Artist Spotlight: Stew Frick
By Rocco Falleti, Contributor
For Pittsburgh based artist/ fashion designer, Stew Frick, the world of fashion has offered an
outlet of expression that had been missing in their life for so long. Towards the end of high
school, Frick became increasingly interested in fashion as a way to make connection with their
“Caring is not the same as knowledge and skill,” Frick says. “I definitely had my fair share of
horrid outfits even while fostering a burning desire to connect what I wore to how I felt.”
Frick is a fashion designer, verily new to the scene in Pittsburgh. Though unlike most, Frick lives
with a perception-based disorder, synesthesia, meaning there is an involuntary response
triggering colors when sound is heard.
“The way I would describe it to people who didn’t know what was going on, I’d tell people that I
see colors when I hear sounds,” Frick says. “Some colors and patterns are definitely more
complex than others.”
Chromesthesia is the most common form of this perception based disorder. It involves hearing
sound and seeing color at the same time. In their case, they experience a variety of complex
colors, shapes and movements. Although this may be an often debated topic in the world of
science, it is definitely an interesting topic to explore.
Artists like Pharrell, Kanye and Billy Joel are all said to live with this as well.
“The most common way I get synesthetic experiences is from music, probably because I have
such a strong emotional connection to it,” Frick says. “It can be anything from faint distant
feelings to seeing heavy color patterns all throughout my vision.”
Frick and their mother were the first to realize this condition. When they were young, their
mother was a speech therapist and at the time they were having problems with speech
“We would talk about how I envisioned words in my head, like days of the week for example,”
Frick says. “I had a greater connection to color and form and would see days of the week with
certain color schemes and patterns. It’s just something that’s always been there for me. ”
Growing up there was not a ton of distinct outlets within visual arts for them. Recalling high
school days, they remember reading books and playing in their high school’s marching band but
never truly having the avenue to create.
“My family is pretty much all scientists in one way or another, I was the only one really
interested in the arts,” Frick says. “It was also never a thing to particularly care about how you
dressed unless it was for a certain special occasion.”
They were brought up in a conservative household where modesty and traditional gender roles
were heavily enforced. At times they felt trapped from any creative expression due to the limits
they had within their family and everyday life.
Fashion would become the freeing creative force in their life.
“I spent so long being so frustrated not being able to express how I wanted to look,” Frick says.
“Now that I can it means so much more to me. Whether its wearing a t-shirt for a band or a dress
and makeup allowing me to be more comfortable with my queer identity.”
Frick started painting two years ago with very simple and rudimentary lettering designs and
would progress to more complicated work, however clothing has always been the medium. Just
recently, they sold a piece at the Reviving Real Pop-Up show, inspired by hearing Vol. 3.
“Sometimes I’m spending four hours painting, realizing yeah this is horrible and I end up giving
it away to friends or the Good Will,” Frick says laughing. “It’s a lot of trial and error when I
start, some of my favorite pieces are done freehand with a vague idea to start.”
Fashion is the ideal choice for Frick to create within their synesthesia and what they are able to
create from these visual experiences is quite impressive. With so many mediums, Frick is
passionate about the expressive nature fashion brings to the table.
“I love that it [fashion] is a super constant expression,” Frick says. “I’ll paint canvases and sure
those are important to me emotionally, but people will only see those if I have an art show. With
me painting clothes, or even just wearing them, you are a constant canvas of what you want to
express every day.”
They have been making a name for themselves throughout Pittsburgh for the past two years.
Their brand, Sweet Tooth, centers around customization and reuse in which they paint over
vintage hand-picked clothing.
“When I got into the world of fashion, it was like Aladdin,” Frick says. “Everything was new and
crazy to me with things people may have been used to already and have experienced.”
With so much going on in this city, Frick looks to expand in the near future. Plans for live
painting experiences and also focusing on collaborating with local musicians for high price point
merchandising are a couple things on the immediate horizon.
“When someone gets involved with the creative scene in Pittsburgh, everyone is pretty much
aware of that pretty quickly,” Frick says. “I love it, there is so much support and care here and
this overwhelming sense of peoples’ hype for their work.”