New art and design professor applies contemporary yet practical methods to metalsmithing

From Left: art education major Calvin Cooper and art and design professor Aimee Howard after a casting process

New art and design professor Aimee Howard hopes through her position at SIUE to instill in students the fine art perspective of metalwork and jewelry by teaching them historical and contemporary ideas and techniques while also pushing the conceptual component of their work.

“The field of metalsmithing has a rich tradition as a craft medium, historically consisting of objects that had ritualistic, utilitarian and/or ornamental purposes,” Howard said. “Contemporary metalsmithing is incredibly interesting because it simultaneously holds on to its traditional craft roots while also integrating itself into the fine arts through new techniques and a concern with concept.”

Howard said there are a lot of metalsmithing processes they can learn including vacuum casting, electroforming, electroetching and anodizing which businesses and industries use as well.

“What’s nice are the techniques they learn here can be applied to fine arts or industry,” Howard said. “This enables them to be more marketable and successful upon graduation.”

On being a new faculty member, Howard said she really enjoys it.

“I absolutely love it. The faculty here are incredibly supportive,” Howard said. “There is a standard of high expectations balanced with [the university] giving resources of support to help new faculty meet expectations.”

Howard said she enjoys her craft because of the various challenges.

“I love metalsmithing because it’s a constant source of problem-solving for me both technically and conceptually,” Howard said. “Each piece presents a new challenge… The technical nature of putting something together to visually formulate an idea. This keeps me constantly engaged and excited to research and create new work.”

Howard was brought in to replace professor Paulette Myers, who art and design professor Laura Strand considered influential.

“In replacing Paulette Myers we knew that we were searching for an artist with exceptional technical metalsmithing skills and powerful conceptual skills that would be revealed through their own artwork,” Strand said. “In addition, since we have only one professor in that area, we needed an artist who had years of teach experience that covered a very broad range of metalsmithing and jewelry building skills, and that had a built strong conceptual skills that could be seen in their student artwork.”

In 2005, while earning her bachelor of fine arts degree with a concentration in metal work at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind., she received a patent titled “Table Lamp” for a lamp she created. According to Howard, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office issues design patents to creators of “a new and innovative design.”

The lamp, according to Howard, was inspired from the symbolism found in the painting of surrealist artist Rene Magritte, “The Son of Man.”

“This painting has always intrigued me due to the dichotomies it contains; serious yet whimsical, hidden but visible, seemingly obscure yet intentional,” Howard said.

Howard received her master of fine arts from the University of Kansas in 2009. She previously taught at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette for four years.

Senior fine arts major Katie Turpenoff said Howard is very skilled and knowledgeable.

“Her skills are phenomenal and she’s good at explaining things and demonstrating things,” Turpenoff said. “She knows a lot. She’s used tools that are modern and her teaching styles are contemporary.”

Strand said the department found the right fit in Howard, and an exhibition introducing and celebrating her as new faculty will take place Tuesday, Oct. 29.

Howard’s work along with that of art and design professor Erin Vigneau-Dimick, local artists and others from around the country will be featured in an exhibition titled, “Artists in Conversation: The Body.” The opening reception will be held from 5 – 8 p.m. in the Art and Design West Gallery. It will feature visiting artist Lauren Kalman, a “well-known and conceptually intriguing metalsmith,” according to Howard. English department faculty members will also recite written works based on the various artworks of the body.


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