ABOUT KAY BOJESEN (1886 - 1958)
Kay Bojesen considered himself a craftsman and first and foremost a silversmith. His motivation for creating new works was to shape things that would function and last. It was important for him that the things he made, could contribute something to the world, as he knew utilities were born from a demand, not aesthetics. Even many years after his death, Kay Bojesen’s designs remain highly beloved and are considered iconic symbols of Danish design, that spread joy in homes all over the world.
The functionalist Kay Bojesen
Kay Bojesen was trained as a silversmith in Georg Jensen’s silver workshop by the man himself in the beginning of the 1900s, which was a time characterized by Danish art nouvau and silver with a hammered surface. This is evident in Bojesen’s earliest works, which combine organic shapes, references to nature, complicated ornamentation, and sophisticated detailing.
Kay Bojesen’s curious nature made him very receptive to other movements. After completing his apprenticeship at Georg Jensen, he travelled around Europe, gathering new impressions and inspiration. When Kay Bojesen returned to Copenhagen during the 1910’s, he had become a big advocate for functionalism, which became characterizing for his subsequent work.
Kay Bojesen continued working in silver, which was his favourite material. The silver’s reflective properties captivated him and he mastered getting the clean, smooth surface appear as the decoration in itself. This approach to the craft has resulted in his designs still being as relevant in expression and function today, as they were when they were originally created.
Kay Bojesen established himself and created both a family- and working life in Copenhagen; the city where he grew up and was trained as a silversmith. He was incredibly diligent, ambitious, and talented at the silver craft, and therefore experienced recognition for his creations during his own lifetime. Today, Kay Bojesen’s design legacy is carried on by the family, who delve into his archive and introduce his designs in updated materials and sizes.
The ultimate cutlery: Grand Prix
With functionality as the starting point, Kay Bojesen set out to create the ultimate series of cutlery in silver, believing that cutlery pieces are tools that should not steel the attention at the table, but, on the other hand, provide a service, so the guests could focus on the food and enjoy the meal. This amounted to collection of cutlery pieces in silver, that were all adapted to the hand and the mouth, and in this way achieved the recognizable soft and harmonious shapes.
Kay Bojesen’s cutlery won great recognition and was awarded with the prestigious first prize ‘Grand Prix’ at the world’s fair in Milan in 1951, which also ended up giving the name to the cutlery series. One year later, Kay Bojesen presented the Grand Prix cutlery in matte steel, to appeal to the wider population through a more affordable material – and it worked. Today the Grand Prix cutlery is widely used in many Danish homes, and can be found in the Danish embassy residences all over the world, which means that the Grand Prix cutlery can pride itself with the rare title as: “Embassy cutlery”.
A man of many talents
Kay Bojesen was constantly rethinking his works. He broke with the norms of the time and was a pioneer within the field of classical Danish designs. Kay Bojesen innovated shapes, materials and functions, bringing more than 2000 different designs to life throughout his industrious working life. Besides the silver and steel, Kay Bojesen also mastered materials such as bamboo, melamine, porcelain, tin, glass and wood of course.
Already in the 1920’s, Kay Bojesen created his first wooden toy. After this he gained ground on the toy market with his popular cars, trains and none the least his animals – including horses and dogs, as well as more exotic animals such as hippos, zebras and elephants. One of the most famous of his animals, the monkey, which was created in 1951, has since become a popular design icon worldwide. It was first designed because Kay Bojesen was asked to make a coat rack for an exhibition with children’s furniture. The monkey’s long arms brought the hook down to children’s height, and the short legs made space for a hat and a scarf.
In the last years of his life, Kay Bojesen was to be found in the backroom of his boutique and workshop at Bredgade 47 in Copenhagen. Often dressed in a white smock and accompanied by his wife, Erna, at the cash register serving the many customers. Countless Kay Bojesen works were sold to both adults and children. When stepping into the shop, it felt like arriving into a whole other world with exclusive silverware and cutlery, monkeys, rocking horses, toys and wooden royal guards, cane prams and Finn Juhl’s bowls in teak wood, created by Magne Monsen woodcarving workshop on the opposite side of the street.
A family business
Kay Bojesen’s youngest grandchild, Sus Bojesen Rosenqvist, has since she was young had a natural interest in her grandfather’s craftsmanship and designs. As a young girl, Sus worked in her grandfather’s shop and later helped her father, Otto Bojesen, with the quality control of Kay Bojesen’s wooden animals and steelware. After the Grand Prix cutlery was taken off the market in 2009, Sus Bojesen Rosenqvist decided to return to Kay Bojesen’s universe, after having tried her own hands as a silversmith and with an education and career in photography behind her. In 2011 Sus founded the company Kay Bojesen ApS and relaunched her grandfather’s silverware and the iconic Grand Prix cutlery in matte and polished steel.