New Beginnings: The New Nour Hage Brand Identity

When I first started my brand in 2013, I was doing so without much of a plan. I had moved back to Lebanon in a way that wasn't entirely of my choosing, having failed to secure a work permit in France to stay on at the job I had at Damir Doma as a Parsons student. 

I started the brand the way many people in their mid-twenties start projects, without much of an idea where it was going, and with a lot of support from friends and family.

The original brand logo designed by my cousin Joelle Ghanem, the swing tag designs by Tala Safie, and the first version of the 'stitch icon' I drew have all served me well. But as the brand has evolved, as I have put together a plan for where I see it and myself as a designer, as I've moved to a new country, I thought it was time for a new beginning. 

Last month I enlisted the help of the wonderful design duo Paul & Maud in Brussels. We discussed my work, London, the deep relationship I have with Beirut, my wishes to remain an intimate and artisanal designer, how I want to be a responsible designer. Not as a buzzword, but as a real way of being. 

And here's what we came up with. A reworking of the typography on the logo and of the stitch that emerged during the Hyphen collection, and which finds its way onto all my pieces.

I am happy to have this new design as the cloak I'll wrap around myself on this next stage of my journey as a designer.

Memories of My Childhood: My Submission to The John Ruskin Prize 2017

A couple of months ago, amongst the usual mishmash of newsletters and easy-to-ignore offers in my inbox, I got an interesting email from Makerversity, where I rent space at Somerset House. It was about the 4th John Ruskin Prize, a joint effort by The Guild of Saint George, The Big Draw and Museums Sheffield. Named after the Victorian art critic, author, patron, artist and philanthropist, this year's theme — Hand & Eye: Master of All Trades in the Age of Jack — revolves around the Artist As Polymath. 

The email couldn't have come at a better time. The last year has involved a lot of soul-searching for me. I have moved somewhere new, big and daunting. I am both more certain about where my skills lie as a designer, and more uncertain about how to express them. And I really want to push myself to express my artistic impulses through new forms of design. 

Now that I live in London, I have been thinking a lot about how I connect to my Lebanese roots, and more specifically I have been mining my childhood for meaning. And I found it in the unlikeliest of places. Meaning in the carved diamond shapes get cut onto the surface of a pan of baked kibbeh by my grandmother in the village of Kaytoule. Shapes I was never allowed to help with until I reached a certain age and was allowed to participate in the ritual. Meaning in the gentle clanging together of the beads on my grandfather's misbaha beads. 

The pieces I would end up creating would bring together research into Lebanon's culinary history & its religious totems. It would involve putting together my recollections of sounds and smells from my childhood 3000 kilometers — and 20 years — away into a daily journal. 

Starting with sketches and vague recollections, I began to wonder where I would go with this. I took my sketches and started manipulating them in Illustrator, creating prints. But they seemed too clean-cut. So I took the computer-generated print and started drawing it by hand. That process of distillation through the machine is what helped me come up with the defining shape for a necklace and rings. Now armed with the second hand-drawing, it went back into Illustrator to form the basing for the laser cutting of the piece itself. Again, the distillation process meant that the laser-cut result, normally perfect, retained the imperfections of my hand-drawing.

I cut the pieces in medium-density fiberboard. Because it absorbs humidity easily, I sprayed it with a lacker coat and then black paint. I added gold leafing as a means of embellishment. Black representing my memories of the 90s in Lebanon, and imperfect gold sprinkles my attempt at reclaiming that space in the time-honoured tradition of gold embellishment.

 

When it came to the misbaha, besides remembering it in my grandfather's hands, I didn't know much beyond that. Researching I realized all religions had prayer beads, so I wanted to understand what Lebanese ones special. I found out that they used to be made out of olive pits. So I decided to use that technique, since olive pits are normally a waste product. I gathered pits, washed them, drilled holes with small specialized hand drill, painted them black with wood dye. I applied golf leaf again and half-coated them with a glossy finish. I threaded it all with silk thread and used leftover black fabric from my studio to create the tassel.