Christmas, Naturally: Natural Art's Johnson & Tess Tan
- Cheeko B. Ruiz () - October 23, 2011 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Christmas without the décor – without the tinsel and the tree, the parol and the belen, the lights and the glitter? Impossible!

“Filipinos enjoy decorating their homes with all sorts of Christmas décors – from Christmas trees and lights to lanterns, door wreaths, angels and snowman figurines – name it, they have it,” says Johnson Tan, owner of Natural Art, a leader in Christmas decorations in the country.

With probably the world’s longest Christmas season – from the start of the -ber months all the way to January – the country dresses up for the holiday, from the simple parol in the window to entire neighborhoods ablaze with lights and moving tableaux.

“This is because Christmas décor can magically transform the mood of people. They bring light and color to anybody’s home, much as they give hope to people during Christmas,” adds his wife Tess, who handles the creative part of the business. “Whatever happens, Christmas is one occasion that we should celebrate because it marks the birth of Jesus Christ.”

Johnson and Tess Tan, together with their children TJ and Abigail are in the business of creating Christmas cheer. Photos by Jonjon Vicencio

Johnson and Tess are keenly aware of the role that Christmas décor plays in people’s lives, and they have taken it to heart to contribute to a merrier Christmas for Filipinos through their products.

“It makes me very happy to be in this business,” says Tess, 53. “The idea of being able to uplift the mood of people inspires me.”

But the couple, who are both accountants, came into the business of making and selling Christmas decorations purely by accident.

“In 1997, I was given a promo tour package to Rotenburg, Germany by a company. We went to a Christmas store that was open all year round, where my wife bought plenty of Christmas decorations,” Johnson relates. Adding with a laugh, “We ended up having excess baggage when we came home!”

“Coincidentally, I was also fond of going to trade shows then, and one time I asked my wife to go see a trade show featuring Christmas decorations.”

Further inspired by what they saw during the Christmas trade fair, the couple began their now famous business, importing products from Taiwan, China and Europe and combining it with locally produced décor items.

And they haven’t stopped since.

Now, after 14 years, their company has grown into a thriving family business and has become a respected name in the industry, with big clients and projects that keep them busy all year round. They have expanded into designing and providing flowers for various occasions, and are also into events management.

Their two children, TJ and Abigail, are now helping their parents run the business.

“We now have outlets in Trinoma in Quezon City, Glorietta in Makati City and Festival mall in Muntinlupa City,” says Johnson.

“We also supply items to various leading department stores,” he adds.

But the work does not end there. They also decorate various major institutions and commercial establishments, foremost of which are the Manila International Airport, Makati Stock Exchange building and the UP-Ayala Land TechnoHub.

“Our clients are mostly referrals. We are very proud of that because it is an indication that clients are satisfied with our products and service,” Johnson says. “We are also particularly proud of the fact that our belen design for the Ayala Group has been consistently winning awards from the city of Makati.”

Asked what makes their products and services different from the rest, Tess has one answer: originality.

“I am not traditional when it comes to decorating. I like setting the trend, coming up with my own themes. I make it a point that every year, we have new items,” Tess says.

“Last year, we had a safari theme in our décor – anything from the wilderness. How are you going to use what you can find in the forest like willows as Christmas decor? Also before, very few people were using roses, until we introduced the concept.”

She adds, “I also like color combinations, which makes our products stand out from the rest. Even in our services, I like to play with colors to make the environment bright.”

Tess says she comes up with her ideas by “gut feeling.” For this year, “I want something that is more on kids – ginger bread, candies, cookies, snowflakes and nutcracker.”

The creativity of Tess is not hard to see, judging from their main showroom in Tayuman, Manila which is a veritable wonderland, a truly magical place. No wonder major television stations make it a point to hold their tapings or live feeds from here come Christmastime.

Tess is quick to point out, however, that they only present their ideas and designs to clients, but never impose their ideas.

“We have two kinds of accounts – institutional and household accounts,” shares TJ, who takes care of the communication team.

The institutional accounts are usually commercial establishments, while the household accounts are composed of those who buy decors from the stores and do the decorating on their own.

“Our products, like the poinsettia, are very affordable, priced almost the same as that of the others. But the difference lies in the execution,” Tess explains.

She advises consumers to consider several factors when buying Christmas decors.

“First they should think what theme they want to have, and what color, plus the household space that they have. Of course, safety should always be a consideration, because even if the products are cheap if they are not safe, it would be useless,” Tess says.

Johnson and Tess are also making sure that they are giving back to the community.

Aside from creating employment for Tondo residents who make various décor items, they also render free decoration service to their church, the Immaculate Concepcion Parish.

“We are only paying it forward,” says the husband and wife who have been married for 32 years. And paying it forward beautifully.

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