Appetite for life
Sven-Erik Tonn-Petersen (1925-2004) was a self-taught Danish designer who created a large collection of quality conscious design objects under the name Tonn-P.
Tonn-P had a great appetite for life and lived a high-spirited, festive and adventurous life. He created harmonious and functional designs in many materials, including wood, plastic and metal.
Tonn-P’s creative drive was inexhaustible and works such as the Pepper Bird, Salt Egg and Caravel candle holder represent just a tiny sample of his designs. He also produced furniture, lamps, sculptures, cigar boxes, clocks with intarsia (wood inlay) or metal inlay and many other things.
Creative and dextrous from the beginning
Even as a child, Tonn-P was remarkably creative and dextrous. He could draw better than most and built wooden figures with incredible ease and eye for detail. He began drawing caricatures early, and at school he sketched his teachers and sold the drawings to his schoolmates.
As a designer, Tonn-P's creations were characterized by a strong and harmonious expression, while the design was functional and contemporary.
Tonn-P's preferred materials were always paper, wood and clay, and he carved and modelled several busts and small statuettes of exceptionally high quality before he started creating functional design art. Only later did he become absorbed by metals such as copper, tin, silver and stainless steel.
The products Tonn-P produced were all characterized by a formal assurance that was both harmonious and typical of its time. He often put more emphasis on lightness, elegance and curved forms than on durability and practical usability.
This is evident in the Salt Egg, for example, which was never really put into production because it was too expensive and took too long to produce a round egg from wood.
For Tonn-P, good design was synonymous with beauty, a smart modernity and use of gorgeous material. And he was extremely critical of others’ design efforts.
In fact, his ideas often began when there was something Tonn-P couldn’t stand looking at. He had to create something better for himself. The only design classics that certainly passed muster and inspired Tonn-P were Kay Bojesen's monkey and Hans J. Wegner's furniture.
Tonn-P never pursued a formal artistic education. He took classes at “The School for Free and Mercantile Art" and prepared an application to the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts with recommendations and portfolio.
But he never submitted it.
Instead, he chose a job in the advertising department of the newly established SAS, where he worked for many years with PR, major sales events and exhibitions, alongside the designs he developed at home.