Sue Freda's Abstract Artistry

Inside the mind of a Tiverton artist


Something from nothing. A chance meeting in Washington becomes a professional and then, a personal, partnership. A leap of faith becomes a dazzling career. Scraps and leftover wire become dolls or jewelry. The life of Tiverton’s Susan Freda has been to turn nothing into something, as she would say, “unassumingly fantastic.”

Freda, 40, a RISD grad, says her real life began when she went from urn to Arn; as in, Arn Krebs, the ying to her yang. Sue and Arn are life, art and business partners whose ideas and work are complementary, complimentary and extensions of their visions.

They originally met at a glass artist residency called Pilchuck in Washington State. They were both on scholarships there, and then reconnected a few years later in Boston.

“The collaboration began immediately upon meeting and we haven’t looked back since,” says Sue. “My life as an artist is much more stable and inspired since collaborating with Arn. His love for mokume gane is all about patterns found in nature. It really relates to my work. His influence provides a new viewpoint from which to create my art. The collaboration has allowed both of us to reach goals we could not have accomplished on our own. Just like marriage, collaboration is both challenging and rewarding. I feel incredibly lucky.” Her creative life blossomed with Arn’s influence. “His perspective and technical insights have given me new areas to explore and added a level of completion to my pieces that I had trouble visualizing before. I can go further into the work now than in the past. I investigate more thoroughly. He grounds me and my art,” she adds.

A couple of years ago, they created their first official masterpiece: A boy named Silas. “My son’s influence has helped me focus and edit my work,” says Sue. “There’s less time available so I am very focused when I’m making. I’m more productive in less time and the pieces have more physical presence these days. We are highly scheduled in order to provide time to be creative and also meet our exhibition and gallery demands. It’sincredibly challenging.”

Her airy jewelry and sculpture is less ephemeral now that she is grounded. “I’m more physically engaged with the world and I think that is coming through in the work. It’s also more nature based and becoming more ab- stract. The themes I’m exploring are often about reproduction via the plant world, paralleling my life.”

She went from metalsmithing and jewelry at RISD into sculpture. The work has always been about light, form and line. “I study line reflexively. I find that the line nature makes is fluid and direct. I strive to bring this intentional, elegant line to my jewelry and sculpture. Light, shadow, luminescence... these qualities add theater and abstraction to my work; they connect the wearer or viewer to the cosmos. I find these qualities in nature as the light on the sea or dew on a spider web, those beautiful moments where the light is just right and it evokes emotion.”

Her jewelry pieces are three-dimensional line drawings or compositions. They are spun nests and gem crusted fairy jewels, airy romances celebrating love, nature, nurture and natural processes. They are the wisps to her sculptures which often use dresses, shoes, corsets – feminine objects of beauty abstracted, impossibly delicate, imbued with sea or smoke, nudged, as Sue repeats, from the everyday “to the realm of the otherworldly.” It is the ethos to Arn’s mokume gane wedding and engagement rings. Mokume is a traditional Japanese metal art process which bonds different metal sheets into a single piece, which is then carved and folded. It translates from Japanese as “wood eye metal,” the couple says, because the patterns created resemble wood grain. “He delights in building his pieces entirely by hand,” says Arn’s proud and grateful partner. “He uses gold, silver, palladium and other precious metals to create amazingly beautiful pieces.”

Each wedding set Arn makes is unique. Customers often travel from great distances to work with him to customize their rings. “Now that gay marriage is legal in Rhode Island, he has received a warm reception for ‘his and his’ and ‘hers and hers’ ring sets,” adds Sue.

Sue has left Tiverton occasionally to exhibit in Italy, London, Japan and Canada. “International exhibitions have always given me a lift. They take you out of your sphere of interaction and expand your thinking,” she says. “Although art comes from a very per- sonal place, it makes the world somewhere that everyone wants to live. Without beauty and emotion all else is irrelevant.”

Sue Freda, wire art, the bay


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