The Story of a… Paper Artist

Self-taught sculptor Kelly Joy Ladd says she hopes “to bring joy and wonderment to people through my art.”

A lifelong obsession. “As a child, I was always coloring and making things. Looking back, I realize how much that really impacted my life.”

Feeling the Disney magic. A fifth-generation Floridian, Ladd performed in shows at Walt Disney World while growing up. Between performances, she would study the craftsmanship and design of the costumes. “Today, I’m still so inspired by that.”

From wordsmith to artist. Ladd was a magazine editor who enjoyed working on her art after office hours. About five years ago, “I had my first art show. Three days later, the magazine closed. It was synchronistic timing. The universe was telling me, ‘Okay, it’s time to be a full-time artist.’ ”

Her journey to a happy medium. Ladd transitioned from painting  to paper art in 2012 after her husband developed multiple chemical sensitivity and could no longer be around her oil paints. But, “he could be around paper,” says Ladd. “I love that I can take this everyday 2D material and transcend it into a 3D piece of art that is full of layers and dimension.”

Inspiration through relaxation. “I’ll see ideas for pieces while practicing yoga, or if I’m getting a massage and I get into that deep, relaxed state. I often wait until I get one of those visions. Sometimes I try to work when I don’t have one of those visions, but it doesn’t work the way I want it to.” She draws her abstract visions—named for things in nature or in space—by hand before executing.

Making art piece by piece. “Everything is all hand cut,” using different kinds of scissors, punches and a paper cutter. “At first, I was using my son’s construction paper and playing around.” She fine-tuned her technique through trial and error and now uses acid-free, archival-quality cardstock of differing weights.

Reams of paper, hours and patience. Ladd recently finished some commissioned pieces for a children’s hospital. “I easily went through 10 reams of paper.” Larger pieces “can take up to 200 hours. The smaller pieces take about 40 hours.”

Making her mark. She won her first award last year in an art contest. Snap! Orlando represents Ladd and displays her work in its gallery. Ladd also works with art consultants in Boston and Los Angeles. Her art was featured in a 2018 Mennello Museum of American Art exhibit, and she is the only local artist featured in the June 20th show, “Metamorphosis,” part of CityArts Orlando Downtown Art District’s 2019 Spring/Summer Female Curatorial Series.

The art of love. “In a way, my pieces are like love notes to my husband because of his illness. Last year I started actually writing love notes to him under the paper. For the hospital commission, I decided I was going to write a letter to my son under one of the pieces, and then I wrote a letter to the parents of the children [who are hospitalized] on the other piece.”

Rock, paper, scissors. Her work continues to evolve. “I experiment a lot. I can see so many possibilities with paper and other materials. Now I’m starting to play with rope and stones.”

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