We take pride in contributing to the preservation of Danish craftsmanship and local production. In a transformative move in 2022, we deepened our commitment to Finn Juhl’s legacy by expanding and securing the future of our Danish furniture production through the acquisition of the furniture workshop Schou Andersen Møbelfabrik in the city of Vejen, Denmark – a company with a century-long expertise in crafting solid wood furniture.
While Finn Juhl’s iconic classics are primarily crafted in our workshop in the city of Ringkøbing, Denmark, where the headquarter is also located, the Vejen workshop has become an integral part of our production, crafting some of the most cherished models such as the Fireplace Chair, the Reading Chair, the 108 Chair, and the 109 Chair.
The story of our furniture workshop in Vejen is a testament to the delicate balance of preserving age-old skills and passing on a heritage while embracing the currents of change.
This is the first chapter of a two-part series, where we delve into conversations with the craftspeople about their work and lives, both within and beyond the workshop walls.
On a cold and crisp day, we visit the workshop in Vejen. Even before stepping inside, the air carries the scent of wood shavings and freshly cut timber; a prelude to the universe we are about to enter. Within these walls, a narrative unfolds, woven with decades of artisanal tradition.
However, the workshop does not only house a heritage; it also harbours a determination and an eagerness for renewal. It is a place where tradition and innovation harmoniously merge.
Before we acquired the workshop in 2022, the establishment held a proud history spanning over a century, specializing in the production of durable furniture in solid wood, primarily catering to the care and health sectors. This extensive legacy and expertise laid the foundation for a successful transition into an entirely new chapter. The expertise, precision, and unwavering commitment to quality now finds expression in the production of Finn Juhl’s iconic designs.
The furniture factory buzzes with activity, and amid the rhythmic hum of the machinery, we meet Rasmus, one of the skilled woodcutting machinists. He shares his journey of how he found himself in the joinery profession and started at the workshop in Vejen. “It’s been 5-6 years since I started here as a woodcutting machinist. The reason I chose this path is because of my uncle, who lives in Sweden, and who is also a woodcutting machinist. I spent a lot of time with him as a kid, and that’s where my interest began. Before coming here, I worked as a sales assistant in a store, but it became too monotonous, and I felt drawn to the joinery profession. I wanted more action and to be more active in my work.”
Rasmus has gained experience with a broad range of machines and work processes at the furniture factory in Vejen, and as he narrates, it is evident that he thrives in the profession. “It’s been fantastic here. I’ve had the opportunity to work with both modern and older machines, which has been both fun and challenging. Trying out various tasks has been exciting and provided experience within different aspects of the work.”
The craftsmanship involved in crafting Finn Juhl’s furniture has brought changes for the team working in the joinery. ”Working with Finn Juhl's furniture has been quite an upheaval compared to what we did before, where the focus was on functional furniture for the healthcare sector. We’re dealing with new types of wood and performing "operations", which are new to us. But it has been an exciting challenge.”
Although Rasmus enjoys his work in Vejen, he has retained his roots in his hometown, Fredericia. “I was born and raised in Fredericia, and I still live there. It’s just a half-hour drive away, making it a perfect fit for me.”
When Rasmus is not immersed in furniture production, he is an avid sports enthusiast, though time is a luxury these days. “I’ve played both handball and soccer, and I enjoy both watching and playing. However, now that I’ve become a father, a little boy demands most of my time. It’s a huge experience for me. So, sports and everything else will have to take a back seat for a while.”
In the open space of the upholstery workshop, a lively activity fills the air. The rhythmic cadence of staple guns and the steady hum of sewing machines create an energetic ambiance. Along the walls, shelves house neatly arranged rows of thread, while leather in various hues and voluminous rolls of fabric in diverse textures await their transformation into components of sculptural furniture. At the heart of this creative chaos stands Egon, a seasoned furniture upholsterer. His unwavering dedication to the craft is evident in the meticulous precision he brings to each task, a testament to the wealth of experience and expertise he has garnered through decades.
“I’m Egon – or Tarzan, as my grandchildren call me,” he remarks with a smile, hinting a story behind the nickname. “At 73, I’ve been part of this factory since June 2009. Initially trained as a furniture upholsterer back in 1968, in the days when it was called tapestry.”
The experienced craftsman shares his story. “Actually, I don’t know why I chose to become a furniture upholsterer. But there happened to be a furniture factory across from my school when I was a boy,” he recalls. “I got a job there, and since then, I’ve been working with furniture. From the early years as an apprentice to later mastering the crafts, my entire professional life I’ve been involved with furniture upholstery. I haven’t worked in many different places and remained rooted in one place for 25 years, as I’m not one to change jobs.”
Egon is a key figure when introducing new models in the upholstery workshop. “I’ve been here for so long that I believe I’ve had a hand in shaping every piece of furniture we’ve produced over the years. Now, we’ve started working with Finn Juhl furniture, and I find it immensely gratifying. Each element must meet the standard of perfection, every little detail. It gives me incredible satisfaction.”
"Each element must meet the standard of perfection,
every little detail.
It gives me incredible satisfaction.”
"Each element must
meet the standard of
perfection, every little detail.
It gives me incredible
He describes one of the processes that define his precision craftsmanship. “When, for instance, I craft a seat, I begin by stapling it and thoroughly inspecting the leather. If there’s the slightest flaw, it gets discarded. Imperfections in the leather only become apparent when it’s stretched out. And everything must be just right. It’s crucial. I’s about a commitment to quality, not mere indifference.”
Reflecting on the trajectory of his profession, Egon remarks, “Today, there aren’t many men choosing to become furniture upholsterers, which I find regrettable. The work I do demands strength; it’s a physically demanding job. One of the reasons I continue working is to stay physically active. That’s something I hold in high regard.”
Beyond his professional work, Egon, with the Tarzan nickname, dedicates a significant portion of his time to maintaining his fitness, and his level of dedication is truly impressive. “Staying in shape is a top priority for me. In addition to my work, I invest a significant amount of time in exercise,” he shares. “Twice a week, on Mondays and Wednesdays, I spend an hour and a half at the gym, concluding with forty-five minutes of spinning. On Tuesdays, I lead a walking group covering around 6 kilometres, and often adding an extra 4-5 kilometres on my own. Throughout the rest of the week, I continue taking numerous walks. Last summer, my kids discovered that I had walked 357.2 kilometres during a three-week holiday, as tracked by my phone. So, now you probably understand why my grandchildren call med Tarzan.”
Expressing the joy of having his family close by, Egon concludes with a warm smile. “I live in Bramming, not far from here. It’s also where my grandchildren and great-grandchildren live. I prefer to be near them. Some of them live just a five-minute walk away, and my great-grandchildren often drop by when they want to hear some fanciful tales from their great-grandfather. Our time together is always joyful.”
The distinctive contours of Finn Juhl’s furniture begin to take shape around us. Amidst the vibrant hum of the workshop and the rhythmic symphony of tools working, we engage in a conversation with Maibritt, whose skilled hands assemble the components that will culminate in the final Finn Juhl piece.
“I’ve been working here for eight years,” she shares, while her eyes are focused on piecing a frame together. “For instance the lounge chairs, they can't fit into the press and for this reason I do this by hand. All the larger chairs come through my workstation.”
As we delve into her journey into carpentry, Maibritt reflects on her background. “I find great satisfaction in the work I do here. Originally from Vejen, I underwent apprenticeship at a carpentry firm in Askov, which unfortunately closed its doors a few years ago. I’ve also worked at the company Orla Albæk, where we specialized in furniture tailored for schools. Eventually, I circled back to conventional joinery, or what I’d like to call true craftsmanship,” she explains.
The sentiment remains when the conversation shifts to Finn Juhl’s designs, now integrated into the repertoire of the Vejen furniture workshop.
“Working with Finn Juhl’s furniture is truly rewarding. It brings a different perspective, and the quality is truly top-notch.”
While Maibritt no longer calls Vejen her home, the town where she was born and raised holds steadfast in her roots, not far from her current home.
As the workday draws to a close, Maibritt’s attention pivots to her lively two-year-old FT Cocker Spaniel. “In my spare time, my world revolves around my dog. I have a two-year-old Cocker Spaniel brimming with turbocharged energy. He’s undergoing training to become an explosives detection dog, aiming to assist in airports and similar environments, inspecting incoming cargo.”
The training process requires a gradual build-up and plenty of patience. “Our training starts with a toy named ‘long’. We don’t introduce the dog directly to explosives; we initiate the process with a toy to familiarize the dog with its scent. Because, if mistakes occur, they can’t be undone. The toy then gradually decreases in size, down to the dimensions of a pinhead. Once the dog masters this and all the other steps, we move on to specialization.”
With a warm smile, Maibritt concludes, “I’ve been working with dogs for almost as long as I’ve been walking, so for me, it’s all about wood and dogs.” She chuckles lightly, and her passion for these two realms is unmistakable.
As read in this first part of the series, each department is a small world of its own, filled with passionate craftspeople and unique personalities. In the next part, we will continue to explore the stories behind the craftsmanship and meet Lars, the workshop manager with more than two decades of experience in the joinery profession, Faiq, the tailor with roots in Syria working in the upholstery department, and Christo, the cabinetmaker who grew up in South Africa and who has now settled down in Denmark. Follow along with us as we delve further into the craftsmanship behind Finn Juhl's furniture and meet some of the people who make it all possible.