NANNA DITZEL (1923 - 2005)
Born in Copenhagen in 1923, Nanna Ditzel is one of Denmark's most accomplished designers and was the first woman to design for Georg Jensen. She was born in Copenhagen and attended the Danish School of Arts, Crafts and Design and the Royal Academy of Fine Arts, graduating in 1946. While still a student she began showing her work at the Cabinetmaker's Guild annual exhibits. She also met her first husband, Jorgen Ditzel at school and they began working and exhibiting together in 1944. She was trained in cabinet making; he in upholstery and they shared a design aesthetic based on creating comfortable, livable and simple environments.
The Ditzels spent the first part of their career together, as did many post war designers in Denmark, trying to produce furniture that would expand, separate or serve a dual purpose in order to appropriately furnish a small apartment. In their earliest years, their focus was originally on children's furniture, though soon moved on to design items for the rest of the home. Two of their innovative designs were a tea table with a top that lifted off to become a tray and a 1951 bed that tapered towards the foot to take up less space. In 1949, Ditzel designed the functional, but more decorative, curved "Two Seat Sofa" and a 1951 chaise lounge for Knud Willadsen. The Ditzel's cozy 1959 "Basket" chair, meant to be suspended from the ceiling, is the most famous example of their experiments working with wicker. They also designed a set of enamel kitchen utensils for the Ravnholm factory in the 1950's, and Nanna designed a series of jewelry that won a prize from the Goldsmith's Association in 1950.
In 1954, they began to create designs for Georg Jensen. Jorgen died in 1961 but Ditzel kept their studio going and continued to work in a variety of media, designing among others, wooden furniture and silver jewelry. In 1962, Ditzel came out with the successful "Toadstool," which was a multi-purpose, stacking stool or table for children.
Nanna Ditzel created many designs for Georg Jensen, mostly jewelry although she also created some hollowware. The relationship between the couple and the Silversmithy began when Nanna decided to start designing jewelry as something she could do at home while her children slept. Soon after, a jewelry competition sponsored by A. Michelsen arose, and her designs had won first prize. Later on, in 1954, Finn Juhl, who was developing the 50th anniversary exhibition, passed the design work off for the exhibition to the Ditzels. Five pieces of jewelry were created for this exhibit,which were very well received. Further jewelry designs were created, and many of these pieces would go on to win various awards and prizes. In 1968, Nanna Ditzel remarried to Kurt Heide and relocated to London where they continued to work in the realm of design, establishing their own company Nanna Ditzel Productions Ltd. In 1986, her second husband passed away, and she moved back to Denmark, continuing her work. In recent years, Ditzel has focused mainly on furniture design, such as the Trinidad chair in 1993, however this design has also led to the further refinement for her jewelry pieces such as the bracelet #389 in 1994.
Ditzel has won many major awards during her long career and has had her work exhibited all over the world. She received the silver and gold medals at the Milan Tirennale (1954 and 1960), the Lunning Prize (with Jorgen Ditzel in 1954) and a gold medal at the International Furniture Design Competition in 1990, and the Thorvald Bindesboll Medal in 1999. She has also taken on the title of Knight of the Order of the Dannebrog, Honorable Royal Designer ( 1996).
From GEORG JENSEN HOLLOWWARE, THE SILVERFUND COLLECTION, David A. Taylor & Jason W. Laskey, 2003
Click HERE to read about the Lunning Prize
Click HERE to visit a site depicting Jorgen Ditzel's gravestone and a short biography