Amanda Nogier has dabbled in many areas of the arts—photography, welding, graphic design—but jewellery design was never on her radar. That is, not until she decided to craft a selection of wearable concrete bling for a student-organized pop-up shop at the University of Alberta, where she was majoring in industrial design in 2014. That’s when the emails started coming. “People kept asking me about my jewellery: where they could find it, if I was going to make more of it,” she recalls. “And it grew organically from that.”
Photo by Carey Shaw.
Now based in her hometown of Saskatoon, Nogier is the founder of Béton Brut (French for “raw concrete”), a line of, in her words, “minimal, modern” concrete jewellery with a “Memphis-y” edge. More specifically, the pared-down shapes of her drop earrings, necklaces and double-finger rings are inspired primarily by Brutalism, an architectural style that was popular in the 1950s and ’60s and is characterized by its—no coincidence here—stark concrete constructions. Meanwhile, the colours—vibrant teals, pinks and lilacs—that are incorporated into Béton Brut’s pieces take more closely after the Memphis Group, a design-and-architecture collective founded in the ’80s that was known for its colourful post-modern works. The jewellery is made up of a lightweight mix of concrete that Nogier produces in small batches. She blends powder pigments into the mixes before pouring them into handmade moulds, resulting in marbled concrete forms that showcase a range of dreamy, at times ombré-like, hues.
Photo by Carey Shaw. The Radii studs may resemble the shape of Pac-Man, but they’re actually informed by geometry: radii is the plural of radius.
Framed by 3D-printed brass or sterling silver, these highly durable, hand-polished pieces stand in for shimmering beads, metals or gemstones, highlighting the possibilities of a seemingly frigid, inflexible substance. “I love that concrete is an everyday material that most people kind of overlook,” notes Nogier. “It’s really accessible in the sense that it’s not super expensive. And, aesthetically, you can make it into such a beautiful thing.”
Photo by Carey Shaw. The Oculus pendant gives a nod to our galaxy.
Photo by Carey Shaw. The Hex pendant
is an homage to the first concrete jewellery piece that Nogier ever constructed.Such beautiful things include geometric studs and pendants, as well as larger statement items such as the Goldfinger, a striking double-finger ring inspired by “oft-misunderstood” architect Ernő Goldfinger, and the High Line series, a collection of necklaces commissioned by New York City’s High Line Shop that uses obsidian- and jet-black-stone-infused concrete to mimic the material of its namesake park. And then there’s Nogier’s favourite piece, the Arch earrings, a pair of dangle earrings that feature slabs of concrete that have been designed to resemble grand 3D archways. The jewellery has a timeless, artful quality to it, one that’s earned Béton Brut a spot in boutiques across Canada and the U.S., as well as at institutions like the Royal Alberta Museum and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. “I was really drawn to the jewellery’s beautiful blend of perfect shapes and imperfect materials,” says DOTY judge Danielle Wilmore, co-founder and designer at Vancouver-based jewellery brand Pyrrha. “The concrete designs make each piece one-of-a-kind, yet the finish is clean and modern.”
Photo by Carey Shaw. The Lavalier earrings are inspired by Art Deco.
Photo by Carey Shaw. The High Line series gives a shout out to one of North America’s most recognizable urban parks—first, by spelling out its name, and second, by showing off its linear shape.
In recent years, Nogier has also extended her concrete expertise to the world of home decor, producing small planters and vessels and collaborating with Edmonton-based companies Libertine Fragrances (on a candle) and Birch and Grey (on furniture pieces). However, there’s a certain thrill that Nogier finds in jewellery making that’s sure to keep the designer in the field for years to come. “Every time I pull a piece out of a mould and polish it, it’s a different experience,” she says. “I love the excitement of constantly being able to create something new.”
Photo by Carey Shaw
Q&A with Amanda Nogier
You’re organizing a designer dinner party: which three designers, dead or alive, would you want there?
I’m going to have to go with all dead designers because I feel like I still might be able to meet the alive ones that I admire most one day. Ettore Sottsass, founder of the Memphis Group; Marcel Breuer, a well-known Brutalist architect and student of the Bauhaus; and Aino Aalto, a Finnish designer who was my first female design idol.
What’s your dream project?
I would absolutely love to design facades and large public installations in my style of brightly coloured concrete. But I think the industrial designer in me really wants to design public furniture and spaces for interaction—not necessarily in concrete. I’ve always been incredibly interested in sociology and the way people interact with their surroundings, so I’d like to be able to use more of those ideas in the future.
Who do you admire most as a designer?
Stefan Sagmeister. I forget how I learned about him, but it was back before I chose design as a career. He made me think—what do I love enough in this world that I would carve my skin to make a point? In other words, what do I want to do so badly that it doesn’t matter
how hard it is, because I would endure it regardless? He has always been a bit of a controversial designer, constantly pushing the boundaries, which is why I love him so much. I’ve always been really bad at following rules and answering to authority, which often caused difficulties with my professors to the point where I was threatened to be expelled from design school, until my professor sat down with me and learned a little more about where I was coming from. Reading and learning about Sagmeister makes me feel like it’s worth being myself, and to keep pushing on.