De­sign Mo­ment

Bright colours and whim­si­cal themes el­e­vated a tra­di­tional craft to a de­sign clas­sic, writes Chris Pear­son.

Australian House & Garden - - News -

How Chris­tian Flen­sted’s home­made mo­bile for his baby daugh­ter be­came a clas­sic.

When Mette Flen­sted was bap­tised in Funen, Den­mark, in 1953, her fa­ther Chris­tian (pic­tured) marked the oc­ca­sion with the gift of a stork mo­bile. His cre­ation of three card­board birds, mounted on two straws hang­ing by a thread, com­bined move­ment and colour with sto­ry­telling and hu­mour.

In Den­mark, mak­ing mo­biles is a tra­di­tional craft that hangs neatly on the hook of hygge, a cosi­ness and com­fort­able con­vivi­al­ity that en­gen­ders a feel­ing of con­tent­ment or well­be­ing.

“Dan­ish weather can be cold and dark, which leads us to spend a lot of time in­doors dec­o­rat­ing our homes,” says Chris­tian’s grand­daugh­ter Christine. And once upon a time, those months in­doors also gen­er­ated a tra­di­tion of sto­ry­telling. “My grand­fa­ther was a bril­liant sto­ry­teller and bril­liant sales­man – he re­ally knew how to cre­ate fairytales,” she says.

So pop­u­lar were the ‘Lucky Storks’, as they be­came known, that in 1954 Chris­tian and his wife Grethe started pro­duc­ing mo­biles com­mer­cially. “My grand­fa­ther not only de­signed and pro­duced mo­biles to make homes more beau­ti­ful, he sold sto­ries about love and hope,” says Christine, now CEO of Flen­sted Mo­biles, the com­pany Chris­tian founded.

In 1982, his son Ole and daugh­ter-in-law Aase took the reins of the firm. Ole, a gifted de­signer and en­tre­pre­neur, and Aase, “a mag­i­cal sales­woman and ex­tremely gifted with lan­guages”, made a for­mi­da­ble team. They fre­quented in­ter­na­tional trade fairs, pro­mot­ing the ex­port side of the busi­ness while also en­sur­ing “the roots of the com­pany tree grew deeper and stronger in the Dan­ish soil”. Af­ter 35 years, Ole and Aase trans­ferred con­trol of the com­pany to their daugh­ter Christine ear­lier this year.

Flen­sted Mo­biles now pro­duces about 200 de­signs, yet its phi­los­o­phy re­mains un­changed. Since the be­gin­ning, the mo­biles have been as­sem­bled by home­work­ers. “In­stead of 60 peo­ple driv­ing to a fac­tory ev­ery day, they work from their homes,” says Christine. “We ex­change unassem­bled parts for mo­biles packed and ready to ship. This saves more than 14 tonnes of fuel ev­ery year.”

And the prod­uct, like the com­pany, spans the gen­er­a­tions. “I’ve of­ten heard how a Flen­sted mo­bile be­comes a part of a fam­ily,” she says. “Our mo­biles be­come heir­looms and are passed from gen­er­a­tion to gen­er­a­tion, re­mind­ing the grand­chil­dren of their grand­par­ents.”

WHAT IT MEANS TO US

Flen­sted Mo­biles took to global roam­ing early, land­ing in Aus­tralia (one of its first over­seas mar­kets) in the 1960s. Now about 90 per cent of its prod­uct is ex­ported, to around 30 coun­tries.

The rain­bow-coloured ‘Bal­loon 5’ mo­bile is the top seller here, says Craig McCredie, di­rec­tor of lo­cal agent De­sign Mode In­ter­na­tional. And par­ents aren’t the only ones pur­chas­ing. “We see ar­chi­tects and de­sign­ers buy­ing the more ab­stract mod­els for build­ings and larger spa­ces. They use the flow of breezes to cre­ate move­ment in nor­mally still and stark places.”

In a won­der­ful case of symmetry, Christine’s cur­rent favourite mo­bile echoes Chris­tian’s first cre­ation. “Be­fore, I didn’t pay much at­ten­tion to the ‘Ex­pect­ing Mother’,” she says, “but now that I would love to start a fam­ily, I find it poetic and beau­ti­ful.”

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