Johannes (Jo) Hammerborg was born on 4 February 1920 in the city of Randers in the Midtjylland region of Denmark, the fourth of seven children. After graduating from school in Randers he trained as a silversmith in Silkeborg and Randers between 1942 and 1944 before joining Copenhagen’s Kunstakademiet, the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts. Exhibitions of Hammerborg’s paintings were held in Randers in 1944, 1945, 1946 and 1947.
In addition to his studies during the war years, Hammerborg became involved with groups that resisted the German occupation of Denmark by sabotaging railways and airfields.
In 1949 he began work as a silversmith at Georg Jensen, where he remained for the next eight years.
The Fog & Mørup years
In 1957 Hammerborg became head of design at Fog & Mørup. In this role he was not only a prolific designer, creating over 60 lamps and bringing a new modernist aesthetic to the company, but also collaborated with other designers to adapt their designs to meet F&M’s stringent production requirements.
He worked closely with Holmegaard glassworks during the development of both his own glass lamps and those by Holmegaard’s Jacob E Bang, and with Royal Copenhagen during F&M’s collaborations with the porcelain factory. A similar level of engagement took place with Sidse Werner & Leif Alring on their Formland project. Jo Hammerborg’s lighting designs won many prizes, amongst them a CICi first prize in 1965 for the Nova and four iF Product Design Awards in 1969 for the Classic, Tunika, Saturn and Diskos.
In 1980 Hammerborg left F&M to set up his own lighting design business. His departure coincided with the demise of the company as it underwent a series of mergers, first with Lyfa and later with Horn, at which point the F&M brand ceased to exist altogether.
Hobbies and leisure
Jo Hammerborg was a keen sportsman, and his leisure pursuits were an important aspect of his life, providing inspiration and ideas for his creative and business activities. He enjoyed badminton and excelled at tennis, becoming club champion at Allerød and winning several championship series at Copenhagen.
He had great enthusiasm for airborne sports and acquired his pilots licence in 1961, retaining it until his death. He was a pioneer of parachuting, in which he trained in France and Sweden, making his first jump in 1965. He took part in many skydiving competitions, including Danish and Nordic championships, with good results. In 1970 he participated in a record 5,200-metre jump at the airfield in Allerød, and another of 7,600 metres at Aalborg airbase in 1971. In 1981 he took part in a TV quiz as a specialist in skydiving. To maintain general fitness he ran regularly, and joined many races such as the annual Eremitageløbet, Denmark’s largest running event.
Tragically, however, it was Hammerborg’s love of sport that led to his untimely death on 23 July 1982 at the age of just 62, when he was killed in a skydiving accident on the island of Bornholm.