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In 1985 Klaus Merten opened his small family workshop in Seiffen to produce typical Erzgebirge folk art as a master wooden toy maker. He patterned his smokers after the designs of Gotthelf Friedrich Haustein, who created the first smoking man in 1856 or 1857 in the small village of Heidelberg, just outside Seiffen. Four generations of the Haustein family continued to produce smokers until 1948.
Before opening his own workshop, Klaus Merten worked as a department manager and restorer in Seiffen's Erzgebirge Toy Museum. Shortly after the workshop's founding, Klaus showed his work at the Leipzig Autumn Fair and won acclaim for his meticulous craftsmanship. Klaus Merten's smokers, inspired by the historic Haustein models seen in the town's toy museum, have grown from the initial 20 different styles to a seemingly endless series of more than 100.
Like Haustein smokers, Merten's designs feature long thin legs, unique bodies and heads, painted faced and wooden arms. Today, Merten's smokers are still hand-turned and painted in small quantities. The male smokers feature the workshop's signature white pipe with floral decoration. Each smoking man comes with a certificate signed by Herr Merten, Master Craftsman. In 1998 the District Administrator of the Middle Erzgebirgskreis and the Association of Artisans Erzgebirgisch awarded Klaus Merten the greatest public recognition for his work, the prize "Tradition and Form." In May 2000 Matthias Merten, Klaus' son, joined the workshop to help to continue his father's traditional handicraft.
The pictures below are from a recent visit to the Inge-Glas® workshop in Neustadt-by-Coburg.
Matthias Merten and Roger Lund, owner of The Christmas Haus.