Gunnar Flørning (1931 – 2014) is world famous for bringing life to wood, and today, many of his works are considered design icons. He was the man behind some of the biggest bestsellers of the 1950s and 1960s. He was incredibly creative in his work and has left behind a huge design archive that contains finished products, prototypes and sketches. His products reflect the optimism and belief in the future of the post-war years. This is clearly expressed in the playful and humorous design that is unmistakable in the wooden figures. The background for the creation process was based on the observation of animals, which were artistically wrought into finished products with a clear and simple expression.
He grew up in Bispebjerg in Copenhagen and was a child during WW2. Later, like so many others of that time, he was drafted into the army. It was during this period as a soldier that, in trench in a ploughed field, Gunnar’s interest in carving wooden figures began. Gunnar was a mechanic in the army and he and his soldier comrade were desperately bored at times. So he began carving wooden figures from old fence posts and this was where Gunnar realised he had a special talent for shaping wood. 1952 was the starting point for Gunnar’s artistic work and, over the course of a short number of years, he created an entire universe of wooden figures in the 1950s and 1960s.
In the early days of production, Gunnar borrowed a small room in a basement in the Copenhagen neighbourhood of Nørrebro, in the building where he and his family lived. The room soon became too small, so he rented premises on Svanevej in Copenhagen’s north-west district.
The demand for his figures gradually grew, as did production, for which there were now 35 employees, so the factory moved to Blegdamsvej, Copenhagen Ø, where there was room for both the factory and the design office. The figures were distributed to a large number of shops in Denmark and he exported his products to many countries around the world. Even though Gunnar had great commercial success, his desire to carve wooden figures himself did not diminish and many of his prototypes were, as a consequence, made by hand.
The Cat was launched in 1957 and was used by, among others, the theatre club Thalia, as an honorary award for the most popular revue artists. It can also be mentioned that in 1961, Dirch Passer and Bodil Steen were awarded the Cat, whereupon Dirch Passer exclaimed “Well, aren’t I the cat’s whiskers!” Ghita Nørby and Osvald Helmuth have also received the Cat.
Back then the Cat was produced in many different sizes from tiny to huge, which can be seen in the photo above.
Gunnar Flørning’s legacy is being relaunched today with extraordinary care and respect for the original designs and in constant dialogue with the family. This ongoing dialogue makes it possible for us to get very close to the original spirit of the products. We work with the same palette of natural materials as in the past, meaning wood, leather, etc. All wooden products carry the mandatory labels and will be produced in a responsible way. In the coming years, several original products from Gunnar Flørning’s universe will be launched.