Fredrik Bull isn’t your typical Nordic designer. Albeit living in Oslo, the 29 year old artist refuses to use the trodden paths of his renowned precursors. Still being influenced by them, he yet chooses to start from scratch, thus establishing something like the new Nordic wave of design. His works, while firmly rooted within our reality, transmit an almost mystical aura linking the mundane and the magic in an unparalleled way.
How did you become a designer in the first place?
It‘s hard for me to trace back exactly to the point where my fascination started for making objects and working with forms. But I know one thing: I grew up in hotels. My mom and dad managed a couple of them in Norway and I used to help my mom from an early age to arrange flowers or choose art for the hotel. In some sense, it started there, although I only became aware of that in later years.
So you didn’t want to become a designer early on?
No, back then, I wanted to be an architect. I really, really wanted to be one but I felt that I wasn’t good enough. After studying Interior Design I realized that I still wanted to become one which was when I decided to try it nevertheless. I finished my architecture studies with a Bachelor degree and worked in that field for a while. At some point, I felt like the scale was too big and returned to Interior Design. What the heck, now I have two degrees. (chuckles)
What is it that fascinates you about these two fields?
I am fascinated with the entireness of shape and environment. I had the romantic idea of becoming an architect that is also responsible for the interior. A rather holistic approach – I wanted to be able to work on all scales.
Why the three-dimensional bodies? Why not, let’s say, painting?
Good question! I have been drawing all my life. Being a designer can sometimes feel like you’re stuck in creating something that someone is going to use. There is a rationality that can sometimes be very frustrating. But you know, I love Fantasy literature, I love magic. And when I draw, I let that love out. I draw spiders, dragons, creatures… things that I can’t create in everyday situations. Still, the three-dimensional form is extremely fascinating to me. Take sculptures for example – they are compositions that come alive.
How does inspiration work?
Inspiration strikes you at the oddest moments. It’s not something that comes around at 4 pm every day. You know, we have a very strong design history here in Norway. Lots of wood, rational minimalism, that kind of thing. I totally love it myself, but I also feel that I belong to a new generation of designers. We rely too much on what’s already been made. But I don’t get any inspiration from a chair that has already been made. Thus, I try to imagine what would happen to an everyday object like a simple bowl if it would stand on the table of a house in the Shire from “The Lord of the Rings”. Where’s a way to let the magical into the ordinary? That’s how I can trigger my inspiration.
Still, how important is the Nordic tradition to you? Do you want to carry the torch in some sense?
Very important, although I would prefer if everybody would find their own approach to it. To me, carrying the torch means pushing the boundaries. Why would I do something I already know how to do? There is room for new ideas, for developments. We just have to use it.
How much of your work is conscious, how much is subconscious?
I love that question! It’s something I think about all the time – the things that lurk beneath our consciousness, the big enigma. I guess I am not a typical designer who decides to design a chair. He draws sketches, produces a technical drawing, chooses the materials and so on. I, on the other hand, tend to work with my hand. I don’t start with a decision as to what I want to design. I simply decide that I want to work with clay. I just start doing it and see where it will take me. A bit like the Dadaist’s automatic writing, I would say. It’s exhilarating because I never know what I end up with!