I learned about Erika Ochel through Penny Meyer and Jim Horan. Both speak highly of Erika. When I wrote asking for information about her and the Kieler Zinnfiguren, a kind gentleman named Werner Lehnberg wrote saying he would be our go-between. He has been a delightful translator.
Pictured below, in the center is Erika Ochel, daughter of Aloys Ochel, founder of Kieler Zinnfiguren. Erika and company are at the 2011 Kulmback show, the 23rd German and International Tin Figure Fair in Kulmbach.
( You see from right to left: Erika Ochel, Zeng Youshao, a friend of hers who assisted her, and me at left at her exhibition booth. I helped a little as well, although I was more a visitor than a worker.)
I learned about Erika through Penny Meyer and Jim Horan. Both speak highly of Erika. When I wrote asking for information about her and the Kieler Zinnfiguren, a kind gentleman named Werner Lehnberg wrote saying he would be our go-between. He has been a delightful translator.
When I asked for information about Kieler Zinnfiguren and its history, he sent me the following excerpt translated by him:
Chronology of the Kiel Tin Figure Factories
In 1924 a group of tin figure collectors whose names are no longer known founded the ‘Factory for historical tin figures and cultural images Ltd.’ in Kiel. The Managing Director became Max Hahnemann.
From this time the Kiel offizin (workshop, office) poduced tin figures with a high historical and handicraft standard in 2 quality levels: Fine alloy and historically exact painting (HIZ) and simple alloy and painting (BIZ).
In 1927 the merchant Aloys Ochel then 21 years old became Managing Director of the striving Company, which the founders had already left.
Hahnemann and Ochel constantly extended the programme and offer. They started with the production of modelships. 1929 a big Kiel tin figure exibition was opened in Berlin with 22 large dioramas exclusively built by Kiel figures, showing epochs of world history from the beginning till today.
In 1931 the company moved to another place and called itself ‘Kiel Tinfigure Factory Ltd.’
In 1932-33 the company suffered under great economical difficulties. To save the stock of moulds as well as his own existence Aloys Ochel left the company and founded a new one under the name of ‘Kiel tin figure factory A. Ochel’.
He continued with the good old tradition of the old company and sold the two types of painted figures now called KILIA and OKI, for the good and standard quality but started, too, selling blank figures.
Also in 1933 Max Hahnemann published in the Klio-journal ‘The Tin Figure’ that he left the old company and entered the company of Aloys Ochel. Till 1935 both companies existed simultaneously. At the end of 1935 the old company closed.
In 1936 A. Ochel took over the figures of the old company, and published in the trade magazines that these figures may bought through him.
Because of shortage in material in 1940 only orders by the Wehrmacht (army) could be delivered. The so called ‘Sandboxfigures’
1943 after the first air attacks on Kiel the moulds were outsourced.
In 1944 the company building was destroyed and part of the archive, the original paintings had been destroyed.
In 1946 A. Ochel resumed the production although the was a shortage of raw materials and reservations against tin figures because of their closeness to military traditions.
The company now called itself ‘Kiel Tin Figures A.Ochel’ and concentrated increasingly on civil themes. The company finally moved into Feldstrasse 24, where it is still today.
From 1950 the range of figures had been greatly expanded, by taking over the moulds of other producers, like Bruno Hinsch in Hamburg and by numerous new engravings.
When Aloys Ochel retired at the beginning of the seventies the company has a stock of 10.000 different figures casted from c. 4200 moulds. They were put together in more than 1500 packages and sold all over the world
The Kiel company was the most important tin figure producing company in Germany until it closed. Aloys Ochel was one of the initiators and founders of the ‘Kulmbacher Tin Figure Fair’. It is still today one of the most important events for collectors worldwide.
In 1957 Ludwig Frank died. He was an excellent and most productive engraver. He had created figures for Aloys Ochel since 1924. However, Ochel was courageously for giving order to young designers and engravers. About 60 contributed to the Kieler Tin Figures.
In 1972, Aloys Ochels daughter Erika, who had been working for the company since many years, took over and ran the company for almost 20 more years.
In 1979 Aloys Ochel died.
1993-4 many of the moulds had been restored by the company Schmittdiel. Fritz Hüther performed a cataloguing of the figures and found a number of not registered ones. In October 1994 the company owned 4217 moulds. In 1997 Erika Ochel decided to close the company that existed over 60 years.
However, in spring 2009 we planned a web site. And Erika Ochel resumed production on a small scale. One even can meet her again at the Kulmbacher Tin Figure Fair.
This text is from the book of Egon Kannich ‘Kieler Zinnfiguren, Vol. II’.
Here is another photo of Erika Ochal:
Below is a photo Jim Horan sent me of Erika and him working in their shop:
The resources for most of this article are drawn from a two volume history of Kieler Zinnfiguren. They can be obtained here:
If you enjoyed this brief history of Ochel family and their business, you can thank Werner Lehnberg. Without his expert help in translating my questions to Erika and digging up photos and history from the books mentioned above, there would be no article. Thanks Werner.