Aileen Lampman uses the strength of metal to make the fleeting beauty of nature permanent. Her unique perspective, and eye for capturing movement and shape, result in jewelry designs that are stunning, eminently wearable conversation pieces. Metal is in her blood; her great-grandfather was a blacksmith, and today she uses the very anvil that he once used to hammer out his ironwork.
Her love for creating beauty started early: as a teen, she saw potential in the scraps of electrical wire her father left behind from household projects. Using his pliers, she bent, cut, and twisted, dismantling and re-using her mother's vintage jewelry and beads to accent her first pieces. Throw in the influence of fashion magazines like Vogue and Harper's Bazaar, and voila! - this bored-out-of-her-mind country girl had definitely found her calling.
Aileen’s appreciation of metalsmithing unfolded in her junior year of high school, when she was accepted to the Pennsylvania Governor’s School for the Arts at Bucknell University, majoring in jewelry casting and fabrication. Studies of jewelry and metalsmithing continued as she earned a BFA from Edinboro University. Aileen then apprenticed as a bench jeweler, mastering a variety of techniques she uses today to create high-quality, durable pieces, including stone setting, fine soldering, and wax carving along with clever, underground bench tricks.
In 1997, Aileen started her own company, Ai Jewelry, concentrating on creating hand-fabricated pieces that would be durable yet comfortable and easy to wear, while evoking an artistic, unique quality.
Handcrafted from recycled sterling silver, 14k gold, 14k gold filled wire and sheet, her designs draw inspiration from leaves and flowers, landscapes and patterns to objects as small and insignificant as a ringlet of hair or a crack in a sidewalk. Shapely concave and convex forms serve as the basis of her designs and are accented by a combination of textures, highlights and overlapping patterns. Never one to take the small details for granted, she saws, hand-forms, hammers, and solders each piece of flat metal, evolving it into a small sculpture to adorn the body. Polished highlights and the contrast of reflective and satin finishes help to capture the movement and kinetic properties of her jewelry. Occasionally she’ll incorporate bezel-set stones into her work, but as she explains; “I prefer the metal to be the main focus of each piece – it’s my first love and deserves to be noticed.”
Aileen lives and creates in Pittsburgh and Ohiopyle, Pennsylvania. Her jewelry has been featured in the Sundance Catalog, Tommy Bahama and was gifted, through the city of Pittsburgh, to President and Mrs. Obama and other world leaders at the 2009 G-20 Summit.
Aileen Lampman, August 2019
credit Harry Funk/the Almanac