designed for the room and the handles on some other pieces Marcel Breuer had designed for the Haus am Horn. The cabinet was photographed in 1924 but it is unclear if it was built in time for the Bauhaus Exhibit.


The cabinet was featured in the Neu Welt für Kinder exhibit in 2006.


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Crib [Kinderbett] 1924 Buscher designed a crib for the Haus am Horn children‟s room that differs from the crib photographed and published in the Bauhaus catalog (1925) (fig. 4.6). There is little information about either crib she designed. The sketch of the original crib featured large disk wheels and curved handles (fig. 4.7). A photograph of the crib credited to Buscher does not feature these details. There is an inconsistency in the original design of the crib featured in the photographs of the Haus am Horn children‟s room and one in the sketch of the room. The photograph shows the corner of a crib that does not match the side of the crib that is photographed and attributed to Buscher. The side featured in the photograph that shows the expanse of the room from one door through to the other provides a side view of vertical slats (see fig. 4.3). This differs from the solid sides of the crib that are featured in the later photograph that dates to 1924. This indicates a different crib was built for the Haus am Horn children‟s room. No Buscher designed crib has yet surfaced.

Fig. 4.6. Crib/children‟s bed [Kinderbett] circa 1924. Painted wood, cork, canvas and metal. Silver gelatin print. 163 x 200 mm. Bauhaus University Weimar. © 2010 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG BildKunst, Bonn.


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It is unknown who instigated the design changes from the crib produced for the Bauhaus exhibit and the crib attributed to Buscher. Other cribs were built at the Bauhaus, notably one designed by Peter Keler. Johannes Itten commissioned a crib for his son as well (Von Seckendorf, 2000).97 Assuming she designed and made the one shown in the photograph of the children‟s room, the wooden crib featured in the Bauhaus product catalog would be Buscher‟s third version. It demonstrates a stronger link to the bold De Stijl features lacking in the first crib. The later crib was painted white and joined in a staggered manner demonstrating a subtle Cubist influence that was part of the De Stijl. It is especially noticeable in the legs. The crib also had a unique mesh screen made out of corks. These bottle corks form a lattice that lets in light and air. The back of the crib was fashioned out of a piece of canvas cloth and would have faced the wall of the children‟s room in the Haus am Horn. Buscher‟s crib represents both practical Fig. 4.7. Sketch of crib from original children‟s room design. © 2010 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.

forethoughts as well as innovation. While Buscher created a barrier, at the same time, she allowed for an


Often Bauhaus sources display the crib that Peter Keler designed due to its unusual and provocative approach to a traditional rocking cradle. The triangle shape wedged in a circle that is a metal cylinder running along the base of the crib functions as the rocker, this crib was designed to rock back and forth and has a weight system in the from cylinder located in the bottom and acute angle of the triangle. Some people might feel uncomfortable placing a rambunctious infant in this crib. Itten also designed a crib because he and his wife had recently given birth so “in the carpenters workshop a cradle was made, hand carved and covered with colorful mystical symbols” (Adams Teltscher, 1968, p. 194). 97 It is visually heavy with deep carvings and a height that requires the adult to walk up to the crib in order to view the child. Keler‟s crib would demand constant adult supervision. Hahn (2002) provides a photograph of one crib whose designer is unknown, but this dates to 1929.


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unobstructed view to the entire interior of the crib. With one quick glance, a person can see if a child was awake or asleep. At the same time, the child has a wide of view of the room. The cork grid represents Buscher thinking about materials that were readily available. Corks were one of the “war related materials” collected during World War I for recycling and reuse by the government (Reagin, 2007, p. 75). Since all manner of materials continued to be scarce and expensive during the Bauhaus and Weimar years, Buscher used a common material in an economical and functional manner. Other more practical matters were considered in the use of this material. The cork edges would be soft, and the grid allows for maximum light. The corks could be easily replaced if one were to become torn or damaged. A commission by an orphanage in Weimar called for the production of 120 cribs in September 1924, a sobering reminder of the lasting effects of the war. (Rowland, 1988). The Bauhaus wanted to promote social change through the vehicle of good design. Orphanages would have had strong links to the leftist social agendas, and would order from the Bauhaus (Winkler, 2003). These connections would not help Buscher when she had trouble promoting her works after she left the Bauhaus as the political climate changed from the Weimar government into the Third Reich. Ladder Chair [Leiterstuhl] c. 1923 Continuing her vision of multifunctional furniture, Buscher also designed a ladder chair (fig. 4.8). Only


Fig. 4.8. Ladder chair [Leiterstuhl] circa 1923. Gouache and graphite on paper. 124 x 195 mm. Collection of Joost Siedhoff. © 2010 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.

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drawings have survived of the originals, although the chair was reproduced for the exhibit in Velbert in 1997. The ladder chair functions as a high chair, in a booster fashion. It could be brought by the child from the children‟s room to the adjacent dining room for each meal, and returned with ease by a small child or an adult. It has two small metal wheels attached to it for mobility, similar if not identical to the metal wheels on the play cabinet box. As children need to climb to reach many items, it could be used as a stepladder. Buscher also had in mind the idea of the ladder chair transforming into a toy as well. Since it had wheels and was mobile, a child and a little imagination could turn it into any number of possibilities: a car, wagon, dragon, etc. It could be laid down long and flat or a child could stand it upright. The ladder chair was humorously described by art critic named Paul Westheim during the Bauhaus exhibit: “A very sympathetic solution is in the children's room a modern [Rollstühlschen] in shape of a cubic box. So from the beginning the modern child awakens in Kubus” (Winkler, 2003, p. 28).98 Wollsdorf (2006) described it as “not entirely harmless” (p. 2) because of the wheels and its mobility. Changing Table [Wickelcommode] c. 1924 Buscher designed a changing table or Wickelcommode in 1924. It is included in the sketches for the children‟s room of the Haus am Horn from 1923. The changing table (fig. 4.9) is the original, and it has survived. 99 The changing table was covered in


Eine sehr sympathische Lösung ist im Kinderzimmer ein modernes Rollstühlschen in Gestalt eines würfelförmigen Kastens. So wächst das neuzeitliche Kind von Anfang an in den Kubus hinein. 99 The changing table was in the collection of Hinnerk Scheper and Lou Scheper and was loaned to the Bauhaus archive collection (Will, 1997). Scheper was a student at the Bauhaus left Weimar in 1922 was in wall painting workshop and returned as head of it in Dessau (Naylor, 1985). It was featured in the Neu Welt für Kinder exhibition of 2006, prominently displayed.


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durable lacquer and painted in gray, red and blue details, along with white. Buscher came up with a design that would blend together in a collaborative manner with Breuer‟s previous design of the kitchen cabinet from 1923. The changing table has a modular influence prevalent in the furniture workshop. It provided a large amount of storage for clean linens and separate compartments for soiled linens. A stool offers a place to sit or an impromptu shelving location. The stool could be pulled out, or pushed up under the cabinet if a person chose to stand instead. She wrote in her diary that this piece Fig. 4.9. Changing table with stool [Wickelcommode mit Hocker] circa 1924. Painted wood. 95, 2 x 140 x 62, 8 cm. Bauhaus Archive Berlin on loan from the collection of the Scheper family. © 2010 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.

could be converted into a desk later on by removing the center drawer (Siebenbrodt, 2004). Since Buscher did not have children at the time, she probably designed and built based on her study of the

needs of children and their parents. Buscher was accommodating what was the first generation of upper middle class and wealthy women who had to run a household on their own without the assistance of a servant. Light Fixture [Deckenleuchte] c. 1923 Buscher collaborated with Ludwig Hirschfield Mach on a light fixture in the children‟s room. The light was positioned over the corner of

Fig. 4.10. Sketches featuring the original design of the light fixture. Colored pencil on paper. 132 x 142 mm; 120 x 147 mm; 157 x 132 mm. Collection of Joost and Lore Siedhoff. © 2010 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.


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the room above the play cabinet. The ceiling fixture was a white circle of glass attached to the roof with four long metal rods. It had gels of color that could be changed. In this regard, she sketched out three vignettes: the first contains the animals rooster, hen, chicks, cats and more. The other two are vague, containing shadowy figures (fig. 4.10). The children‟s room exhibit sketch no. 2 (Siebenbrodt, 2004, p. 74) features the light with red, yellow, blue and violet sections. The photograph of the completed room is in black and white, it is impossible to tell how the final product turned out. The light fixture appears as a gray circle affixed to the ceiling (fig. 4.4). Stool/Table and Children’s Bench [Tisch/Sitzbank, Kinderbank] c. 1924 The theme of creating a piece of furniture with multiple functions continued with the stool table she designed sometime around 1924 (fig. 4.11). Will had this piece reproduced for the 1997 exhibit. The table top is red lacquer on top of four white legs that have been turned to show the flat side of each leg facing outward. The underside of the round table top is a square piece of wood painted blue. The legs are positioned for maximum weight stability, as it functions as a stool.

Fig. 4.11. Reproduction of Stool/table, [Tisch/Sitzbank] circa 1924. Painted wood. Reconstruction. Deutsches Schloss Beschlägemuseum Velbert. © 2010 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.

Buscher built a small bench for her children sometime after she left the Bauhaus that was exhibited in Will‟s Entwürfe für Kinder am Bauhaus in Weimar exhibition. This


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would be a tough sell to convince a woman who had been told to avoid trendy materials to buy the Bauhaus-associated children‟s furniture. Toy Design The concept of designing, building and selling toys at the Bauhaus first began when the women of the weaving workshop made toys for the traditional Christmas booth. These toys were made from cloth donated to the Bauhaus in the early Weimar years (Baumhoff, 1994; Wortmann Weltge, 1993). The Christmas booth of the women‟s workshop was the most successful in sales compared to the other workshops. Wortmann Weltge (1993) suggests that this may have partly been because the “people who donated the material probably bought the toys that were made from them” (p. 54). Additionally, Bauhaus artists such as Lyonel Feininger, Paul Klee, Oskar Schlemmer and Gunta Stölzl made toys for their children (Seidel, 2004; Stölzl, Radewaldt, I., Stadler, M., & Thöner, 1997). At any rate, after the Bauhaus Exhibit ended in October 1923, Buscher began completing her toy designs. Building Blocks: The Ship [Bauspiel: Ein Schiff] c. 1923. Buscher‟s building blocks or building game are usually depicted Fig. 4.13. Ship building blocks [Schiffsbauspiel] c. 1923. Painted wood. Box dimensions 27.5 mm x 6.5 mm x 4.5 mm. Reproduction from collection of author. Photograph by author.


in photographs as a ship. The painted wooden blocks are

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packaged in a cardboard box. The set originally came in two sizes. The blocks are cut in several shapes and painted white, yellow, blue, green, and red. They are often referred to as the “building game” [Bauspiel] and first appear in 1923 (Siebenbrodt, 2004; Will, 1997; Wingler, 1969; Winkler, 2003). The blocks have been manufactured by the Swiss toy company Naef since 1977 (Siebenbrodt, 2004). In 1965, Hans Maria Wingler and Kurt Naef began negotiations regarding the Bauhaus copyrights to the toys. The building blocks were the second toy to go into production (Von Büren, 2006).101 The blocks are currently sold in the Bauhaus museum gift shops in Berlin and Dessau and are also available on the internet (Siebenbrodt, 2004). The building blocks sat enjoyed great success during the time it was produced at the Bauhaus. Georg Muche, Adolf Meyer and Lázló Moholy-Nagy all purchased the building blocks (Siebenbrodt, 2004). Paul Kohlhaas Company of Bad Berka was the first to produce the blocks in collaboration with the Bauhaus along with Buscher‟s Bützelspiel [bundle toys] in 1924 (Müller, 2009). In March of 1924, 50 block sets were made in the Bauhaus workshop, and an additional 35 were ordered in the month of September (Rowland, 1988). In April 1924, 30 small and 15 large sets were sold (Siebenbrodt, 2004). Unfortunately, Paul Kohlhaas Company became a victim of the economic


Von Büren (2006) provides a short biography on Alma Buscher (p. 155) along with information that comes from Will (1997). There is no source cited. Von Büren states that Naef was interested in producing other toy designs but “heirs made exorbitant claims that would have made them impossible to produce for a profit” (p. 49). He also notes that it is museum and design collectors that purchase Bauhaus Naef toys. According to Joost Siedhoff (2006) neither he, nor his sister Lore, receive any funds from the sales of these toys and never will because the Bauhaus holds the rights. Von Büren‟s statement is not directed at Alma Buscher Siedhoff‟s heirs. Recently, Naef began reproducing two of Margarete Reichardt‟s toy designs, a jumping jack [Hampelmann] and some peg dolls [Steckpuppen] that she created at the Bauhaus between 1926-30 ( Reichardt was a weaving student who is noted for her metallic, sound absorbing and light reflecting fabric designs (Baumhoff, 2000).


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struggles and went bankrupt in 1925. Bauhaus GmbH took over the manufacturing of the blocks completely. In 1925, 319 building block sets were built for the Bauhaus GmbH that were to be sold for one Deutsche Mark each; Buscher received 25 cents per unit sold (Seidel, 2004; Siebenbrodt, 2004; Will, 1997). Once the Bauhaus had moved to Dessau the rights changed to Bauhaus Dessau GmbH, and the Pestalozzi-Fröbel Publishers in Leipzig carried on the production of the building blocks (Siebenbrodt, 2004). Buscher‟s blocks are rectangles, thin and thick squares, taller pie shaped pieces and a larger rounded quarter slice of a circle. The large set had 39 pieces, and the small set had 22. The packaging for the blocks is a long and narrow box reflecting a precise economy of design. Of course this presents the daunting question as to whether the happy new owner will be able to return them all into their original spots. The blocks fit so that reassembling them back into the box is designed similar to a jigsaw puzzle. The package design is deliberate. Several of Buscher‟s objects are designed for fun and play, but her blocks and particularly her Fig. 4.14. Detail of blocks inside box and box lid. 27.5 mm L x 6.5 mm.


play cabinet take

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into account both space planning and how a child would be motivated to tidy the space (fig. 4.13). Art supplies were difficult to acquire in any of the workshops, but there would have been small scraps of wood in the woodcarving and cabinetmaking workshop. It took the right person to look at a pile of scraps and see the opportunity. Rowland (1988) notes that when the blocks were first marketed in Switzerland, a representative asked that the color be changed and that some sort of instructions be provided. Buscher responded by adding the label to the top of the box that displays her name and provides four possible forms to build with the blocks: a sailboat, a mountain and valley with railroad, a gate or door, and an animal. According to the picture, the animal might be a dragon or stegosaurus (fig. 4.14). In reality, Buscher encouraged creativity, and, for her, the sailboat was just the beginning of the possibilities for her group of blocks. Buscher had observed that children demonstrated a hesitance, not knowing where to begin playing with the blocks. The picture of the sailboat launched them toward creative possibilities (Schneider, 2000 as cited in Luyken, 2004). By following the examples shown on the box, a child could build his/her confidence up by creating the dinosaur or ship, and then try other shapes. The influence of German reform pedagogy movement is evident in the blocks when they are compared to Friedrich Fröbel‟s blocks. Will (1997) and Siebenbrodt (2004) wrote about the theory based processes of learning behind the designs. Fröbel „gifts,‟ or aufgaben, were a series of blocks for children to learn and build with designed


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to promote learning.102 There are similarities between Buscher‟s blocks and Fröbel‟s: Both block sets fit into a box, and it is an extra challenge or puzzle to return the blocks back to their storage space. However, Fröbel‟s blocks were to be given to a student in a sequence as the child adapted and learned the colors and shapes (Efland, 1990). Hence, his toys were task driven, each level of understanding building upon the previous. This is very different from Buscher‟s intent that was more about freeing innate creativity. Bundle Toys [Bützelspiel] c. 1924 Buscher described her design as “a ball game for the very little ones to knock over figures to aim at and upset with the balls” (Siebenbrodt, 2004, p. 53). She provided detailed instructions of the game: They are bare blocks and bare balls, just big enough for a child to hold, but too big for the child to put in its mouth – the child is allowed to lick them. They are bare and smooth. The square blocks have indentations so that the balls will lie still if put on top of them. That‟s the joy, to build high, they can make figures or fat women. The big ball moves and everything falls apart. The child laughs! 103 (Siebenbrodt, 2004, p. 53) She described it as a sort of bowling game designed for children who are still learning and developing their hand and eye movements. This toy would be especially ideal for preschoolers, because throwing is a much easier movement than catching (fig. 4.15). The pieces, not being large, make the consequence of falling not damaging to the


Today the words hausaufgaben refer to homework for students, literally (and laden with dry German humor) meaning “a gift for home.” 103 Translation by Svenja Menschig.


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floor or any other items that might be in close proximity. There was a small knitted mesh bag in which some of the balls could be placed, appearing too small to fit the whole group inside. The stacking and falling of the toy would aid a child in practicing balance on a small scale. Buscher encouraged the joy of contact and of knocking something over. Such an act is normally frowned upon in most situations, particularly in the days before Superglue. Buscher had a keen awareness of allowing a child to be a child, to play and be young. With so much war and hardship around her during the Weimar period and immediately following the end of World War I, this concept means much more. The little joys of childhood are over so fast to begin with, the day-to-day living with children often means taking for granted the wonders of learning and new experiences. It is often difficult for

Fig. 4.15. Bundle toys [Bützelspiel] circa 1924. Painted wood. Collection of Joost and Lore Siedhoff. © 2010 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG BildKunst, Bonn.

adults to stop and realize, in the hustle of daily activities, that many actions we do day in and out are brand new to a small child. She described herself like a small child as well in her diary stating: “People wonder how I understand children and that they understand me. The answer is easy, I am still a child and maybe always. Primitive thinking, intuitive


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acting, and producing immature things. That‟s the child” (Siebenbrodt, 2004, p. 51).104 The Bützelspiel were produced and sold by Pestalozzi-Fröbel Verlag from 1926-1933 and sold for 4 marks each (Siebenbrodt, 2004). Ball Toy [Kugelspiel] c.1924. The third set of building blocks or “ball toy” Buscher designed were a variation of the Bützelspiel but on smaller scale for older children. Each block was drilled with a small hole for Fig. 4.16. Ball toys [Kugelspiel] circa 1924. Painted wood. Ausstellung Stiftung Weimarer Klassik und Kunstsammlungen Bauhaus museum Weimar. Bauhaus Bücher no. 7. Photo credit: The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Hirsch Library.

a bead-like treatment (fig. 4.16). The set came with

wooden pins or dowels that had a tab on the end for ease of removal and insertion.105 There were 40 Kugelspiel that had been finished being painted by the painting workshop in April 1924 (Siebenbrodt, 2004). Action Dolls [Wurfpuppen ] c. 1924 “ You had to sign a contract that your patents would go to the Bauhaus-whatever you developed – they could sell it, but you got nothing.” Gerhard Richter (Lange, 1988, 104

She might have also been echoing the criticism she and other female artists received from Bauhaus staff regarding her work in Bauhaus classes. Translation by Svenja Menschig. 105 I have found no proposals, descriptions or photographs depicting how the Bützelspiel, Kugelspiel or Wurfpuppen would be packaged for sale.


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p. 43) The action dolls, a male and female, were designed and created in 1924 (4.17). The bodies are woven from rope to form two arms and two legs, with a batch of straw pulled through the bead that indicates the face and head. The bodies are woven from rope to form two arms and two legs, with a batch of straw pulled through the bead that indicates the face and head. Buscher calls her dolls action dolls. They are a clear indication of her beliefs in the creative process. Totally different from a passive voice – she is promoting creative play, encouraging the child through the title of her toy to animate it and give it life. Many toys are gender specific. Dolls are a category that is more clearly defined. A teddy bear is gender neutral. A baby doll is not. Both of the action dolls were assigned gender, and even race. The female doll has two braids of straw for hair and wears a skirt. The male action doll is not assigned any specific indications of gender. The clothing consists of a pair of trousers and a long sleeved shirt. It is the viewer‟s assumption that indicates the doll is male, as the opposite of the more gender specific female doll. The female is assigned distinct feminine features – braided hair and a woven dress. These distinctions of

Fig. 4.17. Action dolls [Wurfpuppen ] circa 1924. Wood, straw, chenille. 48 L x 53 cm. Ausstellung Stiftung Weimarer Klassik und Kunstsammlungen Bauhaus museum Weimar. © 2010 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.


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the female doll are the differences to indicate the male doll. In the Bauhaus archive in Berlin, the files of Buscher contain a copy of a design patent she was awarded for her Action Dolls and a letter from Gropius dating to the time of the Dessau move, circa April 21, 1926 (see Appendix E). There is a stamp that the patent was issued on March 16, 1927. There is also a letter in this file from Gropius dating March 28, 1925, presumably to the patent office but containing the directive to Dr. N/Bo. in the upper left hand corner. This document states that the patent should be registered to Fräulein Buscher, and that there had been no mistake in the name for the patent.106 Gropius continues, saying that, although the manufacturers and distributors were no longer available due to economic hardships, the Bauhaus would not be transferring the rights to the patent, instead retaining the rights. Obviously, even though money was always an issue at the Bauhaus, Gropius managed to pay for the patent. This letter serves as evidence of a very clear case of misunderstanding the use of the female address and its correctness.


Dr. N. refers to the Bauhaus Syndikat or business manager Dr. Necker (Rowland, 1988). I cannot decipher what the letters Bo represent. The document written by Gropius states: “Unter nummer 106/1 & 2 wurde dem Staalichen Bauhaus Weimar beim Amtsgericht in Weimar ein Musterschutz auf Spielzeuge erteilt. Der Musterschutz wurde irrtümlich nicht auf den Namen von Fräulein Buscher eingetragen. Außerdem muß das Herstellungs – und Vertriebsrecht nach Kündigung durch Fräulein Buscher an Fräulein Buscher zurückfallen. Da wirtschaftliche Vorteile weiterhin nach einer Kündigung des Herstellungs und Vertriebsrechtes nicht mehr vorhanden sind, überträgt das Bauhaus die Recht aus diesem Musterschutz hiermit auch Fräulein Buscher. Solange der Musterschutz auf den Namen des Bauhauses eingetragen ist, erfüllt das Bauhaus gegen Ersatz aller entstehenden Kosten die nötigen Formalitäten für eine Verlängerung des Musterschutzes.” “Under number 106/1 & 2 Weimar was given the Staatliche Bauhaus in the district court in Weimar a pattern protection on toys. The pattern protection was not registered erroneously in the name of Miss Buscher. Moreover, manufacturers must fall back on to distributorship after notice through Miss Buscher. Because economic advantages were no longer available after further notice of the manufacture and distributorship, the Bauhaus transmits the rights out of this pattern protection and with this also Miss Buscher. As long as the pattern protection was registered in the name of the Bauhaus, the Bauhaus against replacement of all emerging costs fulfills the necessary formalities for an extension of the pattern protection.”


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The patent describes the materials applicable, like straw for the limbs and the wooden beads. There is no mention anywhere about gender specifications, only the word for the hairstyle Bubikopf. Here is the place where Buscher found a way to bring in a look at gender with her action dolls. The girl has on a skirt and has a long braid of straw for hair. In the patent description that is filed, it is the Bubikopf hairstyle that is described.107 This hairstyle was the bob or pageboy haircut that was a striking symbol of the New Woman or Neu Frau in the Weimar culture. The year the Bauhaus opened was also an important year for the Suffragist movement in Germany. Women were allowed to vote in 1919. The zeitgeist of equality was one that Gropius publicly appeared to promote from the onset of the Bauhaus‟ opening but privately continued to maintain a system of gender barriers. The influence of the new place women had in the post war culture became a visual symbol represented by a new short hairstyle called the Bubikopf. Many women at the Bauhaus had a Bubikopf; Annie Albers, Marianne Brandt, and Lily Reich to name a few. Hair continues to be a symbol of femininity or rebellion. At the Bauhaus the Bubikopf was most assuredly a symbol of the Neu Frau or “New Woman.” It is difficult to tell from photographs if Buscher had a Bubikopf. It appears that she had long hair pulled back. In one photo she was, unfortunately, wearing a hat. A self-portrait she drew seems to indicate she wore her hair pulled back. A photograph of her at a Bauhaus party shows her with the same hairstyle in 1923 (Siebenbrodt, 2004, p. 62). Photographs of her and her husband Werner in 1934 clearly show that she had a Bubikopf (Siebenbrodt,


See line 18 in Appendix E.


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2004, p. 102; Will, 1997, p. 64). Schneider (2000) points out that Buscher was thinking very deeply about the dolls and how children could interact with them. Buscher‟s term “action doll” would help young boys be more comfortable with the dolls (Luyken, 2004). Dolls are heavily gendered toys. Buscher believed a title such as „action‟ would go a long way toward easing the taboo of playing with dolls. Buscher‟s actions speak for her beliefs but her views are to be found in her designs and writings. The action dolls are an example of how she integrated the curious mind of a child with an opportunity. There is also a third type of doll (Luyken, 2004; Siedhoff, 2009; Will, 1997) called the Negerkind, meaning a “black child.” Siebenbrodt makes no reference to this.108 The Negerkind action doll presents an insight into the approach Buscher took when designing her objects. Views about Africans and black people in Germany range from odd curiosities to outright prejudice. Few Germans would have encountered any Africans aside from the Völkerschauen, or traveling carnivals, “where dark skinned where displayed like animals in zoos” (Weitz, 2007, p. 51). After World War II the influx of American Jazz and soldiers brought more Germans into contact with what they termed “Negroes” (Weitz, 2007). At the Bauhaus there is little to be noted about the topic. Gropius uses a euphemism to indicate what his own beliefs were (c. 1925-26). When describing the American tendency to cover skyscrapers with gothic and renaissance facades he wrote


Will does not discuss an interpretation or meaning of the doll, she only mentions it briefly. I have seen three Wurfpuppen: The two in the Berlin museum exhibition, and one in the Weimar Bauhaus permanent collection.


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that this “made them as ridiculous as a Negro who wears fancy shirt cuffs with a loincloth” (Gropius, 1925-6, pp. 134-47 as cited in Diefendorf, 2005, p. 31). One interesting example of Bauhaus fundraising is found in a letter that is addressed to “Henry Ford, William Randolf Hearst and others.” In this letter, Lyonel Feininger asks that these wealthy individuals donate $3,000.00 to the project. “We make our appeal to yourself who have the priviledge [sic] of living in the Land whose population is to-day in the act of taking the reins of the Leadership of the White Race into its grasp…”(Whitford, 1992, p. 153). Buscher introduced her Negerkind doll and provided an opportunity for a child to observe a variety of people and explore in their own way, through play, the meanings of these rather profound differences and find the commonalities. Buscher was delving further into the psychology of toys than merely gender. Everything she designed had to have more than one function and therefore more than one meaning and use, both furniture and toys. The action dolls were designed to appeal to boys and girls, but this is the first step in the design process for Buscher. The introduction of race with the Negerkind doll was a deeper connection. It offered children a place to explore differences and similarities in a play atmosphere. Buscher was calculating a way to promote, in a very quiet and subtle way, tolerance toward humanity; something that was taking a downward spiral in Germany during this time. Therefore, there must be one more than combination or possibility for the action dolls – in this case it is two female action dolls. The one with the short hair, the Bubikopf, represents the Neu Frau while the other doll that has long hair and a skirt


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represents the more traditional woman. These two dolls could be read not as only male and female, but as the dual aspects of Buscher‟s personality representing her struggle to find acceptance in a male-dominated design field. They are an extension of her two sides, a dual self-portrait. The evidence for the layered meaning is found in the patent description that contains the word Bubikopf. It would have been written and submitted by Buscher. She specifically chose this term, as she did using the term „action.‟ Gropius was preoccupied with the administrative duties of the Bauhaus and the management of his architectural practice (Franciscono, 1971; Kieren, 2000). While he oversaw which items were to be patented, the task of writing out the description would fall on the designer. It was her deliberate choice to use the descriptive/gender specific term to describe the hairstyle. To a person taking a quick look at the dolls, it would not register. In fact, Siebenbrodt (2004) describes this patent document in his catalogue and curiously omits the sentence that contains this descriptive word entirely (p. 26). Buscher was designing in gender conscious terms because shapes and colors had specific gendered meanings at the Bauhaus. Both shape and color had been assigned gender by Johannes Itten. This was one of the lessons taught in the Vorkurs. The square was red and gendered female, triangles were yellow and the circle blue and gendered masculine (Wick, 2000). Children would not associate the primary colors with the Bauhaus‟ curriculum. There is an essential quality of the openness to play by either boys or girls that is deeply underappreciated in Buscher‟s designs that has been overlooked by scholars who see only the toys she is making, not the message behind the toys. Buscher‟s own thoughts in her writings denote that she is delving deeply into more than just making


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toys. Buscher wrote, “we shouldn‟t convict a child because s/he has little imagination” (Luyken, 2004, p.37). This same philosophy could be applied to brief interpretations of her work. Puppet Theater [Puppettheater] c.1924. Buscher designed a puppet theater complete with small wooden building blocks in 1923. It was recreated in 1997. The puppet theater is a simple wooden box on a stand with a square opening in the front. It is free standing on thin legs that are in an L formation, maintain the balance of the piece both visually and physically and ensuring that it is sturdy enough for vigorous play (fig. 4.18). The construction is painted in de Stijl colors of blue, white, yellow and red. The resemblance to a Fig. 4.18. 4.19. Puppet Puppentheater theater [Puppet theater] design circa [Puppettheater] design 1924 circa 1924. reproduction 1997. Reproduction 1997.Painted Paintedwood. wood. 48 x 58 x 45 cm. Deutsches Schloss Beschlägemuseum Velbert. © 2010 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.

Mondrian painting goes further than just the theater and extends to the backdrop and scenery as well as to the abstracted puppet block forms. These wooden blocks are circular, square, and triangular and painted

in the primary colors. The front door is featured as the red square that can be raised and lowered, with a traditional reference to the red curtains of a theater.


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An undated letter from “Karl” (Carl Schlemmer?)109described the designs of the puppet theater and possible solutions to a design problem Buscher was trying to work out regarding how the front and back doors would close. Karl also compliments her toy blocks, saying that he thought they were “brilliantly thought out and am convinced they will be popular” (Siebenbrodt, 2004, p. 54).110 Apparently, she sent him some sketches to critique because he offers two possible modifications for the doors opening on the left and right sides without having the trim of the wooden closure stick out and ruin the proportion and lines of the piece. Paper Toys: Mechanical Crane and Sailboat [Bastelbogen] c. 1925 Buscher designed a sailboat and a mechanical crane out of thick paper that was to be cut out and assembled, like a paper doll (figs. 4.19-22). The use of paper was one that was popular at the Bauhaus Vorkurs, when taught by Lazlo MoholyNagy and Josef Albers (Schmitz, 2000). The constant shortage of materials and funding made the Vorkurs an ideal place to introduce students to ordinary materials and

Fig. 4.19. Paper toy crane [Bastelbogen Krahn] circa 1925. Color lithograph book print. 80 mm x 22mm. Reproduction from collection of the author. © 2010 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.

their possibilities. Moholy-Nagy and Albers both assigned students to create sculptures 109

Carl Schlemmer was the brother of Oskar Schlemmer who was the master of the theater workshop. Carl is a controversial figure because he was dismissed from the Bauhaus for insubordination. He was a workshop leader in the wall painting workshop but went against Gropius (Whitford, 1984). 110 Translation by Svenja Menschig.


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out of paper, believing that this engaged students with the strong, abstracted forms of positive and negative space using the tensile strength of paper. The long tradition of paper dolls is the historical reference for Buscher. She designed the sail boat (1926) and the mechanical crane (1927) to be free-standing units that could stimulate the child

Fig. 4.20. Assembled Paper toy crane. Color lithograph. 19.05cm x 10.48cm x 23.18cm. Reproduction from collection of the author. © 2010 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.

to assemble and build. These paper models would open up the imagination to the possibilities of what a crane could lift and its operation. Both the mechanical crane and building blocks have been manufactured through Walther König printing company since 1997 (Siebenbrodt, 2004). The Otto Maier Publishing Company [Verlag] in

Fig. 4.21. Paper sailboat [Bastelbogen Segelboot] circa 1925. Color lithograph book print. 80mm x 22mm. Reproduction from collection of the author. © 2010 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.


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Ravensburg, the original firm, was to have printed her crane and sailboat as well as her guides to painting. Sadly, it went out of business before production could commence (Will, 1998). The crane and ship were designed to go to together as is illustrated on the cover of the crane (fig. 4.19). The ship is featured to the right of the crane. It is lowering cargo into the ship and drawn from perspective of the back of the ship. Both the crane and the ship require a straight edge, a pencil and glue. With the exception of the ship‟s sail, each element of the ship and crane has a double layer of card stock for strength, designed as side A and B. The double paper also allows for a clean line, hiding the

Fig. 4.22. Assembled Bastelbogen Segelboot [Paper sailboat]. Color lithograph. 21.59cm x 6.35cm x 21.59cm. Reproduction from collection of the author. © 2010 Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn.

connections. In its assembly Buscher calls for a pencil that paper would be wrapped around to form the tapered mast. However, a dowel would be preferable since the standard pencil is too short for accuracy. The crane requires additional parts that are not included in the kit: some sort of string or cable and more wooden dowels or tubes for the wheels of the crane. The crane‟s boom rotates and it will also retract and unwind the string as a functioning cable.



Boyaki, A. (2010). Alma Buscher Siedhoff: An Examination of Children’s Design and Gender at the Bauhaus during the Weimar Period. https://ds...