March 31 2011
Because I’m loath to let my children grow up thinking that a mobile is a phone and not a piece of hanging sculpture, I’ve surrounded them with Flensted hanging mobiles from an early age. Flensted was one of the European pioneers of character and abstract mobiles in the last mid-century, and I still think that its designs – including my Elephant Party trio of primary-coloured elephants – are hard to beat. But they have a lesser-known rival. Livingly, a new Danish design company owned by Kent Sejdelin and his wife, architect and graphic designer Louise Brandt Helmersen, is reissuing and re-promoting the work of Bent and Anni Knudsen, creators of thousands of paper mobiles.
Silversmith Bent Knudsen’s first mobile was of a goofy-looking milking cow designed in 1938 when he was just 14, and still looks fresh enough to be one of the reissued designs. Later mobiles featured at the World Expo in New York in 1964 and were exhibited worldwide. But then in the 1990s Bent Knudsen became ill and the company began to fade with him.
Sejdelin and Helmersen bought the designs in 2008 and have since poured their efforts into new packaging, introducing eco-credentials, and reissuing 200 designs so far (out of a possible 4,000). My favourites for children include the Panda (€16, available from Smallable) – a trio of curious black and white animals with sweet little faces (this is the one I recently bought my animal fanatic son) – and the furled storks (first picture). Adult standouts include the space-agey UFO and the Circle Frame (second picture). Timeless, calming – and no annoying ring-tones.