INSPIRED BY AFRICA
From 2007 to 2011 Katherine was undertaking design research, observing a textile development project in Burkina Faso in West Africa. The charity has been working with the indigenous strip weavers who practise an ancient form of weaving that is found all over West Africa. More information on this technique can be found on the post here. Using a variety of local textiles Katherine created samples that the charity could use as part of their contemporary collection.
Katherine’s own collection, BAMAKO, was exhibited at the ICFF New York in May 2011 as part of her PhD practice. These products were a hybrid of contemporary digital manufacturing and traditional African imagery that explored notions of ‘authenticity’ and ‘African-ness’ in consumers’ perceptions.
The animal cushions and toys for children are also part of the BAMAKO collection. The designs are based on traditional appliquéd textiles of the Dahomey peoples of northern Benin in West Africa.
Their meaning, as a cultural product, has been lost over the years. They have journeyed from being symbols of various royal kings – or ‘fons’ – of the Dahomey people of Benin, with only tightly controlled family guilds allowed to produce them, to tourist craft sold in every market in the country. The original technique was taught to the Dahomey royal artisans by Brazilian Portuguese settlers, and this has been recorded as far back as the 1840s by European travellers. Thus the ‘authenticity’ of these animals is a moveable and fluid definition, obscured by cross-cultural relationships that are woven through their history.
In 1997 Katherine Ladd co-founded lighting design consultancy, GECKO. Specialising in architectural public space lighting, the company also designed and manufactured a range of domestic lighting. They were commissioned to provide the lighting at the 2000 Vanity Fair post-Oscars party in Los Angeles, and won further restaurant lighting contracts all over the US.
Working with British architects such as Wilkinson Eyre, GECKO designed installations for The Empress State Building in Earl’s Court, London, the bar at Diageo’s headquarters (below) in north London, and many other commissions.