Felt fawns
von Markus Frenzl | Jan 8, 2010

Skepticism was in order when Koziol announced that it intended to present the more than 80 years of the company's history in a purpose-built company museum to be called the "Fortune Factory". How can a manufacturer of plastic objects based in the Odenwald forest stand its own with a museum without running the risk of being compared with the multi-million brand worlds of the Porsche and BMW universes that have recently been put in place? Had the company not perhaps let the advertising emotionalization run away with it, and opted for a bit too much in the way of fortune and crystal balls? A "design generator" in the "Fortune Factory", shopping in the "Fortune outlet", meals in the "Fortune cafeteria" - all of that could have spelt embarrassment big time, and a lot of strange provincially petty goods. Nothing could be further from the truth. Koziol's "Fortune Factory", spread across 1500 squaremeter is a vibrant, creative and above all authentic and lovable place.

In keeping with the classic typology of a heroic epic, things start with a fateful trip - with the ritualized start, e.g., by crossing a line that allows no return, entering unknown territory and completing a course with countless tasks that have to be performed and which ends with enlightenment and catharsis. In fact, you enter the "Fortune Factory" through a colorfully illuminated "Fortune Gate" designed by Maria Christina Hamel, that prepares the visitor (or so the press report says) for a "koziolized view of the world" and triggers a "cathartic effect". A "Time Cone" takes you back in time and serves as the transition to the "Ivory Box". There, you see the first few years of the company following its foundation in 1927 as an ivory carving workshop - the Fortune Factory's sweet/kitschy logo, the fawn, dates back to those early days.

The machines devised by Viennese designer Tino Valentinitsch each stand for an important epoch in the company's history: the "Ivory Machine" for the transition from ivory carving to injection molding, the "Peace Machine" for the creative spirit of invention with which after World War II ornaments were made from bits of leftover Plexiglas. The "Souvenir Machine" shaped like a caravan shows the souvenir output of the 1950s, the "Economic miracle Machine" presents roaring stags and other bits of kitsch quite unabashed. The "Home Sweet Home Machine" stands for the products of the 1970s - they tread the line between rebellion and staidness, while the "New Wave Machine" highlights the crazy shapes of the 1980s. In-between, there are any number of levers to be pulled and buttons to be pushed, machines to be activated, radar cameras to be tripped. There's a 1940s company notice board, a lab for crystal balls, and a specimen wall of candy glasses full of small bits from the company's product history - they take up entire rooms in the company's archive proper. Visitors can enjoy a bit of "transparent manufacturing" with a view into ongoing production, a "design generator" that visualizes the steps by which a product gets developed, and a "Good Machine" that presents the company's ecological and sustainability standards. At the end of the course (what better symbol for catharsis today?), visitors enter the "Fortune Outlet", where they can put their hands on the things that now all have so much history.

All of this may seem excessive, but you can simply have fun with it. Koziol has permitted itself a small but definitely successful themed course, sidestepping the star architects and without the great showpieces in Charly's Chocolate Factory. But they have also avoided the exaggerated "smokes and mirrors" and the embarrassing "Birds/Ponies/Fairytales Park" feel. It is a charming exhibition that conveys the company's history from its beginnings carving ivory via the kitschy souvenir production of the 1950s or the "crazy" 1980s through to the company's output today, which seeks to meet higher design standards. And this is achieved with an approach that is credibly emotional but fortunately keeps its feet on the ground, preventing any attempt to try and square up to the really big company museums. Koziol offers visitors insights into its own small Odenwald world, one where the forest and perhaps life, too, is still intact - and that includes in a special commemorative publication mentioning by name each company of craftsman involved in building the museum. The "Fortune factory" itself persuasively conveys this stance and shows that small and creative enterprises are sometimes better than large, pompous ones. After wandering round the machines and successfully performing the tasks expected of them, visitors can buy a bit of everyday culture and pop it in their Mendini-designed bags and drive home a few insights and perhaps a little good fortune to the better.

Fortune factory
Ivory Box, Photo: Markus Frenzl
Ivory Machine
Photo: Markus Frenzl
Time Cone
Peace Machine, Photo: Markus Frenzl
Fortune gate designed by Maria Christina Hamel
Design generator
Design generator
Ivory Box
Photo: Markus Frenzl
Photo: Markus Frenzl
Photo: Markus Frenzl