A ping pong paddle isn’t your typical canvas, but the Art of Ping Pong challenges esteemed designers and illustrators to try—and the bespoke bats are then auctioned off to raise money for BBC Children in Need, which supports disadvantaged youth in the UK. For its third year, London design agency Fivefootsix asked 20 very recognizable names like Anthony Burrill, Craig & Karl and Noma Bar (plus one talented student at the The Sir John Cass Faculty of Art, Architecture and Design who won the partnering competition) to transform a paddle into something special. Their collaborative efforts result in spectacular new works of art and thousands of pounds for charity.
The idea for the first Art of Ping Pong in 2013 came about when a few members of the design team were playing. It turns out that Fivefootsix co-founder Algy Batten is a keen ping pong player, using a special table top to transform their studio kitchen table into a ping pong table after work. Fivefootsix has even competed in the “Battle of the Agencies” ping pong tournament, facing off with other London design companies. “Myself and one of the Fivefootsix designers even joined the English table tennis league. And it was there that we found out how you really play! We were totally thrashed,” recalls Batten. Fivefootsix translated a fun hobby into a way to actively raise money for one of their clients, BBC Children in Need, thus practicing what they preach.
“Essentially it’s an open brief. We toyed around with narrowing the vision, but what we really like is seeing how everybody approaches it differently,” says Batten. “Each illustrator is sent a blank paddle and they treat it how they want. They’ve been pulled apart and screen printed, laser cut, hand painted, laser etched and Kate Forrester has done one this year using the marquetry technique which is amazing.”
In other news, Fivefootsix is in its final days after 10 years. The founding duo announced their decision this week to close the branding and design agency, and concentrate on personal projects—like, for Batten, the Art of Ping Pong.
The Art of Ping Pong will be on view from 6-26 November 2015 at London’s KK Outlet. The exhibition’s launch party takes place 5 November, where there’ll be a ping pong table for guests to show off their moves. The online auction will run for one month, ending 30 November, via the Art of Ping Pong website or app; and be sure to peep the humdingers from previous years, featuring one-offs from Jean Julien, Daniel Frost and more.
Images courtesy of the Art of Ping Pong