Dagny Holm Jensen has always had a superb ability to express her creativity. In the mid-1930s at age 19, she gets a job with her uncle, Ole Kirk Kristiansen – for three months, she will work for the LEGO Group, which in those days manufactured wooden toys. During this period she designs several items, including a red express train, Klods Hans (Jack the Dullard, a Hans Christian Andersen fairytale character), a caricature of the then Danish prime minister Thorvald Stauning, and clothes hangers – all manufactured in wood. The next 25 years of her life includes an 18‑year marriage to Gustav Jensen, a life in Copenhagen, and an education in classical sculpture under the painter and sculptor Harald Isenstein. In 1960, Gustav Jensen dies and the following year Dagny Holm moves back to the toy factory in Billund.
A new material
The company has altered radically since she last worked there. The most important single factor is that the basic raw material, wood, has been replaced by plastic. The LEGO® brick has become the company’s core business. Dagny Holm needs time to adjust to the thoughts and options in creating models using LEGO bricks. Constructing shapes in LEGO bricks is a world away from the method she has become accustomed to as an artist modelling in soft clay. But as she gets to know her building principles, she gradually begins to accept the medium, gaining an appreciation of the new, colorful plastic bricks. In 1963, as early plans are being made for the design of a LEGOLAND Park in Billund, there is no doubt who will be given overall responsibility for the creative work. Soon Dagny Holm’s models are built, in their oversize elegance, with a touch of humour, innovation, and obvious craftsmanship - cornerstones of the LEGO brand. She builds urban settings, castles, animals and fictional characters for LEGOLAND Billund. Dagny Holm is given her own area of the old woodworking factory to create her models.
Creating the LEGOLAND train
In 1967 she is asked to design a LEGO train for Tivoli in central Copenhagen. It carries visitors on a tour of the gardens. Later that same year it features in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York. When LEGOLAND Billund opens the following year, the popular train gets its own set of tracks – and to this day a train similar to Dagny´s original train continues to transport thousands of visitors through the park every year.
“Thinking” in LEGO bricks
With her natural flair and unique talent for model building Dagny Holm enjoys great success and it is inevitable that her area of work broadens and she gathers a team of model builders around her. Millions of basic LEGO elements pass through the skilled hands of Dagny Holm’s team and become impressive artistic creations during her final years with the company. Dagny Holm isn’t content to work with basic elements simply because it is her job. Like a true artist, she “thinks” in LEGO bricks. In her spare time, she starts thinking of and transforming her surroundings in terms of LEGO bricks. She relates how at one time she took a train journey through Copenhagen, busily studying her fellow passengers, calculating and speculating, “how many bricks would it take to make that nose?”, “how many bricks for that face?” She also created personal gifts for her friends and colleagues. Dagny Holm’s creative passion brings a wonderful collection of LEGO models to life, which later inspire thousands of LEGO builders throughout the world. Dagny Holm is the LEGO Group’s chief model designer until 1986, when she retires at the age of 70. She dies on March 1, 2004.