When we first started Old Willow Lane, one of the posts I was keenest to write was going to be about Kay Bojesen Wooden Toys. This is that post! Of all the wooden toys out there, this remarkable Danish designer has surely made the most beautiful in the world!
My parents lived in Europe in the 1950s and when they came back home in 1959, they brought with them the Kay Bojesen wooden dachshund – it had been gifted to my mother by a Danish friend for the new baby she was carrying, who turned out to be my brother.
The dachshund was designed and first released in 1934 and is still being produced today.
Our dachshund – Danny – has been in our family for 60 years! – sometimes on the shelf, sometimes a toy. Right now he entertains my brother’s granddaughter – he has darkened with age and is wonderfully smooth – and greatly loved.
Who was Kay Bojesen? (1886 – 1958)
Kay was an incredibly talented Danish silversmith who, after the birth of his son, turned his hand to designing wooden toys.
In 1922, he entered a competition with four toys – a toy drum in painted beech, a wooden ship, a riding dragoon (a cavalryman) and a seesaw – and he won an award.
At the time, he said:
“It is simply because I have a son who is given all the toys imaginable by family and friends. But with the pitiful result that he, who is a strong and heavy-handed little chap, very quickly sees them go to pieces in his hands”.
In 1932, he opened a store close to the Amalienborg Palace in Copenhagen, and he and his wife worked here designing, making, and selling toys, silverware, wooden bowls and plates for over 26 years.
Kay’s fundamental belief for handcrafted wooden toys was that the design should be round, soft and have a good feel to it. He began creating imaginative toys in designs based on a child’s own world where, in his words, ‘lines need to smile’. The wooden toys he designed had to be simple, solid and inspire children to play.
The Kay Bojesen Rattle
In 1932, Kay designed what was to become a design classic, simply called “Rattle”.
This fabulous work of art is just as much a design object as it is a classic toy for your baby. It would also make a beautiful gift for new parents and will definitely stand out in a baby’s crib.
The rattle is made of smooth unpainted beech, it’s 8cm in diameter and easy for small hands to hold, and the ball in the middle of the rattle moves backwards and forwards, and spins around – this is a simple, elegant and timeless design that has been delighting children for more than 85 years!
Kay Bojesen Wooden Animals
Of all the designs that Kay is famous for, his wooden animals are surely the most beautiful in the world! We already mentioned the wooden dachshund that grew up with our family, but that little dog is just one of many animals designed by this amazing artist – even he called his wooden animals his “circus”.
Each piece is beautifully made from a collection of gorgeous timbers – plantation teak, walnut, limba wood, painted beech, and natural and smoked oak. This happy group are really timeless design classics that quickly become part of the family. These are not just toys that will last a lifetime, they will be passed down to generations to come, as toys or design pieces for your shelf!
Wonderful imaginative Play – A Creative Circus!
Kay Bojesen wanted his designs to have human elements, and be warm and vivid.
“It should remind us of a circus”
His amazing wooden animal collection does just that, and each animal has a distinct personality – your child will develop relationships with these toys!
Among the collection you will find the Dachshund, Terrier Dog Tim, Lovebirds, Songbirds, Sparrows, a Puffin, a Zebra, Elephant, Hippo, Rabbit, Bear, Horse, and the well-known classic Monkey!
The iconic Monkey comes in 4 different sizes and can also be adorned in a wooden student’s cap or a santa hat for Christmas fun!
All the animals are jointed so they can be manipulated into multiple positions, they feel beautiful in your hands with their rounded, smooth, wooden structure, and their robust, solid construction means they are going to last the test of time and play!
Kay Bojesen Wooden Cars
First designed in 1937, the classic wooden Sedan looks just as modern today as it did back then, with very cool aerodynamic lines!
The original Large Sedan is 27cm in length and made of beautiful, untreated oak, whilst the Small Red Sedan is 13cm and made of shiny painted beech wood.
The Sedan is a fully functional toy car – and it’s also a fabulous design piece for a collector to have on display for it’s iconic appeal.
The Kay Bojensen gorgeous Limousine comes in two sizes – The Large Limousine is made from light oak and measures 32cm, whilst the Small Black Limousine is 16cm long and has modern, clear, sleek lines.
Each car can be converted from a classic limousine into a sleek convertible by removing the roof!
Kay Bojesen Wooden Figurines
The Danish Life Guards
In 1940, King Christian X of Denmark celebrated his 70th birthday, and Kay produced four life-sized Life Guards to mark the occasion – these stood outside his store at over a metre in height as a tribute to the King as he rode past in his birthday procession.
In 1942, the Life Guards went into production as toys, and they are still lovingly handcrafted today.
The Life Guard Collection comprises a Standard Bearer, a drummer, and a guard who each wear the uniforms of the Danish Royal Life Guards – with bearskins hats, blue trousers, and red and white jackets. The Standard Bearer also comes with a cotton textile red and white Danish flag.
These are a gorgeous set of wooden soldiers made from hand-painted beech, sure to inspire imaginative playtime. Each guard is 22cm tall and has jointed parts – make them march in unison!
There is also a taller version of the Standard Bearer that stands at 50cm tall – he makes an impressive figure leading the others!
To give your Royal Guardsman a place to shelter there is also a beautifully crafted sentry box, painted in the traditional Danish red and white colours and embellished with the Royal Monogram in gold.
And for the serious collector or toy-store owner, the Standard Bearer also comes in a Large Life-Size version – he stands at 154cm tall and weighs nearly 8kg! This guy is made to be noticed!
Kay Bojesen PostMan Einar
Postman Einar was designed and produced to mark the 800th anniversary of Copenhagen in 1967. He is crafted in painted beech with authentic details such as the postman’s hat and the postman’s bag which even contains a letter!
The Postman is jointed and stands 20 cm tall, and he comes in very stylish gift box. We love Postman Einar!
Kay Bojesen Skiers
The two skiers were designed by Kay Bojesen towards the end of the 1940s, and were modeled after Kay’s son Otto and daughter-in-law Ruth.
We have a happy boy skier named Boje with a red bobble hat and blue jacket, and a happy girl skier named Datti with red cheeks, a big smile and red-checked jacket. The Skiers were modeled after Kay’s son Otto and daughter-in-law Ruth.
These two figures were originally only produced in a small series, so the original wooden ones are very rare. Thankfully for us, the skiers were relaunched in 2016.
Each figure stands at 15.5cm tall and the colourful, hand-painted beech wood makes them not only a fun toy, but an eye-catching interior design statement!
Kay Bojesen Santa Claus & Mrs Claus
Relaunched in 2013, Kay Bojesen’s Santa Claus was originally designed in the 1948 – and again, originals are very hard to find!
Santa Claus is made from painted beech and he comes with a sack and walking stick. He stands 20.5cm tall and is sure to become a family favourite every Christmas.
Mrs Claus was added to the collection just a few years ago – she is very similar in design to Santa Claus, but instead of his sack of toys, Mrs Claus is holding a porridge spoon.
We love the excitement when we bring out our Christmas decorations that have been packed away for a year – we have some beautiful, special pieces that totally enchant the children in our home!
Christmas pieces really bring nostalgia and love into the spirit of the season and since they are only on display once a year, a beautiful quality piece will be loved by the whole family for years to come.
Danish Design Icon
Kay Bojesen died at the age of 72 on 28 August 1958. His last design before his death was Rabbit in 1957. His widow Erna Bojesen continued to run their business until her death in 1986.
Now his collection of timeless designs are produced by the Danish Rosendahl Design Group, in close cooperation with Kay’s grandchildren!
The legacy of Kay Bojesen’s wooden masterpieces will be with us forever, and his designs have become true icons of the 20th century and beyond. We hope that you love Kay Bojesen’s wooden creations as much as we do!
We love all of Kay’s designs but a special favourite is Elephant. Which is yours?
Let us know in the comments, we would love to hear from you!