The Paper Mobiles of Anni and Bent Knudsen
By 1952, Bent Knudsen had already begun to establish himself as a fine silversmith. In 1945, he had completed his education at the Cohr silver manufactury in Frederica and a year later was gainfully employed with Hans Hansen. It was here with the encouragement of Mrs. Hansen, that Bent Knudsen decided to start his own business experimenting and designing in paper. Hearkening back to his childhood experience of designing and creating delightful paper cutouts, he began to work on creating a series of Christmas ornaments and paper mobiles at home, with his wife, Anni, working hard to sell his creations.The paper decorations quickly caught on due to Bent's creative and whimsical style.
Within 4 years, Bent and Anni Knudsen's business had achieved both national and international success, and in 1956, he had resigned from Hans Hansen to pursue his own growing business, and became a supplier for the famous "Den Permanente" as well as the Danish Handcraft Guild. The company also began to produce silver pieces and jewelry to supplement their catalog and, perhaps, as another creative outlet for Bent's skills.
He enjoyed experimentation and to pull new ideas from different sources. The way links on a bracelet were joined might inspire a new way of connecting parts of his latest mobile, or perhaps, a shape from one of his mobiles might inspire a brooch. Of course, paper and silver weren't the only mediums in which Bent took to. he also created designs in cardboard, glass, and plastics, and in 1958, he was commissioned to create small elephant and donkey figurines to be sold by Nieman Marcus for the upcoming 1960 election. This original order amounted to two TONS of leather animals to be shipped to the US, and was followed by similar orders in the following two elections. These pieces today are quite rare, though the occasional elephant can be found for sale.
By 1963, their operation had reached a point where they were producing almost 200 designs, and employed approximately 45 employees, with nearly three times as many during their busier periods. It was also during this year that they were commissioned by the Danish Crow Princes Couple to create a set of jewelry that was to be a gift to the Queen of Thailand. The following year Bent would design a toiletry set as a wedding gift for Her Royal Highness, Princess Anne Marie.
In the following years, the mobiles would only increase in popularity as they began exporting to over 75 different countries, and participatingin various exhibitions. In 1969, the couple recieved an award from the Danish Trade Council for their mobile featuring the Royal Danish Lifeguards, the Faxe's Designpris in 1987, and the European Gold Star for Quality in 1988.The mobiles had become such an iconic part of Danish culture that from 1994 on, Danish Television would produce a movie about the creation of that year's latest Christmas design, and when Bent Knudsen passed away, Koldinghus issued a series of stamps depicting his old Christmas designs. The Koldinghus Museum would honor him again in 2002 for their exhibition "50 Years of Paper Art" and feature hundreds of different designs, including many for the holidays as well as his more whimsical animal designs and more geometric forms.
Although new designs are, of course, no longer being produced, the business still lives on, and the company, Livingly, since 2008, has had the rights to reproduce the paper mobiles, and frequently rereleases "new" mobiles based on his old works, proving interest still exists in Bent Knudsen's variety of whimsy still have a plae in the hearts of many over 50 years later.
You can also see what designs we have in stock of Bent Knudsen
You can find Livingly's website with the collection HERE