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Jo Hammerborg – the man who made Fog & Mørup great

Jo (Johannes) Hammerborg was born on 4 February 1920 in Randers, Denmark. After completing high school education he trained as a silversmith from 1942 to 1943, and in 1944 enrolled at Copenhagen’s Kunstakademiet, the prestigious Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. In 1949 he began work as a silversmith at Georg Jensen, where he remained for the next eight years.

In 1957 Hammerborg became head of design at Danish lighting producer Fog & Mørup. His time in this role was to prove the most successful period in the company’s 80-year history both artistically and commercially as he completely redefined the F&M brand with a new modernist aesthetic, imposed a consistent branding style and introduced stringent quality standards for the company’s output. From the smallest components making up the lamps to their labelling, packaging, advertising and showroom display, every facet of the business came under Hammerborg’s exacting eye for form and detail.

Hammerborg was also a prolific designer, and the first six years of his 23-year reign at Fog & Mørup were the most creative of his career. In this period, from 1957 to 1963, he put into production 24 of the approximately 60 lights he would eventually design for the company.

The single most important influence on Hammerborg’s designs came from his training as a silversmith and his exposure to the work of designers such as Henning Koppel at Georg Jensen. This is what sets Hammerborg apart from other Danish lighting designers of the period, nearly all of whom came to lighting design from a background in architecture. Hammerborg's silversmith's eye and sensibility shines out in every lamp he designed – in the understated organic beauty of his forms, in his exceptional attention to detail, in his use of the highest-quality materials and finishes, in the simplicity of his constructions and his minimising of functional elements such as studs, joints, switches, and in the way he understood that barely visible and even concealed details influence the overall design aesthetic.

Hammerborg's earliest creations included several members of a group of lights – which for convenience we call the Saturn series – in which he expressed his most easily recognised and most widely imitated design concept. The basic notion was a structure of two concentric cylindrical bands, and he explored this form in many varying proportions of height and width through the 1960s and 1970s. Early lights in the series – mostly in copper and black lacquered metal (itself a widely copied Hammerborg combination) – included the eponymous Saturn, the Tunika, Juno, Dano, Eiffel, Etna, and the Corona, in which the core became conical in form instead of cylindrical. The Sera first appears in the record in 1968 and is the flattest, broadest member of the series, while the tall, slender Zenith of 1966 lies at the extreme end of elongation.

In these earlier years the Saturn series experiments were mainly played out in combinations of copper/black, brass/black or aluminium/grey (usually with another much-imitated Hammerborg feature, a matte orange or cerise interior), but later variations included some of the brightly coloured Rainbow Line products of the late 60s and early 70s. The Saturn concept remained one of Hammerborg’s signature themes throughout his two decades of design work at Fog & Morup.

Far from being restricted to this single concept, however, his work embraced many other forms and themes, their common factor being a sleek minimalism and an understated beauty. One classic Hammerborg manoeuvre was to produce the same lamp in two sizes – the Orient Minor and its larger sibling the Orient Major, for example – and another was to offer a lamp in duos, trios and even an occasional quadruple linked together by a hanging frame, usually made of teak. Sometimes these variations were combined, and a full-sized single version was offered alongside a trio of smaller clones.

Another Hammerborg signature was to create a model in two or three different metals or finishes and to use these variations across multiple product lines – the Nova, Corda and Lento were all available in aluminium, brass and copper versions, for example, while the Diskos, Medio and Cylinder also came in aluminium, brass and copper versions but with the distinctive Hammerborg glossy spun finish. His cross-product matching didn’t end at his own lamps – he also implemented colour consistency across the entire F&M catalogue, particularly in the 1970s, allowing customers to mix and match different lamps in a cohesive style.

In the early years he produced an Orient Minor from solid sterling silver, which retailed at more than 10 times the price of other models in the line. In the mid 1970s there were special chrome-plated and 24 carat gold-plated editions of several popular Fog & Mørup lines, including his own Milieu and Sektor. Hammerborg also designed more than a dozen glass lamps with beautifully simple sculptural forms, which were produced for Fog & Mørup by Holmegaard glassworks. And finally, in the late ’70s he designed several lamps in plastic, including two pendants – the Plain and the Single.

Hammerborg’s lighting designs for Fog & Mørup won numerous prizes, among them a Buenos Aires Centro Investigacion de Diseno Industrial first prize in 1965 for the Nova and six iF International Forum Product Design Awards in 1969 and 1970 for the Classic, Tunika, Saturn, Diskos, and Hydras I and II.

He also collaborated with other designers in adapting their designs to meet F&M’s production requirements, working closely with Holmegaard glassworks during the development of both his own glass lamps and those by Jacob E Bang, and again with Royal Copenhagen during F&M’s collaborations with the porcelain factory. He was especially closely involved in the development of Sidse Werner & Leif Alring’s parachute-like Formland lights (Hammerborg was himself a keen skydiver at international championship level), to the extent of piloting the plane used for the promotional photoshoot.

Hammerborg left Fog & Mørup in 1980 to set up his own lighting design business. His departure coincided with Fog & Mørup’s demise as the company underwent a series of mergers, first with Lyfa and later with Horn, at which point the F&M brand ceased to exist altogether. Hammerborg died in a skydiving accident on the island of Bornholm on 23 July 1982.

© 2011 Classic Modern. All rights reserved.

Askepot, which translates into English as Cinderella, is an unusual industrial-style Jo Hammerborg d..
£175.00
With its futuristic rocket-shaped outline, Jo Hammerborg's Corona is a space-age classic and beautif..
£320.00
Designed by Fog & Mørup's head of design Jo Hammerborg and produced by F&M in the late 1960s..
£375.00
A little known and rarely seen Jo Hammerborg design entitled Matador, this is the perfect lamp for c..
£199.00
One of Hammerborg’s most easily recognised and most widely imitated design concepts was a structure ..
£120.00
The Eiffel (aka the Eifel) was one of Jo Hammerborg's earliest designs for Fog & Mørup, dating t..
£245.00
Jo Hammerborg's Lento table/desk lamp series was launched by Fog & Mørup in the mid-1960s in thr..
£299.00
A classic early (pre-1963) Jo Hammerborg design in his much-imitated signature copper-and-black comb..
£275.00
Jo Hammerborg's early 1970s Milieu pendant light series was produced by Fog & Mørup in three siz..
£275.00
The first five years of Jo Hammerborg's 23-year reign as head of design at Fog & Mørup were the ..
£499.00
The sparse, clean lines of Jo Hammerborg's Pisa, designed during the first years of his reign as hea..
£199.00
The Regent is an elegant table lamp designed by Jo Hammerborg in the mid-1960s and produced by top D..
£199.00
Designed by Jo Hammerborg and put into production by Fog & Mørup in the mid 1970s, the uncomprom..
£120.00
Jo Hammerborg's early 1960s Vesuv came in two sizes, and here we have a rarely seen example of both ..
£450.00
See also:
Posts about Jo Hammerborg from our midcentury modern design blog
Fog & Mørup’s iF Product Design Awards

Fog & Mørup’s iF Product Design Awards

modblog 20/05/2010 0
Initiated in 1953, the International Forum (iF) Product Design Awards are presented annually to products deemed by its jury of international experts t...
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Fog & Mørup's 1970s collaboration with Arabia

Fog & Mørup's 1970s collaboration with Arabia

modblog 03/07/2010 0
In the mid-1970s Fog & Mørup made a brief return to its roots in ironmongery when it embarked upon a collaboration with Finnish company Arabia which e...
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Fog & Mørup lights in Brio miniatures

Fog & Mørup lights in Brio miniatures

modblog 31/12/2010 0
In the early 1970s Swedish toy manufacturer Brio Scanditoy Mobilia produced miniature versions of some of the interior design classics of the day for ...
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The 1970 launch of F&M’s Formland

The 1970 launch of F&M’s Formland

modblog 27/05/2010 0
Bent Rooke’s fascinating Tidsfasetter, a collation of art and design news items from Scandinavia stretching back to the 1960s, includes an article on ...
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Jo Hammerborg's Zenith pendant

Jo Hammerborg's Zenith pendant

modblog 21/06/2010 0
One of the most frequently misattributed Fog & Mørup lights is the Zenith, pictured below, whose designer is often given as Simon P Henningsen, son of...
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Hidden treasure in the F&M Orient

Hidden treasure in the F&M Orient

modblog 26/07/2010 0
Few people know that when Jo Hammerborg‘s Orient pendant light first appeared on the market in the early 1960s, the range included a version of the Or...
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Jo Hammerborg’s earliest F&M designs

Jo Hammerborg’s earliest F&M designs

modblog 19/07/2010 0
When Jo Hammerborg joined Fog & Mørup in 1957 he lost no time in transforming the company’s product range and bringing it firmly into the modern age. ...
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Jo Hammerborg’s Sera and Dano lights

Jo Hammerborg’s Sera and Dano lights

modblog 12/07/2010 0
One of several themes that ran through Jo Hammerborg’s work at Fog & Mørup during the 1960s was that his lights were often produced in either two or t...
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Zero: probably Fog & Mørup's largest and rarest light

Zero: probably Fog & Mørup's largest and rarest light

modblog 06/07/2010 0
The multi-cylindrical Zero (pictured below), a classic Jo Hammerborg creation dating from late 1970 or early 1971, is a strong candidate for the title...
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Looks like a PH 4/3 but isn't!

Looks like a PH 4/3 but isn't!

modblog 07/08/2010 0
The Penta (below) is a little-known Fog & Morup light designed by Jo Hammerborg and first appearing in the record in 1965. More traditional in form an...
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Fog & Mørup’s 1969 Rainbow Line

Fog & Mørup’s 1969 Rainbow Line

modblog 16/08/2010 0
In 1969 four Fog & Mørup light models – Andreas Hansen’s Falcon and Jo Hammerborg’s Juno, Zone and Equator – were brought together in vibrant red, yel...
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Kastrup-Holmegaard’s Havanna series for F&M

Kastrup-Holmegaard’s Havanna series for F&M

redvangang 21/05/2011 0
The Kastrup-Holmegaard glassworks produced many different individually mouth-blown glass lamps for Fog & Mørup during the 1960s. Today the least well-...
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Colour coordination in Danish lights

Colour coordination in Danish lights

modblog 12/11/2010 0
In the late 1960s both Louis Poulsen and Fog & Mørup launched lines of assorted lamp models in coordinated colours under unifying taglines. In 1968 an...
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Jo Hammerborg’s Saturn series

Jo Hammerborg’s Saturn series

modblog 24/08/2010 0
One particular group of Fog & Mørup lights by Jo Hammerborg – which for convenience here we will call the Saturn series – embodies Hammerborg’s most e...
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The Senior and the President

The Senior and the President

modblog 03/03/2011 0
In the 1960s Jo Hammerborg designed two table lamps for Fog & Mørup which are easily and often confused. The Senior and the President (pictured in tha...
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Jo Hammerborg’s smallest light?

Jo Hammerborg’s smallest light?

modblog 04/02/2011 0
One of Jo Hammerborg’s earliest designs for Fog & Mørup, the Kubus (pictured below in an F&M advertisement published in 1961 and in our own photos) is...
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Fog & Morup’s Chrome and Golden Lines

Fog & Morup’s Chrome and Golden Lines

modblog 24/02/2011 0
We wrote in an earlier post about cross-model colour coordination at Fog & Morup under Jo Hammerborg’s artistic direction through the 1960s and 1970s,...
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The Schlegel lamp and its Tarok lookalike

The Schlegel lamp and its Tarok lookalike

modblog 28/01/2011 0
Fritz Schlegel’s classic bell-like light for Lyfa, the Schlegel-lampe, designed in 1938, inspired a number of similar designs with which it is often c...
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