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White Hammershøi vases from Kähler in different sizes on the floor, while man makes original vase
About Kähler

Handmade design traditions

Handmade design traditions since 1839

Kähler is part of the Rosendahl Design Group – a family of design icons that withstand endless use and admiration. The Kähler story began in 1839, and the handmade design traditions that have been developed since represent a modern and sensual tale of design, where everyone is welcome. Kähler is associated with a heritage of innovative glazes, creative designs and distinctive artistic collaborations.

Kähler builds on a long tradition of artistic collaborations and craft traditions and was founded in 1839 when Herman Kähler opened a ceramics workshop in Næstved. However, it was only when his son, Herman A. Kähler, joined the workshop that it became world famous for unique designs and artistic ceramics.

Since its foundation more than 180 years ago, Kähler has been known for its classic handmade design traditions. To this day, we still honour this heritage and clear reproductions of the present built on the past.

Even though Kähler has grown as a design collective with a wealth of related artists, the philosophy and approach remains the same as it has always been, namely that we continue to work with some of today’s greatest designers and craftsmen.

Craftsmanship, creativity and artistic collaborations have been part of Kähler’s DNA since the beginning. And they still are. It's what has made Kähler an iconic ceramic brand, one which has charted the course of Danish ceramic design.

We create all our products based on Kähler’s handmade design traditions. We've always done that - and we always will.

A unique design adventure that began in 1839

The story of Kähler begins as early as 1839, when the Dutch potter Herman J. Kähler opens a small ceramics workshop in Næstved and turns the first Kähler vase. It marks the start of a unique design adventure that will one day resonate around the world. However, it is only when his son Herman A. Kähler takes over the famous workshop in 1875 that the ceramic adventure really begins

As early as 1889, Kähler’s ceramics impress at the World Exhibition in Paris, the same year the Eiffel Tower was built. With the production of international art ceramics, the foundation is laid for one of the greatest successes in ceramic history, one that is still presented at exhibitions and museums all over the world today – and a success that continues to shape a popular, forward-looking and innovative design brand.
Vases in different sizes from Hammershøi Kähler
Kähler vases are being cast in vessels

Kähler family

Since the foundation of the brand in 1839, handmade design traditions have been passed on from generation to generation. Explore the history of the Kähler family here.

1808–1884 – Herman Joachim Kähler

Herman J. Kähler immigrates from northern Germany to Næstved in 1839. Shortly after his arrival in 1839, he starts his pottery at Kindhestegade in Næstved, where the story of Kähler begins.

Herman J. Kähler is a trained potter, and using old traditions he sticks to making utensils such as milk dishes, maternity buckets and jam jars, etc. However, it is for his production of stoves that he receives the greatest recognition. Herman J. Kähler runs Kähler from 1839 to 1872. During this period, he has seven children, of whom the two sons, Herman August and Carl Frederik, will continue to run the company.

When Herman J. Kähler retired in 1872, his sons Herman August Kähler and Carl Frederik Kähler took over the company. Carl Frederik continued ceramic production in Næstved, but it was Herman August that put the Kähler ceramic on the world map.

1846-1917 – Herman August Kähler

After completing his apprenticeship with his father, Herman August is taught glaze painting at Holmegaard Glasværk, then travels around Europe and works in workshops in Berlin, Strasbourg and Paris. In 1867, he returns to Næstved full of impressions and inspiration. Now he is ready to take over the workshop.

Already in 1875, he built a new workshop at Kählersbakken in Næstved. This is where he really starts to try his hand at artistic design and experiment with the glazes. This artistic venture attracts many well-known Danish artists, and it was Herman August that started the artistic colony in Næstved. The glazed colours became his signature – especially the red lustre. Normally, this was only used for decoration, but at the world exhibition in Paris in 1889, he put up a product completely dipped in the metallic red lustre glaze. Together with his signature, HAK, the red lustre became Kähler’s trademark.

It was also man-of-the-world Herman August Kähler who generated international interest in Kähler Keramik. He attended exhibitions around the world, generating interest from retailers and museums in Paris, New York, Chicago, Malmo, Stockholm, Brussels, Berlin and San Francisco. Herman August had a major impact on the Kähler workshop. To this day, his initials, HAK, are stamped at the bottom of all Kähler products.

1876–1940 – Herman H.C. Kähler 

In 1917, Herman H.C. Kähler takes over the company from his father, Herman August Kähler. Time and tastes have changed, and figures such as lions eating lunch or unshaped vases and pots in bright colours are less in demand. Instead, Herman H.C. returns to the old pottery traditions and starts producing wheel-turned objects decorated with the old technique of horn painting. His style was beautiful, and marked by his own personal interpretation.

Herman H.C.'s great strength was that he managed to inspire and encourage the talented women who painted the ceramics to challenge the various decoration techniques. It was the horn-painted split decorations in particular that characterised the works of Kähler in the time under Herman H.C. Yet, despite the fact that he was one of the Kähler family's greatest designers, and it was his artistic imagination that launched the workshop into horn-painted split decorations, his reputation that followed in the years to come seemed less brilliant.

It is why Herman H.C. is not considered to be a particularly distinctive person in the Kähler history, perhaps because he had difficulty living up to his father, Herman August Kähler's big legacy. Moreover, there were also many great artists in the workshop during the same period, and they were not as reserved as Herman H.C. Kähler.

1906–1979 & 1904–1996 – Nils Kähler & Herman Jørgen Kähler

Nils Kähler and his brother Herman Jørgen Kähler take over the factory in 1940. It will be the last generation of the Kähler family that runs the company. Both brothers work as designers, but largely Nils takes over the artistic function and Herman J. the administrative and practical function.

In 1931, Nils replaced the workshop’s old wheel. Here he developed a passion for wheel-turning large vases. Initially just for fun, Nils starts modelling piggy banks and other animals made on the wheel. Usually it was a job for an apprentice, but the idea of animals as a collector’s item was taken seriously and put into production. These animals became some of Kähler’s most popular products. The animals allowed Nils to indulge his preference for ceramics decoration with slipped horn painting and lead glaze.

Nils Kähler had a special talent for following the design trends of the time, which is evident from his production. Even though he was very enthusiastic about old art of pottery, the production was characterised by simple designs. He made designer objects such as ashtrays, vases, jugs and lamp feet for Le Klint lamps. They were made out of stoneware, raw with no glazing, with his preferred salt glaze or the strong turquoise colour.

The era as a family-run company with the fourth generation of the Kähler family ended in 1974.
Nils Kähler in the process of making a vase

Kähler artists

In the 1800s and 1900s, the historic Kähler workshop became a gathering place for many of the era's greatest Danish artists. People like Thorvald Bindesbøll, Svend Hammershøi and Kai Nielsen all made their mark on what today forms the DNA of Kähler’s design. Read about some of the great artists who used to meet up at Kähler’s historic workshop here.

1857–1942 – Hans Andersen Brendekilde

Hans Andersen Brendekilde arrived in 1885 and was the first actual artistic employee. Brendekilde was a painter and painted social-realistic pictures, and was at the time one of the country’s leading designers. During this time he designed products for Odense Glasværk. Brendekilde worked in Kähler’s workshop together with H.A. Kähler.

Brendekilde decorated the vases and bowls that H.A. Kähler turned on the wheel – mainly with flowers, animals and fairytale characters. The greatest impact Brendekilde had on the Kähler workshop was probably his artistic energy and the circle of other artists he attracted. Brendekilde worked with Kähler until 1907.
Historical picture of Hans Andersen Brendekilde, first artistic employee at Kähler's workshop

1854–1933 – Laurids Andersen Ring

Laurids Andersen, also known as L.A. Ring, named after the birth town of the southern Ring of Næstved. Ring was part of Brendekilde's circle of artist friends at the end of the 19th century. He painted landscape paintings and lived for a short time with Brendekilde. This was how he was introduced to Kähler for the first time. Ring was excited to try out ceramics as a material, but his ceramic career was limited to 10 to 12 pieces and would never have much impact on Kähler. 

Like Brendekilde, Ring’s greatest importance to the Kähler workshop were his cultural contacts. Ring married H.A. Kähler’s daughter, Sigrid Kähler, thus becoming part of the regular circle of artists around Kähler. He often painted situations from the workshop and family. One example is the painting “Lamp Light”, which depicts his wife Sigrid, and a lamp base with octopus arms. It is said that the lamp base was his own work. The picture now hangs in the National Gallery of Denmark.

1863-1929 – Karl Hansen Reistrup

After joining Den Kongelige Porcelænsfabrik, porcelain painter Karl Hansen Reistrup needed a fresh challenge and was happy to accept the offer to work at Kähler. He was hired as a painter and modeller in 1888. He quickly moved into a loft room at the factory and started a close and intensive collaboration with H.A. Kähler. This cooperation continued until the next generation of the Kähler family took over.
Reistrup designed and models shapes, which H.A. Kähler then turned on the wheel. All figures were moulded in plaster so that they could be easily mass produced. Reistrup loved animals and created an entire ceramic zoo. He places cats, ducks and fish on bowls or frogs on ashtrays. But he particularly likes lions. This is evident in his humorous figure “Lion’s Lunch”. Here, the lion looks extremely satisfied at having just consumed a human being for lunch.

Some of his first animal vases were sold at the World Exhibition in Paris in 1889. Over time, Reistrup would become booked up with large decoration works around the country, but he would continue to return to the Kähler workshop.
Historical picture of Karl Hansen Reistrup, porcelain painter and artist at Kähler's workshop

1846-1908 – Thorvald Bindesbøll

Architect Thorvald Bindesbøll spent a short time in the Kähler workshop, namely in the years 1890 and 1891. It’s was the artist L.A. Ring that lured him to Næstved. The stay at Kähler took place over two periods during those years. But none of the products he made during this time would be called masterpieces. The best result he left behind was probably an earthenware pot with graphite decoration and a slip decoration. It is currently on display at the Danish Museum of Art and Design. During his second stint at Kähler’s workshop, Bindesbøll made an altar for Herning Church. This was made of glazed earthenware. Even though Bindesbøll’s stay at Kähler was brief, he kept in contact with Kähler for a long time afterwards.

1873-1948 – Svend Hammershøi

Svend Hammershøi is a designer, painter and ceramics graduate who over the course of his life became a world-renowned artist with works exhibited in museums all over the world. He started working as an artistic designer at Kähler in 1893 and continued until his death. Hammershøi was thus the longest affiliated artist to Kähler’s workshop.

The first time Hammershøi visited Kähler, his most important goal was to learn the art of shaping, which is why he stuck to working with the wheel. But since he only worked for Kähler from 1904, he left the real craftsmanship to the masters. A typical characteristic of Hammershøi’s pots and bowls is the powerful horizontal and vertical profiling. These are repeated throughout his entire production. 

During his time at Kähler, Hammershøi revived terracota ceramics, the unglazed, burnt red clay that, for example, was “muffle-burned”. This means that the object would fired in the oven together with sawdust, a technique that produced a smoked surface. After a few years in the workshop, it was large pots and floor vases in unglazed red clay that caught his interest. He loved to turn these by hand to give them just the right look. This greatly appealed to the master of the time, Nils Kähler, who loved to turn large objects. Another thing you associate with Hammershøi’s work is the white-grey-black works. These were created in collaboration with Jens Thirslund.

Hammershøi had an invaluable impact on Kähler’s workshop and its development over the course of its life. Today, the inspiration from his work lives on in the Hammershøi series. Kähler’s current logo, HAK, which adorns all Kähler products, was also designed by Hammershøi.
Historical picture of Sven Hammershøi turning a vase at Kähler's workshop

1882-1924 – Kai Nielsen

The sculptor Kai Nielsen visited Kähler for the first time in 1921. This was just three years before his death. During this time, he was extremely productive, but many of his works were discarded because he was so self-critical. His ambition was to reach all people. He would rather sell his works and produce them in thousands of copies than have them exhibited in museums. So instead, he made many small figures to spread awareness of his art. And this boosted his earnings.

In collaboration with Thirslund, Nielsen started a major production of figures in 1922. These were made from old bronze moulds, which were previously used to cast bronze moulds. And the names of the figurines were just as inventive as the production method: The Sloth, Susanne in the bath, the Princess and the pea, Eva on the apple, Nina on the ball and the Globetrotter are just a few of them. The figurines became hugely popular both in Denmark and abroad. A dealer from San Francisco brought the “Princess on the Pea” home from a trip and displayed it in his store. But an American women’s organisation showed a lot of resistance to the “The Princess of the Pea” as they believed the figurine was sticking her belly out too much.

1892-1942 – Jens Thirslund

Jens Thirslund came to Kähler in 1913 at the request of an acquaintance. Despite not being qualified in the arts, he had an inherent talent for drawing. This was fuelled by his love of art. Thirslund created his very own world of motifs, which he transferred to pots and tiles. And to random paper – and he often drew on wrapping paper. His motifs ranged from flowers to women, animals and ships.

The majority of Thirslund’s production was wall tiles. These patterned, primed tiles were produced extensively in the workshop. Thirslund had a great passion for ceramics, and this is what led him to explore lustre firing. He spent many nighttime hours deep in soot and smoke to explore this way of firing. This is how he came up with the black and white glaze used to decorate many of Hammershøi’s works. In addition to his work at the workshop, Thirslund also participated in many international exhibitions. He had separate exhibitions in Amsterdam and New York, but also took part in other exhibitions in Paris, Switzerland, Spain, Sweden and Belgium.

Jens Thirslund was an important person for Kähler history. In addition to his own works, he was an entrepreneur, developer and source of inspiration for many of the other artists, including Svend Hammershøi and Kai Nielsen.
Historical picture of Jens Thirslund painting a vase at Kähler's workshop
Woman sitting on the stool among Urbania lighthouses from Kähler in many different sizes

Kähler - handmade and traditional Danish design ceramics since 1839

Kähler represents handmade design traditions that fuse art and craftsmanship together. We still create and paint many of our iconic products with our hands today. Products that help make every home beautiful and inspiring. Since Kähler was founded in 1839, our designs are known for their classic and authentic ceramics.

Kähler is a celebration of almost 200 years of well-preserved craftsmanship, but it is also a powerful reinterpretation of the present. Craftsmanship, creativity and artistic collaborations have been part of Kähler’s DNA since the beginning. And they still are. This has made Kähler an iconic ceramic brand that has charted the course for democratic Danish ceramics.

Today, one of the hallmarks of Kähler is that we are forward-looking and innovative. But when we look ahead and create new classics, it is always with feet firmly planted in our ceramic craftsmanship traditions and history, where authenticity, art and creativity are essential. We take pride in understanding the times we live in, while being able to look ahead to stay ahead of new trends. This is why we are able to introduce new, exciting products and updates of everlasting classics.

Kähler's design collective

In Kähler’s workshop, it was the special design collective that helped create and encapsulate Kähler’s unique DNA. Each artist has left his mark, and that’s exactly what makes Kähler’s designs iconic today.

Over the years, the historic Kähler workshop was a meeting place for many of Denmark’s greatest artists, such as Thorvald Bindesbøll, Svend Hammershøi and Kai Nielsen. It was when Herman August Kähler built a new workshop at Kählersbakken in Næstved in 1875 that the artistic experiments really took off. And it is precisely this artistic venture that attracted several famous Danish artists. This is how the artists colony started in Næstved.

Today, collaborations with the most distinctive and talented artists and design talents of our time continue, including the ceramic artists Meyer-Lavigne, the designer duo Stilleben, designer Hans Christian Bauer and artist Rikke Jacobsen.
The designer duo Stilleben paints Signature vases from Kähler by hand

Artists breed artists

Ever since Brendekilde became the first real artist to be employed, artists have joined year after year and contributed to Kähler’s DNA. Brendekilde was of great importance to the Kähler workshop not only for his designs but because he attracted a wide range of artists.

These included Svend Hammershøi, who would come to have an invaluable impact on Kähler’s workshop and its development. Today, Hammershøi’s iconic works live on in the Hammershøi series. Kähler’s current logo, HAK, which adorns all our products, was also designed by Hammershøi.

Craft traditions since 1839

Every contemporary Kähler design is a tribute to Kähler’s unique history and a celebration of the well-preserved craftsmanship, and it's also an imprint of current times.

Many of our ceramic designs are still based on craft traditions that go right back to when the Kähler adventure first began. Just as the skilled women ceramic painters at the old workshop in Kählersbakken hand-decorated the ceramics using cow horns, we still paint many of the designs by hand hand-cut the finer details and work with exciting glaze techniques. It is in the meeting between the precise and elegant brush strokes and the classic ceramics that Kähler’s unique design really comes into its own with its unique handmade look.

Handmade traditions

Kähler’s style comes from many years of proud handmade design traditions. We believe that good design and handmade quality have no expiry date. Nowhere is this more demonstrated than through our ceramic painter women, who are a major and key part of Kähler’s history.

Over the years, a large number of different female ceramic painters worked for Kähler, all of whom had a unique personal style and talent. However, all of their work was sent out anonymously with only the well-known HAK logo at the bottom.

A number of skilled women worked at the Kähler workshop in the 1800s and 1900s. They had a very special talent for painting the ceramics that the artists produced. It was the ceramic painters who added the final touch and ensured that the ceramics in the old Kähler workshop were given a unique and charming handmade look.

Today, this tradition is evident in designs such as the hand-painted Omaggio Nuovo vase series. The series represents a revival of the well-known Omaggio series, which is one of the most iconic vase series in Danish design and interiors today. The vase designers looked back at the old Kähler traditions for inspiration to find new versions of the well-known stripes. The hand-painted stripes add depth and life to the vase and are evidence of the fine craftsmanship behind each vase.
Woman paints Kähler's HAK logo on wall among Omaggio vases

Get to know three of the historic ceramic painters here

Signe Steffensen, painter at Kähler paints with a cohorn

Signe Steffensen

Signe Steffensen was a ceramic painter in Kähler until 1934, and was also known as a first lady for the painting studio. She mastered the horn painting, an extremely difficult decoration technique. No two horn-painted ceramic objects are ever the same and these ceramics became one of the biggest successes in the history of the Kähler workshop.
Stella Kähler, a painter at Kähler, reads a book in the garden with her husband, Herman August Kähler

Stella Kähler

Stella Kähler was the daughter of Herman August Kähler and married to artistic director Jens Thirslund. Stella Kähler threw herself into the slip decorations with her own subtle style, and also tried out the red lustre. One of these was sold to the National Museum in Stockholm in 1914.
Tulle Emborg, a painter at Kähler, paints ceramics using the technique of hormonal

Tulle Emborg

Tulle Emborg worked in Kähler’s workshop in the 1930s and she developed her own style, both in terms of horn painting and in wet-on-wet decorations. She used both spoons and shaking motions with great ingenuity to make the colours flow together. Her close collaboration with Nils Kähler is reminicsent of the old the classic pottery and their work became a great success.

Our foundation

Kähler is built on a number of core values and beliefs. They make up the foundation on which we run our brand, design and product development. They are the building blocks that have over the years ensured that we have been able to create designs that last and that constantly match Danes' taste.

At Kähler, we strive every day to unite our unique cultural heritage with our ambition to be a leader on the arts scene, nationally and internationally. We take the best from an artistic ceramic legacy and reinterpret it with a nod to current times.

Our special characteristics

Omaggio Nuovo vases from Kähler on table

Craftmanship

Every contemporary Kähler design is a tribute to Kähler’s unique history and a celebration of the well-preserved craftsmanship, and it's also an imprint of current times.

Just as the female ceramic painters at Kählersbakken hand-decorated the ceramic with cow horns at the start of the Kähler venture, we too are still painting several of the e ceramic designs by hand, making hand-cut details and working with exciting glaze techniques that respect Kähler’s ceramic craftsmanship traditions.

By focusing on high quality and constantly ensuring that our unique designs are available to most people, we help democratise good craftsmanship and design and make it something that everyone can understand and use.
HAK stamp on the bottom of a vase from Kähler

Authentic

Kähler builds on a unique cultural legacy, which lies at the heart of our authentic designs and the methods we use to create our products. Proof of this authenticity is the iconic HAK hallmark at the bottom of all our designs. Today, it has become a true cultural heritage that can be found in many Danish homes.

Both the old historic Kähler products and the new ones can be identified by the HAK logo. Ever since the logo was designed by Svend Hammershøi and introduced to the market, it has been a symbol of everything Kähler’s handmade design traditions stand for. It's your guarantee that you have a product that is authentic, genuine and original. This is something we are always very aware of and try to maintain and reflect in our way of working.
Vases are cast, turned and painted by artists

Danish design collective

Kähler is based on a proud design tradition formed by a collective that has developed and rethought our designs year after year. It is largely this collective that has helped to create and encapsulate Kähler’s unique DNA. Each artist has left their mark, which is revisited and renewed every day by inspiring artists.

The Kähler workshop has been a hub of many of the greatest Danish artists ever since the 1800s. Initially, it was artists such as Thorvald Bindesbøll and Svend Hammershøi who defined Kähler. Today it is ceramicists and artists such as Hans Christian Bauer, who designed the Hammershøi series and the designer duo Stilleben, which consists of Ditte Reckweg and Jelena Schou Nordentoft. They are just an example of a new generation of designers who help define classic Danish design in our time.
Vases, thermos, salt and pepper sets, bowls, plates and more from Kähler on table

Diversity

Kähler’s works are very diverse, and our ceramics fall into many different categories – everything from vases to tableware. We create designs that most people can afford – and which everyone can use. But the diversity is also reflected in both our history and our present.

Kähler has always been characterised by many different artists, who all contribute something unique – and that's still the case today. Collaborating with different artists has also allowed us to maintain the old traditions and values, while at the same time constantly rethinking and renewing the designs.

We cultivate diversity in everything from design to the colours we use. And we will continue to do so in future developments and launches, as this is the philosophy that allows us to find our way into new homes year after year.

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We preserve and develop Danish design icons so that both present and future products can be part of the brands that have helped create our Danish design culture.
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