By Anat Bazak
“The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched, they must be felt with the heart,” said Helen Keller, American author and activist who triumphed over the triple afflictions of blindness, dumbness and deafness. Her simple but profound insight can be applied to almost every aspect of our lives. When we celebrate a simcha such as a bar mitzvah, engagement or bris we spend an illogical portion of our time choosing the hall, the décor, the menu, the clothing. But how can we see the material aspects of the simcha as more than just ornamental trappings? How can we take all the seemingly materialistic pleasures of an event—good food, dancing, an excuse to dress up in our Shabbos finest—and make the event a meaningful and memorable celebration of ourselves?
Anat Bazak is an event designer who breathes life and sanctity into event décor in a very unique way. With meticulous planning and as many hours as it takes to get to know and understand each client, she captures and conveys to guests each client’s unique personality or style by translating it into a concept, theme and magical event space.
We spoke to Anat to get some insight on where design and concept meet in the beautiful events she produces.
How can custom-designed centerpieces give meaning and depth to an event?
Every human being has a body and a soul, and we’re constantly thinking about how our actions affect our inner nature and vice versa. Jewish religious law and custom make us think about that all the time. A white tablecloth on the Shabbat table makes such a big difference, even though on the surface it’s nothing but a piece of cloth. A Seder night full of strange accessories can conjure a tangible experience of the exodus from Egypt. We save our best clothing or our beautiful jewelry for the chagim and Shabbos, and when we wear them, we feel happier and an ethereal kind of sanctity.
My role is to take our most cherished moments to greater heights, by imbuing the “accessories” I use for events—photographs and printed materials, props, centerpieces, favors, candles, table linen and colors—with depth and meaning, through expression of the inner neshama of each client.
How did you get into the business of event design?
I always enjoyed making a themed Shabbos table at home, and used a different color palette and decorative items each week. The variety was refreshing and gave Shabbos a special kind of atmosphere and interest.
Then, before I threw out the table décor from my children’s bar and bat mitzvahs, I decided to use them to teach my students various subjects through a unique series of workshops on subjects I felt were particularly important such as tefilla, Shabbos, and chessed. I took all the leftover items and objects and used them in the classroom to fabricate a series of “special occasions,” and at each lesson a brand new event-scape would greet my students as they entered the classroom. I harnessed the various items—tablecloths, oil lamps, candles and other unique centerpieces—to create a setting, so that each lesson would have a completely different atmosphere, each important subject would take on a colorful, living character and the lesson would remain vivid in my students’ minds. The variety of tools and ideas that I gathered for these classes served as the basis for what I do today.
What simchas do you do?
My bread and butter is lifecycle events like a bris, simchat bat, bar and bat mitzvah, engagement, wedding, aufruf and sheva brachos. Milestone anniversaries and birthdays, retirement parties and Aliyah celebrations are usually less frequent but their intimate size opens up a variety of exciting and unique décor options that aren’t suitable for larger events. I really enjoy designing and decorating indoor and outdoor event venues, but my most rewarding work is using décor to transform a client’s home, for one special evening, into a festive banquet hall or fantasy world.
What do your services include?
I do everything décor-related. I don’t do booking or coordinating with other professional service providers such as photographers, musicians, makeup artists or caterers. I’m happy to give recommendations, but my job is to identify the concept that truly speaks to a client, and together define the character and significance of their celebration. I prefer to focus on my own niche and channel all my energy and resources into transforming the event space into that vision.
Each service package is tailored to the specific needs or requirements of each client. Some clients want only the décor for the venue, with a color scheme for the table linen and napkins and color-coordinated outfits for each member of the family. Others need help preparing invitations, favors and thank you letters, so that they fit in with the overall concept of the event. I do the shopping for disposable tableware, prepare guest bags for Shabbos guests and offer a once-off consultation for clients who just want to organize their thoughts about what they want for the event. Sometimes we write the welcome speeches together, and plan the event program in line with the chosen theme. Some clients talk about what they don’t want, and that clarifies what they do want. It’s a joint process.
I dedicate a lot of time to each client, which sometimes requires a series of meetings, probing them for information on what they’re celebrating, what kind of atmosphere they want, and a design concept to present the message or theme of the event, such as a season, chag, the weekly parsha, or a siyum mesechta of mishna or gemara that they have completed. I ask a lot of questions and then my internal laboratory analyzes everything and presents me with a visual plan. It kind of happens on its own. It’s magical, and it’s a great privilege.
Where do you get all the accessories for your décor?
I don’t borrow from simcha gemachim and I don’t do copy-paste for all the tables at a client’s simcha venue. Each centerpiece is unique and I handpick each item. I own every object, item and accessory that I use and each has its own story or history. I have accumulated thousands of items, but I always buy a few new ones for each event and I love how each one can transport me to another place and time. One might remind me of the stained, wrinkled palms of the man who fashioned it by hand, another carries with it a lingering memory of the bustling market that was once its home, and a third might conjure the image of the peddler who sold it to me for a little more than it was worth.
Do you have a signature “product”?
One of the things that gives me the most joy is a custom-designed table for Shabbos candles.
Usually, a tray of plain tea lights is what guests encounter when they assemble for candle-lighting at a Shabbos bar mitzvah or aufruf. I always felt that Shabbos deserves a more honorable welcome, so I started to design tables to match the color and style of the Friday night meal, which not only provides the magical ambience that only candlelight can provide, but also serve as a decorative element throughout Shabbat. I bought real candlesticks in a variety of materials and colors, including wood, gold, glass, silver and black, and coordinate them with the theme of each simcha. At that dreamlike hour just before sunset—when the whole family gathers together before Kabbalas Shabbos—a beautiful, ornate table for the Shabbos candles sets the tone for a festive and moving Shabbos.
What gives you inspiration?
My muse is in everything around me, both past and present: My years of studying and teaching Torah and Jewish history, nature and landscapes, and above all, people. When your job entails taking your hobby and passion and doing what you love every day, it becomes the best job in the world.
To me, design is not about things. It’s not just a color scheme, candlelight and flowers. And it’s not just about filling a space. It’s about people and the way they make memories. And when all the tables have been cleared and your guests have gone home, that’s what you’ll cherish the most.
Anat Bazak is an event designer, teacher and both formal and informal educator. In between event decorating, she designs inviting learning spaces and classrooms that enable students’ self-expression through their physical environment and its contents. She is also the creator of a course in Educational Creativity and Learning-Environment Design, offered at Herzog Academic College’s B.Ed. program and Matan’s Eshkolot program in Jerusalem.
Anat can be reached at 052-865-6196 or visit her on Facebook at ענת בזק חיבורים של תוכן ועיצוב