Ole Palsby Design


Ole Palsby Design was at northmodern at the Bella Centre in August where they showed their ICHI range of cutlery and the recently-released thermos jug that is now being produced by the Coop in Denmark.

Mikkel Palsby, the son of Ole Palsby, also showed several historic pieces including the clear glass carafe that was designed for Georg Jensen.

Towards the end of one of the days, there was an opportunity to ask Mikkel a few questions about the way that his father worked when major designs were commissioned. In an earlier post on this site there are comments on the Eva Trio range of kitchenware and it was clear that Ole Palsby established a strong relationship with the manufacturer but Mikkel explained that what was crucial was work with production teams in the factory workshops who, working with his father, made the initial trial pieces. These were tested extensively, both at the factory and at home in the Palsby kitchen, to ensure that they functioned properly, making sure that each piece felt absolutely right in the hand, for weight, for balance or grip, and to be certain that the quality of the material was of the standard that Ole Palsby knew was necessary.

Mikkel Palsby has established a similar and close working relationship with the family of Kazonsuke Ohizumi, who own the workshops in Niigata in Japan where ICHI is made ... crucial in order to realise the designs for ICHI and to complete important final details that had not been resolved for the complete range of different pieces before Ole Palsby died in 2010.

With the new cutlery range this has been crucial because several of the pieces try new shapes or modified and clearly less-conventional shapes because Ole Palsby rarely accepted that something should be like that simply because it had always been like that. Obvious examples of this rethinking are the shape and angle of the bowls of soup spoons; the flexible but also sharp blades of knives for spreading and the longer centre tines of forks so they stick into and hold food before the main part of the fork breaks it open.

It was interesting to hear that changes might even be made to a design for technical reasons after an item had gone into full production so, clearly, Ole Palsby monitored his own work even after he had moved on to another project. For instance, Mikkel could remember one kettle where the base plate had not performed as well as expected and several months after the kettle was available, a revised version was designed where the thickness and composition of the bottom was changed to improve the transmission of even heat … a crucial feature for all cooking pans … and on another occasion one manufacturer had reduced the thickness of the metal used for a range of pans, some time after the launch, and Ole Palsby had insisted that the manufacturer went back to using the original gauge of steel. 

It seems astounding that he could keep such a tight control over the quality of the pieces coming off the factory production line but then Mikkel explained that when a design was completed, and after any modifications completed and agreed but before the piece went into production, one sample was sealed into a box that was then signed by both Ole Palsby and the factory. The contract stated that in the event of a dispute about changes, made subsequently by the factory, then the box would be opened for a direct comparison and the manufacturer was obliged, under the terms of the contract to revert to the agreed specification. Mikkel Palsby could not actually recall many disputes over ongoing production quality as presumably both Ole Palsby and the factory knew exactly what was in the box.

As a prolific designer, continually trying out new ideas, there are projects, drawings and trial pieces in the family archive that were not, for various reasons, produced commercially before Ole Palsby died and the long-term aim of the company is to go into partnership with appropriate manufacturers to see these realised and it is hoped that several designs that were popular in the 1970s or 80s will also go back into production.