*** Unique Playing Cards from Noir Arts ***
The name Noir Arts already indicates that this publisher of playing cards appreciates art, which is confirmed by their tag line: "We are Arts! Unique playing card designs". Based in Ukraine, the people involved with Noir Arts have been producing beautiful playing cards for the local Ukrainian market under the label Noir Playing Card Company (NPCC) already since 2005. Noir Arts was officially formed in 2014, when they expanded to begin producing playing cards for the worldwide community. Under the leadership of Roman Kotiv, they began by designing their own decks, and soon began cooperating with talented independent artists and design studios from around the world. Noir is French for "black", and so quite a number of their decks are more dark in theme, but you will also find more playful decks in their portfolio as well. They have a diverse portfolio of custom playing cards with varied styles, but what they all have in common is that they are artistic.
In addition to creating an impressive range of playing cards under their own design, Noir Arts offers a printing and fulfilment service under their original name NPCC, to create and print custom decks of playing cards for other designers and creators. In this series of reviews, I am showcasing some of the custom playing cards Noir Arts has produced, to give an overview of their work and style, and a glimpse of the artistic talent that is evident from their portfolio. In the final installment of this series, I will also offer some lengthy concluding comments about their card quality and handling, plus a more detailed comparison with other publishers. But for now, let's show you some of their lovely decks!
*** HISTORY & CULTURE DECKS ***
Branle Playing Cards (2015)
Several decks produced by Noir Arts have a strong element of depicting history/culture, and that includes one of their earlier in-house luxury-style decks entitled Branle Playing Cards. The Branle tuck box features some very intricate and ornate artwork, with stunning beautiful detail.
This deck has the unusual distinction of bearing a name that originates in a 12th century French chain dance, which was later adopted and popularized by French and English aristocrats in the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries. In England the word "branle" was anglicized as "brawl". The `branle' dance involved pantomiming things, often in a lively way. Don't these court cards look magnificent?!
The deck itself portrays the history and culture of the 16th and 17 century, with each suit corresponding to a different country as follows:
Spades = Britain
Hearts = France
Clubs = Spain
Diamonds = Eastern Europe
The creators of the deck state that the associations are not intended to be direct or exact, but "more like an alternative view to the real European history and culture of that era."
Here are the two Jokers, and the intricately decorated card back, which has an unbordered full-bleed style.
The number cards are also very stylized, and have been designed to evoke the feel of a different time and place than the modern age.
The detailed artwork of the Branle deck was created by Chesley Trem. It really reflects the era, and is highly attractive.
The Branle deck has proven to be quite a strong design for Noir Arts, and the original design has even been followed by a couple of limited edition projects that brought it to a new level of luxury with the addition of deluxe extras, such as the Royal Branle deck that came with real gold pigment inks and a velvet tuck box, and the Branle Tesoro deck which featured double-foil stamped cards and gemstone inlaid tucks.
Nipponia Playing Cards (2015)
The Nipponia deck is a Japanese-inspired design by Kieran Alexander, and was produced and fulfilled by NPCC.
Kieran is an Australian living in Japan. The title Nipponia means "about Japan", and reflects his long-standing interest in Japanese history.
The card backs of the Nipponia deck are heavily inspired with motifs from Japan, with shoji sliding doors influencing the design of the center, a traditional architecture inspired pattern as the background, and bamboo designs in the corners.
This deck brings together Japanese samurai, kunoichi, and orian onto the court cards, which have beautiful patterned panel-style backgrounds in light blue and light red.
In keeping with the theme, the pips are inspired by Japanese house emblems. The number cards also have this house emblem as a faint watermark-style background image, and further elements of customization is provided by the addition of traditional Japanese numeric characters on the opposite corners.
Finally, here are the two Jokers that round off this very stylized and unique deck.
The Nipponia deck will endear itself to those who have an interest in foreign cultures and faraway places, especially Japan. The thematic style has been woven into every element of this deck's design, starting with the style of the tuck-box. It extends far beyond mere customized court cards, because even the number cards and card backs have a very fresh feel that is in keeping with the rest of this deck.
So is Noir Arts (NPCC) for you? I came across Noir Arts and NPCC quite by accident, when exploring aspects the world of playing cards, but I'm very pleased that I did. They have produced some stunning decks of their own, using the artistic talents of creators internationally. In addition they provide what seems to be a good printing service for their many customers around their world. Knowing that this is a source that can be used to produce playing cards and fulfil crowd-funded projects will mean that many designers of custom cards will want to take note of this option they might otherwise not know about. As for the overall quality and handling of the cards, their quality is improving, although it doesn't match the best in the business like USPCC and LPCC/EPCC just yet, but is on par with second-tier publishers like MPC. Look for more extensive comments on the card quality and handling, plus a more detailed comparison with other publishers, in the final article of this series. The Noir Arts tuck boxes, however, are typically much more exquisite and impressive than MPC, and are first-rate.
While not geared towards producing playing cards that will satisfy the highest quality and exacting standards demanded by cardistry or card magic, Noir Arts is certainly focused on creating decks with a more artistic look, which they present in very impressive and high quality tuck boxes. Their playing cards cards have an air-cushion style finish and are of a quality that works well for playing card games or for collectors who admire an artistic style of deck. If that's what you're looking for, then do check them, their range, and their services out!
Want to learn more? Noir Arts: www.noir-arts.com