November 10, 1942 – February 22, 2023
Danish design has lost one of its greatest.
After almost 60 years in the service of Danish furniture design, Ebbe Gehl passed away on the night between Tuesday and Wednesday this week. Strong until the end, just this December, Ebbe Gehl was part of a Royal visit in Vietnam, where he was a keynote speaker in a workshop on Danish design. And no more than ten days ago, he was presenting new designs for the Naver Collection at the Stockholm Furniture Fair together with his daughter Stine Gehl. Despite his high age, he also stayed actively involved in Snedkernes Efterårsudstilling and the judicial committee of Design denmark, which he co-founded in 1990.
Ebbe Gehl graduated as a cabinetmaker from Rud. Rasmussens Snedkerier with the highest distinction and a Silver Medal. In 1966 he started working for architect Svend Ellekjær after finishing his studies at Kunsthåndværkerskolen in Copenhagen. In the following years, he was an assistant for Nanna Ditzel before he left Denmark to start the “Furniture Design Department” at Edinburgh College of Art, where he taught Drawing and Design from 1967-69.
In 1970 he started his studio with Søren Nissen, and it began an impressive body of work that included restoration of the interior design for Danish medieval churches and teaching drawing and watercolour. But first and foremost, he was a furniture designer, designing numerous products for national and international clients.
Ebbe Gehl has always had a solid international outlook, leading to exhibitions in all parts of the world. He has won numerous awards, and his products have been exported worldwide with a strong customer base in England, the USA, Japan and China.
Ebbe loved to share his knowledge and was a valued lecturer and speaker at home and abroad – and he always had a great story to tell. Often the stories would be about the poetry of coincidence. Of how a piece of furniture suddenly became a big seller at a furniture fair just when he had given up on it altogether. Or how the kind eyes of his Visual Arts teacher in public school saw his talent for drawing and inspired in him a sense of belonging whenever he put pen to paper. The teacher’s name was Jørgen Clevin – a later famed Danish illustrator, author of children’s books and host of tv-programmes for children. Or he might talk about the best contract you don’t have to consult – the sort of contract founded on mutual trust.
He had a strong sense of justice, always trying to find the best solution for all parties involved. When talking to him, you could sense a lifetime of experiences and wisdom, but most of all, you felt an understated, kind gentleness – a softness – which also is found in the heart of his design.
Ebbe also remained curious about materials, collections, production methods and people throughout his life. Combined with his extraordinary craftmanship, design skills and kind nature, he is a role model in the Danish design industry. He will leave a massive void in the industry and Design denmark – but at the same time, he has set a standard that we, as friends and colleagues and as a design nation, can strive to live up to.