Judith Sotriffer is a toy maker in Val Gardena whose hands have inherited the skills of various generations of craftsmen, who worked with wood in this area for centuries, making dolls, rocking horses, nativity figurines and more: “Puppets, circus acrobats, jointed dolls, baby cribs, bell-ringing friars, horses of all sizes mounted on wheels or rockers, entire farms of animals […]”.
“Yes, because toy making was the most important business in Val Gardena throughout the 1800s, and during the winter every family of farmers worked around the worktable to sculpt and paint dolls” (translated from Paolo Paci, “Alpi. Una grammatica d’alta quota”, Feltrinelli, Milan 2003).
The tradition of making wooden toys dates back to the 1600s and reached its height in the 19th century: “Productive units coincided with families, sometimes extended to respond to peaks in demand. The workday lasted up to eighteen hours, and especially during the winter allowed for an incredibly large production, achieving very substantial numbers with the introduction of the mechanical lathe in the mid-1800s (e.g. 800 tons in 1870)” (translated from P. Bonatto, “Come giocavamo: giochi e giocattoli 1750/1960”, Fratelli Alinari, Florence 1984).
Here is a small taste of how Judith Sotriffer keeps this beautiful tradition alive.