Kay Bojensen (1886 – 1958) Danish silversmith and toy designer

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Danish designer Kay Bojesen
Danish designer Kay Bojesen

Kay Bojensen creates delight

Kay Bojesen (1886-1958) was a Danish silversmith and toy designer. Most notably, his monkey, displayed at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London from the 1950s to the 1960s, is widely accepted as a design classic.

Early Life

Bojesen was born on August 15, 1886, in Copenhagen, Denmark. He began working for Danish silversmith Georg Jensen as a grocer in 1906. Due to Jensen’s influence, his early work has been described as being in an Art Nouveau style.

Biography

Bojensen Monkey
Bojensen Monkey

Wooden toys

Bojesen designed wooden toys typically six to ten inches tall, with moveable limbs in 1922. Among the collection were:

  • A teak and limba monkey (1951).
  • An oak elephant.
  • A bear made of oak and maple.
  • A rocking horse of beech.
  • A parrot.
  • A dachshund.
  • Toy soldiers of the Danish Royal Guard.

Bojensen established his workshop in a basement in Copenhagen, almost halfway between the Marble Cathedral, Scandinavia’s largest domed church, and the Royal Palace of Amalienborg. Despite the impressive surroundings, the cramped artists quarters overflowed with his work.

“An item must have a soul, it must function properly, be nice to hold and a pleasure to look at.”

Kay Bojensen

His unpainted wooden toys have gained him international acclaim. An educational consequence of a Bojesen toy is that it encourages youngsters to take the initiative; it is substantial, high-quality work. It reflects the clear perennial world of form and abstract colour. It can withstand severe treatment and satisfies the need of children to employ their imaginations. A Bojensen toy is built on the principles of reason and intellect, and it provides a platform for creative expression.

Bojensen said that the best toys are sand and water, what a child can find in nature, like acorns and seashells. The next best things are blocks and after them come wheels.

Rosendahl bought the rights to the toys in 1990.

Bojesen was a co-founder of Den Permanente, an art gallery and shop for exhibiting contemporary Danish design, which began in 1931.

Bojesen also created children’s furniture, jewellery, and housewares. After creating stainless steel cutlery set in 1938, Bojesen named the set “Grand Prix.” Kay Bojesen’s granddaughter, Susanne Bojesen Rosenqvist, has relaunched the Grand Prix cutlery today. The Grand Prix is Denmark’s national cutlery and is found in every Danish Embassy worldwide.

Legacy

Bojesen died on August 28, 1958, at the age of 72. Copenhagen’s 1932-founded store was in operation until the 1980s. His widow, Erna Bojesen, carried on with his work until she died in 1986.

Bojesen was a National Association of Danish Arts and Crafts member. He was honoured by the Danish National Committee of the OEMP (World Organisation for Early Childhood Education).

Sources

Byars, M., & Riley, T. (2004). The design encyclopedia. Laurence King Publishing.

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