About the designer Etly Klarborg
Etly Klarborg, the designer of the Klarborg Universe.
Since the age of 4, Etly Klarborg has surrounded herself with elfs. However, it was after the birth of her oldest son, Martin, that Etly found her future source of inspiration. “One night Martin was in his pajamas tumbling around before night time. When he stood there with is little belly showing I just pictured an elf in my head”. Since then more than 300 chubby elfs have seen the light of day, each one with a name and a story reflecting a person that has impacted Etly´s life. In the countryside, just where the forest begins, you´ll find the cozy workshop of Etly Klarborg. Here, the warmth of the open fireplace and the many candles makes the Danish “Hygge” completely unavoidable. This is where the Klarborg elfs are born. Their origin is the reason why Klarborg elfs bring a sense of “Hygge” with them wherever they go. The Danish “Hygge” is about joy, being together and the love of family and friends. Klarborg elfs are exactly the essence of love, caring, joy and tradition. “Hygge” is not just a word, but it is a feeling and an atmosphere that is created together with others, and it is something you always experience every year at Christmas time. When the darkness falls outside, the family is by your side, the fire in the fireplace lights up, and the warmth fills the living room – this is when “Hygge” arises and a very special feeling of love, coziness, and happiness spreads all around.
Etly Klarborg believes, that if you follow your heart when making decisions in life, you will have the best foundation for making good choices. Klarborg elfs are created with love and they wish to remind you of the importance of following your heart in the choices you make in life.
Woman-founded Danish design brand Klarborg has one main goal — to spread joy, happiness, and hygge through its whimsical cast of characters.
From its quirky elfs, each with their own personality traits, to its tiny, lighthearted Nisserikker ornaments, collectors can encapsulate a year, a specific event, an anniversary and so much more.
Artist Etly Klarborg loved elfs and their significance in Danish folklore long before she started her company in 1986. She grew up with a vibrant imagination and created her first elf at just 4 years old, crafting it from mud while playing outside. The creatures helped connect her with her own mother, a storyteller whose personality shone bright.
It is the childlike quality of the elfs that have endured for all these years. When her oldest son, Martin, was young, he would play in his pajamas, his small belly popping out. So, too, then, did Martin the elf’s midsection.
Keeping memories alive is what Klarborg is all about — the characters can be used in place of a family member who lives far away and therefore not at the holiday table, or in honor of a loved one who is no longer alive. Children can grow alongside their Klarborg elfs, and adults can keep the hygge spirit alive at home (you’re never too old for fun, Etly is the perfect example of staying fantastical even after becoming a parent — or grandparent!).
At its home base in Denmark, Klarborg is synonymous with the holidays. Fans write in, pleading with Etly to make them an elf — which is a real possibility, since all the characters are based on real people and their real personalities.
The Klarborg Difference
Decorating with characters from the Klarborg universe will fill your home with warmth and comfort — memories of those far away or who have passed on. From the mischievous child who is now out of the nest to the loving grandmother, who in memories will forever be knitting a cozy gift. They’re more than cute; they are meaningful and they’re forever.
Klarborg brings cosiness into your home
Etly Klarborg - the artist behind the Klarborg elfs and the Klarborg brand - has, for more than 35 years, sold and designed the beautiful, chubby Klarborg elfs. Since Etly opened her own shop in 1986, she has created more than 400 different unique designs, which are sold throughout Scandinavia. Etly Klarborg designs her elfs from the heart and with inspiration from the traditional Danish Christmas. Cosiness, love, respect, play, and imagination are some of the words that Etly uses in her design process and is inspired by when creating a new design. Today, the elfs are a well-known Christmas product in Scandinavia, which not only bring Etly's beautiful designs into customers' living rooms but also help to spread cosiness and joy in many people's homes.
Klarborg is a Danish design company that primarily designs decorative figurines for the home. Etly Klarborg is best known for her adventurous elfs, who appear in stores all over Denmark each Christmas and spread cosiness and joy. All of Klarborg's figurines are hand-cast, hand-painted and produced in the highest quality. Being hand-painted gives them their charm, as each of the elves has their own little personal traits.
Klarborgnisser er skabt med hjertet
As a 4-year-old, Etly Klarborg created her very first elf, but at that time she didn't know that elfs would grow to be so close to her heart or that her elfs would go on to be displayed in many, many homes and spread the joy and coziness that she herself loves so much about these adventurous creatures. Her love for elfs is closely connected to Etly Klarborg's mother, who had an imaginative and creative personality. She could tell such lively stories about elfs, trolls, and other creatures, that they would send shivers down Etly's and her brother's spines and make them giggle with joy.
"We were often with my mother in the bog, where she cut peat, and she told us about this whole adventurous universe that she imagined out there. For example, in some places, a kind of cotton would grow, and she would say 'Be careful not to step on the little troll heads - bog trolls are very shy and only come out when the bog woman is making beer'. So then, of course, we cycled to the bog when it was foggy to look for the bog trolls. She had described it all so vividly that we could really see them,” explains Etly Klarborg.
Now there is a new elf on the way
The children's imagination was also nurtured at home, where mischievous elfs lived in the attic, and it is the description of these elves on which Etly Klarborg's are based.
"For me, elfs have this childish quality with chubby cheeks and bare tummies that stick out a little. In fact, that's exactly how the first real Klarborg elf ended up being named after my first son. One day, when my eldest son Martin was a little boy, he was playing around in his pajamas which had become a bit too small for him, so that his big round belly was sticking out. Then Mads and Mathias came along, on whom I also modeled elfs. That's the way that all my elfs get their names. The inspiration simply comes from children I know. Or it could also be a small child that I see. When I’m standing, lost in my thoughts while watching a child tumbling around, my husband always knows that there will soon be a new elf on the way” says Etly Klarborg, with a little laugh.
A pair of chubby thighs, big cheeks, a cheeky expression in the eyes of a little girl, or maybe a little tantrum under the surface of a sweet boy. Etly Klarborg's elf antennae are always tuned to inspiration for the cute elf figurines that she finds in children she meets on her way.
"It could be a special facial expression, or the way a small child is fooling around that just grabs my attention, and then the elf appears very clearly in my imagination. As I sit and work on the figurine, I can clearly see the elf in front of me, and gradually the personality emerges through the clay. When I can feel myself sitting and smiling to myself, I know that I've got it. Then I can talk to it a little - 'there you are, little elf'" says Etly Klarborg.
Childlike joy is contagious
Even though Etly has designed over 300 elfs, she knows them all by name. Because as a 'mother,' you easily recognize your children. Etly Klarborg is often told that she must have elf blood in her veins, and she completely agrees. Because every elf is created from the heart. In the beginning, Etly only made the elfs because she thought they were sweet, but today - after more than 35 years making Klarborg elfs - she is equally happy about how they bring light and life into other people's homes:
“I get a lot of touching letters from my customers telling me about what their elfs mean to them, and how the elfs arrive at their usual places in their home every Christmas. The childlike joy that I have myself reaches others, and that's great. In the shops, people also walk around and laugh a little when they see an elf that they think it is especially funny, and men have a smile on their faces too when they awaken their childish imagination.”
A few years ago, Etly Klarborg designed the elf Bette Etly - an elf based on her 4-year-old self - who is sitting at the kitchen table making her very first elf. For her 35th anniversary, she created the original elf mother, Sonja, who told stories so well that today a large brood of Klarborg elfs appear in the lead-up to Christmas - the epitome of Danish Christmas coziness.
Creative in the cozy workshop
Her creative workshop is a small house with a thatched roof, set back a little between trees, where she can be herself and let her imagination wander out into the woods to elves and trolls. Just like in a real elf universe, the workshop is well stocked with ornaments, paint, clay, tools and candles to create a cosy atmosphere.
"I'm the kind of person who sees an interesting stick on the beach and has to take it home. I got it from my mother, who could also use everything for something creative. So, it might be a bit messy, but I love coming over to the workshop and working on my figurines and paintings.”
Every elf must be perfect
While there is plenty of room for creative expression in the process of designing figurines, it is a different matter once the Klarborg elf is ready to be made.
“I make each elf by hand and then make a plaster cast of it. Then they can be cast using a ceramic material which is very durable. Then I paint it by hand, and all elves in that design must be painted exactly the same as the first so that all the expressions and colors are preserved in the highest quality, says Etly Klarborg, emphasizing how important it is to her that every elf is perfect.
New elfs, year after year
Since 1986, Etly Klarborg has created new elfs, each with their own personality and name. Klarborg’s annual elfs are a favorite for collectors. Every year, Etly Klarborg designs a new pair which is marked by year and becomes the year's Christmas elf pair. This line was started by Etly Klarborg back in 2000 and since then a new couple has been part of Klarborg's elf family every year.
A true family fairytale
It was Etly’s mother who sowed the first seeds of what was to become one of Denmark’s most cherished Christmas narratives, while Etly herself breathed life into the fairytale through hundreds of cute and clumsy characters, each with their own unique story. Her husband Kristian, as well as the rest of the family, have been solid contributors throughout the adventure, and their sons have been brought up on Christmas magic since they were babies.
With two stores and a webshop, as well as elves and other cute figurines on display in multiple shops all over Denmark, the love of elves from Northern Jutland has spread a little further year by year. It has been a 35-year magical journey that is far from over, for the fairytale lives on through the next generation.
“It’s as if a bow has finally been tied now that all three sons are part of the family business. My children have been brought up in this world, and I would never be able to find anyone better to understand and further develop my work”, Etly concludes.