Haeng at northmodern


One great strength of the design industries in Denmark is the phenomenal number of small and independent designers, crafts studios and consultancies and the number is growing all the time. Gloomy pessimists will say that that is the consequence of the economic downturn -  so there are fewer permanent salaried jobs in the larger companies and people are forced to go it alone. I'm much more optimistic than that. What you see are those really strong Danish characteristics of the merchant and the maker … possibly a much more acceptable concept socially than the current version called an entrepreneur. It means that Danish design has a real vitality. There are many … designers and makers … who have an idea and the drive and enthusiasm to pursue and bring to reality and to market their designs and concepts.

I first met Jakob Forum with his company Haeng at Finderskeepers last year. Finderskeepers is a lively market place for design, crafts, fashion and food that was held over a weekend at TAP1 on the Carlsberg site in Copenhagen and is also set up regularly in Aarhus. It attracts a really lively and mixed group of customers but actually with a strong element of young people and young families so it’s a great place to pitch ideas and new products.

Jakob has a background as a carpenter but has combined that with his idea for lighting that is very sculptural. The lights are put together from simple geometric elements that are beautifully turned in wood or made from natural materials like cork and wool. Each part has a strong sense of form and silhouette, but there are also strong colours. The starting point is a bulb holder and its light flex and all the other elements are threaded on to that so of course the flex itself can be a strong colour and can set the character of the final arrangement of the light.

Several ideas here are important. The individual pieces are beautifully made and presented and the final boxing and packaging is deceptively simple but well thought out. And what is important is the participation of the buyer … not just choosing the individual elements, which is great fun, but also deciding, back at home, just how those pieces are to be strung together … and of course in the future or in a different room or a different home the pieces can be moved around to create a different effect.

a suggestion for the starting point ... a light on the display at northmodern

the light in my apartment that I bought last year at Finderskeepers in Copenhagen 

Haeng has just opened a store and showroom in Copenhagen and their stand at northmodern looked really good … this is all a very confident move forward and they really do deserve to succeed.


Haeng, Vesterbrogade 204, 1800 Frederiksberg

Opening at present Wednesday to Friday 10 - 17 and the second Saturday of month 10 - 15

Lotte Westphaell at the craft market


The ceramicist Lotte Westphaell trained at Kolding and now has her studio in Silkeborg.

Her distinctive and elegant pieces illustrate several major points about design and the design process that have been discussed on this site but are well worth repeating.

These are slabs pots but not the normal style of slab pots that immediately spring to mind. Raising the sides of a vessel by pinching the clay and pulling it upwards or by forming the sides with thin rolls of clay then smoothed together or forming a flat single sheet of clay and then raising it around a flat and usually circular base … making a slab pot … as techniques predate moulding or throwing pieces on a potters wheel. It would be wrong to see such pots as crude or basic and in skilled hands those techniques can be used to make thin and well-shaped and well-finished pots but here the clay is a fine porcelain body in a mixture or recipe that Lotte has developed for this phase of her work and the finished work is an incredibly refined and elegant slab pot.  And phase is the right word because on the stall at the craft market it was possible to see several pieces that reflected stages in more than three years of development.

What makes the finished ceramics so elegant and so astonishing is that the partly-dried sheets of clay for the sides are slashed and the strips of darker clay inserted and the sides rolled thinner again so that the design is actually not applied as it might appear to be but is an integral part of the material of the piece. The tall sides are then built up by butting together thinner strips and, as any potter will tell you, the most difficult part and the most vulnerable part likely to be revealed in the firing is any joins. Here the join also has to be precise as the style of the finished work has an exacting graphic quality. The strips added to each other reminded me of ikat and textiles where strips or woven ribbons are sewn together to form a larger piece. When I suggest that, Lotte Westphael smiled and said that actually she has studied in Japan and suddenly it was obvious that the finished works do have that fascinating design aesthetic that can be seen independently and with clear but subtle differences in Denmark and in japan. The colour palette of the finished works could be typically Danish or, on the other hand, typically Japanese.

What these ceramic works show so clearly is a complicated relationship between the interests and the evolving style of the artist; a design concept that evolves and develops over a sequence of works and designs for pieces that rely on the confidence to push both the material and the techniques used in new directions or to new boundaries or limits. To use phrases like confidence or courage when talking about design might seem odd to someone who does not design or does not make but actually that sense of focus combined with the determination to realise an idea is at the core of much new design work. Courage? Well yes. For most potters the works they sell are their only income. So safer to stick with making what people have bought before. Confidence? Well yes because, for instance here, the clay in the early stages of the production is not self supporting so the sides are set out around a former but as the clay dries it shrinks so remove it too soon and the piece collapses or try to remove the former too late and it won’t come out. Hours of work can be lost.

A kiln will take days and days of work in a single firing. Get that firing wrong and that time and that potential income is lost. Few potters would talk about those aspects of their work to a customer … particularly in the environment of the craft market … but this clearly is a good example of one of those points where design skills, technical skills, the understanding of what the materials can or cannot do and the imagination to try and realise new ideas all come together.


Lotte Westphaell, Anedalvej 1b, Silkeborg

ceramics at the Frue Plads market

Ane-Katrine von Bülow, Møntergade 6, Copenhagen


The annual craft market on Frue Plads in Copenhagen provides an amazing opportunity to see a huge range of styles, forms and colours of ceramics of the highest quality. 

To start with the mundane … pottery is simply carefully selected earth that has been formed into a shape that is dried; possibly decorated - with incised, applied or painted decoration - and usually, but not always, covered with a glaze and then fired in a kiln at a greater or lesser temperature, depending on the nature and qualities of the clay and the effect planned, for the finished work to form a resilient and long-lasting piece. 

But then the reality, or at least the reality here is that the ceramics produced are personal and dynamic. For a start, the ceramics reflect the quality of the clay chosen - fine and regular and able to form a thin and precise shape and fired at a high temperature - or heavier or even with an inherent colour ranging from pale grey through to deep brown depending on minerals present in the clay. And texture varies from almost impossibly smooth to almost gritty clay used for robust and organic work and the forms that are possible range from almost impossibly delicate to strong and sculptural and the finish from precise regularity through to an almost-free irregularity. Colour for a glaze or for painted decoration applied to the surface can be anything from a thin wash, reminiscent of a water-colour painting, to a depth of colour that is almost so thick and so deep that it is almost tangible and designs can be anything from fine graphic lines to the boldest and strongest shapes and patterns.

Perhaps it is this almost infinite number of permutations for form, colour and texture that make ceramics so attractive not least because each piece reflects the taste and the interests of the individual ceramicist and works are often the product of a long period of experimentation with the careful development of a technique to create the form or pattern envisioned.


Anne Rolsted, Kagerupvej 22, Regstrup

Charlotte Nielsen, Reerslevvej 20a, Ruds Vedby

Karin Patricia Jensen, Anna Queens Stræde 5, Helsingør

Bente Brosböl Hansen, 1685 Klåverröd, Sweden

Finn Dam Rasmussen, Haredalen 4, Tisvildeleje

Jytte Strøm, Torupvejen 109, Hundested

Helle Vestergaard, Kigkuren 8d, Copenhagen

Nelly Gaskin, Gammeltotv 2a, Skælskør

Birgitte and Hans Börjeson, FulbyGl Skole, Dansbrovej 2, Sorø

Note there were over 130 stalls at the market so the selection here is simply of images that give an impression of the huge range of styles and forms of work shown at the market. Also the event was packed with visitors and there is an amazing crowd dynamic where, as soon as you find some space and an open view of a work, at least six people, thinking you must have spotted something good, step in front of the camera to get a closer view themselves of what must be really interesting … because someone is photographing. And of course it is not the most appropriate time to talk to a maker/designer when they have to focus on those people actually buying … but several names were noted down for visits to studios later in the year.

Names highlighted here in bold green type should give a direct link to the artists own site and details but the web site of Danske Kunsthåndværkere & Designere has an excellent gazetteer with links and images.

work in wood at the craft market

Monomade in Denmark


The craft market on Frue Plads is not an obvious venue for craft pieces in wood … the cabinet makers' guild hold regular exhibitions for major pieces and also general design shows and markets such as northmodern or the Finders Keepers market are a good place to find handmade one-off or small run pieces in wood made by craftsmen.

However there were two stalls at the Frue Plads market that had work in wood and both illustrated simple but important points about good design.

Monomade in Denmark was founded by the architects Kira Snowman and Uffe Topsøe-Jensen and is based in Copenhagen. Their beautifully simple - or, rather better to say, deceptively simple pieces - show how important it is to design with clean lines, careful use of appropriate proportions and using the very best timber to highlight and enhance the qualities of the material itself … the goal is to achieve a balanced partnership between the natural material and the skill of the maker.

The ceramicist Jenni Godtlebsen used shelves and a hanging rack by Vestwood with her amazing cups and plates to show how the the pieces do have a clear functional role in a kitchen as well as being beautiful ceramic works but the juxtaposition of fired and glazed pieces set against the natural wood emphasises that ceramics too are made from a natural material. As with timber, it is the variations and the slight irregularities in the finished and fired ceramics that give the works a warmth and vitality.

ceramics by Janni Godtliebsen with wood peg storage rail by Vest Wood

Kunsthåndværker Markedet … amazing art and/or beautiful utility?

mugs by Janni Godtliebsen


A significant proportion of the ceramic works on show at the craft market were clearly decorative and that’s fine … the potter as ceramic artist or maker. Glass at this level of design and craftsmanship tends to be more practical so there were certainly wine glasses and jugs at the market but still plenty of presentation pieces. Many of the stalls had flowers or fruit in their vases or bowls but this was presumably to make the display as attractive as possible rather than suggest clear practical use. 

Believe me, this is not a criticism of the designers and artists but may simply reflect the practical approach of the Danes to buying table ware and glass and ceramics for their dining rooms and kitchens. There is probably a clear division in people’s minds between decorative work and practical table ware. I was just curious that although there were mugs and so on, which were clearly to be seen as something special … a gift or a treat to oneself … it would have been difficult to go around the market and buy enough tableware to set a table for a full dinner.

Perhaps this is not the right venue for that … the Kunsthåndværker Markedet does show the work of some of the best craft artists in the country but on the other hand it does deliberately call itself a craft market and not an art fair.

read more

northmodern - Copenhagen August 2016

Northmodern opens this week on Thursday the 18th August and continues on Friday and Saturday the 19th and 20th at the Bella Center in Copenhagen. 

This is a major trade fair for Scandinavian design where newly-established companies show alongside the well-known designers and design companies … the place to see the best of design from the region and an event where many Danish companies launch new designs for this Autumn. 

Northmodern shows clearly the strengths but also the breadth and diversity and the vitality of the design and manufacturing industries in Denmark.


northmodern, Bella Center, Center Boulevard 5, 2300 Copenhagen S

18th, 19th and 20th August 2016

Bredgade Open

Bredgade in Copenhagen is the main street that runs out from the large public square of Kongens Nytorv to Esplanaden and Kastellet beyond and is the spine of the 18th-century part of the city. 

It is lined with palaces, grand apartments and major institutional buildings and museums including, at the far end, the Design Museum.

Here there are some of the long-established art and antique dealers and auction houses in the city and main display spaces of Danish design companies including Carl Hansen, Rud. Rasmussen and Montana.

The street will celebrate with an open evening on Friday 19th August when there will be special displays and refreshments, including street food. It is a great opportunity to meet and talk to professionals from design and art in the city.


Bredgade Open

Friday 19th August 2016 15.00 - 20.00


KADK exhibition of graduate work 2016

The annual exhibition of the work of graduates from KADK …  Det Kongelige Danske Kunstakademis Skoler for Arkitektur, Design og Konservering… continues until the 21st August.

This is project work by 162 newly-qualified architects and 80 designers. Themes covered reflect current concerns about the environment, sustainability and, on the architecture side, adapting existing buildings to new uses or fitting new demands, in terms of evolving life style or new expectations, within an existing urban landscape. 

What is fascinating is to see that courses and projects set by academic staff clearly reflect major new concerns that the formal education and training system has to respond to now but the projects also show the personal concerns and interests of this, the next generation of architects and designers, as they grapple with and resolve these problems with huge amounts of energy and considerable imagination.

Student projects are divided into the separate teaching disciplines … so Building Design and Culture; Building Design Technology; Building and Landscape Design; Art and Design; Product Design and the work of the Institute of Visual Design … but there are recurring themes across the disciplines such as the exploration of the potential of new materials; to balance that, a focus on new ways to use traditional building materials and building techniques such as timber framing and a focus on using marginal land … both less hospitable topographies as climate change means the occupation of more extreme environments and the need to reuse difficult brown-field sites in densely built cities rather than encroaching further on agricultural land beyond a city boundary.

Over the next week or so more detailed assessments of some of the projects will be posted on this site. 



Afgangsudstilling Sommer 2016

KADK, Danneskiold-Samsøes Allé 51, 1435 Copenhagen K

continuing until the 21st August 2016 and open every day from 11.00 to 18.00

admission free

the craft market at Frue Plads on its first afternoon

An initial post of photographs to show the range and the quality of the craft and design at the craft market on Frue Plads.


1 the craft market on the first afternoon

2 ceramics from Ane-Katrine von Bülow, Montergade 6, Copenhagen 

3 ceramics from Finn Dam Rasmussen, Haredalen 4, Tisvildeleje 

4 Anne Rolsted, Kagerupvej 22, Regstrup 

5 large plate from Jytte Strom, Torupvejen 109, Hundested  

6 glass from Glaspusteriet Bülow Duus, Studsgade 14, Århus

7 wine glasses by Lena Ljungar and Jesper Sødring Venmenæsvej 10, Svendborg      

8 glass containers and vases by Marion Fortat, Vesterbogade 137, Copenhagen V 

9 textiles from the weaver Pia Jensen, Smallegade 52, Frederiksberg