What is happiness?
What does happiness have to do with a factory? And with fig muffins? Attention, here comes information and my personal advertising about a great museum; a well-established company that I was honored to visit with enthusiasm and happiness per se!
Can you touch happiness? Can you hold onto it, ask for it, borrow it, gamble with it, trade it, or simply hope to have it?
What happens when it leaves us? Is all the happiness simply gone? Are we automatically unhappy? Or do we not even realize it?
How much are we trapped in the mill of life, so that we do not even notice if we’re happy or not? Can we really appreciate it?
A few weeks ago I was invited, along with Harriet from Lexiconlove.com, to have a look at an actual and impressive Glücksfabrik (Happiness Factory). The company koziol had the doors of the museum open for us. Exclusively, outside of normal opening times. I had been looking forward to this since the Tendence 2016 trade fair…
Each of us knows koziol,
or at least its products. But do you know the story, the idea behind the big plastic goods manufacturer from Erbach im Odenwald? Do you know why koziol is unique? Why the Glücksfabrik bears its name rightly? I certainly did not, I must confess honestly …
Completely different from the all well-known manufacturers of plastic kitchen equipment from the United States, the company koziol is family-owned. Founded by the potter Bernard Joseph Koziol, who was social, creative and committed to giving employees a “we” mentality.
Bernhard Koziol was born in Silesia in 1878, and in March 1912, searching his personal fortune, moved his family to Erbach im Odenwald. He had been offered the chance to take over the Count of Erbach’s pottery workshop. His experience from the imperial majolica workshop in Kadyny, along with creativity, curiosity and courage made him an innovator of his time often far ahead. You can see original pieces from this period of his life in the museum.
A few steps further, a few years later in the timeline, you will find yourself in the world of ivory carving. Because Erbach was not only famous for pottery. Erbach was known, thanks to Count Franz I of Erbach (1754-1823) as the „German ivory city“. People had been working with the natural material for over 200 years there.
After he learned about the art of ivory carving, Bernhard Koziol remodeled a sewing machine in his bedroom and converted it to be able to work with the white gold. His sense of the market and his own creative drive, mixed with a bit of luck, led him to ivory carving. On November 27, 1927 Bernhard Koziol founded a one-man ivory carving company. It is impressive to see the raw material, the tools, the jewelry and miniature figures made out of ivory from this period. I can’t help but think about how he must have felt at this time – probably unsure whether or not his work would be successful; if he would be able to support his family or not.
During the Great Depression of 1929,
Bernhard Koziol was faced with the problem that ivory was becoming increasingly scarce and expensive. Courage and imagination were needed again. But luck was on Bernhard Koziol’s side once again. He believed in himself and his work and eventually discovered Galalith, a plastic which was obtained from milk. And just like ivory, it could be carved.
But Bernhard Koziol had other ideas, visions. He wanted to stay ahead of the ever increasing competition by producing more efficiently and cheaply. He came across a new technology: injection molding. His first machine came from the former Czechoslovakia and in 1935, the first jewelry made completely of fully synthetic plastics at koziol was made. In the museum is a replica of the machine. koziol’s apprentices were able to put their skills to the test and combine history with modern expertise while building it.
with floral and animal motifs, all made with the help of metal molds, were all colored and perfected by hand. On display at the museum are some of the tens of thousands of figurines that were made at this time. And what I found really exciting was that the company still has any mold Bernhard Koziol ever made, and that they can still also be used today! So things that were popular in 1936 can still be produced today! The machines used today at koziol are similar to the one which was in Bernhard Koziol’s basement in 1935. They have just gotten a little bit bigger …
By the way, I think that this would be a great idea for a Christmas present. Some white, past motifs, plus a couple of paint pots and small brush, beautifully wrapped, as DIY gift. Much like painting by numbers, or modeling, …
A few steps further
in our journey, and we are in the middle of WWII. Here koziol produced glow-in-the-dark jewelry and millions of badges for the Winter Relief. At the end of 1940, the production of jewelry was finally prohibited; only vital war goods were allowed to be produced. Bernhard Koziol was determined and desperate, as he had become responsible for many employees, and did not want to give up his life’s work. Therefore, without hesitation, he produced combs, buttons, cutlery, eye glasses for gas masks and igniters for V2 rockets.
After the war, it was necessary to overcome the next hurdle: The plastic granulate for production was no longer easy to obtain. Here again helped his imagination, good fortune and iron will. Bernhard Koziol purchased stock of unused aircraft windows made of Plexiglas from Röhm in Darmstadt and used it to make serving plates, bracelets and brooches, which can be admired in the museum by the hundreds.
One of my favorite stations at the museum was definitely the
The economic boom of the postwar period and the increasing motorization aroused the longing for faraway places. People had wanderlust. And they wanted something to show the folks back home about where they had been. Souvenirs reflected the spirit of optimism and adventure of that time.
Bernhard Koziol recognized this trend and contributed to the widespread happiness in the form of popular souvenir items such as brooches, wall panels, photo frames and dream globes all over the world. I found it interesting that back then customers even ordered their desired motifs. It worked like this: usually people would send in a postcard with a picture of a place they had visited, let’s say a castle; the desired size and the number of pieces they would like to have. The final product was then delivered a few weeks later. On display are the „order forms“ with the respective souvenirs and certainly find the one or other motif you might even recognize.
Spectacular is also Bernhard Koziol’s original VW Beetle in which each visitor may get behind the steering wheel. The story behind it says that he drove in 1952 through the snowy Odenwald. Suddenly, the snow was too high and he got stuck in a snowdrift. While maneuvering through the snow, he looked through the rear window into the darkness, and he spotted two deer in the winter forest. A silent image, magical, as the animals were in the wintry white forest and glittering snowflakes fell down on them. He must have been very moved because he wanted to capture that feeling and recreate the majestic scene. So he tinkered and tried until finally, he was satisfied with his work. He had invented the first dream globe in the world.
Fun is that you can actually put your foot on the gas (and speed up) and get a photo radar ticket to take as a souvenir.
In the economic miracle machine,
I found some household items, such as vases, that some of us may certainly recognize from our parents’ home – maybe even still today. The machine is a giant jukebox that offers a colorful conglomeration of songs from the economic miracle era. The hardships were over; happiness was finally within reach. koziol was inspired by futuristic America. At last there was pure joy of creation, wonderfully reflected in party fork sets, punch bowls and more.
Here you can also see a typical workplace at koziol with a machine, locker and bench. Since we were led by the wonderful Katrin, we did not open the doors of the lockers. But next time I will do this, however, because there you can listen to eyewitness interviews from former koziol employees. How cool is that?!
In the wild seventies,
I also would have had a lot of fun. I will never get to experience the 70s first hand, but at least here in the Glücksfabrik I can get a taste of what it would have been like. The Germans became accustomed to their wealth, life was celebrated and they made their homes more comfortable. You would probably call it cocooning today … A party room in the basement was then de rigueur, a must-have. A friend of mine had one, I can still remember it clear as day. In the then typical red and orange tones, with a bar, a jukebox and disco ball. In the museum I found some of it: Accessories for the home bar, vases in a porcelain look and wall panels with funny sayings. And much to our amusement, Katrin and Harriett promptly started belting out a 70s karaoke hit. Now I would just need a drink with a cocktail umbrella … this is my kind of museum!
In the 1980s
I was not very old, but the I still remember the German new wave very well. Everything – from fashion and hairstyles to product design – was asymmetric, bright and super cool. Leotards with thongs over the leggings, headbands, Pacman and Rambo, La Boum, Genghis Khan, Roland Kaiser, Queen, Nena…
This is when sons Stephan and Bernhard Jr. Koziol took over the company. They radically shifted the product range and thus spoke to a young and dynamic audience. They continued to work unerringly on the relationship between design and art.
Art should be suitable for everyday use, connected to life, accessible to everyone. The CD shelf MANHATTAN TOWER, the crazy cooler BIG BANANA and the HEART collection were the then top sellers.
Unfortunately, we did not have as much time for the good machine as it would have deserved. It tells of the „Made in Germany“ and why koziol still is produced in Germany, how high-tech and sustainability are connected, and how a prototype is built. With Katrin, we already got this information during our tour. Here one can see and feel the various plastics which are used in the production of koziol products. Plastic is not just plastic, I learned. Each product is made from the appropriate plastic. A novelty from the house of koziol is among others, the use of a plastic made from 100% sustainable plant material.
In contrast to the traditional polyethylene, Green PE is not made from petroleum but from sugarcane. It is 100% recyclable and even better, sugar cane absorbs CO2 from the atmosphere while growing.
So how does it work?
Single-celled yeasts ferment the sweet juice into ethanol. The subsequent chemical conversion of the alcohol into plastic and its crosslinking ethylene to polyethylene is carried out at a low temperature and low pressure. The process energy needed comes from the previously squeezed sugar cane stalk, called bagasse.
And all this with a positive ecological balance: Instead of releasing CO2, making one ton of the green, recyclable plastic uses between 2.1 and 2.5 tons of CO2. Water is the only remaining waste.
Wow, I find the subject so incredibly exciting. In short, polyethylene is the most widely-used plastic in the whole world!
Particularly exciting at koziol is that every visitor can look into the production hall. It smells of warm plastic, and you can experience how the products are made and see employees and machines working together. Harriet and I were even allowed to pick up a BOA bottle rack from the water in which it is laid to cool after production.
In the production hall
we were able to examine the larger molds. It does make a difference whether you produce a brooch, or a large bag, don’t you think?
After all the interesting,
exciting, amazing and sometimes funny facts we took a break. I had baked muffins specially for my visit to koziol. As a small thank you, because delicious cake is always good … With a touch of thyme, poppy seeds, chocolate and figs. Sweet, juicy, surprising and unique … Served on koziol dishes with cappuccinos in koziol cups.
If you want to try them out, the recipe is very easy!
250 g flour
50 g muesli (finely shredded)
40 g poppy seeds
2 teaspoons baking powder
90 g sugar
3 tablespoons vanilla sugar
1 pinch of salt
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
100 g chocolate (chopped into small pieces)
125 g butter
125 g ricotta
125 g yogurt
125 g ricotta
125 g yogurt
1 tablespoon orange marmalade
2 tablespoons honey
50 g chocolate (finely chopped)
1 tablespoon vanilla sugar
6 figs (cut into 8 pieces)
2 tablespoons pistachios (chopped)
Preheat oven to 180 ° convection. Prepare muffin cups.
Mix flour, muesli, baking powder, poppy seeds, sugar, vanilla sugar, salt, and thyme in a bowl.
Melt the butter. Mix with ricotta, yogurt, 3 eggs and the chocolate.
Combine the butter mixture with the flour mixture (a spoon will do the trick).
To make the cheesecake topping, in another bowl combine the remaining ricotta, yogurt, honey, vanilla, orange marmalade, egg and chocolate.
Pour dough into the muffin cups (about 2 tablespoons), then put 1 tablespoon of cheesecake topping on it.
Put half a fig (four slices) on top of each muffin.
Sprinkle the chopped pistachios on them and bake about 20 minutes.
If desired, sprinkle with icing sugar.
All the negative information,
which reaches us almost daily in the media, like the horror stories about toxic Crocs counterfeits from China … and the pathetic attempt of many companies to make the material plastic look like something it isn’t. Fake, unhealthy, polluting the environment, not environmentally correct.
koziol is proving this to be different.
In the factory, nobody is running around with a mask – it is simply not necessary. There are no softeners, no hidden nasty ingredients; products are produced with as little waste as possible and sustainability is valued. Within the production and also throughout the whole company itself.
Products for all aspects of daily life are made here. Art to accompany us everywhere in everyday life. Robust and more stable than many other materials.
Designers around the world are working creatively together, partly in Erbach; partly wherever they live. Contemporary products are designed, and new innovative materials are discovered, developed, used.
koziol transforms plastic into art.
Recyclable, with the reuse of even the smallest little piece of waste.
The fear of
the raw material „plastic“, the fear of softeners, the prejudices that had at least been a little bit in my head, are being replaced here with an exciting, transparent idea. A very interesting material with unique properties that are difficult to imitate.
koziol does not copy; it is unique; it stimulates our own creativity.
At the exit of the museum you find the design generator. I could have stayed here for hours. Through hidden technology, visitors can color the white area by movement. The color spectra change, in their own predetermined speed. This is fun, so if you do not laugh here it is your own fault!
During this visit in the Glücksfabrik I unfortunately didn’t see the
light installation by Maria Christina Hamel from Milan.
I think the story, and the meaning behind it is worth another visit and certainly a few more words.
Here I would like
to come back to the topic of happiness from the beginning of the article. I do not know if it makes you happy to own a CORA Jewelry Organizer, a KASIMIR grater, a TWEETIE vegetable brush, or a MIAOU toilet brush. They’re funny, and bring fun into the daily tasks that have to be done.
Or VIRGIN WHITE, a sculpture of Mary holding baby Jesus. Here I felt myself transported into my grandmother’s house. She had a figure of St. Florian in the stairwell, to protect against fire, and the Mary statue stood on the dresser in the bedroom. VIRGIN WHITE is modern, purist, interpreted in bright white and touches me inside; reviving colorful memories. From the smell of a delicious roast to the creaking wooden staircase and the small spot on Florian that was already chipped off, …
of the company koziol speaks to our emotions, tells us stories, provokes memories and brings us a little smile. The products are funny, timeless, solid, and nice to touch. They are useful, most cheerful companions for everyday life.
Can a product, a company make you happy? You are welcome to answer for yourself. For me, they certainly contribute to some extent. When I surround myself with people, activities, and things who accompany me positively, it is easier to be happy.
And quite honestly, when you shake a snow globe and watch the snowflakes slowly fall to the ground, you also have to smile, don’t you?
With this in mind,
Frau B. und die Leidenschaft