Terre du Lac, 2006

Ladd Brothers

Location: Brooklyn, New York
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Born in St. Louis, Missouri, the Ladd brothers spent their summers at Terre du Lac, an area characterized by thousands of acres of woods, lakes, and rivers. While a teenager, William, the younger brother, was “whisked away” into the world of high-fashion modeling. While working and traveling in New York, Paris, and Milan, he began experimenting with design and beadwork, eventually devoting years to the craft.

Five years ago, William began a close collaboration with Steven, who specialized in textile, fiber, and costume design at Rockhurst University. After several years of designing clothing, Steven studied couture handbag design. Steven and William combined their talents, with Steven crafting the handbags and William enhancing the handbags with beaded appliqués and accessories. Steven also hand-stitches extraordinarily beautiful boxes that enclose and reveal the brothers’ work.

The brothers have, to date, designed a limited number of these elaborate handcrafted works. Shadow Tower was based on the highly personal concepts of self-discovery and collaboration. The Tower is an aesthetic whole, constructed of layers that unfold as you open them to reveal unexpected, uniquely beaded riches. A single box opens to disclose a vignette of beautiful objects. In the center is a small handbag made entirely of glass beads. Shaped like a medieval slipper, its arabesque forms are beaded with colors and designs that are reflected in all of the other objects in the surrounding space. The Ladd brothers’ complementary accessories include cascading necklaces and bracelets, patterned ties and sashes, and jewel-colored “ribbons” that tie around one’s neck. Each object is a luxurious, unique design, to be used or to stand alone as a work of art. Desiring not to waste any materials, the Ladds use every scrap of material left over from their creations to make scrolls of various sizes, which are then used to decorate the interior of Steven’s boxes, make jewelry, or decorate the covers of hand-stitched books that they make to accompany each of their major works.

Although they usually begin the process of their works with a handbag, then design its environment, box, accessories, and book, in their tour de force, Terre du Lac, the brothers began with the environment, making over twenty stackable boxes whose interiors are small tableaux of three-dimensional beaded trees. On and around the branches of these miniature forests, necklaces, scarves, and handbags are draped and propped, waiting to divulge their treasures when the box lids are lifted.