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Metal sculptor Lisa Fedon's first exhibitions date to 1985 when she lived in Pittsburgh, city of steel. This steel worker now has a studio in Pen Argyl, a former clothing factory filled with pieces of raw metal. The studio floor is coated with black steel dust from the plasma cutting tool. Ceilings are high, the rooms are airy. So is Fedon's art.
"It's a heavy metal. Somehow I make it light," she says.
When people see her finished figures and her home furnishings, she says, they start to smile. "They say, 'This just makes me happy.' And that's what I want to do. Why make something that people don't understand?"
A smile and happiness was Carol Greenwald's first reaction when she noticed Fedon's work at the Philadelphia Craft Show several years ago. Today, she and her husband, David, have about a dozen Fedon pieces in their home in Kingston, Luzerne County, including a coffee table, cube-shaped end tables and stylish chairs.
The whimsy of these pieces rivals the warmth of wood and furthers the friendly, contemporary style of the house. "They make us feel good whenever we see them," says Carol Greenwald.
Fedon's metal furnishings creations can be personalized. "She will change things and incorporate things if they have special meaning," says Greenwald, such as numbers and symbols. "She used a sea shell because of our beach home."
Metal furniture is also sturdy. When the Greenwalds were evacuated from their home because of the rising Susquehanna River, they didn't move any of Fedon's objects to higher ground. "They would have resisted a flood," says Greenwald.
"They hold up quite well outside," notes Fedon, as do her garden trellises and votive holders, smaller, craftier pieces that cost about $100 or less.
Many of her pieces, including metal frames for mirrors and the full-size chairs might cost several hundred dollars, while the more intricate, glass-topped tables can cost $3,000 or more.
A 1977 Penn State graduate in fine arts and print making, Fedon started out working in wire and found objects, inspired by Alexander Calder. In her wire sculpture portraits, she uses space to form the spirit and attitude of a person, bending thin metal lines into a three-dimensional drawing.
Somehow, the empty places of her creations are their substance. "I really like using space a lot," she says. "I think space connects everything I've done."
Welding took her into three dimensional abstractions. "Then I started thinking I should do functional things," she says.
Her home above her studio is filled with useful art. The clear glass top of her dining room table captures the open space beneath it and showcases small metal shapes specific to the people who sit there: a coffee cup for her husband, a small racing car for her son, a rose for one daughter, a tree for another daughter. At her own place setting, she built in a delicate shelf for pencils and art supplies.
The square, low table in the sitting area has a metal tray for magazines below its glass top. A tall, metal rectangle in the corner holds another piece of sculpture. The walls and tables are filled with things that Fedon and artists she knows have made with their hands.
"It's a special way to grow up, surrounded by pieces that are nice," says Fedon.
Originally from Centre County, Fedon found the space she needed for a studio in Pen Argyl. It's where her father grew up, and she was familiar with the area, close to the East Coast markets for her designs.
She takes her work to art, furniture and craft shows regularly, and often meets people with bigger things in mind. The Greenwalds' son graduated from Wyoming Seminary in Kingston and the institution was instrumental in commissioning Fedon to create a large sculptural installation there. Called "Life Values," it's a series of panels with figures and words.
"It combined a lot of different styles of my work," says Fedon. "It was thrilling to put all that together."
Also personally rewarding was a large sculpture for the public library in Arlington, Va. She worked with children there who took pictures of the area, which she turned into sculptural parts. Her many public and corporate clients include the Crayola Factory Visitor's Center in Easton, Just Born in Bethlehem and the VNA Hospice of Monroe County in East Stroudsburg.
Fedon's installations have appeared in store windows in New York, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, including Gucci and Versace. Her creations have been part of displays at the Philadelphia Flower Show since 1999. She's exhibited at dozens of museums across Pennsylvania, including the Allentown Art Museum in 1992, and she has earned awards almost annually.
THE DETAILS: LISA FEDON STUDIO SHOW AND SALE
What: Open studio show and sale
Where: Lisa Fedon Sculpture Studio, 14 W. Main St., Pen Argyl
When: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. July 28 and 29
Info: 610-863-7089; www.lisafedon.com