Memorabilia: Steiff Ibex

As part of my childhood love of animals (stuffed and real), I somehow became aware of Steiff, the German manufacturer of iconic stuffed toys and inventors of the original Teddy bear. They sold a huge range of animals of all sizes and species, most of them about as realistic-looking as it was possible for a plush toy to be. We once visited the equally iconic toy store FAO Schwartz in New York, which sold a vast collection of Steiff toys, including giraffes and elephants that towered over me, and tigers I could probably ride on. I yearned to own a Steiff animal.

They cost hundreds to thousands of dollars even 50 years ago. I couldn’t imagine what kind of family could afford such expensive toys, but we certainly couldn’t. I saved up my allowance and, on a future trip to one of Pittsburgh’s fancier toy stores, was able to buy this little guy. I vaguely recall that it cost $12? This was about 1972, so we’re talking $90 in today’s terms, an amount I would now hesitate to spend on a stuffed toy.

I felt him to be so precious that I never played with him much, nor even gave him a name. Poor little chap, he was not part of my busy community of toys. But he has stayed with me all these years.

Memorabilia: Flowers the Lion

Throughout my childhood, I cherished my collection of stuffed animals. In Bangkok, they slept with me every night, arranged along the side of my bed in a painstaking order that I was daily upset that our maid disarranged when she made the bed every morning. My animals all had names and personalities. They kept me company through the lonely nights and soothed me when I woke up from nightmares or thunderstorms.

Flowers was one of the first that we bought in Thailand, from what was then one of few handicraft stores. Thailand has a rich tradition of handicrafts of all kinds, but I believe these stuffed toys were a new innovation, intended for tourists. Another example I owned was a water buffalo, with little floppy legs, a great big head with huge (soft) horns, and a wooden bell around his neck – a miniature of the ones used on actual water buffaloes.

As you can see on Flowers, hairy features like a lion’s mane were made from loops of sewn cotton ribbons. Later, as polyester yarn began to be imported (I suppose), the artisans began using that instead. At age 9, I did not approve of this shoddy and inauthentic craftsmanship!

All my stuffed animals moved to the US with us in 1972, and I slowly acquired a few more. When we moved to Bangladesh, most of my collection went to stay with my friend Anna, whose mother gave them to Goodwill. I was upset about this – I had thought they were in safekeeping with Anna and I would eventually get them back. A few of the most important had traveled with me, however, and Flowers was one of those. At this point he’s almost the only survivor of the original collection. I’ve bought a few others here and there in adulthood, but stuffed animals are no longer as much my thing.

My Lego Builds

I do buy and build Lego kits, but I most enjoy creating my own builds, which nowadays tend to be recreations of architecture that exists in the world. Here’s a gallery showing my work, along with inspiration photos (some builds are entirely out of my own head). These are in chronological order, and this gallery will change as I build more.

Deirdré Straughan on Italy, India, the Internet, the world, and now Australia