While some people still opt for the simple elegance of well-done floral centerpieces, one company, Table Art, is taking the event decorating world by storm, one gloriously lit-up display at a time.
I spoke with Andrew Wright, the owner of Axis Events based in Bath, UK, about his work as a distributor for Table Art. This innovative company takes centerpieces to an altogether higher level through its programmable LED light boxes.
Meet Andrew, Of Axis Events
Andrew originally got into event planning when he was working in hotel management. He trained with the Savoy Group in London. After working in Saudia Arabia for a few years, he came back to the UK, where he worked as the Business Development Director for a company called Milburns, which specialized in catering in historic buildings.
“We catered in places like the Victoria & Albert Museum, the British Museum, the Royal Academy of Arts. We opened Shakespeare’s Globe, and put the restaurant in St. Paul’s Cathedral, the National Railroad Museum, York Minster. My role with Milburns was to look for contracts and help put the tenders together. After we secured the tenders, I’d promote the daily catering. But the main part was to promote events and parties.”
When Milburns was later taken over by a larger company, Andrew found himself out of a job, which proved just the impetus he needed for taking the step of starting his own company, Axis Events, which is well known in the UK from Glamorous Award ceremonies, Grand Balls, wedding and venue management. Axis Events are also known for the charity work it does with organizations that recently co-ordinated runners for a local charity for the Bath half marathon.
What Is Table Art?
What is Table Art, and what first drew Andrew to get involved with it?
According to Andrew, Table Art is both a concept and a brand. It consists of two lots of light boxes: standard LED lights, which are wireless and worked by remote control to display any color the client wants, and DMX controlled lights.
“For example, if you do an awards show and the screen goes pink, we can make the lights go pink. We can do a wave across the room. We can do a total blackout. With a DMX control, we work with the events’ production teams, and then they can control it, or we can control it. It’s entirely up to them,” Andrew explains. “We have really modern lights called pixel tubes, which have hundreds of pixels in them, and they flash up and down, and it all goes in time with the music, so it’s very dramatic.”
Everything is made in-house out of eco-friendly acrylics, including 400 plus different tops for the lights ranging from acrylic candelabras to a full moon to sparkling crystal chandeliers. “We can do bespoke, too,” Andrew adds. “So if a client comes in and wants a theme done for, say, the Olympics, we can develop something. The light boxes can also be branded. We do a lot of awards.”
The Event Design Drives Custom Centerpiece Design
For the last several years, Andrew has been a distributor for Table Art for the Southwest part of the UK, having gotten into it thanks to a friend who built the brand. “I was at an exhibition one day, and I just said to him, ‘Why don’t you give me a couple of these tables and then I’ll try to sell them into weddings?’ The next thing I knew, I had a franchise.”
Andrew’s very first gig with Table Art took place at the British Museum in London. Although it wasn’t in his territory, as a franchisee, he can go wherever his clients want him to, whether it’s within the UK or overseas. And since the coronavirus lockdown, Andrew has also taken on the role of distributor for Table Art France.
One of Andrew’s favorite things about Table Art is that the owner, and creator of the company, designs most of the centerpieces himself. “If British aerospace rang us and said, ‘We want something, but he’s got to incorporate this,’ then we just go back to our designer and say, ‘This is the brief we’ve got.’ And he sketches something and then we see what we can create. It can be done in 3-D. It can be done in acrylic. We have got a World Atlas that was done for an event, which was crystal. Whatever it is, it’s got to be able to attract the light.”
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Table Art CenterPieces At Amazing Events
Table Art has illuminated some of the most prestigious events in Britain.
Andrew was happy to tell me about some of the events he’s brought Table Art to. One of the most memorable, he says, was the Pride of Britain awards, hosted by the Daily Mirror in partnership with TSB to celebrate the achievement of British people who have acted courageously and shown incredible bravery in harrowing situations.
“With the Pride of Britain Awards, the television production company wanted to be able to control the lights so that they could turn them off when the presentation was happening. So we can make the table lights go up as the winner is announced. All the other lights go out, and one table lights up.”
Table Art France was lucky enough to beautifully decorate the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation Gala. Andrew was delighted to be involved with a sportsman’s dinner in Battersea that wanted to use a corporate brand logo. The event was “A Night with Pele” “They came across my website, and they got in touch. So we designed tall vases with football boots in them, which were on every table. They then sold the sponsorship of the wraps for the light boxes, which paid for the lights.”
It’s this ability to make branded wraps for the light boxes that Andrew says really draws companies to work with Table Art. “What event planners should remember is that the light boxes can be branded. We use wraps that go around the light boxes. So if they’re doing an awards evening and spend £4,000 on the table centers, they can sell that as sponsorship because one of their sponsors will then be in front of every guest of that event.”
What Other Events Does Table Art Suit?
Andrew says that Table Art can work with virtually any event, from weddings and birthdays, which typically use the standard lights, to more complicated setups. “The thing is, it’s really any event. What’s good about it is that it’s set up quickly. There are no wires involved. We arrived with the flight case, and we can set up 50 tables in an hour.”
One of Andrew’s favorite events to plan are themed birthday parties. “The client comes to us, tells us what the theme is, and then we go through what we’ve done. We’ve got so many table centers. For example, for people who want a London theme, we’ve got London telephone boxes. We’ve got the London Eye. So it’s really any event that actually wants to move away from the traditional candles or flowers. All our designs are designed so you can see across the table, so you can talk.”
Programmable Lighting Designs
At one event, Andrew recalls that the client had two colors in their theme and wanted them to intermittently change out. This was completely doable because every table center with Table Art is programmed. “If the client has a production company, they just tell us what they want. They put us in touch with their production company, and we put them in touch with our tech guys, and then they discuss it together. Then our tech guys program everything at head office. It’s all done there.”
“If the production company is running it all, we literally turn up with the lights. We set up the connection, and away they go. All we’ve got to do is make sure that table number one corresponds with light box number one. That’s the DMX control. When each box comes out of stock, they’re numbered against the program that we’ve done. So table one corresponds with table number one.”
The busiest time of year for Table Art is between September and March when the darker nights really start to set in in the UK. It’s then, Andrew says, that people are especially drawn to the warmth, the light, and the luxury of Table Art designs.
“At Christmas, for instance, we have thousands and thousands of tables,” he explains. “At that time of year, we do what we call the dry hire. A big party venue does loads of parties throughout the season. They take a building and do parties for the entire month of December. They take the stock the week before they start. We set it all up, but they then charge all the light boxes. They take it around, and we get it all back at the end of the period. So, we say when we’re talking to people about Christmas, particularly the smaller events because we get a lot of inquiries for those, is plan it the previous January, and book the stock, so we know we’ve got it.”
The “Wow” Factor of Table Art
The reason Andrew is so passionate about Table Art is that the lights can transform an otherwise unremarkable event into something unforgettable.
“It’s that wow factor,” he comments. “The people who walk into the room literally say, ‘Wow!’. We do something called a Bianco Twist, where you stand there and watch people go in, and they touch it because they think it might be ice, but it’s acrylic. I’ve never, ever done an event with Table Art that I haven’t heard somebody go, ‘Wow, these are amazing.’ And nine times out of 10, when you do an event, somebody is there who knows somebody who’s doing another event. You’ve got another booking.”
Hearkening back to his career working events in historic buildings, it’s important for Andrew to plan a decor scheme with the venue’s ambiance in mind. “We try to compliment the building. If it’s a modern hotel, we’ve got lamp lights and things like that. But if ever an event planner comes to us with a very modern design scheme, but the event is in a Georgian building, we advise them on something that would be more complementary. We did an event in The Pump Room in Bath, a Georgian building, where we had real crystal chandeliers without lighting. But the client wanted to incorporate table art. So around the room, we used our acrylic chandeliers, which complimented the real crystal ones beautifully. It was quite something.”
Technology’s Role in Event Design
With Andrew’s two decades in the event industry, I couldn’t help but ask him how technology’s role has changed over that time. Andrew remembers starting out in an industry where centerpieces were all about candles and huge floral arrangements that made it hard to talk to the person across the table from you.
“That cost a fortune,” he laughs. “Now, everything is easier. When you had 50 tables, and a florist came in and set up with candles and flowers, it would take hours and hours and hours. With Table Art, at the end of the event, we can have the tables cleared in an hour. We’re off site, and we’re out of the way so that the production company can get all the rigging notes and everything else. This is because there are no wires involved. The lights literally come off of the table and go into a flight case.”
Andrew hopes that as more and more people consider the way technology can bring their events to the next level of sophistication, they’ll consider working with Table Art. “So many event planners have never heard of Table Art or seen it,” he admits. “On the other hand, many have, and if they spread the word with their network and say that they’ve used it and it’s awesome, that really helps.”
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Technology Brings Down Event Costs
Many junior event planners think that because of how high-tech and polished it is, Table Art is always going to be very expensive. That’s not necessarily the case. And considering the budget that many people have for fresh flowers, Andrew believes that Table Art offers a competitive, modern option. When event planners book an event with Table Art, the event will be under their name and not Axis Events, something many people get confused about, Andrew says.
“We’re a product, and we’re a supplier to the events industry. Our table centers go out from anything from £25 per table center to £150 per table center. It really depends on what they want, what their budget is. It’s usually better if the event planner tells us what their budget is, and they’re realistic about it. What would they pay for flowers? You can’t expect to get a table center for much less than you’re going to get flowers. We have to clean the light boxes before they go out, we have to pack them away, we have to clean them when they get back. There’s a lot that goes on before they actually get there.”
Advice From A Highly Experience Event Professional
After hearing about Andrew’s wealth of experience, not just with Table Art but also with his own event planning company, I was keen to hear his advice for other event planners.
According to Andrew, a good event planner must, above all, have a fantastic eye for detail, which is only gleaned through experience. “When I’m negotiating with a hotel, I know what the tablecloth costs, I know what should be served when and how it should be served. It’s all about knowledge. It’s great having all the qualifications and to have worked on festivals and other events. Still, actually, you have to be the eye of the client on the day of an event. You need to know that they’re doing it right. So it’s the in-depth knowledge that’s key.”
On the wedding side of things, Andrew says he probably gets four or five applications a week from people that are starting out in the wedding planning field. “Because they’ve organized their sister’s wedding and it turned out well, they’ve decided to go into the industry. Which is great – I welcome them on board. But they need to go into a bit more depth. They need to know a glamorous wedding in a marquee for 200 people is lovely, but who is crawling under that marquee and plugging in at 2:00 in the morning? It’s you. There’s a glamorous side to events, but I would say the reason I’m still doing it is that I just love events. And on this side of the events, you see them out from start to finish.”
If Table Art’s recent success is anything to go by, I’d say the future for modern, technically-advanced decor is very bright indeed.