Suppliers' Spotlight: 'La Domaine de Wolf' houses extraordinary mould museum
July 21, 2008
It all started about 15 years ago when my mother gave me the first chocolate mould she found in one of her cupboards. My father brought this exceptional Santa Claus (that certainly was my first impression) made by Walter Hörnlein Schwäbisch Gmünd with him from one of his trips.
Unfortunately, my father never collected these items. Nevertheless, I did receive from my grandfather my first chocolate moulds catalog published by Anton Reiche Dresden.
Obviously this was once a gift obtained from one of our customers, at that time when the company, Wolf Spezialmaschinen, was still located nearby Dresden. My love for collecting moulds has evolved since childhood, with my wife Sandra joining me in the search for more chocolate moulds.
Both of us were particularly interested in chocolate moulds made by Hermann Walter Berlin (Germany´s first chocolate moulds maker who started in 1866); Anton Reiche Dresden (without doubt the most important chocolate mould maker); F.W. Kutzscher Jun. Schwarzenberg; Heris Nürnberg; and J. G. Laurösch and Walter Hörnlein, both of whom formerly worked in Schwäbisch Gmünd.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention something about the world’s first chocolate mould maker, Létang et Fils in Paris. The family’s influence in mould-making was enormous, given that many of their pieces at the time were truly state of the art. Some of these chocolate moulds consisted of several pieces. As a result, it is very time-consuming just to combine a hollow mould with arms and legs to create an outstanding chocolate piece.
The idea to create a mould museum surfaced in 2005 when a lovely farmhouse, constructed between 1794 and 1864 in a truly scenic part of the Teutoburger Forest, came up for sale.
My wife and I elected to convert the renovated horse stable of the farm house into a mould museum. Since the building was constructed in the old style, it could not be totally converted to meet the building code requirements of a modern public museum. Hence, it was decided to simply run the facility as a private museum hosting more than 3,000 antique moulds on display.
Since 2007 the museum’s collection has continued to grow with new additions almost daily. The museum’s chocolate collection ranges from simple flat moulds to outstanding three-dimensional figures like Santas, rabbits, kids, characters, clowns, fairytale scenes and even very rare pieces like the Liberty statue or very large figures .
The chocolate mould collection was not intended to be the largest collection in the world, rather a real delight and surprise for interested people and chocolate lovers.
“Just crazy,” (in a good way), a chocolate supplier recently told us after visiting the museum.
Part of the museum’s appeal lies in stimulating the imagination of professionals. For example, artisan chocolate Eric Bochner from Bochner Chocolates in Iowa City, Iowa, found the museum not only historically fascinating, but practical, particularly when it comes to product development.
“I took some new ideas with me back home,” he told us.
Dr. Kerry Beal “The Chocolate Doctor” from Canada couldn’t stop taking photographs when she visited the museum this past February. “I took about a hundred pictures,” Beal admitted.
Interestingly, many collectors of antique chocolate moulds are located in the United States, with many simply keeping them for nostalgic reasons.
Of course, these antique pieces of art aren’t only good for chocolate; products made from paper mache, bees wax, soap, chalkware and candy masses are still produced with them today.
Within the museum is a new mini depositor made by Dedy in Germany that allows us to mould chocolate items from antique moulds. In addition, with the help of two chocolate factories from Germany who supplied some plastic moulds, the museum can produce chocolate lollipops for visitors.
Thanks to help from Agathon GmbH & Co. KG, a producer of chocolate moulds, and our friend Paul Schwanka from the United States, the museum was able to show the different stages of producing the chocolate moulds in former times, from the first tin pressing to the final pressing stage and the final metal work to round the edges.
Schwanka also secured for us some exceptional antique dyes that were used to make the original antique moulds. Soon we will issue a book on chocolate moulds, hopefully with more help from the chocolate mould makers.
As a museum, we do feel an obligation to entertain school groups. Of course, it’s not hard to entice children to visit a chocolate mould museum, particularly when it features a hands-on experience.
Thus, we divide school groups in three smaller groupings. The first group explores the “flavor box,” which is an outstanding tool to understand the different smells of the chocolate ingredients and their fillings. Chocolatier Bochner loved checking the different flavors of cocoa and related ingredients. He had no problem identifying them, but it was surprising to discover how many school children were unaware of such key smells as “vanilla, cocoa or roasted ingredients.”
The second group views a film on chocolate making while the third group gets to work on producing some chocolate lollipops with the guided help of Sandra Wolf. The children are amazed with all the different smells of the chocolate ingredients and love to take home a chocolate lollipop, which they just made. Squeals of “I just love the chocolate” can be heard everywhere.
To get an idea of how many different chocolate moulds existed or still exist, one can consult the antique chocolate moulds catalogs, many of which are found in the museum, to make an educated estimate. For example, back in 1930, famous mould maker Anton Reiche Dresden offered almost 50,000 different kinds of chocolate moulds. The museum is proud to have one of the first chocolate moulds catalogs published by Anton Reiche Dresden-Plauen before 1884 among its extensive collection.
Naturally, the museum’s small size doesn’t allow it to display all of the 5,000 chocolate moulds it has. Visitors, however, can view antique chocolate moulds made from tin between 1870 and 1950, copper moulds made around 1800 and pewter moulds (primarily used for ice cream) made around 1850.
Besides the flavor box, the antique chocolate mould spinner made by Létang & Fils in France around 1880 interests all machinery experts. Then there’s the all-chocolate Santa Claus that measures almost 30 inches in height and weighs approximately 16 kg (35 lbs) and gently conveys a rich chocolate smell that overwhelms everyone.
Although there’s a small entrance fee to the museum, those monies can never cover the 250,000-euro investment in the museum. Rather, the fees cover the costs of chocolate moulding, particularly since we use only the finest chocolate.
Opening times vary, but can always be agreed upon. We encourage readers to check out the Web site chocolate shop at www.chocolatemouldmuseum.com as means of whetting their appetite for an in-person visit.