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History of the Dolfi Company
The Dolfi Company is an Italian company, based in South Tyrol, famous for its original wood carved figurines. The company is named after Adolf Comploj, who was known as Dolfi. Adolf was born in 1912 and legally registered the company as the Dolfi Company in 1932, although it was Adolf's grandfather, Franz Comploj, who first began the woodcarving business in 1892.

South Tyrol is the northernmost part of Italy. The Dolfi Company is actually located in St. Ulrich in the Val Gardena valley. Val Gardena is a beautifully scenic valley in the heart of the Dolomites famous for its alpine sports and for the art of woodcarving.

Woodcarving in Val Gardena can be traced back to the start of the 17th century, if not earlier. It began with farmers carving tools and toys during the winter months, to be sold at the markets in the springtime. Later they began to carve figurines, mostly of a religious nature. This early woodcarving was small scale, to help fill the long winter days and supplement farming income. It did not play a major economic role until late in the 18th century. Since then the industry has grown, become more sophisticated and marketed its wares globally, but still Val Gardena woodcarving companies are primarily long-standing family businesses.

The Dolfi Company is one of the more prominent businesses in this famous region and the Comploj family has a long association with the woodcarving business. Adolf's brother Francesco began his own woodcarving business, in 1929, at which Adolf worked for a short time as a salesman. Francesco's business, FRANCO (from FRANcesco COmploj) is still operational in Val Gardena today.

Throughout the early years of the Dolfi Company, progress was limited as Adolf served 2 terms of duty in the Italian military, first in the 1930s, including the Abyssinian war and then in the latter years of World War II. Between his military terms Adolf married Maria Martiner in 1942, who delivered their first son, Wilhelm (Willi), in 1943. It was also at this time that Adolf's family changed their last name to end in an 'i' instead of a 'j' (i.e. Comploi).

After the war, Dolfi built its first workshop and Adolf gave his full attention to the business. He soon began marketing his wood carvings in other European countries and finally the U.S. By 1948 the U.S. was responsible for 20% of the business. The success of his marketing efforts saw a gradual growth in the business with Adolf employing more and more craftsmen to meet the growing demand for his wood carvings.

A major change in woodcarving occurred in the mid 1950s, as woodcarving machines were introduced to speed up the production process. It is important to note that although Dolfi and almost all other woodcarving businesses now use these pantograph woodcarving machines, there is still a significant amount of handcrafted work in the production of each figurine. These machines help to quickly replicate the initial figurine in larger quantities and can also be used to scale the figurine larger or smaller, but each initial figurine is entirely hand-crafted and each replicated figurine is finalized by hand. See this video clip for a demonstration of the techniques used: Science Channel Wood Carving Video.

The Dolfi company continued to grow through the remainder of Adolf's life, with the occasionally setback and an evolving business model. Some of the setbacks included significant time out for Adolf after a serious car accident, a near-fatal case of tuberculosis for his son Willi, and a change in the stance of the Catholic Church regarding the appropriate level of ornamentation in their churches. A slight refocus on secular designs, continued improvement of technology, larger premises and building strong wholesale partners around the world helped the company to ride through the tougher times.

Willi formally assumed ownership of the company in 1979, the same year that Adolf died. Willi continued to direct the company's activities until 2002, when he passed on the reins to his own children, Monika and Matteo. Each successive change of ownership has helped breath new life and new ideas into the company. Today the company still produces religious and non-religious figurines, toys, dolls and puzzles, but it also produces cuckoo clocks, crystal bells, furniture and other home decor, jewelry and personalized sculptures. It claims to have approximately 60,000 items it manufactures itself.

In 2007, Dolfi Land was created just outside St. Ulrich. This was a brand new site for the Dolfi Company, aimed at providing visitors with a rich experience and understanding of the company and its products. Dolfi Land includes a store to purchase products and a movie theater showing informative films of the company history, the Val Gardena region, and the art of woodcarving. Dolfi Land also includes a kid's area, with wooden play area and toys, a museum, a lounge and a factory (which can be toured at certain times).


Figurine Production

Figurines have always been an important part of the Dolfi business. Initially, the figurines were of a religious nature and often commissioned by local churches, who wanted large impressive carvings to adorn their places of worship. Later Dolfi produced secular figurines, their most famous collection being based on the artwork of Spanish artist and illustrator Lisi Martin.

Quality and craftsmanship has always been important to the Dolfi Company. Quality in wood carving begins with quality raw materials. That is why Dolfi use only carefully selected maple and linden that is at least 75 years old and they dry it and store it in their own state-of-the-art facility.

Dolfi produces wood carved figurines with 3 types of finishes. A natural wood finish is unpainted and shows off the natural beauty of the wood. A full color finish allows a skilled painter to add character and expression to the figurines using a full palette of oil-based semi-transparent paints. The third finish is a combination of 3 oils, which create a blend of brown wood tones that brings out the personality of the figurine without hiding the beauty of the wood.

Although the Dolfi Company is clearly a wood carving business, they have reproduced many of their figurines in other media, via partnerships with other manufacturers and distributors. The Lisi Martin range of figurines has been reproduced in porcelain, cold cast resin and chalkware. Regardless of the medium, each figurine is still hand-painted; representing the values of the Dolfi Company, and each bears the Dolfi Company seal of authenticity.

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