Kay Bojesen Biography 



Kay Bojesen (1886-1958) remained a child at heart through out his life. He was a trained silversmith, but also worked with steel.

But it was his wooden toys that made him famous, and those are the most coveted collector’s items.

The fun loving and colorful personality of Kay Bojesen unfolded in his childhood home. He was born into a middle-class home in Copenhagen, the son of Ernst Bojesen, who originally was a bookseller, but later became a successful publisher and among other things published the popular satiric comic “Blæksprutten”- The octopus.

But his son chose another way, first he was in training as a grocer, but later he changed directions and became a trainee at Georg Jensen as a silversmith in 1906. And in 1913 Kay Bojesen opened up his own workshop where he worked with silver, later in steel and in time also with the wooden products that made him famous internationally.


Within his training period at Georg Jensen he used the ornamented and decorated “skønvirke style” of that
time. But he distanced himself from that past in 1928 with an article in “The New Periodical For The Art Industry”, after this he developed into a true pioneer in the modernization of Danish arts and crafts.

He was also among the originators of a yearly exhibit for Danish arts and crafts called “Den Permanente” – The Permanent.

Kay Bojesen said when the exhibit was established,

“We are sliding into a time of simplification where the practical design of everyday things will be an important demand to consider.”

He had developed into a functionalist and did not like any unnecessary details, but at the same time he liked a friendly design with no sharp edges, he described it in this way:

“Lines have to smile. There have to be life, blood and heart in things you let go. They have to be human, warm and alive.”


Innovative toys:

Kay Bojesen never gave up the silver, but it was the wooden toys that got the most attention, also beyond Denmark’s borders.

His first interest within this field already showed in the 1920s where he decided to make some toys for his son, instead of buying the mass produced toys that were for sale in the local stores. In 1932 he introduced his building – blocks, with the headline “toy-premiere”, this name was chosen because Kay Bojesen was well aware that it was a total innovation to link toys and arts and crafts.

Since then he produced trains, cars, human and animal figures, and a farm which was received with great enthusiasm.

The teacher Jens Sigsgaard wrote in 1959, that the toys Kay Bojesen had made, appealed to both children and to the more adult children because the things were round and cute, and they appealed to adults too because they were beautiful.


However the most famous of Kay Bojesens many animals – the monkey – was not made until 1951. It was popular here in Denmark, where it among other things was a mascot for the television program, “Pladeparade” (record parade) with the popular Otto Leisner as host, but the monkey also achieved great success in the USA.

Still the request was denied when Kay Bojesen tried to get the little chimpanzee approved by “Udvalget for bedre turistvarer” (The committee for better souvenirs) as a Danish quality souvenir. The reason for the dismissal was that the monkey was not a Danish animal. Stories tell that Kay Bojesen replied that he could mention several Danish monkeys by name, but on the contrary he had never heard of any mermaids in the Danish waters.

Today both the monkey and other Kay Bojesen designs are coveted collector’s items. The monkey is, together with about a dozen other things, still being produced at Rosendahl, but also the older things have got the status of classic Danish design.

The demand for Kay Bojesen design is so high that he got an entire chapter in the book: “250 Danish design furnitures” that was published in 2004 by the publishing house Aschehoug.

The book was made in corporation with the internet auction www.lauritz.com and it is filled with good advice for people who want to buy or sell Danish design.

And because of the interest with the price of Kay Bojesen’s designs are rising in these years the wooden toys have been described thoroughly in the book.


Immortal design:

Fortunately Kay Bojesen lived to experience a great recognition. Among other things his lifelong active effort led to his honorary membership of “Landsforeningen Dansk Kulturhåndværk” (the National Association Danish Arts and Crafts) and when he died in 1958 the association’s manager Bent Salicath wrote these commemorative words about Kay Bojesen:

“People who do not know Kay Bojesen by name will use his designs, children’s hands will grab for toys and animals made of wooden all around the world and only use it and feel it and discover something about it that comes from this man they do not know. The humor that is captured and made into animals and toys, the straightforward,  healthy stringency  of the everyday designer items shaped with a robust elegance, is everything that lives on in these so-called dead things, which got life and soul  from this man.”




                                                        Source material: Lone Krogsholm and Jyllands-posten.
                                                 Special thanks to Lone Krogsholm.