Chresten Sommer: Boat builder with design on his mind

Chresten Sommer is the man behind several of Spring Copenhagen’s popular wooden animals. Sommer is originally educated as a boat builder and even though he still builds boats full-time, he dreams of one day to make his own design, because that is where he can truly unfold his creativity.

Designer Chresten Sommer is actually a boat builder. He uses days to transform flat two-dimensional drawings into fully-grown models that can house whole families. This is how he makes a living at the closed down farm outside of Kolding, where he lives and has his workshop.

Design on the mind
Chresten Sommer likes to build boats. Yet one day, 15-20 years ago, he went to work at his workshop – and instead of a boat a little troll came into the world. In time this troll became a kangaroo and the kangaroo became a little wooden man and before he knew it, he spent most of his weekends in the workshop on his farm. 

“When I go to work and build boats, I think of which design I should create once I get home. The boats are for making a living. But it is the animals that I love to do”, says Chresten Sommer.
“When I build boats it’s from a final template. They are supposed to look in a certain way. There are no final templates back home at the workshop. There I can create 20 bodies before I get to where I want.”

Cake decoration is the source of inspiration
Chresten Sommer often finds his inspiration on the social media Pinterest. But he is not looking for wooden animals. He is looking for cake decorations. Cake decorations are namely more imaginative and “Disney-like” as he expresses it. Just like the animals that he forms in his workshop. Besides the cake decoration he also finds inspiration in modelling wax, cuddle toys and crochet toys. Once inspired he invests in small, more authentic plastic animals in order to get the right proportions and details.

The Southern Jutlandic designer and boat builder is not surprised over the success of his wooden animals. “I think, that what I create is pretty darn good” as he says.

But even though Chresten Sommer oozes with confidence there has still been a couple of little bumps on the way.
One of the animals, for instance, turned out to be harder to make than initially planned. 

“One time I started to form a gorilla but the head was simply too difficult to make in proper way. I never cracked the code on that one”, Sommer tells. Animals such as tigers and giraffes have also been on the turning lathe in Kolding, but never got further than that. Patterned animals are hard to make in wood. It’s really difficult to make a tiger look like a tiger without its peculiar stripes.

A play with colours and expressions
These days the boat builder’s thoughts circles around forming a panda. “Because it’s a “little bit teddy bear-like and chubby”. And also, because the fur of the panda bear makes it possible to play with the colours and combine different types of wood in order to nail the right expression. 

Personally, Chresten Sommer is a cat person. Because they are independent creatures that one minute are laying in your lap purring and the next shoots out of the door to catch a mouse.

“They are fun to watch. Just like a little tiger”, he says. 

And speaking of tigers. Who knows? Maybe one day he cracks the code and forms a little tiger. With or without stripes.

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