A happy set of three, handcrafted, ceramic hedgehog juveniles by Ellen Karlsen for KÄHLER KERAMIK, produced in the 1960s. This lively trio is offered as a set.

ELLEN KARLSEN was a distinguished ceramist in 20th-century Denmark. She is mostly remembered for the whimsical animal figurines she sculpted for KÄHLER KERAMIK. Karlsen’s artistry has been represented at numerous exhibitions in the Nordic countries.

KÄHLER KERAMIK began in 1839 when the Dutch potter Joachim Christian Herman Kähler (1808–1884) immigrated from Heiligenhafen in northern Germany to the Danish town of Næstved on the island of Zealand. He opened a small ceramics workshop there, producing heating stoves, cooking pots, maternity buckets, and kitchenware using traditional methods. He ran the business until his retirement in 1872 when the company was taken over by his two sons. The younger, Carl Frederik, ran the operations; the older, Herman August (1846-1917), would put KÄHLER on the world map.

Herman A. had studied glaze painting at the local glassworks, Holmegaard Glasværk, and then traveled throughout Europe, working as a journeyman in Berlin, Strasbourg, and Paris. When the original Næstved factory burned down in 1875, and his brother withdrew from operations, he rebuilt on the town’s outskirts. The production of stoves and utilitarian pottery continued, but Herman A. now turned a hand to artistic design. The new direction attracted many well-known Danish artists—including the painters H. A. Brendekilde (1857-1942), L.A. Ring (1854-1933), and Carl O.J. Lund (1857-1936)—and an artistic colony was established in Næstved. KÄHLER KERAMIK would ever after be associated with the triple heritage of innovative glazing, creative design, and illustrious collaborations. Herman’s daughter Sigrid (1874-1923), incidentally, would marry Ring in 1896.

Color was an obsession for Herman A., and he devoted his energies to recreating the red luster glaze that had been produced in Gubbio, Italy, in the 16th century. He finally succeeded in 1888, developing a deep, metallic, ruby glaze that became known simply as “Kähler red.” That same year, designer Karl Hansen Reistrup (1863–1929) joined the enterprise as artistic director. He assisted in the production of finely formed, artistically decorated items—especially vases. (His designs were often finished in the new red luster; its Renaissance antecedent had only served as a minor decorative element.) Thanks to his efforts, KÄHLER's ceramics achieved considerable success—both at the 1888 Great Nordic Exhibition in Copenhagen and at the 1889 Exposition Universelle in Paris (where the Eiffel Tower was unveiled). Other distinguished artists began to design for KÄHLER, including Thorvald Bindesbøll (1846–1908) and Svend Hammershøi (1873–1948). Their contributions further enhanced the factory's reputation. Man-of-the-world Herman A. advanced international interest in KÄHLER with exhibitions in Paris, New York, Chicago, Malmö, Stockholm, Brussels, Berlin, and San Francisco. His legacy is memorialized in the form of his stylized initials (HAK)—stamped on the base of all Kähler products to this day.

In 1913, KÄHLER KERAMIK was reformed as the limited company, H.A. Kähler—with Herman A. heading up management, his son Herman Hans Christian Kähler (1876–1940) in charge of artistic development, and Rasmus Grønholt directing sales. When the senior Kähler died in 1917, Hans Christian assumed responsibility for the company, benefiting from the involvement of “paint girls” Signe Steffensen (1881–1935) and Tulle Emborg. Jens Thirslund (1892–1942) was artistic director from 1913 until 1940. The painter Helge Jensen (1899–1986) and the sculptor Kai Nielsen (1882–1924) also contributed designs in the early 1920s. Himself one of the Kähler family's greatest talents, Hans Christian revived the old pottery traditions, producing wheel-turned objects decorated with Skønvirke, or “horn painting.” This difficult technique involved fitting a hollowed cow horn with a goose quill, filling it with slip, and using it as a pen to paint designs. The work so produced is regarded as an example of the late-flowering ‘Danish Art-Nouveau.’

After Hans Christian died in 1940, his sons Herman J. Kähler (1904–1996) and Nils Kähler (1906-1979) took the lead, achieving success in exports after the end of WWII. Theirs would be the last generation of Kählers to run the company. New designs were contributed by Bode Willumsen (1895-1987), Arne L. Hansen (1921–2009), Allan Schmidt (1923–1989), and Eva Sørensen (1940–2019). The era as a family-run company ended in 1974 when the firm was sold to the town of Næstved. It was subsequently resold to a series of new owners without the involvement of the family.



Design Period/Year – 1960s


Production Period/Year – 1960s

Origin – DENMARK

Styles/Movements – FIGURATIVE

Materials – CERAMIC

Colors – COFFEE

Condition – Excellent vintage condition. Showing slight traces of previous ownership consistent with age and gentle use.

Dimensions – 1 ¾" W × 2 ½" D × 2 ¾" H

Quantity Available – 1