You might have seen on Instagram that I was recently invited over to Copenhagen along with a small group of other bloggers to see behind the scenes at Danish brands Georg Jensen and Garde Hvalsøe. Despite making very different products, both have a reputation for considered design and high-quality craftsmanship, and it was a joy to learn more about what they do. I’ll cover my time with Garde Hvalsøe in a separate post, but today I want to focus on Georg Jensen, whose HQ was the setting for our first day.
I’ve long been a fan of Georg Jensen and have worked with the brand a few times, but for those of you who don’t know much about it, it was founded in 1904 by Georg Jensen himself. He trained as a goldsmith and sculptor and began by producing Art Nouveau jewellery, before expanding into silver hollowware, tableware and cutlery. Sleeker steel pieces were introduced from the 1930s, partly in response to changing tastes and partly out of a desire to make good design accessible to more people. It was also around this time that the company began collaborating with outside creatives – a tradition continued after Jensen’s death in 1935 – and over the years it has worked with the likes of Henning Koppel, Arne Jacobsen, Patricia Urquiola and Zaha Hadid to produce some of the most iconic designs of the 20th and 21st centuries. Today, it makes and sells a beautiful range of products that spans everything from Georg Jensen’s original pieces to mid-century modern classics to contemporary jewellery and home accessories.
Our visit started with a tour of the smithy, where the finest silverware is hand-crafted by a highly skilled team. I’d been lucky enough to see it on a previous trip, but I was no less impressed this time around. Silversmiths here train for years, and some of the largest and most intricate designs require up to six months of patient hammering, chiselling and polishing. Many of the techniques have remained unchanged over the decades, and I was intrigued to learn that the team normally work from original drawings, some of which are more than a century old, rather than relying on computer-generated renderings.
We also got a fascinating glimpse into the processes used to resurrect long-lost pieces such as ‘Tureen 270’ – a stunning Art Nouveau masterpiece designed by Georg Jensen himself in 1918 and now being brought back to life. The original was created as a one-off and its whereabouts are unknown, so more than 1,000 hours of work have gone into recreating it from archive photos, sketches and plaster casts. It’s priced at a cool €160,000 / £145,000, so it’s a little beyond my budget, but that didn’t stop me admiring the incredible detailing and beautiful botanical motifs.
After a delicious lunch of smørrebrød (Danish open sandwiches), served at a sparkling table set with Georg Jensen cutlery, candles and vases, we headed to the design studio for an introduction to the brand-new ‘Helix’ collection. Created by Carl Philip Bernadotte and Oscar Kylberg of Stockholm-based Bernadotte & Kylberg, this stainless-steel coffee and tea service has just been launched and consists of a thermos jug, a teapot, a milk jug, a tray and a bonbonniere for sugar or sweets.
Oscar himself had travelled over from Sweden to talk us through the design process, which took more than two years. It began with a simple brief from Georg Jensen to create ‘something centred around coffee’, and involved lots of research and dialogue covering everything from the rituals associated with hot drinks to the unique properties of steel. The duo then moved on to idea generation, developing concepts for the collection as a whole and the individual pieces within it. Sketching, modelling and playing around with shapes came much later, and it was fascinating to see the conceptual drawings and prototypes laid out before us. Unlike most designers, Bernadotte & Kylberg decided not to a pay a visit to Georg Jensen’s vast archive (which, by the way, is deemed so important that it’s protected by the Danish government), preferring not to be influenced by what had gone before. There’s little doubt that their links to the company run deep, though – Carl Philip’s great uncle, Prince Sigvard Bernadotte, was the man behind its iconic ‘Bernadotte’ collection, and Oscar spoke fondly of growing up surrounded by Georg Jensen pieces.
We also heard from Georg Jensen’s chief creative officer Nicholas Manville about the care and attention that went into translating the designs into finished products. Every detail underwent extensive research and testing to ensure the collection is as practical as it is beautiful, from shaping the spouts to give the perfect flow of liquid to preventing any drips or heat escape. Even the reflective nature of steel and the ideal weight of a pot for pouring were taken into account.
The end result is a minimalist, elegant collection that captures the essence of Georg Jensen – timeless and rooted in Scandinavian design heritage, yet also innovative and adaptable. Most importantly, there’s no decoration simply for decoration’s sake, and every element was created to be functional – from the the sculptural helix-like twist on the lids to the long, easy-to-grip handles on the teapot and thermos jug. I absolutely love it, and I reckon it’s sure to be a future classic.
I’ll have more from my time in Copenhagen later in the week, but in the meantime you can see the full ‘Helix’ collection here. Prices range from €59 / £50 for the bonbonniere to €179 / £170 for the thermos jug.
My trip was hosted by Georg Jensen and Garde Hvalsøe, who covered my travel, accommodation and expenses.
‘Helix’ sketches and final image via Georg Jensen; all other photography by Abi Dare
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#DanishDesign #Coffee #GeorgJensen #ScandinavianInteriors #Homewares