Art fashion for your daring friends

Photos by Jonathan Lorange

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Jane Ladan’s sculptural jewelry is made from paper clay, found objects, string and vividly coloured enamel paints. Prices start at $400 for necklaces, $150 for bracelets.

Adventurous fashionistas aiming to dominate a room in December may want to linger over Jane Ladan’s growing collection of wearable art inspired by the natural world.

The winding shapes and vivid colours in Jane Ladan’s work result in conversation pieces of the highest order. In September, at the inaugural Nuit Blanche Ottawa (the all-night contemporary art festival), Ladan’s creations caused a buzz when exhibited publicly for the first time. The compelling objects offered a rare moment of quiet otherworldliness displayed in a small room at the Ottawa School of Art (OSA) in the ByWard Market.

“A number of people were interested in my work,” recalls Ladan. “They felt transported into a different universe.”

A native of the island nation Mauritius, Ladan is in her final year of the fine arts diploma program at the OSA. She began the series of contemporary pieces in her first-year sculpture course with instructor Dawn Dale.

“Previously, I had already made my own jewelry, but it was only then that I mixed sculpture and jewelry together,” said Ladan, who graciously agreed to model her creations in our photo shoot.

Surprisingly lightweight and easy to wear, the necklaces and bracelets were fashioned using homemade paper clay (a commercial sculptural medium), thread, paint and found material.

“The necklaces were heavily influenced by my memories of Mauritius,” Ladan added. The culturally rich island is located in the Indian Ocean and is marked by influences from China, Africa, Europe and India.

“Mauritius’s unique cultural blend and beautiful environmental landscape have shaped the way I express myself artistically,” Ladan added.

Ladan describes her work as “very contemporary, organic and feminine,” appealing most directly to “modern, sophisticated and daring women who have a taste for out-of-the-ordinary contemporary artwork, fashion and style.”

The first necklace the artist made featured exotic flowers, while more recent pieces are much inspired by life undersea. “This is all part and parcel of me as an island girl,” Ladan explains.

Mother of two sons, Ladan came to Canada almost five years ago with her Canadian partner. She saw the OSA program as a good way to return to artistic pursuits begun in high school.

“I wanted to build a strong foundation and develop my own perspectives, skills and creative work,” explains Ladan. “The objective was also to develop my portfolio and to learn how to use basic and more advanced tools and techniques in new artistic forms and genres, particularly sculpture in my case.”

“Jane has always loved jewelry and made her first work in first-year diploma sculpture,” said OSA instructor Dawn Dale. “I recognized her passion and have encouraged her ever since. I am happy to say that she is making more jewelry, pushing the genre in which she began … thinking of the body as a mobile pedestal.”

Ladan’s success at OSA led to financial awards. She received the Ted Marshall Award in 2011 and the David and Nicole Henderson Scholarship in 2012.

“Receiving scholarships for this artwork was very rewarding,” said Ladan, “especially given that the jury was made of experienced artists and professors of art.”

With no shortage of external validation for her pieces, Ladan is seizing the opportunity to effectively market the work. She has begun a business apprenticeship with Lisa Pai, owner of L.A. Pai Gallery in the ByWard Market and one of the city’s leading experts on wearable art as a commodity.

“My goals are to develop my capacity to approach clients professionally and to use proper language and techniques to raise their interest,” Ladan explained.

Because the pieces were created for sculpture courses at OSA, Ladan finds it difficult to fix a retail price on them. Still, she adds that she “would be honoured to be able to sell them to women who would wear them. Depending on size, material and work, bracelets could go from $150, while necklaces could start at about $400.”

Hungry for more artistic challenges, Ladan is currently working on a series of necklaces inspired by traditional Maasai jewelry of East Africa.

“I have previously lived in Kenya and was very impressed by the beauty and sophistication of Massai artwork,” Ladan explains.

Ladan is currently developing a website. For now she can be contacted through her email address:

(Thanks to Jane Ladan for modelling and and to makeup artist Kathleen Ursual.)

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