History of WB Studios®® - 1964 to 2011
Following his retirement in the late 1950's, Walter Brockmann moved to St. Louis, Missouri. An avid craftsman, he made very special gifts for family and friends. At their urging, he began to sell his works commercially. Needing a name to put on his business cards, 1964 marked the "official opening" of WB Studios along with the stylized letters "WB". The studio took him out of his garage and into a beautiful Victorian house located on Washington Boulevard from which he would operate for years. An op-ed piece published in the April 21, 1961 issue of Life Magazine would prove to be prophetic when he wrote, "Like the art and architecture depicted, your presentation of 'Celestial Celebration' was breathtaking and magnificent.".
Financed primarily by early "patrons", Walter continued to design items, many of which were holiday ornaments, as noted by James van Maanen in the May/June issue of Collector Editions,based on his love of European architecture, Baroque wood carvings and, among others medieval Madonnas, acquired during his time in Europe. Operating literally from the trunk of his car, he traveled up through Illinois and into surrounding states, building a loyal following that were as much friends as they were customers. These contacts would prove to be of great value in later years.
Jo Taylor joined Walter as his apprentice in late 1964 following the studio's opening. A fast learner and very inventive, she was a perfect match and remained with the studio until 2000 to care for an ailing family member. In Collector Editions, she recalled those early days when they only produced four or five items, the most popular of which were "little bobechs (candle trimmers) in the shape of holly wreaths." There was also a series of ornaments depicting buildings in St. Louis.
By mid-1974, the two artisans had expanded their growing gift line with small houses to be used as night lights. They were decorated with "snow" with multiple winter adornments. This addition would come to be known as the "Lighted Snow House Collection" and Walter became known as the father of the "Snow House". The first six buildings were introduced over several years: Gingerbread, Cottage, Inn House, Victorian, Ski Lodge, Wayside Chapel and Steeple Church. These pieces came to be known as the "Original Six".
Contrary to popular belief, these buildings were not designed by anyone
affiliated with the studio. The houses, as well as the trees that adorned them, were made from commercial molds. This will prove to be a pivotal point in the studio's later relationship of what would become Department 56. All but the "Gingerbread" were made by Lorraine Studios. The "Gingerbread" was designed by Blackbird Mold Company. It appears the tree used was from Nowells.
Mr. Brockmann's significant contributions to the "Snow House" industry are found on the "Introduction" page, link on the left side of this page.
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