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Sayar & Garibeh meld references from Lebanese life and traditions in ‘Broomlithic’
Installation View of ‘Broomlithic’
Image: Logan Jackson, courtesy of R & Company

Sayar & Garibeh meld references from Lebanese life and traditions in ‘Broomlithic’

The furniture collection, on view at the New York art gallery R & Company, comprises benches, tables, lamps and planters cast in Lebanese stone. 

by Almas Sadique
Published on : Feb 13, 2024

Lebanese designers Stephanie Sayar and Charbel Garibeh, known for their eponymous design studio Sayar & Garibeh, host a body of work that, despite its contemporary semblance, portrays a distinctly unique tone. The objects, designed by the two product designers, embody a humorous tone. They are anamorphic, while also bearing a countenance that is capable of confounding its users with their atypical forms. Some of their recent designs are currently on view at New York’s R & Company, from January 12 to April 19, 2024. Sayar & Garibeh, who divide their time between Paris and Beirut, combine their individual perspectives, personal touches and creative energies to design experimental pieces that meld local craftsmanship with contemporary design.

“Being both designers and makers, we perceive the immense potential within each material we encounter. We are constantly seeking ways to transform and manipulate, breathing new life into them and presenting them in unique and unconventional ways. Ultimately, we relish the opportunity to rebel against traditional materials and techniques, embracing the chance to challenge norms and bring forth innovative expressions of creativity,” the designers share.

Titled Broomlithic, it is the first solo exhibition by the designers in New York, USA. Zesty Meyers and Evan Snyderman, R & Company’s Founders and Principals, share, “We are excited to formalise our collaborations with Stephanie and Charbel and to bring them into our program, which has always championed emerging designers. The upcoming exhibition is an opportunity to formally introduce New York and US audiences to their distinct and inventive studio practice, which is guided by a deep engagement with craft techniques and a desire to experiment and explore new aesthetic and conceptual possibilities in design. Their work communicates a joyfulness and a love of life and culture, and we are very much looking forward to expanding awareness of their vision and work.”

The showcase features a selection of furniture and design objects that reflect the designers’ distinctive stone carving and pay tribute to the simple, functional broom. On being asked about the inspiration behind the design of the collectible objects, the designers share, “The Broomlithic pieces draw inspiration from an array of elements, seamlessly blending forgotten Lebanese stone with the symbolism of the broom. The concept emerged from a desire to weave together elements from our past with symbols of hope for the future. We are blending Lebanese stone with the familiar broom, as a reminder of our capacity to adapt and thrive. This concept stems from our own desire to share stories of perseverance and growth, reflecting how we've turned challenges into opportunities. The broom, symbolising renewal, seamlessly merges with the strength of Lebanese stone, creating a narrative that speaks directly to our experiences and aspirations.”

Sayar and Garibeh’s playful creations are inspired by Lebanese life and culture. Various elements, such as the colour, form, materiality and the object’s function, derive inspiration from the Lebanese way of living. However, Sayar and Garibeh avoid representing Lebanon in a conventional manner. Instead, they aim to reveal the more visceral aspects of the country through abstracted gestures in their design. “Our vision encompasses the richness, diversity, and contrasts that are abundant here, with a special focus on the actions and experiences of everyday life,” the designers share.

The process of designing and building the Broomlithic pieces began with a series of discussions and exchanges between the two designers and the artisans. These ideas then culminated into detailed sketches that reflected the fusion of Sayar and Garibeh’s individual ideas. From hereon, the designers prototyped the intended pieces in small mockups, using 3D printing. This part of the process enabled Sayar and Garibeh to communicate the vision to the suppliers and artisans easily. Once the designs were finalised, blocks of stone were prepared and roughly cut in the desired shapes. “Skilled hands meticulously carved and smoothed the stone, shaping it into the desired form. Finally, the pieces received a finishing touch with bush hammering,” the designers share.

The objects showcased as part of the Broomlithic exhibition, at the art gallery, are an amalgamation of two ideas. First, the Lithic stage in human development saw an increase in the invention and usage of stone tools. This development emerged in tandem with moving on from the nomadic lifestyle and establishing a more settled life—one where the diurnal tools for usage were sturdier than their wooden counterparts. Secondly, the designers reference the broom, the visual features of which are apparent in the benches, side tables and coffee tables, floor lamps, planters and stools that makeup Broomlithic. The usage of elements of a broom in Sayar & Garibeh’s pieces references the object’s representation of the experience of renewal in many cultures.

“The concept of the lithic stage finds an unexpected parallel in the symbolism of the broomstick. For us, both ideas highlight the human capacity for adaptation. They are part of the common thread of human resilience, and our pursuit of a better future through the utilisation of tools. The works featured in Broomlithic capture the optimistic state of mind that we are experiencing and that we want to share with others through these objects,” the designers elaborate.

A combination of these two references, abstracted by Sayar and Garibeh, results in a series of unexpected results. Although the pieces are crafted using blocks of white Lebanese stone, their treatment renders a soft form to the furniture. Each piece is characterised by gentle curves and textured surfaces, accented further by fibre components that reference the bristles of the broom, hence imbuing the pieces with an aura of domesticity. “Each piece tells a unique story, blending cultural influences, [and] personal philosophy, with a dash of humour. As the final touch, we applied a technique called bush hammering to the stone's surface, giving each piece a tactile feel that invites exploration,” Sayar and Garibeh enunciate. In doing so, the pieces manage to highlight the beauty of stonework, whilst keeping the overall frame of the objects light and humorous.

‘Broomlithic’ is on view from January 12 to April 19, 2024, at R & Company at 64 White Street, New York, USA.

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