The boat builder who became designer

Chresten Sommer

Chresten Sommer has always been fascinated by wood crafts. At first as a boat builder and in recent years as a designer of wood interior. When he is working, he is not satisfied until he feels that this piece is his best design – even if it takes several attempts. And his head and drawers are full of drawings for new designs. 

Chresten Sommer is the fifth kid in a classic Danish agricultural family of seven. Being a farmer was never on the cards. It didn't arouse his interest. But being a designer wasn't exactly on the cards either.

As an 18-year old he sought an apprenticeship as a plumber but didn't find a spot. Instead, he was offered an apprenticeship as a boatbuilder. He has been in the business ever since. And even though trimarans and handmade wood figures might seem like totally different worlds, the handicrafts of them both lies in the hands, he tells.

”Both arts is about processing wood. And I am happy with the versatile craft that lies in boat-building. It embraces both greater woodwork but especially more delicate woodwork. Even though it takes a little less time to turn a seal than it takes to build a boat, the craft is similar", Chresten tells.

A small girl got the dream going

It was a small girl who really got the dream of being a designer going. She was visiting Chresten's workshop with her mom. And the little girl really wanted a small wooden figure. Of course, Chresten started turning his bench lathe.

In a very short time, Chresten had developed a series of small wooden men that could be stacked. However, it took a while and a meeting with Spring Copenhagen, before his first products came out of the cosy darkness of his workshop.

In the middle of turning the head for a polar bear Chresten suddenly became aware of the contours of a seal head and couldn't resist the urge to develop the body.

This was how The female seal and The baby seal came about.

The most important is the craftsmanship

Chresten wants his designs to appeal to both sexes and of all ages. It needs to be a simple design that underlines the raw aesthetics of the wood and preferably combining the natural with the childlike and sweet. Og it comes without saying that it always need to be handmade.

”Even though it sometimes takes a while it is crucial to me that the figure has the correct proportions and the right expression. I am not content until I feel that this piece is my best design to date," he tells.

The handmade - or hand turned - is absolutely pivotal for Chresten. It has always been the craftsmanship that attracted him and his interest. And it was the fascination for the crafts that made him begin as a designer 15 years ago.

He turned candleholders, bowls and egg cups in wood and was deeply inspired by Kristian Vedel and Danish design icon, Kay Bojesen. Over time he found his own touch, and he slowly began to develop his own designs, now peaking with Mother Seal and Baby Seal going on sale.