Written by Andrew Moffett, Chief Brand Officer, Southern Aluminum
A brand within a brand, our Swirl Tables® have been styling venues since 2005. But what really is “Swirl”? And how has it remained a leading choice for operators in meetings and events for years? A big part of the Swirl success lies in the artisans who produce this line in the Swirl Studio at Southern Aluminum in Magnolia, Arkansas.
A niche product, the Swirl story is a fun one to talk about as I pull back the curtain to reveal it. Admiring Swirl Tables® for years, I honestly did not know how it was produced until I joined the Southern Aluminum team and took a deeper dive into the unique process. I am not doing it justice when I say “produced”, I mean artistically designed. You see, this unique linenless event table is not something that simply moves through a machine or is a cookie-cutter process within our manufacturing facility, rather, it is something that is handcrafted by two of our talented employees.
Recently I had a chance to sit down with the people behind the product’s artistry who are crafting Swirl every week, and what I uncovered was more fascinating than I had imagined.
Jason Harper and Monnie Rowden are proudly from Magnolia, AR. They began their career at Southern Aluminum, working in various areas of the facility. Once they were exposed to our linenless Swirl Tables, they jumped at the chance to learn the craft and carry on the tradition.
What makes these two a perfect fit for Swirl? Well, they both come from an artistic past and have a keen sense of design. The Swirl Table is like no other, and that is a proud feeling for these two artisans who get to put their thumbprint on each tabletop they design.
The Swirl line looks similar from table to table to the naked eye, but these craftsmen can distinguish their swirl pattern from any others that have been done over the years immediately. While Jason and Monnie each have their own style and technique as to how they “Swirl,” they achieve a complementing and consistent design from table to table.
“You have to design by the feel of it,” says Jason. “You can’t be tense or intimidated. Just let it flow.” Jason tells me how the technique is organically different from person to person, and it is not something you can simply pick up and do quickly, it is an acquired skill. He also cautions me in saying that accuracy is crucial once you put the tool to the aluminum: “If you are careless, or not focused, your swirl pattern will not have the style that the product has come to be known for in the foodservice and meeting industries.”
To the point that Jason’s style is a “feel-the-flow” approach, Monnie sees his style as more of a boxing match. His opponent is the tool he uses to artistically swirl the raw aluminum tabletop. “Your reach is important. You cannot rush it; you have to have the right rhythm at all times. It is not about strength. You need to stay loose and move your arms, don’t forget to stay centered”.
This resonated with me, but I know from experience that this is all easier said than done. In my first week of joining Southern Aluminum, I could not wait to jump into the Swirl Studio because I wanted to try it, thinking it was a piece of cake. Far from the truth! I had no rhythm, I could not “let it flow”, my forearms got fatigued, and my swirl was more like the Road to Hana experience than a smooth and winding country road. It lacked character. I was immediately humbled by how technical it is to swirl, and I am thankful for Jason and Monnie, and those before them, that can do it effortlessly and successfully. Product integrity and protecting the brand of Swirl Tables® is of the utmost importance for Jason and Monnie. They truly are the Brand Advocates of our Swirl meeting and event table line.
What started as a collaboration project with a hotel in New Orleans, Swirl is now found in many venues outside of hotels, such as churches, schools, parks & rec, and government agencies. It has even gone primetime, having been seen at the Oscars, at WWE events, in several movies, and most recently at the San Antonio Convention Center during the NCAA Women’s National Basketball Tournament.
With talent like Jason and Monnie on the Southern Aluminum team, the design journey is fun when combining artistry with manufacturing. We are proud to have these two dedicated artisans behind our brand, giving each Swirl Table® the finishing touch that makes it one-of-a-kind.