Nostalgic | Crafted by Swiss Mountain-dwelling Farmers

Parcels sent by my Grandmother and Aunt arrived at Christmas, Par Avion, in brown-paper wrapped boxes. They were always generously taped and secured with tightly tied string. It seemed like an eternity to open them. Without fail, the contents were always astonishing.

My Aunt was a career Foreign Service Officer; she was assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Paris in the late 1950’s to early 1960’s. My grandmother traveled with her whenever she went abroad. In my Aunt’s free-time, these two ladies were world class shoppers. As a little girl, I looked forward to the magical gifts they would send to us from Europe.

The following photos share some of that very magic. Hand-carved by Swiss mountain-dwelling farmers during idle winter months, these intricate pieces arrived as gifts over the course of several Christmas seasons. I loved watching my Mother set up the Nativity each year as the collection grew and for many years after the Nativity scene was complete. I am honored that this beautiful heirloom has been  passed to me. It graces a special place in our living room atop my Grandmother’s hope chest.

Schweizer Heimatwerk History

The Schweizer Heimatwerk (Swiss Crafts Association) was founded in 1930 by the Swiss farmer’s association.

The inherent idea was to offer a sales forum to mountain-dwelling farmers, who had used the long, unproductive winter time at home to craft traditional gadgets and toys. This opportunity would allow them to earn an extra to their otherwise meager income. Thus allowing those farmers to attend courses and train for certain work around the house, such as producing shingles and laying the roof, setting up a loom etc, to do it on their own. Employing a crafts­man would have been unaffordable, so this help to self-help, to independence made very much sense.

Soon, in November 1931 the Schweizer Heimatwerk was transformed into a non-profit co-operation. The farmers’ association continued to be its most important member for a long time.

Fairly soon after that its focus included the encouragement and cultivation of a genuinely Swiss arts- and crafts production. Thus the opportunity of initial support and a regular income was provided to distinguished indigenous craftspeople.

Great importance was given to tourism after the first stall of Schweizer Heimatwerk at Zurich Airport was opened in 1952/53. This was an incentive of first rate also for the producers: to produce top-quality hand-fashioned souvenirs.

Successively further outlets were set up.

Cut from Schweizer Heimatwerk website (12-8-19)


Submitted for the Lens-Artist photo challenge #75 |Nostalgic

3 comments

  1. What a beautiful heirloom Jane, your grandmother and aunt would be so happy to know you continue to treasure it. What a special part of the holiday it must be for you

  2. These hand-carved by Swiss mountain-dwelling farmers are so very precious. Thank you so much for sharing with us. Such a honor to see your Grandmother’s special collection. Beautiful photos!

    1. Amy, I agree with your description, “precious.” That they are. It was heart-warming this year. I shared with my grand-daughter by letting her hold each, one at a time. The look on her face as she studied the features of each piece was angelic. I love that she understands how special the Nativity collection is. What a joy to know it will be hers one day…

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