Ann Ladson is a free spirit whose downtown studio and foundry reflect the wide-ranging curiosity that has fueled her work since she hung her shingle in 2013.
Born in Charleston, Ann was exposed to traditional arts from an early age—whether through the women in her family, who have been a strong source of inspiration, or through her educational path, which led her into a series of programs specializing in a modern approach to artisanal trades. Today, those early influences are her foundation.
In addition to handmade jewelry and tabletop items wrought from various metals using traditional smithing techniques, Ann specializes in landscape design, outdoor cultivation and restaurant-worthy private dinners that reflect her prodigious culinary skills and training. But in the end, it's her utensils and kitchen-inspired objects that best capture the creative alchemy and special magic that happens when a maker's myriad passions find a singular medium for exquisite expression.
Ann’s workspace is an intimate studio—an extension of her home, her hands, her mind and her experiences—that reflects her unique vision for handmade beauty forged in fire. It’s personal, really personal, which may sound intimidating but, of course, isn’t, because it also feels welcoming in the way that truly creative spaces, even the most private ones, inevitably do. The universal pleasure of seeing where and how an artist works is one of the few occasions in which a trip behind the curtain actually deepens an experience, and this is no exception. And even for someone as admittedly reserved as Ann is, she also recognizes that interaction is elemental to her process, too.
A chef by training, whose pastry prowess and all-around talent landed her stints in kitchens alongside top chefs from Miami to New York to Charleston, Ann knew she wanted to work with her hands long before she enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, or made her way back to her hometown of Charleston at the behest of her then-boss and mentor Tom Colicchio. She pursued various creative tracks early on as a student at the Penland Craft School, a venerable center for applied artistry in the Appalachian Mountains, and nurtured a love for the outdoors along the way. Eventually, an experiment putting her metalworking skills to use to create the perfect tasting spoon she and her chef friends longed for but could never quite find, redirected her course back toward those maker traditions, and she launched Ann Ladson Studio. Today, that same intentional approach to function and purity of form is evident in each intelligently designed utensil. Whether it’s a fork fashioned simply from brass or silver, or a spoon adorned with barnacles inspired by her days on the docks in Miami, Ann’s pieces are works of art, with personality and soul, and speak to her kitchen know-how and care for the end-user experience.
A recent partnership with equally obsessive metal workers at a studio in Vermont has freed her up to further expand her studio’s reach and ensure it maintains the spirit of honest expression that has characterized it from the beginning. The foundry is now mostly used to fire prototypes and experimental designs, but that part of the process still satisfies the physical need—compulsion, really—that keeps her working with her hands and sharing the hard-wrought results of that labor with others. And despite Ann’s best efforts to fly under the radar, none of her studio’s new initiatives has escaped the notice of her expanding network of supporters and creative cohorts. After all, where else can you find someone to cultivate your garden, harvest its yield, prepare a private meal from those fresh ingredients and also supply the timeless heirloom utensils that complete the experience? It’s a full circle and evolving endeavor that defies categorization—just the way she never planned it.