“For every Zinnfiguren-Boerse at Kulmbach there is a series of flats that everyone can buy unpainted as a memory of the event. I painted the series of this year’s Borse, that was displayed at the museum Plassenburg. One of the flats is on this year’s poster” (Angela Friedl).
Angela, how did you get involved in the flat tin figure world?
It’s been at least 25 years that I discovered the beautiful world of flat tin figures. A friend of mine told me about a colleague who collected flat tin figures and that he was looking for a painter to paint his flats. My friend knew of my love for arts and that I paint. What I preferred to paint by that time were small pictures, the smallest at the size of 1x1cm. By that time I painted with tempera paints.
Well, I had wanted to know more about the flats, which in my imagination had been ‘just’ soldiers. So she introduced me to that Zinnfiguren-collector and I fell in love with those tiny figures the moment I saw them. Some of the flats in that collection were painted by the German flat figure painter Mr. Herbst, who sadly passed away some years ago. Those were soldiers from the German/French war 1870/71, as well as some of the theme Napoleon Bonaparte. I couldn’t believe what I saw: the finest, smoothest and most exact painting on those small flats – how was that possible? It was stunning to see a 30mm gentleman in a magnificent uniform with golden buttons and golden cords on his hussar uniform, a coat made of leopard skin – almost perfectly painted.
I saw also flat tin figures in larger scales, blank and painted, arranged in a glass cabinet. Most of them civilian themes. Fairy tales, Baron von Münchhausen, caricatures of famous people, the steadfast tin soldier in his paper boat, graceful couples with beautiful clothes from the medieval and baroque times and many more.
Well, there was no moment wasted in thinking about painting flat Zinnfiguren – I just had to! Some 30mm flats had been chosen to give them a try. I remember those were civilian Ladies and Gentleman from the time around 1850. And the collector gave me 5 tubes of oil paint (blue, red, yellow, black, white) as well, two paint brushes and a small bottle of turpentine. Then he said:”happy painting!” That was the beginning of my love for flats that still lasts.
A wonderful work that I love to remember was painting the 30mm Mignot-Serie of the Coronation of Napoleon Bonaparte after the painting of David. Such beautiful clothes are a good example for what I love to paint.
It did not take much time until I started painting flats for myself. I have no special theme in my collection. Anything that is beautiful to me could be painted. So one can find war-elephants from India, designed and engraved by Mr. Rieger, as well as fairies engraved by Regina Sonntag or flats designed and engraved by myself.
I have a favorite designer of 30mm flats: It is Dr. Dangschat. His flats seem to be alive. They all have something that makes me smile.
(Editorial Note: Angela sent two photos of flat tin figures edited by Dr. Dangschat that she painted in the year 2000. All 30 mm. The Steadfast Tinsoldier is her favorite flat tin figure.
How did you get involved engraving flat figures? Who taught you how to engrave figures?
Engraving flat figures was a wish I had, as my creativity longed for turning my own ideas into a reality. One day a collector friend invited me to his workshop to join him casting some of his molds. It was my first time to see and touch such a mold for a flat tin figure. I learned about the material and was honestly very surprised: Engraving in stone! I did not know that slate is used for the molds. Actually I knew nothing about it… I admired the fine work an engraver did in the slate. One slip with a tool, and the engraving could be destroyed.
Mr. Karl-Werner Rieger, whom I had visited several times before to buy flats, is one of the most experienced engravers we have in Germany. It was always a great pleasure to be the family’s guest at their home. By that time the internet did not exist, the exchange of ideas and photos with collector friends was not as easy as today. It was great to see the flats he had displayed. He is a very good painter, too. It must have been in the year 1995 that I moved from my hometown to Kiel, where the Rieger-family lived.
We had accidentally become neighbors . It took me just 5 minutes by car to visit them and so I asked if Mr. Rieger could teach me engraving and casting. To my pleasure he agreed and I have had the best teacher I could imagine to learn this traditional craft.
As well as painting, engraving means ‘learning by doing’ and to me any new engraving is still a challenge. Especially because I couldn’t paint and engrave for many years, and returned to engraving just in the beginning of this year, which makes me more than happy. There are many sketches in my sketchbook and much more in my head. Hopefully many of them will one day turn into flat Zinnfiguren.
I assume that you were a painter before you come to flat tin figures and applied what you knew to painting them. Did you learn from anyone else your techniques for painting?
I am self-taught. Painting has been in my world ever since. I have admired the art of the old masters since my childhood. While other children played outside, I was often in my room, painting. I was keen to find out how the old masters painted, arranged light and shadow, used colours etc. So I learned painting by doing, and had nobody teaching me. The first flats I painted do not resemble those I paint now. It was an exciting and interesting development.
This is my motto: Do not give up when something has failed, but keep trying – maybe in a different way. And: sometimes it is better to leave a painted flat the way it is, instead of a never ending story that does not really improve the project.
Starting with another flat tin figure with fun might sometimes be the better choice. But that is – of course – up to the painter. Being satisfied with what you’ve just created, with the goal in mind that you want to do better next time, is a relaxing way to enjoy the hobby of painting flat tin figures.
Thank you, Angela.
More of Angela’s Work:
Rocking Horse Fly
It was in the year 2002 that I thought of engraving the Rocking Horse Fly, a character from the Looking Glass Insects from Lewis Carroll’s Alice through the looking glass. But I wasn’t sure if that flat figure already existed, as quite a lot of ‘Alice-flats’ had already been engraved by other artists at that time.
Rocking Horse Fly, Engraved and Painted by Angela Friedl
Who could have given me better information than Mike C. Taylor?
Once upon a time, in the year 2002 —hard to believe nowadays— it was not common to have a personal computer… Mike and I shared our friendship by mail and by phone; him using a typewriter (something I did not even have), and me using ballpens, we wrote our letters on real paper and posted them in envelopes 😉
Well, I asked him if he knows about an existing mold of a Rocking Horse Fly. He denied and asked me if he could do the drawing I could do the engraving. Well, I agreed of course, and so it became a project that we shared.
On 5th April 2003 the Ommen Tin figure Museum in the Netherlands opened an exhibition with Mikes painted flat figures. He invited me to the opening day. I looked forward to meeting him again and to present him the first cast of the Rocking Horse Fly.
On Christmas the same year I received a letter with his Christmas gift: a flat Zinnfigur of the Rocking Horse Fly, painted by him.
Rocking Horse Fly, Painted by Mike Taylor
Apart from the intangible things we shared, this is one of the treasures I got from him during the years of a wonderful friendship that existed also beyond tin figures and art. He also encouraged me in painting and engraving, shared his work with me, he sent me photos of his drawings and paintings in progress, gave me his drafts and drawings. I treasure those memories much and guard them like the apple of my eye.
An everyday memory to me is what he often told me at the end of a phone call or a letter: ‘Cheer up and keep up the good work.’
Tove & Borogove:
“Tove & Borogove is another project Mike shared with me. Mike asked me, to join him on another project, as he wished to see Tove & Borogove as flat tin figures. I agreed in engraving those funny two guys from the Looking Glass Story by Carroll. Mike had sent me the drawings, but asked me to wait with the engraving, as he was not sure that the Borogove could be casted due to the thin legs.
Mike sadly passed away and I thought that I should nevertheless try to engrave the Borogove the way it had been drawn by Mike. And I should try all I can to cast the mold. The time I finally stood there with the ladle full of melted pewter in one hand, and the T. & B. – mold in the other, I had the wonderful feeling that Mike was there watching me.
Then I painted one set and presented it framed at the Zinnfigurenboerse at Kulmbach this year (2015)” (Angela Friedl).
Flats can be ordered from Angela at: firstname.lastname@example.org.