When Aileen Lampman, Greenhurst Drive, was a teen, she began combining leftover scraps of wire from her dad’s electrical projects with pieces of her mother’s vintage jewelry and some influence from Vogue magazine to create unique pieces. After earning a BFA with a concentration in jewelry from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania and an apprenticeship with a goldsmithing company, she started Ai Jewelry in 1997. Her creations have won several awards, including Best of Show three times in the Mt. Lebanon Artists’ Market and second place overall at the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts, 2022.
What inspires your creations?
Nature. I look for the tiny details in flowers, leaves, landscapes and rivers and try to translate them into my jewelry’s distinct style.
Has your style evolved and changed over the years?
Most definitely! My work was mostly handcrafted from sterling, 14k gold and gemstones with a heavy emphasis on botanical forms with clean, curvy lines. That all changed in 2018 when I took a micro mosaic workshop taught by Rachel Sager of The Ruins Project. Micro mosaics are tiny, jewelry-sized mosaics filled with glass, metal, and natural rock; set in place with an epoxy clay and tweezers. It is a very meditative process; much like a jigsaw puzzle. I’ve always loved rocks and pebbles in their natural state, but never found a way to incorporate them into my work. That all changed after Rachel’s class. Now I find myself foraging for rocks whenever my boyfriend and I hike and when we travel. I also have clients give me their own pebbles for custom pieces that give their jewelry a permanent reminder of a place important to them.
Tell us about having your jewelry selected for gifts for world leaders at the G-20 summit in Pittsburgh.
What an honor and surprise it was! Pittsburgh Center for the Arts was asked to find artists whose work best represented Pittsburgh. If I remember correctly, my Leaf and Tendril necklace was selected because it represented nature. I was commissioned to make 20 necklaces that were to be presented in boxes that were neutral in color. That was the only information I was given. I was invited to attend a press conference the day before the G-20 and only then did I learn that my jewelry was going in the gift baskets for all of the heads of state. I was speechless! It was an incredible honor to know that President Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, and all of the other world leaders, would be gifted with my jewelry.