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Humorist on a quest

June 28, 2018

The unofficial national animal of Denmark is a monkey. It was designed in 1950 as a hook for Steen Eiler Rasmussen’s contribution to the Cabinet Maker’s Guild Association yearly exhibition by Kay Bojesen (1886 – 1958). It was a manifestation of Bojesen’s vast skills as a designer. Bojesen was trained as a silversmith at Georg Jensen’s workshop. Parallel with his craftmanship as a silversmith he made pieces of design in wood. A significant part of this production was wooden toys. He made houses, people, cars and was instantly popular for his humoristic approach to the Nordic functionalism. His quest was to make wooden toys in good quality that endorsed the fantasy in younger children and he was himself one of them. Both silverware and wooden handcraft was sold from Bojesen’s basement store in Bredgade, Copenhagen. The space was filled with joyful inspiration and clients from all over the world visited.


The dachshund is one of the several dogs Bojesen designed through his career.

Every Sunday afternoon Kay Bojesen (1886 – 1958) and his wife Erna had an open salon in their apartment at Bella Vista, an example of Nordic functionalism housing complex designed by Arne Jacobsen in 1934. The Bojesen couple had moved into the apartment immediately after its completion and they lived in a cosy interior in the modern building. Bojesen was of the belief that if everyone had the possibility to live in a place like Bella Vista, harmony would rule the world. The view of the sound, the fresh air and light was a sanctuary to the busy working life of Bojesen. Poul Henningsen was among the visitors as well as their mutual friend Svend Johansen. He was a scene painter and the artist Bojesen turned to when choosing colors for his toy design. On Sundays business and pleasure were gathered, Bojesen enjoyed having a large network and this became internationally as his reputation grew.


The puffin was designed 1954 and the colors selected in close collaboration with the scene painter Svend Johansen.

The monkey incarnates the essence of the universe of Bojesen, his humor and the usefulness of his design. When the children outgrew the toys, they were often used as decorative pieces. Bojesen kept true to his inner child himself. He never retired but continued working on his endless amount of new ideas to make the world a better place. The last of the animals he designed was the rabbit, only a year before his death. It looks full of life, ready to play with the other creatures. The animals still inspire young and old children to play. The rhino remains solid and confident, it will hold your pencil anytime and the monkey will lighten up your shelf, window and life.

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Kay Bojesen’s trademark was slightly changed over the years. Last in 1933 by the Danish graphic designer Gunnar Biilmann Petersen. Nybrogade 14, Copenhagen.


The bear was named Ursula after a bear cub that was abandoned by its mother in the zoo in Copenhagen.