Fine jewelry began to attract Ulli Kampelmann's attention from her earliest years. As a youngster, Ulli grew to love the look, the feel and the overall aura of well-designed and finely-crafted jewelry. As a mere six-year-old, she befriended Mr. Baumgart, the jeweler and master watch-maker who had his little store up at the corner of her street.
Exceptional design and superb craftsmanship have been traditions in Ulli's family for many generations. The Kampelmann family appears to have originated in the Netherlands and spread into Westfallen, Germany at least four centuries ago. The family crafts included lerenbroekmaker (lederhosen maker) and master metal smithing. Ulli's mother's side of the family also comprised masters of high craftsmanship. Adolf Herman Pilz, her maternal great grandfather, a master coppersmith, founded his own factory with a handful of skilled craftsmen in Halle, Germany, the city where Ulli was eventually born. His son Otto developed his own skills in the field of metalworking and eventually surpassed his father in skill and design. Otto perfected a style of elaborate workmanship in metal, which to this day baffles the mind. (It is interesting to note that Georg Friedrich Handel, Halle's most famous hometown boy, was also the grandson of a master coppersmith) When Otto's daughter Elsa turned sixteen, she got her first job working in a jewelry and watch store in Halle. Elsa, Ulli's mother, had a fascination for the jewelry and watches that she dealt with each day and eventually passed this passion on to her daughter Ulli. Even Ulli's father, also a master smith, would fabricate intricate jewelry for Ulli. At five, Ulli would sit on a shelf overlooking her father's workbench contentedly watching him work for hours at a time. One of her favorite pastimes was to hold her father's wrist watch and see how long he would take to work a piece of metal or complete some small project. When Ulli was eight, she received her own West German wrist watch as a communion gift. Subsequently, while sitting in church she would test her ability to observe accurately the passage of time. She would note the time, turn the watch away, wait a set amount of time and then check the watch to see if her estimate of time passage was correct.
When Ulli was eleven, she learned jewelry-making from her mom. Since the Wall had gone up only two years before, materials were almost impossible to come by. The socialist government had driven most private craftsmen out of business. Therefore, Ulli resorted to bell wire as her only media with which to craft her designs. Nevertheless, as a pre-teen she earned her first income selling her self-made jewelry pieces to family and friends. Her sixth-grade teacher, Mrs. Krukow was one of Ulli's first customers with her purchase of an intricate copper necklace.
Much like her parents, Ulli was feeling the pinch against her freedom of expression imposed by the oppressive policies of the socialists. Not only had her father actively participated in the rebellion against communism that occurred on Ulli's first birthday, soon after her seventh birthday, her parents arranged to escape from East Germany but the plan failed. An acquaintance who was actually an informer for the Stasi, East Germany's secret police, guessed the Kampelmann's intentions and betrayed their plan to the authorities. Ulli and her mother successfully escaped to West Berlin but her father was captured and imprisoned for a year and a half for this "crime against the state". Ulli and her Mom dejectedly had to return home to Halle. As Ulli matured, so did her rebellious nature. She never shook the profound effect her father's imprisonment had on her. Although Ulli was fortunate to attend university and gain her master's degree in art and education, she bristled at the intellectual barriers the socialists cast in her way. Books abounded with examples of art from "artists" such as Willi Sitte and Diego Rivera, but any works by Salvadore Dali, Andy Warhol or any other "Western" artist was expressly forbidden. One Monday morning in August 1975, the director of the school where Ulli taught art received a telegram that simply stated, "Greetings from West Berlin! - Ulli Kampelmann". Ulli had beaten all odds and become one of the rare successful escapees from East Germany. Unfazed by the dramatic experience in the trunk of a friend's car, Ulli went on to continue her education in design and the visual arts in West Germany.
Soon after her arrival in Stuttgart, she began designing and creating costumes, crowns and other jewelry for the "royalty" on stage. However, she presently began to focus her artistic talents on modern art rather than design and she developed a career as a sculptor and painter. Ultimately, Ulli specialized in modern architectural flat glass art and achieved her success and fame. The German government recognized Ms. Kampelmann as the most successful female artist in the country. Now that Ulli has immigrated to the USA, she has returned her attention to her early passion for creating jewelry, specifically high-design luxury timepieces.