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Highest-quality handicrafts: The many-faceted history of Saxony’s handicrafts industry

With variety and concentration: musical instrument maker in his element

Saxony is a federal state with a rich cultural heritage. The many-faceted and fascinating history of its handicrafts industry is key to its reputation as an attractive cultural destination. Many of the handicraft skills practised in Saxony today originated here. It boasts records such as the world’s largest nutcracker, the oldest registered trademark and the largest functioning violin. These traditional and rare skills, handed down over generations of artisan production, can be witnessed throughout Saxony. Almost everywhere, visitors can watch master craftsmen at work. Below is a small selection of Saxony’s traditional skills.

The mark of the crossed swords

Anyone who wants to find out about the world’s oldest registered trademark should visit the porcelain factory in Meissen. Ever since 1710, the blue mark of the crossed swords has stood for products of the highest quality. White china clay (kaolin) is the reason why a product known as “white gold” has acquired such a fascinating aura. Among the porcelain factory’s treasures are the world’s largest and oldest collection of plaster moulds, historical models and drawings ever to be made by the company. They include figurines, sculptures and unique works of art.

Time is precious

Ever since 1878, Glashütte has been a brand name associated with one of the most famous watchmaking regions. More than 400 exhibits in the German Watch Museum illustrate the history of watchmaking in the region. Many of its timepieces can only be found here. They include pocket watches, wristwatches and pendulum clocks throughout the ages, marine chronometers and escapement models.

Heaven is full of violins

The Musikwinkel, a triangle of three cities – Markneukirchen, Schöneck and Klingenthal – is where wooden and metal musical instruments of all kinds have been handmade for over 350 years. They are part of the intangible cultural heritage of a region that boasts a concentration and range of instrument makers unmatched anywhere in the world. Famous musicians own instruments from the Musikwinkel, which belongs to the Vogtland region. Markneukirchen’s Museum of Musical Instruments houses rare exhibits such as the world’s largest functioning violin and two tiny violins that fit inside a matchbox. The Vogtland region also stands for high-quality tailoring. One example is lace from Plauen, known as Plauener Spitze. Local designers even exhibit their creations at leading fashion shows. The German Lace Museum in Plauen is worth a visit. 

Nutcrackers, little smoking men and other artefacts

In the Erzgebirge (Ore Mountains), the art of carving and turning wooden artefacts has a long-standing tradition. Following the decline of the mining industry it was miners who, over 500 years ago, began expertly crafting artefacts made of wood, for both everyday and decorative use. Every item made is unique. They belong to the Erzgebirge Krušnohoří Mining Region, a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site, and are a defining feature of Saxony. One particular speciality is hoop turning (Reifendrehen). A hoop starts out as a section of a tree trunk, which is precision-turned to create the outlines of a toy animal. The hoop is subsequently cut to produce multiple identical figures. Every type of animal is expertly painted with a delicate brush. As the name suggests, “hoop animals” come from hoops. This particular skill now exists only in Seiffen.

The origins of the Moravian star

Over Advent and Christmas, Moravian stars can be seen glowing in many places around the world. They originated in the Moravian Church of Herrnhut in the Oberlausitz region. First created 160 years ago, the 25-pointed star is made from paper, nowadays also from plastic. The open workshop tells the story of the star and its origins.

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