March 18th, 2012
Steve Swanson, owner of Danish Teak Classics, recently acquired a number of Dansk cutlery pieces. Turning them over in my hand, it was easy to see the difference between designer flatware and run-of-the-mill flatware. The Dansk pieces are not only sleek and beautiful, but they are smooth as butter, and they have a weight to them that promises durability. Each piece fits and balances perfectly in your hand and they're a joy to hold. That sounds a bit silly, but if you have used Dansk cutlery, you'll have to agree.
Dansk was enormously popular in America in the 1960s and 1970s. Everything was changing. Lifestyles were changing and the home and its furnishing changed to support the new American past times. No longer was food preparation relegated as a behind doors activity. Homes went to an open-plan, everything became more casual to accommodate to life without a house servant, and people yearned for fun, sometimes wild, get-togethers and BBQs.
Scandinavian design aptly met these new needs. Elegant, simple, functional and modern, Scandinavian design was both casual and cool, which appealed greatly to young American families. With a range of prices, Dansk was good design within reach of the middle class, which helped it to establish a long-standing household name.
On display at the Kunsthandwaerkmuseet (Danish Museum of Art & Design) in 1954, Americans Martha and Ted Nierenberg saw a hand-crafted teak and silver cutlery set by Jens Quistgaard. They tracked down the artist and convinced him to mass produce his design. His design became the Fjord flatware for Dansk, and remains one of the bestsellers for the company. The Nierenbergs and Quistgaard became business partners, with Quistgaard as the lead designer. By 1982, Quistgaard had designed over 2000 designs for Dansk cutlery, glassware and home wares. Today, his designs are in the Louvre, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Museum of Modern Art.