Thin plywood is the perfect match for home decorations

Laura Aronen

Tina Shukla has been working with wood for decades. When she was challenged to design a piece for local Christmas exhibition, one material met the requirements – thin plywood. That was the beginning for over a decade long entrepreneurship.

Let’s start by stating what is thin plywood. In general, thin plywood is manufactured similarly to thicker plywood from layers or plies of wood veneer that are glued together with adjacent layers having their wood grain rotated up to 90 degrees to one another. Thin plywood comes in thickness down to 0.4mm which is a 3 ply. Another common name for thin plywood is craft plywood as its properties fit extremely well for aircrafts, among other projects that need industrial-strength wood.

Tina Shukla, Designer, came across with thin plywood first time over a decade ago. She was asked to take part in the local association’s Christmas exhibition in 2004. At that time, she was laying in a sickbed, and thus the design needed to be something she was able to do despite the circumstances. Something small and easy to handle. First drafts were made with paper and cardboard. However, she needed the material to be wood. 

“First I tried to work with veneer. Unfortunately, veneer was too delicate, and it didn’t work for me. During that time, another company in the exhibition had made postcards from thin plywood which encouraged me to try it out too. And that was it!” 

”I have roots in India and Karelia. As a child, I heard stories from my grandparents about how they followed the North Star in their evacuee journey. That made me think already at 10 years old how a North Star could shine its light in the treetop to all directions.”

Since 2008, tina shukla design* has designed and created self-assembly, three-dimensional products from Finnish birch thin plywood. Today, Tina has strong partnerships with local suppliers and almost ten different design models that are a great success. In her products, the thickness of the thin plywood varies from 0,7 mm to about 1,5 mm, depending on the design. 

“For me, it has been important to be able to provide designs that is truly made in Finland. Finnish birch, which is manufactured and processed locally is the perfect material for me. Even many companies purchase these as business gifts.” 

“In my designs, I combine traditional ornamentation with modern techniques and materials.”

Besides local sales, many customers buy and send these products to abroad for family and friends. Birch, which is Finland’s national tree, is perceived exotic for example in Asia and North America. Because the material is so light yet sturdy, products can be easily mailed around the world. 

“I think the most special place where my products are sold is a small boutique in France, onshore of Seine. There these birch plywood pieces are next to Marimekko and other famous Finnish brands.” 

Tina sees a lot of potential in the use of plywood. 

“I feel like in many cases the use of plywood is really limited. Products tend to be large and simple when in many cases by bringing up for example three-dimensionality the design will come alive. I have few ideas already cooking in the back of my mind as the material has so much potential to work with.”