Norppa designed for Vaarnii is a rocking toy that takes its name and form from the endangered Finnish Norppa seal. Whilst all Vaarnii products are designed to last, this concept is especially appropriate for Norppa, an object that should be cherished by multiple generations. Norppa is skillfully milled from solid pine with the distinctive grain adding contour and expression to the seal shape and face. Every characterful Norppa Rocking Toy will be subtly different from the next.
The brief from Vaarnii was very simple, to create something joyful. Along with this sensibility they had thought of a Rocking Horse as one possibility. We loved the idea of rocking toy and began to explore various elemental forms and came across videos of seals interaction with each other and looking like they had fun playing and rocking.
The Finnish Norppa ringed seal has a circular pattern that reminded us of the knots and grains in the pinewood. We love the knots with their randomness and different circular shapes and darker than the surrounding area. When board is cut vertically from the tree trunk, the knot will resemble a circle of abnormal wood that was once the base connection of a branch to the tree trunk but has been grown around by the rest of the grain. It was clear for us that we had to explore and work with all the qualities in the knot and grains.
The Norppa Rocking Toy has been designed as playful rocking seat and a family heirloom. Knowing from experience with our own children – they lose interest in playing with their old toys and but when put away for a while, they will rediscover and enjoy again. So, when Norppa needs a rest or come to the end of its life for one child as a toy it can be turned on its side and used as a sculptural side table. We hope that this dual functionality will help making Norppa Rocking Seal a family heirloom and enjoy a long life gaining a lot of marks and dents to add to its personality.
Vaarnii is known for their simple, brutal and sophisticated objects. Vaarnii is created from a land covered in forest and an existence shaped by the iconic and extreme landscape. The Norppa Rocking Seal is as all Varnii’s furniture based the new Finnish vernacular that they have created being local, honest, complex and enduring.
Our aim in designing this object, was to create an object that felt familiar inviting and friendly whilst at the same time maintaining a level of abstraction. Children with their wild imaginations could then read the object and its expression in different ways.
Working closely with the woodworking expertise within Vaarni we started to explore how a particular cuts of wood (where the grain ran a certain way) we could create the eyes by making a shallow scoop into the material.
Similarly, we developed the whiskers from a darker section of pine, forming a clear reference to the seal.
Pine is substantial, characterful, full of natural pattern and colour and, if grown correctly, it is strong. Pine was always the wood of choice for Finnish craftspeople because it was local, free and abundant, an embarrassment of riches. As a result, the making processes and design thinking that shaped the Finish domestic lives is pine shaped and pine coloured, log houses, carved implements, rustic furniture. There is a primitiveness, a raw beauty, a reassuring strength, generosity of scale and warmth to this architecture and object culture that that Vaarnii is reinvigorating again and we are happy to have worked with them developing the Norppa seal.
All pine wood Vaarnii is using is harvested from sustainably managed Finnish forests, is PEFC certified and slow grown.
Pine is a soft wood (although Vaarnii’s is the hardest soft wood you can find) and so will suffer some dents and scratches over time. This is a lovely quality to embrace and enjoy these characterful signs of aging.
Naturally occurring fractures in the wood grain are filled with a natural resin. Keeping these faults visible is true to Vaarnii’s values of honest and unconventional furniture making.
Pine will naturally change colour as its ages. Your pale piece of furniture will gradually mature to a beautiful honey colour over the course of several years.
Vaarnii’s pine products are finished with a stain-resistant, water-repellent hard wax-oil.
Photo: Jussi Puikkonen