Heikki Saastamoinen grew up near a plywood mill in Heinola and designed his first pieces of furniture when he was just ten years old. Heikki’s brother and his brother’s friends made the furniture for the boys’ room out of plywood, according to the drawings. Heikki and Finnish plywood have been on a mutual journey ever since, and in the past year that journey culminated in the KLIKS Design® furniture collection, manufactured by Heinolan Valmistamo and marketed around the world.
KLIKS Design® furniture is based on skilled craftsmanship and modern technology, both of which can be found in abundance at Heinolan Valmistamo. The pieces in the design-protected furniture collection are made from a single sheet of thin plywood, thanks to its expertly designed and realised edge structure.
“Water-jet cutting is practically the only means of realising the demanding edge structure. I use Finnish birch plywood, as it is the only sufficiently durable and strong material for water-jet cutting,” says Heikki.
According to Heikki, an entrepreneur and maker of fine furniture for 25 years, people today move often and may live in cramped quarters, which means they are in need of light and durable furniture that can also store items. The KLIKS Design® furniture collection meets those needs.
“Minimal furniture that is easy to bring with you around the world,” Heikki sums up.
In addition to the recently launched furniture collection, Heinolan Valmistamo also makes very demanding fine furniture as subcontracted work, such as Seppo Koho’s Sekto Design lamp shades and one-of-a-kind pieces of furniture. Heikki has always used Koskisen’s thin plywood as the material for his furniture; the thin and strong so-called aircraft plywood offers endless possibilities for furniture design.
“They say the strongest trigger of memories is the olfactory memory. The smell of the plywood mill from my childhood is still very vivid in my memory. It’s no wonder that when I graduated as a fine furniture maker in 1993, plywood instantly became my material. I was especially drawn to the flexibility and durability of aircraft plywood,” says Heikki.
Heinolan Valmistamo has been performing water-jet cutting for the past ten years. Ninety per cent of the materials cut are wood, but insulation materials and board are also cut to shape here when needed. In Heinola, water-jet cutting is performed with water alone, i.e. without adding sand to the water.
“The advantages of water-jet cutting are the light and precise cutting result, lack of dust and the quietness of the machine,” lists Heikki.
The plant’s water-jet cutter gently and quietly cuts out the right shape from the plywood sheet. The water-jet cutting technique is an art in itself, and it has taken years to find the right processes and working methods. It takes tremendous skill and competence to work at the plant – knowing what needs to be done and how.
“Training a new employee can easily take a year. First they have to learn the technique, and only then can they begin to pick up the pace,” says Heikki.
There appears to be no shortage of ideas for developing the KLIKS Design® furniture collection, and the desire to create new products is strong. The joy of the work has also led to new inspirations: the nationwide “One Million Birdhouses” campaign led to a fun and creative new development idea.
“A company must grow and evolve all the time in order to succeed. I also believe it’s important to meet the societal obligation of creating jobs in Heinola and thereby looking after the future of our own area and the entire nation,” Heikki sums up.
Although the growing business and resulting increase in administrative activities are time consuming, he still likes to get his hands dirty.
“I occasionally go to the workshop to unwind. Sometimes design and product ideas linger in my mind – and even in the evening I just have to pick up a pencil and start drawing,” says Heikki.
The KLIKS Design® furniture collection will be on display at a design fair in Stockholm in February.