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Design Kurt Naef speechless. That night, he drew designs of modern vegetable, fruit and salad dishes. Der Drechsler drechselte unverdrossen weiter, fand eine eigene, neue Formensprache und hatte endlich den verdienten Erfolg. Kurt Naef war gezwungen, mehr zu arbeiten als andere.

Tausend Franken, war das nicht wenig Geld. Besonders aufgefallen waren ihnen die vielen gut geformten, modernen Glaswaren, wie sie in der Schweiz in den er-Jahren noch unbekannt waren. Es gab zahlreiche andere Interessenten, die sich um einen Vertrag bewarben, aber so leicht liessen sich Naefs nirgends abwimmeln. Die Naefs erhielten nach diesen langwieri- to them. People were soon expressing their high regard for the bowls: first in Basel, then on the international market and in the USA.

He finally achieved the success he deserved. The two Naefs also cemented their reputation as innovators, with a good instinct for the unconventional. Mobilets and glass from Denmark Despite their success, business did not always run well for Kurt and Lis Naef. Kurt Naef was forced to work longer hours than others.

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During the night shift, he renovated the rooms of another furniture shop, a job that brought him in a thousand franks. A thousand franks was no mean sum of money in Lis, who was practically-minded, would have liked to settle a few unpaid bills with the money, but Kurt had a different idea and planned a trip to Denmark. He felt that it was time for a break. In Denmark, which was a long way away from Switzerland in those days, the Naefs enjoyed a well-deserved holiday.

In the window of a small shop in the town where they were staying, they noticed mobiles, with fish mobiles hanging from the ceiling. They sent a letter to Denmark ordering a new batch, but it went unanswered. The Danes, it seemed, were not interested in exporting Mobilets. Naef had another go. This time he tried to obtain a license to manufacture Mobilets in Switzerland. But once again, there was no reply. Kurt Naef quickly lost his patience. Finally, he unceremoniously placed an order for one thousand of these Mobilets. This first business deal with a Danish firm led to further contacts and business relationships.

The Naefs were particularly struck by the many finely designed modern glassware products made there, which were unheard of in Switzerland in the s. This time, things were completely different. The couple liked what they saw immediately. Even so, it was still no easy task concluding an agency agreement. There were many other parties interested in a contract.

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Zudem wurde auch Spielzeug nachgefragt. Kurt und Lis versuchten mit Geschick und Fantasie diesem kleinen, aber anspruchsvollen Kundenkreis gerecht zu werden. Er entwickelte ein auf den ersten Blick zwar simpel einfach aussehendes, aber damals komplett neues Spiel.

Das war — das Naef-Spiel war geboren. Patentiert ist es nicht, nachgeahmt wurde es oft, erreicht aber nie. They persisted, made further proposals and kept the talks going until they finally reached an agreement that suited them. After these long drawn-out negotiations, the Naefs finally succeeded in concluding an exclusive agency agreement for Holmgaard glassware that benefited both sides. From on, the Naefs imported a growing number of craft products from Denmark.

And this was only the beginning. He visited toyshops, but they all turned him down. This proved to be the key to success not only for Holmgaard, but also for the Naefs, who thus chalked up their first success. And there was also a demand for toys. In the mids, none of these things were easy to come by, since at the time there was very little on the market that met their high expectations.

Kurt and Lis used all their skill and imagination to satisfy their discriminating clientele. Nowadays, we would talk of their operating in a niche market. The two young shop owners were struggling to survive. Fabrics, accessories and glasses — all these were easy to obtain, but at the time there were no toys anywhere that came anywhere near what the Naefs and their customers had in mind.

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Kurt Naef was, and still is, a tinkerer. At this stage in his career, he had already developed his first toys: wooden teething rings for babies. He gave a lot of thought to creating a new toy from something very simple, like a wooden play-cube.

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Building bricks make ideal toys for children, who can figure them out easily and quickly. They immediately start stacking bricks on top of one another and build things until the whole lot comes tumbling down. For Kurt Naef, wood was an obvious choice. He developed what at first sight looked like a simple — and totally new — toy.

Instead of simply stacking the cubes, children were now able to wedge them into one another and create spatial structures.

And this in ! The Naef-Spiel was born. It permitted endless variations and is still on the market. It has never been patented, often copied, but never equalled. A simple modification gave the once simple cube a completely new dimension. As a result, even the smallest children were able to build stable towers and all sorts of other, imaginary structures.

Acer pseudoplatanus heisst dieser Baum in der Wissenschaftssprache, als Berg- oder Spitzahorn ist er allgemein bekannt.

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Teilweise kam auch das Holz der Buche zum Einsatz. Naef setzte von Beginn weg auch auf Farbigkeit. Er richtete sich eine Werkstatt mit Maschinen zur Serienproduktion an der Grenzacherstrasse in Basel ein und machte sein Steckenpferd zum Beruf. Zudem besitzt er einen ausgesprochen spielerischen Zug im ments into one another with no trouble at all and make little works of architecture that retained their shape without complicated mechanical connectors. Naef toys did not need instructions to explain their form and function.

It was certainly a lucky strike.


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And their invention mirrors perfectly the way Kurt Naef thinks and designs his products: using a simple basic form and a few standard tools and perfectly executed steps, he creates something completely new. Maple and colour — the stuff toys are made of Initially, the Naefs gave these self-made toys to good customers. They soon realised, however, that what they had created were more than just customer gifts, they were products with great commercial potential.


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Another item the Naefs developed was the teething ring, designed to help little children to endure teething pains. Kurt Naef was fond of working with maple, a wood that was largely ignored by cabinet-makers and furniture designers in those days. The technical term for this wood is Acer pseudoplatanus, but it is generally known as sycamore or Norway maple.

Its lightcoloured sapwood and heartwood are barely distinguishable from one another; it is easy to process and cut to precision, it hardly splinters, and it polishes well. It is also fairly easy to bond and treat the surface of maple. Furthermore, it can be used for surface veneers, for furniture and turning, as well as for making musical instruments.

In certain cases, Naef also used beechwood. From the very beginning, Naef attached great importance to colourful designs. Most of his toys are made in the primary colours: blue, red and yellow. Now and then, he adds a deep green and a cool, neutral white.

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It goes without saying that the paints and lacquers Die erste Produktionswerkstatt der Naef-Spiele an der Grenzacherstrasse in Basel, The first production workshop for Naef toys in Grenzacherstrasse in Basel, used for Naef toys are non-toxic, since children always put everything they play with into their mouths. Made of wood, Naef toys are pleasant to touch. They always have a slightly austere and almost architectural look. With these cubes and play-rings for little children, originally conceived out of the sheer joy of working with wood, Kurt Naef laid the foundations for working in his original profession and pursuing his true calling.

Some six years after he had established the business, he was able to devote himself exclusively to producing toys.