Andreas Murray is an industrial designer at Oslo, Norway-based Permafrost designstudio. He’s one of four partners at the firm that, together, has done product design, furniture, interiors, graphic design and packaging. We meant to ask Andreas 2 or (3…) questions, but in the end his answer to our single question covered what we wanted to know about Offshore, Shipping & Archipelago and Heartland – collections of wooden toys that straddle the line between kids playtoy and collectible art. Not surprising that the first set was commissioned by an art museum.
MOCO: Your studio is known for a series of wooden toys with a distinct aesthetic, on the surface a combination of industry and playfulness. Was that the intent? Or is something else informing the design?
Murray: Our first set of wooden toys, the Offshore set, started as a request from the Louisiana art museum in Denmark in 2012. By that time we had been playing with the idea to implement the iconic shape of the oil rig, with its industrial beauty in a project. Due to the limited space offered by the museum, accompanied with the short deadline, the wooden toy set became our produceable answer to the task ‘New Nordic Identity’. The contrast between the oil producing factory placed far out in the clean nordic nature makes it symbolic when presented as toys.
Offshore rig and tanker from the Offshore collection
For the design process it all starts with simple hand sketched concepts. When deciding what concept to refine, work starts with making all parts as simple as possible, but still retaining a distinct personality with this few shapes. Still the remaining shapes is carefully and thoroughly treated with many iterations until we are satisfied with both the single parts and the whole set as a product. You can also see it from the production side, that for example the ‘eyes’ are one single milled shape, and that all parts are whole, the line unbroken.
Vessels from the Shipping & Archipelago collection
The universe of toys expanded naturally, almost impossible to stop. When seeing the oil tanker alone, the idea to make at set of five waterborne vessels emerged, and giving these boats different personalities was great fun. The aesthetic concept is most visible with the submarine, consisting of only two rounded parts with drilled holes, still presenting a curious yet threatening character. Actually I was asked by a fellow designer if we were the ones selling the half submarine.
Fishing boat and island from the Shipping & Archipelago collection
Then the small fishing boat was the start of the Archipelago set, imaging the idyllic nordic coastline, but when mixed with the Offshore set it pictures a piece of Norwegian contrast. The islands started the idea for a set only published once, the Heartland, turned into idyllic green hills with trees and a small house. Only interrupted by a pick-up car travelling around.
100 Racer from the 100serie exhibition
This is a long story, but the pick-up car was the start for prototypes of a set with five different cars. One of these was the racer which we ended up in the 100serie exhibition as the 100 Racer. So the circle is in a way closed by these two exhibitions.