Nanna Ditzel 1923–2005
Nanna Ditzel was one Denmark’s most versatile and creative female designers of the 20th century. Ditzel worked with a wide range of forms designing furniture, jewellery, tableware and textiles using mastering an astonishing range of materials – wood, wicker, silver, ceramics and fiberglass.
Born in Copenhagen, Ditzel started her career as an apprentice cabinetmaker at the Richards School in Denmark before moving on to study furniture at the Royal Academy’s furniture school under the great craftsman of his day, Kaare Klint. She graduated in 1943.
While at the furniture School she met her future husband and collaborator, Jørgen Ditzel, and together they began entering (and winning) design competitions and exhibitions while they were still students. The two married in 1946 and formally established their design studio together. Jørgen Ditzel had trained in furniture upholstery a skill that contributed to their joint experiments in designing flowing chair and sofa designs. Together they won numerous accolades, including silver medals at the Milan Triennale in 1951 and 1957 and a gold medal in 1960, and the prestigious Lunning Prize in 1956. But their life and work together ended abruptly when Jørgen passed away unexpectedly in 1961 at the age of 40.
Ditzel’s early work adhered to the classic Danish modern tenets of simplicity, comfort and quality, producing armchairs with softly curved backrests much in the spirit of Hans J. Wegner. Ditzel’s signature piece of that time is her Ring Chair Designed in collaboration with her husband, Jørgen Ditzel, a fabric maker, the chair produced today by Getama A/S has a semicircular padded armrest that seems to embrace the sitter. Ditzel began designing in wicker and in 1959 produced the ‘Hanging Egg Chair’. The piece, suspended from the ceiling by a chain, became a favourite for fashion shoots and an icon of 196o’s design.
In 1956, Ditzel began designing for the Danish silverware firm Georg Jensen, an association that lasted some 40 years during which she created organically shaped jewellery, barware, ceramic tableware and even tablecloths. Like her contemporary Verner Panton Nanna Ditzel was not afraid to embrace industrial materials designing a series of fiberglass chairs in the mid-1960s. Some of her most visually provoking work came late on in her career with pieces for Fredericia Furniture such as the ‘Bench for Two’ in 1989 with its bold silk screen printed finish, and the ‘Trinidad chair’ in 1992, with it’s beautifully fretted back of moulded plywood.
Nanna Ditzel Biography
1943 Trained as a cabinet maker.
1944 Exhibited furniture at SE (the Joiners’ Autumn Exhibition).
1945 Awarded 2nd prize at SE. Hospitant (temporary student) at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts’ School of Furniture under Kaare Klint.
1946 Trained at the School of Arts, Crafts and Design. Established own design studio, in collaboration with Jørgen Ditzel.
1947 Won eight competitions in design textiles, furniture, glass, enamel and pottery.
1950 Won 1st prize in the National Board of the Goldsmith Trade in Denmark’s competition. Won the armchairs, woven chairs and teak frames competition of the Copenhagen Cabinet Maker’s Guild.
1951 Silver Medal, Triennale, Milan, Italy.
1952 Began partnership with Unikavæv and Halling-Koch.
1954 Silver Medal, Triennale, Milan, Italy. Published the book ‘Danish Chairs’. Began partnership with Georg Jensen.
1956 Awarded the Lunning Prize.
1957 Silver Medal, Triennale, Milan, Italy.
1960 Gold Medal, Triennale, Milan, Italy.
1964 Designed the ‘Hallingdal’ furnishing fabric.
1970 Established own design studio in London. Created the Interspace International Furniture House/Design Centre, London, in collaboration with husband Kurt Heide.
1981 Elected chairman of the Design and Industries Association, London.
1986 Established own design studio in Copenhagen.
1989 Awarded Gold Medal at the International Furniture Design Competition, Asahikawa, Japan
1992–94 Member of the Board of Directors of the Danish Design Centre.
1995 Awarded the ID Prize.
1996 Elected Honourable Royal Designer by the Royal Society of Art, London.
1997 Awarded the Honorary Grant of the Anniversary Foundation of Danmarks Nationalbank
1998 Awarded lifelong Artist’s Grant by the Danish Arts Foundation. Awarded the Crafts Council’s Annual Prize.
1999 Awarded the Thorvald Bindesbøll Prize.
2001 Awarded the Danish Design Prize (Classic Prize) 2001, for Hallingdal textiles.
Nanna Ditzel Designs