There were a lot of great artists and a lot of love at Full Pint Wild Side Pub on September 22nd for Words and Sounds Volume 2, a music and art event hosted by Sierra Sellers. You could tell in the air, there was a bit of extra collective love from all of the musicians to the night’s featured artist, Stew Frick. Heavily involved in the local music and art scene in the city, Stew is a popular artist specializing in custom clothing items. Having collaborated with a slew of other artists, they made a name for themself with their company, Sweet Tooth, specializing in customized merchandise, including hats, shirts, shoes, and jackets on which they sew patches or paint.
Sweet Tooth is a concept which name derives from a poem Stew wrote, detailing a traumatic and life-threatening experience where they were drugged and vividly hallucinated their attacker with enlarged and prominent teeth. Their favorite poem they’ve ever written, Sweet Tooth inspired and crossed into many other forms of Stew’s art, including their clothes.
Creating custom clothing was a hobby discovered when Stew created their own custom merch for Julien Baker, a musician of whom Stew is a huge fan. Having missed her show, they decided to take the old painting kit from college that a friend gifted them for their love of Bob Ross, their mom’s sewing kit, and a trip to the fabric store to make a piece of clothing they loved that also shared their love for Julien Baker.
Stew had made some custom merch for local DIY scene bands, and had been creating a portfolio of their own personal work, when a friend introduced them to local hip-hop and jazz band, Uptown Woods. This sparked the collaboration between Stew and the band to create custom city skyline hats, all hand-painted by Stew. The second phase of the collaboration was a series of beanies painted with fall-colored trees, and lastly, a jacket collaboration. Having garnered a new following, Stew began making more custom items for local icons like Benji. and Britney Chantele. With so much love for the arts community, they try to keep everything fair priced, saying, ”It’s more important to me to have people wearing my clothes than making every single dollar that I can.”
Stew lives with a relatively rare neurological phenomenon called Synesthesia. According to Psychology Today, it affects approximately 3 to 5 percent of the population, and Stew has the most common form, called Chromosthesia. This allows them to see colors when hearing certain sounds, like music. Their first synesthesia inspired piece was a hoodie done for Benji. and was painted while listening to Benji.’s song, “Mimosa.”
Stew’s art and fashion sense is inspired by the paintings of Francis Bacon Basquiat, and the stylings of popular figures such as SZA, Young Thug, and Jaden Smith. They noted that it was Young Thug and Jaden Smith who showed Stew that it was okay to dress a masculine body in feminine clothing, and how to do so. “[I thought] those are two cool ass dudes that are famous rappers/actors and in a lot of ways they blazed the trail in my own mind to feel like that was something I could do, that I desperately wanted to do, but didn’t feel like I was able to within my current social and societal standards,” they explained.
Stew’s path as an artist has directly correlated with their growth as a person as well, fully coming into their own in every way. Their traumas and their pain has turned into their success and their liberation, and they attribute it a lot to the role clothes play in their life. Stew shared their thoughts on what clothing means to them:
“I really want to drive the point home how much clothing can be and can do for people. There’s so much of ourselves wrapped up in our clothes. It’s your public image; it’s your personal image that affects how people judge you. It’s like wearing a costume of yourself all the time. There’s a lot of power to clothing, which is why I was attracted to it originally. But it’s also one of the most joyful things in the world, something [in which] a lot of people share joy. Clothing can be more than what we are told it’s supposed to be. Clothing is more than high-end retail or fast fashion; it can be more than exploitation and consumerism…. Fashion can be personal, ethical, and artistically meaningful.”
Stew relates a lot of their trauma and pain through their art, as most artists in any outlet do. They found a lot of personal power in taking their trauma, insecurities or mental illness and transforming it into something personal, artistic and empowering, and explained how it is both scary and liberating letting a lot of people learn about these dark parts of their life through their art. “I love the idea of painting and personalizing clothes and connecting it more with other forms of art that people view as more emotionally meaningful. Your clothing can be a direct story of your own heartbreak. Your clothing can be an expression of your difficulties in life, or a direct memory of one of the most joyful moments you have. It doesn’t have to just be a cool jacket or cool shoes.”
Stew will be participating in a gender-neutral fashion show being put on by the Gender Form Club at Duquesne University, a campus organization open to the public that focuses on creating a dialogue on gender identity issues and a support system for the queer community. The fashion show is on October 17th, with a discussion panel where Stew will be a speaker starting the night off at 6pm, and followed by the show where they will walk wearing an original piece. The event is free and will take place in the Duquesne student ballroom in the Student Union building. Check out Moxie’s events calendar for more information. You can also follow Stew on Instagram @stew_frick.