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St. Louis, MO

Artist and metalsmith Melissa Hampton launched Ascendant Jewelry Studio in August 2019. Although she has been making jewelry for decades, she took time after graduate school to build her business while working full time in the nonprofit sector. Born and raised outside of St. Louis, MO, Melissa became fascinated with jewelry and the idea of adornment after inheriting her grandmother’s collection of vintage costume jewelry as a young girl. She went on to explore this field and in 2015 earned a Masters in Fine Arts: Studio Art from Southern Illinois University, Edwardsville where she majored in Metals and Jewelry Design. She uses a variety of traditional and unconventional metalsmithing techniques to express big ideas in the form of wearable sculpture. Conceptually, Melissa is inspired by creation stories, and her work is a meditation on how process and concept poetically overlap. It is a study in dichotomies: rugged yet elegant, ancient yet modern, bold yet delicate, dark yet light. The act of creation often involves destruction. While making, whole creation scenes play out in her imagination as she pierces, saws, and carves into metal only to join it back to itself in new ways with the torch flame. Through fabrication, forging, fusing, and a technique that she calls “Flow,” which is a hallmark of her work, Melissa expresses her ideas using traditional techniques in unconventional ways. Using the heat of the torch, she flows alloys of gold and silver on top of sterling. This process allows her to “draw” on the surface of the metal creating unique textures and compositions. In the Primordia collection, this molten metal “Flow” along with golden hand-formed arcs represent magma and volcanic eruptions in an exploration of the geological processes that formed the landscapes we inhabit. In the Genesis line, the “Flow” is more streamlined and less rugged. It represents the power of the first beams of light shooting through what once seemed like endless darkness. These are the tools used to visually express the power of creation stories through jewelry, and with them the artist seeks to merge the physical, geological, and spiritual. She believes that jewelry holds a special power to act as small wearable metaphors that express big, awe inspiring ideas. The work explores these big questions through small, precious reminders of who we are, where we come from, and, perhaps, where we might ascend.

2024 Festival

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41st Annual MCAC

April 26-28, 2024