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Three wooden figures, guards in a sentry bow, Kay Bojesen
About Kay Bojesen

Original stories in wood

Kay Bojesen – original stories in wood

When the Kay Bojesen brand was founded back in 1932, it marked the start of a story about a craftsman with a great sense of humour and plenty of curiosity. Kay Bojesen created his animals and figures based on the philosophy that good design should be accessible to everyone, and over time Kay Bojesen has become synonymous with original Danish design.

Kay Bojesen is the epitome of original Danish design; his soft, round shapes and smiling lines create original stories in wood. Kay Bojesen’s designs have always been based on the world of children. A world full of curiosity and imagination, which has inspired many of the iconic characters we know today.

Danish quality design through generations

Some of the designs Kay Bojesen is best known for include the imaginative monkeys, the  soldiers from the Royal Danish Guard and other wooden animals – a happy family filled, the highest quality and sustainable materials. Kay Bojesen's collection is a real tribute to the inner child – and appeals to children, adults and fans alike looking for beautiful design objects that can stay with them throughout their lives.

Kay Bojesen is the story of one of the strongest and most loved brands in Danish design history, with classics in a class of their own. A creative, playful filled with love and the highest quality in sustainable materials. With smiling lines and unique shapes, Kay Bojesen turned wood into original stories that appealed to all generations.

Kay Bojesen’s story

Silversmith and designer Kay Bojesen had a very special talent. He was able to design wood in a very special way, and he became world-famous for creating wooden animals with soul, humour and a twinkle in their eye. Kay Bojesen is one of the most productive Danish artisans of the 20th century, with more than 2,000 pieces to his name.He is best known for his joie de vivre monkeys, soldiers from the Royal Danish Guard and other wooden animals, but his large production also includes jewellery, cutlery, teapots and silver trophies.

How it all began

Kay Bojesen graduated as a silversmith in 1910 after completing his apprenticeship with the silversmith Georg Jensen. He was one of the first Danish craftsmen to be fascinated by functionalism, and he was among the initiators of “Den Permanente” - a shop and showcase that for decades represented the best in Danish and Scandinavian design.
1919 marked the start of a new era for Kay Bojesen. He got married and had his son Otto. Fatherhood sparked Kay Bojesen’s fascination with children, toys and wood and reminded him of his own childhood when his father (Ernst Bojesen - publisher of “The Octopus”) cut wooden figures and encouraged his children to be inventive, use their imagination and to have fun.

In the 1930s, Kay Bojesen began to seriously cultivate his interest in working with wood. He created a series of wooden animals that lived up to his philosophy that design should be round, soft and feel good in your hand.

He didn't want to create faithful replicas of real-life animals – not too sophisticated nor too detailed. Instead, he wanted to create imaginative variations in a design that was based on a child's perspectives where the “lines must smile”. The wooden toys should be simple, sturdy and inspire play.

With these basic ideas as a starting point, Kay Bojesen created his beloved wooden figures that appeal to the child in all of us and have ended up being design icons today.

In his lifetime, Kay Bojesen was considered to represent the fun side of Danish arts and crafts. Today, Kay Bojesen is one of Denmark’s biggest design names and his crafts are some of the most sought-after in Danish design.

Legacy

Kay Bojesen kept his childish curiosity and joie de vivre until the very end. He died at the age of 72, leaving behind a significant design legacy. A legacy that is now protected by his family.

The Rosendahl Design Group is grateful for being chosen by the Bojesen family to develop, produce and distribute their grandfather’s beloved designs. Since Kay Bojesen’s legendary store in Bredgade closed back in 1990, production of several of his products has ceased. It is therefore a great pleasure for the Rosendahl Design Group to be able to re-introduce several of Kay Bojesen’s fantastic older designs according to their original drawings and with great respect for Kay Bojesen’s high demands for material and craftsmanship. 
Kay Bojesen with monkeys

Timeline

Kay Bojesen portrait

1886

Kay Bojesen was born on 15 August 1886 in Copenhagen, son of publishing director Ernst Bojesen (publisher of “The Octopus”) and artist Valborg Rønsholdt. Kay was the third child of four – Oscar (painter), Aage (paediatrician), Kay and Thyra (married to an architect).
Kay Bojesen in training as a silversmith

1910

Kay Bojesen graduated as a silversmith at Georg Jensen in Bredgade, Copenhagen, where he gained wide recognition. He then attended the vocational school for precious metal in the German Schwabisch Gmund and from there he went to Paris, where he worked for a period as a silversmith.
Erna Pethrine Drøge-Møller, married to Kay Bojesen, with a child on her arm

1919

Kay Bojesen married Erna Pethrine Drøge-Møller. The same year they got married, son Otto was born.
Train with conductor, original toy created by Kay Bojesen

1922

The Danish Working Environment Association held a toy competition. Kay Bojesen participated and won an award. Kay Bojesen explained his reason for participating: "This is simply because I have a son who gets more toys than you can possibly imagine from family and friends. However, the sad fact is that he is a strong and heavy-handed little guy, and the toys quickly break in his fingers."
Kay Bojesen's Horse on letter tray

1930

The horse first appeared in the early 1930s. With a quirky stance, thick mane and reins ready to grab onto, the horse tempts you to gallop away to distant lands. The soft shapes and stiff legs give the horse the distinctive cheerful expression that Kay Bojesen’s wooden animal family is known for.
Kay Bojesen in front of her basement shop and workshop in Bredgade 47, Copenhagen, near the castle Amalienborg

1932

Kay Bojesen opened a basement shop and workshop on Bredgade 47, just near Amalienborg. For the next 26 years, he would work in the store, with Mrs Erna in the front, and himself in the back, coming up with new ideas. The basement shop was a mecca of toys, silverware, wooden bowls and plates. The rattle, the first classic toy for children, was created the same year. The dimensions made the rattle easy to hold in little hands, while the ball in the middle of the rattle flicked back and forth and spun around much to the baby's delight. The rattle was made of unpainted wood, because Bojesen believed that it let the imagination run free.
The dachshund named Pind by Kay Bojesen

1934

The Dachshund Hound was born in mahogany and in two different sizes. The Dachshund was just one of Kay Bojesen’s many dogs from the 1930s. The Dachshund was re-introduced in 2011 and made of oiled walnut wood.
Zebras, designed by Kay Bojesen, carved in wood and hand-painted in black and white

1935

The zebra, carved in wood and hand-painted in black and white, was one of Bojesen’s first exotic animals. That same year, Tim, the whimsical little terrier, was also born. When children visited Kay Bojesen’s store on Bredgade 47 in Copenhagen, they often received a small gift. And often it was Tim the dog they received.
Rocking horse in beech, design by Kay Bojesen

1936

The beech rocking horse was born. It was produced in several variants with and without handles and paint. A solid rocking horse that kept on rocking for generations. The rocking horse lived up to Kay Bojesen’s ideal for toys to withstand being used and played with.
The car, design by Kay Bojesen

1937

The car was created in 1937 by Kay Bojesen, who himself was a big car fan. In the autumn of 2017, the Sedan was put back into production in the same size as the original car. In the spring of 2019, the Limousine, which Kay Bojesen and Ole Wanscher developed together, was put back into production.
Kay Bojesen's Lifeguards in a sentry box

1940

King Christian X turned 70, and in honour of the occasion, Kay Bojesen created soldiers in the Royal Danish Guard, which he put up in front of the store in Bredgade as a tribute to the king. Four gala-clad metre-high guards greeted King Christian X as he rode past the store. It was not until 1942 that Kay Bojesen started putting the guards into production. Amalienborg’s guards include an officer with a sabre and three guards holding a drum, flag and gun.
Three Seagulls hanging on strings, design by Kay Bojesen

1945

The seagull is a one-of-a-kind among Kay Bojesen’s animals, which was originally only produced in 23 unique copies for an exhibition in 1954. In the spring of 2017, the seagull was put back into production, and is now available in three different sizes as a mobile. The largest gull is the same size as the original.
Santa Claus, original design by Kay Bojesen

1948

In the 1940s, Santa Claus saw the light of day, inspired by the successful painted guards. Kay Bojesen’s grandchildren clearly remember how Santa stood everywhere in the store and at home as a sign of the happy Christmas season. Bojesen generously gave Santa Claus away to the children and young at heart among his customers. Santa Claus was re-introduced in autumn 2013.

1950

Kay Bojesen created the songbirds in the 1950s, but they were never put into production. In 2012, the songbirds were put into production created from old photos from Kay Bojesen’s family album. The family added Ruth, Pop, Otto, Kay, Peter, Ernst and Sunshine to Bojesen’s wonderful animal family.
Monkey from Kay Bojesen sitting among wood shavings and ruler

1951

1951 was the year when the beloved monkey was born. The monkey in teak and limba was a living proof of Kay Bojesen’s conviction that the lines of a product should “smile”. The smiling monkey is probably the best known of all Kay Bojesen’s designs. The story goes that Kay Bojesen was asked if he wanted to design a coat rack for a children’s furniture exhibition. The idea behind the monkey was that the long arms would bring the coat hook down to child’s height, and the short legs would make room for a hat and scarf.
The bear Ursula, design by Kay Bojesen

1952

This curious little bear was born in oak and maple. Kay Bojesen was inspired by the little bear cub Ursula, who grew up with the Copenhagen Zoo's zoo keeper and his wife. The little Ursula had been abandoned by her mother, a story that touched Kay's heart. That same year, Kay Bojesen was appointed Purveyor to the Royal Danish Court for long and regular trade with the Court.
Elephant in oak, design by Kay Bojesen

1953

The elephant joined the family. Made of oak - large and sturdy with movable trunk and legs. The elephant was also available in a rare grey version with pink ears.
Various colorful birds designed by Kay Bojesen with the Parrot in the center

1954

Kay Bojesen designed several different kinds of fine birds. This articulated puffin was made in two sizes. The puffins were made of painted orewood and painted by the great theatre artist Svend Johansen, who was famous for his naivistic line and who has also painted several of Kay Bojesen’s other animals. The puffin has since become one of his most sought-after “forgotten” designs. The puffin was re-introduced in spring 2013.
The Hippopotamus, design by Kay Bojesen

1955

The hippo was born with its movable jaws in oiled oak. There are also a few copies in a painted version. The hippo may be Kay Bojesen’s most angular creature with his friendly open jaws. Kay Bojesen himself used it for storing his pencils on his desk. The hippo was re-introduced in 2011 in a reduced size.
The Rabbit, design by Kay Bojesen. Made of oak.

1957

A year before he died, Kay Bojesen made one of his very last wooden animals – the rabbit. It is made of oak, can move both arms and legs and the pointy ears give him a curious and alert expression. The rabbit was be re-introduced in 2011. Kay Bojesen is known for his circus of charming wooden animals, but the witty designer also loved his fellow human beings, whom he often portrayed in various professions – from baker to priest. Based on the Royal Danish Guards, in the 1950s Kay Bojesen created the diligent postman who takes pride in distributing post through the rain and sleet. After Kay Bojesen died in 1958, the family put the postman into production. The postman was reintroduced in autumn 2017, now under the name Einar.
Kay Bojesen with giant Monkey

1958

Kay Bojesen died 72 years old on 28 August 1958. His widow Erna Bojesen continued the company until her death in 1986. The family continued to run the store for a few years. In 1991, the rights to all wooden designs, the wooden guards and the “Grand Prix”steel dinner service were sold to Erik Rosendahl. In 2011, the rights to all silver and steel designs, including the Grand Prix”  cutlery “, was transferred to Kay Bojesen’s grandson Sus Bojesen.

Kay Bojesen creates original and vibrant stories in wood

Kay Bojesen is synonymous with original and vibrant Danish craftsmanship and designs based on humour and imagination. The classic designs created from Kay Bojesen’s original figures represent craftsmanship at its finest. With their smiling lines, soft shapes and humour, Kay Bojesen’s figures and designs decorate and adorn any surface. And by combining craftsmanship and humour, Kay Bojesen has managed to turn wood into original and vibrant stories.

Designs that are born from humour and imagination are perhaps best exemplified in the Kay Bojesen's many different wooden figures. These beloved wooden figures appeal to the child in all of us.

The iconic Monkey

The most famous of all Kay Bojesen’s figures, the Monkey, was born in 1951. The little wooden monkey that made Kay Bojesen so famous actually came about when the designer wanted to make a hook to hang the children’s jackets on. Instead, it ended up as a piece of iconic Danish art. At whatever stage of your life you come across the monkey, he will soon become a friend for life and a beloved design icon in your home.

It is in this crossfield between functionality, aesthetics and imagination that we strive to continue Kay Bojesen's joy and work and bring it to homes all over the world.

When we renew the classic designs Kay Bojesen made, it is always with respect and an eye for traditions. The relaunched Marine, for example, is designed with exactly the same basic shape as the original figure – tall, proud and charming, with the head slightly tilted. The details of the painting and the position of the eyes have been slightly adjusted, but with great respect for the original design. However, the figure is still as simple, stylish and iconic as the original. The uniform is navy blue, and the distinctive collar with the white stripes is painted by hand with great precision,  just like the rest of the figure.

The world of Kay Bojesen is not one you ever grow out of. It’s a world you keep growing with. The aesthetics and materials are long-lasting, which is also why Monkey and the other characters have a special knack in capturing our hearts.

Kay Bojesen connects past, present and future

Meanwhile, we're also ahead at the future and we want our products to be able to keep up with the times. Inspired by the current era we live in, Kay Bojesen Denmark has launched a panda in FSCTM-certified wood, inspired by two pandas who came to the Copenhagen zoo in 2019. With the typical and distinctive panda features, Kay Bojesen's Denmark Panda has its very own charisma.

The panda’s cute tumbler body is shaped after Kay Bojesen's Bear, and dressed in black and white colours, creating a new yet original design with all that famous Bojesen charm.

Kay Bojesen was passionate about anything that made children and the young at heart happy. And this is probably also why his designs have a specical place in the hearts of the many people who grew up with them. Especially in the Nordic countries, where the iconic wooden figures are given as gifts for christenings, confirmations and birthdays and naturally become part of the family. True to Kay Bojesen’s DNA, most of our products and figures are designed to be passed down through the line – and thus the magical world of Kay Bojesen continues to bring joy to generation after generation.
The monkey from Kay Bojesen with ruler and pieces of wood

Brand traits: What do they each mean?

Kay Bojesen’s iconic brand is based on a solid foundation of values and a unique approach to design that has made our products popular year after year. Our strong foundations underpins the way we run our brand, design and product development. We always follow the times and bring new ideas to life, but it is equally important to us to stick to traditions and look back to the core values that Kay Bojesen stood for. Here are some of our special traits.

Our special traits

Kay Bojesen craftsman puts Monkey together

Craftsmanship

With a deep passion for craftsmanship and an eye for detail, Kay Bojesen has created an imaginative world of figures and objects that all have and continue to leave their mark on Danish design. The figures we create and produce are often complex compositions and very detailed, which is why the craftsmanship behind them must always be the best of the best.
Bears from Kay Bojesen on a table in front of a vase

High quality

Kay Bojesen’s products are all made to in the highest quality. We use sustainable materials and well-proven craft techniques – because we believe that good design is reflected in good quality. For example, since 1992, we have been using plantation teak for our animal figures as a sustainable alternative to rainforest teak. We only use responsibly produced teak from FSC®-certified plantations in our production.
Original Hippopotamus by Kay Bojesen

Original stories in wood

Kay Bojesen always crafted his figures with soul. He was passionate about creating a story for each of his figures – and at Kay Bojesen, all our figures have their own story. Kay Bojesen’s mantra was that 'the line should smile', and that’s what it does in all his designs.
Elephant from Kay Bojesen mirrored in different angles

Original Danish design

Kay Bojesen is one of Denmark’s largest and most renowned design names, and his crafts are among the most sought-after – a legacy that we proudly build on every day. Kay Bojesen has had a major impact on Danish design over the year – both with his humour, which brought new life to an otherwise serious and stringent design culture, and because he helped change the way children played.

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Kay Bojesen is part of Rosendahl.com

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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