Valona – Finnish design
At Valona, we make feather-light wooden jewellery, birch himmelis and seasonal decorations such as tree toppers. Valona was founded in 2006 by designer Elina Mäntylä. We have been a limited liability company since 2018 when Markus Vihottula joined the company and turned from a mentor to an owner. Our office is located in Marjaniemi, Helsinki, but the design work travels with us in the archipelagos and the mountains of Lapland. We employ 2-5 employees, depending on the season, directly or through subcontractors across Finland. In addition to aesthetics, we value ecology. Birch, therefore, is the right choice of material for us.
Our products are available in approximately 50 design and gift shops around the world. We strive for international growth because we believe in our products and want the ideology of ecological and responsible design to be accessible to anyone interested in Nordic design.
It is important to us that our products are produced ecologically. That is why we use Finnish birch as our material. We have minimized the use of plastic. We pack our products into cardboard packaging. Our packaging is flat and goes into a small space. This is important for the climate in saving in transport such as air freight. We recycle packaging material by utilizing it as our packing material.
We strive for optimum material utilization so that the amount of waste material generated during the birch plywood cutting process is minimized. This has already been taken into account at the design stage in chain jewellery series. The products are made of nested rings, leaving no waste material between the individual parts. Similarly, our stud earrings are made from the middle parts of our other products.
From a responsibility perspective, Valona wants to be involved in creating local jobs. This way we can be sure of the quality of the working conditions. That’s why we’ve kept manufacturing as close as possible.
Beauty has its place
For us, beauty itself has value. It is reflected in how we strive to finish everything we design, how we want to create aesthetic experiences with our products, and how we want the user of the products to experience beauty through our products. For us, nature means aesthetic experiences. This is what we want to convey with our products.
Designer Elina Mäntylä
I am a Finnish craftswoman and designer. My style is light and airy. It applies to almost everything I design. My attention is often drawn to light and its various manifestations. It has given the name not only to my company but also, for example, to the Birch Crystal series and the Halo chain jewellery.
I create mainly small home decor and gift items and jewellery from Finnish birch plywood. I live in Helsinki, although my home was originally in Kristinestad.
I hold a Master of Education (1999) and Master of Arts (2012). I became a teacher for four years (2000-2004) before becoming an artisan. From there, I gradually became an entrepreneur in the design industry.
I get inspiration from nature and what I experience, but which often cannot be described by words. I love hiking and skiing in the North and kayaking and sailing in the Archipelago Sea. There my predominant feeling is wonder. That’s where I see creativity coming from.
I see the creation of beauty valuable. I make gift items because I love to receive and give meaningful gifts. If there were a single thing I wanted to say with my work, it would be that you are valuable and important.
I am excited about new techniques and materials. I strive to do something that has not yet been seen and to do it in the best possible way with high regards to the material and the environment. It’s been nice to win two design contests with these ideas and finish in the top three in the third one*.
I also consider packaging finishing important. I want a piece of jewellery or a gift to be an experience from start to finish. I strive for local production as much as possible. My products are licensed for the Key Flag and Design from Finland by The Association for Finnish Work.
Learning continues. My goal is for Valona products to find their way to the international market even further while keeping up with the times and delighting the user.
The birth story of Birch Crystals
One spring afternoon in 2010, I was getting some naps at home. Suddenly a picture of a chandelier flashed in my mind, with wooden crystals instead of the usual glass crystals. I immediately realized that there would be something special here and that what I see now is not yet all.
I made the Birch Crystal series prototype pieces from cardboard. The first Birch Crystal ornaments, Medallion and Crystal, were born the same year. It happened a couple of years before birch became a trendy material and before birch jewellery became known.
Three-dimensional birch earrings
Next, I challenged myself and the laser machine to make smaller versions of Birch Crystal ornaments. I wanted to see how small and graceful a trace I could make of wood. One year after the first Birch Crystal decorations, three-dimensional Birch Crystal earrings and the first two-dimensional necklaces of the same series were born. Many considered the 3.5cm high earrings to be large and spectacular. A couple of years later, jewellery fashion evolved towards larger designs, and those pieces of jewellery began to look delicate and small. I also designed larger-scale two-dimensional earrings and necklaces in the same series. Next to them, three-dimensional jewellery looks quite subdued and graceful.
When thinking about why I make crystal-like products, I think of the water droplets hanging from the birch branch and the glittering glow in the winter sun. And because I see everything metaphorically, I think that just we are full of glitter just like nature.
Even though it has been a long time since I got my first Birch Crystal ideas, I always remember when I was planning that afternoon in 2010, when the image of Birch Crystals first came to my mind.
Elina Mäntylä / Valona
Awards and honors
2010: Medallion and Crystal models were selected among the ten best products in the Finnish Handicraft Organization’s competition of novel products.
2014: Himmeli-shaped 3D earrings won the Folkista Poppia design competition organized by the Finnish Crafts Organization Taito. The product was selected as the winner among 168 participants.
“The competition for handicraft and design products sought new products that were freshly based on Finnish folklore and / or traditional handicraft products and techniques.”
The jury said of the winners: “Completely finished, finalized product up to packaging, suitable for sale and manufacture. The lightweight birch plywood earrings respect the traditional shape but is implemented with new modern technology. The material lives and the colouring makes the material even to resemble metal or glass. Laser cutting as a technology brings the product to the forefront. ”
2016: Valona was ranked second in the Best Gift from Finland competition organized by Arctic World of Santa Claus.
2017: Halo chain jewellery series won the Finnish Handicraft Organization’s competition of novel products.
2018: The long necklace and long earrings of the Halo chain jewellery series, and the Korona series Ring earrings were awarded at the FORM # 2018 Design Competition in Germany.
Memberships and rights
Design from Finland
Federation of Industrial Arts Ornamo
Helsinki Craft and Industrial Association