We have a hard time resisting the charm of these carved wooden animals. Designed by some of today's leading creatives (as well as some great masters from the past), the little creatures offer a moment of joy and humour and are the perfect addition to enliven a bookcase or home office desk. Whether you’re a dog person or prefer wilder fauna, choose yours, or start a collection.
Wooden animals: collect them all
‘Isbjørn’ wooden polar bear by Arne Tjomsland, from Eikund
Designer Morten Hippe joined forces with furniture maker Frode Tingbø and a mutual friend, former professional footballer Jørgen Tengesdal, to set up Eikund to bring classic mid-20th century Norwegian designs back to life, or, as Hippe himself puts it, ‘to highlight the geniality of Norway’s long-lost design history for the world to see’. Alongside their furniture production is ‘Isbjørn’, a wooden polar bear by Arne Tjomsland created in 1955, its stylised form as simple as it is expressive. In the 1940s and 1950s, Tjomsland worked in advertising and as a designer for the Kon-Tiki Museum in Oslo, before setting up his own carving workshop at home. The bear is the first piece of many he created, inspired by his time at the museum as a child.
16 Animali Puzzle by Enzo Mari for Danese
In the late 1950s, Enzo Mari met entrepreneur Bruno Danese, whose eponymous brand's mission was to bring art into everyday life. With Danese, Mari created one of his best-known and loved pieces, the ‘16 Animali’ wooden puzzle. From a single piece of oak wood, Mari designed 16 animals through one continuous cut, an object that was inspired by his research into Scandinavian children’s toys, and his own children. Each animal is designed as an object of its own, also fitting neatly within a minimalist puzzle structure: an exercise in formal creativity.
The Koala Kit by Torafu Architects for Ishinomaki Laboratory
Ishinomaki Laboratory was founded by Keiji Ashizawa and Takahiro Chiba as a workshop for people devastated by the 2011 tsunami in Japan. Described by its founders as a DIY furniture company, the brand's furniture production is based on essential constructions featuring straight boards of wood. Among its furniture and accessories' production is a series of smaller objects, called 'Kits', that people can assemble and customise at home: these include wooden elephants, koalas, birds and penguins by Torafu Architects, the simplicity of composition enhancing the creatures' expressiveness.
‘Oscar’ Dog by Hans Bølling for Architectmade
Wooden animal figurines are nonagenarian designer Hans Bølling’s best-known creations: they include Oscar, an affable, droopy-eared dog designed in 1953, and an elegant duck with its squat little duckling from 1957, initially crafted as gifts for his wife and their two children. The creatures are now produced by Danish brand Architectmade, which boasts a collection of wooden animals including Bølling’s designs as well as pandas by Bjarke Ingels and owls by Paul Anker Hansen.
Shorebirds by Sigurjón Pálsson for Normann Copenhagen
Inspired by the ubiquitous Icelandic Shorebird, designer Sigurjón Pálsson's collection for Normann Copenhagen is infused with character and minimalism. Turned from solid oak, the birds' silhouette is caught in action and expressively respects the animal's proportions while being essential in its form. The wooden birds are available in natural oak and in a series of colours including white, black yellow, blue, pink and green.
'Amaranth' ducks by Lars Beller Fjetland for Bottega Ghianda
Originally commissioned by Wallpaper* for our final Handmade exhibition in 2019, these beautifully crafted ducks were inspired by the Korean tradition of gifting newlyweds a pair of wooden waterbirds to symbolise their nuptials. With the help of the Bottega Ghianda craftsmen, Lars Beller Fjetland has carved, shaped and polished his own flock of (featherless) friends, creating a design that has more to it than first meets the eye. Each features a secret compartment for concealing a single wooden ring. While one duck is made from maple, two have been produced from amaranth – a species of wood also known as purpleheart, which gradually changes colour with the passing of time.
Rosa Bertoli was born in Udine, Italy, and now lives in London. Since 2014, she has been the Design Editor of Wallpaper*, where she oversees design content for the print and online editions, as well as special editorial projects. Through her role at Wallpaper*, she has written extensively about all areas of design. Rosa has been speaker and moderator for various design talks and conferences including London Craft Week, Maison & Objet, The Italian Cultural Institute (London), Clippings, Zaha Hadid Design, Kartell and Frieze Art Fair. Rosa has been on judging panels for the Chart Architecture Award, the Dutch Design Awards and the DesignGuild Marks. She has written for numerous English and Italian language publications, and worked as a content and communication consultant for fashion and design brands.
Seven sculptural speakers that go to 11
Seven of the most lavishly elaborate speakers, handmade objects that turn audio into art
By Jonathan Bell • Published
An A-Y of e-bikes: the best-designed electric bike brands for 2023
Cyclists have never been more spoilt for choice. Although many cities are awash with rental e-bikes, the devoted rouleur demands their own machine. Here are some of the best e-bikes for 2023
By Jonathan Bell • Published
Svenskt Tenn gets a summer makeover courtesy of Margherita Missoni
At Svenskt Tenn, Margherita Missoni curates 'A postcard from Italy,' a summer takeover of the Stockholm gallery (until 27 August 2023), as well as special edition pieces
By Rosa Bertoli • Published