One of the best parts of being a dollmaker is the chance to create something out of nothing. It’s a heady experience to take a handful of fabric, threads, wool and buttons and convert them into a huggable and appealing character. For the creative team at Käthe Kruse, one of the most alluring factors of dollmaking was the chance to create a new lingo, to make the make-believe real and to dabble with a little bit of spiritualism and mysticism. They were able to do all this via their Feng Shui line and their popular Guardian Angel doll as well.
The Feng Shui dolls, which represent the five elements of the Asian philosophical practice, are known as Wakuschis. What does that tongue-twisting name mean? “It’s just a fantasy name,” reveals Marion Hohmann, spokesperson for Käthe Kruse. “It’s like one of the ‘tomptons,’ a word that means a little elf or a gnome living in the woods.”
Feng shui has grown as a method for harmonizing one’s home with one’s environment. It is believed that balancing the interior with the exterior will result in internal peace. The Far East principle, which derives from the Burial Book of the Jin Dynasty, came into vogue in Western culture the late 1990s. “Feng shui has become a niche market in the art of living,” Hohmann reveals, “so we started to offer whimsical Feng Shui dolls that would romance the theory behind the practice. We thought this would make a nice present.”
The Feng Shui dolls (depicting Earth, Fire, Metal, Wood and Water) were made initially as play dolls for children. However, more and more adults have begun to swoop them up for themselves and have incorporated them into their décor themes. “I think they do have the promised effect of harmonizing a room,” Hohmann adds.
The Wakuschi Earth doll positively enhances the areas of life that deal with partnership and knowledge. It helps its owner to achieve “deep inner realizations” and to practice “good intuition.” The Metal doll harmonizes and supports the parts of life that pertain to “children and helpful friends.” Life goals, everyday tasks and one’s career are all keyed into the Water doll. Wealth and financial benefits, as well as happiness and well being, can be harmonized with the Wood Wakuschi. The Fire doll encourages the “promotion of life’s glory and success, one’s aura, one’s reputation and respect from one’s peers.”
It was extremely challenging to take these abstract concepts and intangible traits and transform them into three-dimensional objects. The artists didn’t want to turn the characters into caricatures; they wanted to make them visually interesting and indisputably cute (after all, they were originally made for a juvenile market). However, they also had to honor a discipline that has been devoutly followed for thousands of years. It was a quandary.
The design team at Käthe Kruse did research into this Eastern philosophy and based the dolls’ colors, costumes, shapes and symbols on what they learned. Keeping with the philosophy’s respect for nature, the manufacturer made sure to utilize “all natural materials, like sheep wool, cotton, fur and quartz sand. The Wakuschis are hand made, cuddly and soft. They stand 9 inches tall, and they are irresistible. Their popularity makes all of us feel inner peace.”
In addition to the feng shui motif, Käthe Kruse is also exploring the heavenly realm of angels and their guardian duties. “Angels are a spiritual addition to our line, and they surround us a lot here in Germany. It’s been a long custom to give an angel as a present and a guardian angel as a gift for birth or for luck in school. The guardian angels protect your daily travel to work and to help you achieve your goals.” More and more nurseries are being set up with the Guardian Angel discreetly placed above or beside the crib. The folks at Käthe Kruse are exploring a realm that is normally left untouched by the doll industry. They are mining the unknowable and the invisible. In fact, they are putting their faith as a company behind matters of faith.
In addition to the Feng Shui and Guardian Angel creations, the firm has planted its feet on “terra firma” by launching a line of Waldorf Dolls, which embody real-life kids, but with a special twist.
“Like children, the Waldorf Dolls are all unique. Since they are made by hand of natural materials, they will always be slightly different. The warmth of wool and cotton makes the child want to love the doll, and it will be cuddled and held often by your child. The simple faces on the dolls allow the child to create his or her own little companion. It’s a toy that they can laugh, cry, sleep and sing with.” Keeping in mind the company’s spiritual bent, Hohmann adds one more plus for having a simple-faced doll: “Because it is blank, you can give it a soul.”
For more information, visit Käthe Kruse, www.kaethe-kruse.de.