As we mark our first collaboration with table tennis innovators The Art of Ping Pong, we sat down with co-founder Algy to learn about the brand, its inspirations, ambitions, and much more.
1. Welcome to The Conran Shop, The Art of Ping Pong! Please tell us a little about your brand
Both myself and Caroline are big lovers of art and design, having both had careers as graphic designers for over 20 years each. AoPP is an opportunity to explore that passion, but from the angle of creating art that can be more than just visual. We want to create art pieces that encourage us to connect with others through the engagement of an activity. And as a personal lover of ping pong this gives us a perfect angle.
2. You have completely reimagined the game of table tennis and turned game equipment, which is often considered cumbersome and unattractive, into a design-led item for the home. Can you tell us where this idea came from?
The idea came completely from a personal need. We used to hold ping pong tournaments in my old studio – when I ran a design agency with an old friend. But when we closed the business, I had nowhere to play ping pong. So I bought a small table for the garage and used to hold a few mini-tournaments in there. Then the garage got taken over by prams, high chairs, bikes - that sort of thing - so there was no room for a ping pong table. Foldaway ping pong tables are still big ugly things, even mini ones. So I thought if I could make a small table and hang it on the wall as an art piece, Caroline would let me bring a ping pong table into the house. Haha.
Since then, the idea for many of our products has evolved from the modern need for compact living and the love of beautiful objects. So we create vibrant objects to populate our living spaces that have a real-life purpose.
3. You are a relatively new brand, having launched in 2013. What was it like to guide the business through the pandemic?
In many ways, I was lucky that I no longer had a design agency of 16 people to navigate through the pandemic. That would have been really tough. But going into the pandemic, AoPP was still really a side hustle alongside client work.
But in many ways, the pandemic forced my hand into working on AoPP full-time. With the kids in the house oﬀ school, my time was in such limited supply that I had to make a decision between working on with client work or going all-in on AoPP. This is what both Caroline and myself decided to do!
4. Charity auctions are a large part of what you do; can you tell us a little more about this?
From the inception of AoPP, as it was a side project with no expectations placed upon it, we have always tried to support good causes where we can. We have produced many of our own charity exhibitions and auctions, and since our inception in 2013, we have raised over £25k. To bring these auctions to life, we have partnered with some of the world’s most exciting artists to produce hundreds of unique artworks. Some of these wonderful artists have been Camille Walala, Anthony Burrill, Noma Bar, Supermundane, Hattie Stewart, Jean Jullien, Thierry Noir, Mr Doodle, David Shillinglaw, Morag Myerscough, Jake & Dinos Chapman, Alan Kitching, Ryan Gander, Mr Bingo, Kelly Anna, Malika Favre and many more.
5. You have collaborated with some great brands and designers on multiple speciality editions of your Ping Pong Table; might you have any personal favourites?
Haha, that’d be too hard to say and totally unfair on all the incredible artists and brands we have worked with. But obviously, working with The Conran Shop, with its heritage in British design, is a highlight for us.
6. On that note, we are honoured to oﬀer an exclusive Art of Ping Pong collection featuring the Conran Shop googly eye print; can you tell us more about it?
We’re really keen to see our current product family – ArtTables, ArtNets, ArtBats and ArtBalls – as collections. So there are multiple ways to experience our brand. And it was with the Conran Shop design that we ﬁrst managed to do this. So for us, it was really great to see the whole set come together. And in such a bold and playful way.
7. Who are your greatest design inﬂuences?
For someone who’s studied and worked in design for so long, I really struggle with this question. I think you can ﬁnd inspiration in the most unlikely places and it’s often not from your own direct world of design. That said one of the most exciting things along the journey of AoPP is that we’ve got to collaborate with some amazing names in art and design.
8. What is your favourite design icon at The Conran Shop?
Haha. I thought I dodged the design inﬂuence/icon question. So I guess I would say the work of Charles and Ray Eames. All their designs are so elegantly simple and yet entirely functional. Something I have aspired to as a graphic designer and still now as we’ve more into product creation with AoPP.
9. What most excites you about the future of The Art of Ping Pong?
Having spent most of my career in client servicing, I’m really enjoying the freedom of seeing where AoPP can go. At the heart of our concepts, the duality of art and play is such an open yet deﬁned brief I feel we’ve only really started our journey.
10. Lastly, who is better at ping pong: Algy or Caroline?
Ooh, awkward question. Although I don’t think Caroline would mind me saying myself. Caroline has come into the game late in life. Or, more accurately, she has been coerced into AoPP through her love of objects more than ping pong. Let’s not forget that the idea of the mini ArtTables originated from the need to smuggle a ping pong table into our home without any objection...