Designing a Log Carrier with Noujica

Jinny Lévesque, a glass artist, and Catherine Cournoyer, a textile print designer, first met in a visual arts class in college. They became fast friends and soon joined forces to design their first ethical textile products. A decade later, they’re now collaborating with BESIDE to make a unique log carrier.

Text—Léa Beauchesne
Photos—Eliane Cadieux

Catherine starts a sentence, and Jinny naturally finishes it. The two women embody the perfect pair of creative entrepreneurs. Just as they were starting out in their adult life, they launched the Noujica adventure together. The two artisans use only recycled and organic materials, such as cotton, leather, and linen, to make their products. They always prioritize local and ethically responsible suppliers. After designing several clothing collections, they now want to base their creations even more on their personal values by making durable and timeless objects. Created in collaboration with BESIDE, the log carrier becomes a joyful symbol of this shift in direction.

Catherine, Jinny, how have your values shaped the history of Noujica?

Right from the start, we approached everything from the perspective of sustainable and durable design. We began by designing winter accessories, scarves, silkscreen prints, always using recycled fabrics, which we got from Value Village for example. Once we decided to expand, we needed a relatively constant supply, so we sought out suppliers of locally dyed, organic cotton.

All the sewing is done by social reintegration companies that help women find jobs and keep them. A lot of thought goes into every product we design.

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You use organic materials, including leather. What exactly is vegetable-tanned leather?

People often think that when we say the leather is vegetable-tanned, it means it’s plant-based, just like plant-based meat, when in fact it means the leather is made using all-natural products, in contrast to leather made by tanning with chromium, which is super polluting. Currently, in the villages where they do the tanning, the inhabitants live from the rivers and streams around them. They don’t have water treatment systems. The water treated with chromium and used for tanning is the same water the inhabitants consume. This has two major consequences: it causes diseases, and it’s terrible for the ecosystem. Vegetable-tanned leather is amazing because it uses biodegradable materials: tree bark, spices, whatever can be found on the land. Using leather is controversial, but we need to consider the longevity of the product: the lifespan of faux leather, often made from plastic, is really short. We never kill an animal for the leather. We use an animal’s skin that otherwise would get thrown away.

Why do you think people find it easier to buy organic food than ethical clothing?

Maybe because there’s more pleasure involved with food. You eat a banana, and it has a direct effect on your body, so you know it’s good for the environment. But with your five-dollar sweater from H&M, it’s more insidious. To understand the impact of that sweater, you need to get informed. So it’s much more invisible, but once you know more, if you have any conscience at all, you won’t be able to go back. It will soon be just like that organic banana. The link is less direct, but once you know it, you’ll have a hard time choosing to buy a five-dollar sweater.

The care and washing of our clothes counts for 26% of the environmental impact. Polyester becomes the nanoplastics that make their way into our rivers.

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Creating a Log Carrier with
BESIDE and Fabrique 1840

Making a log carrier is a natural fit for the creative pair behind Noujica. Approached by BESIDE and Fabrique 1840 with the tote idea, the artisans were delighted by the concept. Imbuing the familiar tote with a rustic new use inspired them to create a sturdy design with clean lines. They began their creative process by determining all the aspects that had to be taken into account: materials, objectives, constraints, final design, object functionality. While they searched for the most ethical and durable materials, Catherine made sketches that nourished the creative and technical process. The result of an impassioned process between two old friends and collaborators, the log carrier will help you fuel your camping adventures for a long, long time.

Log Carrier

At once sturdy, ethical, and durable, the tote’s design gives it a unique style. The long leather handles make it easy to carry over the shoulder or by hand. A design is subtly silkscreened inside the handles. The thick and water-resistant fabric, the added leather bands along the bag’s length, as well as the rivets and gussets make it extremely sturdy and durable. The oversized tote can hold many logs up to 50 cm long.

The log carrier is available in the BESIDE Cabins and offered in a limited edition from Fabrique 1840, Home of Canadian Creators.

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