Frann Addison does more than create handcrafted Judaica steeped with meaning and tradition— she does so by incorporating intriguing found objects. “Having been a scavenger, I have always had a difficult time throwing things away,” she says. “I comb antique shops, flea markets, yard sales, and even the town dump to look for interesting elements. Antique clock gears become dreidels, Jell-O molds may be part Hanukah menorahs, and French mother-of-pearl opera glasses and salt and pepper shakers become Sabbath candlesticks.”
Addison has been immersed in art all her life; at age 16 she studied jewelry-making in Mexico. She went on to earn a master’s in fine art degree in metalsmithing. While at Cranbrook Academy of Art the burgeoning artist read an article about the need for contemporary design in Jewish ceremonial objects. “This intrigued me, and I began doing research about these pieces,” Addison recalls. In 1979 she began to design and sell this genre of goods.
The following year she was included in the book, “The New Jewish Yellow Pages,” by Mae Rockland. As a result, orders for her Judaica started coming in from stores and galleries across America. For 10 years she created wholesale production work but grew tired of it. “I decided to begin creating one-of-a-kind, very limited-edition type work,” Addison explains. “I began incorporating antique pieces into my assemblages. I have always found pleasure in giving life to old, discarded things and transforming them into objects of art.”
Making a difference
“Being a part of artist communities — whether secular or religious — has been a source of support and inspiration,” Addison says. “Even though we may work in different media, we often deal with the same concerns. Having the opportunity to discuss how one handles working with galleries, dealing with copyright infringement, or sharing show opportunities, has been valuable to me as a solo artist working alone in my studio.”
Twelve years ago, Addison helped form an open studio group of local artists and has since helped organize a yearly event where 20 artists open their studios to the public. She also seeks out and coordinates monthly artist exhibitions at a local bank.
Addison is also an active member of the American Guild of Judaic Art. She is the editor for the guild and writes a quarterly newsletter. “As a board member, I participate in monthly conference calls where we discuss exhibition opportunities, community outreach programs, student/artist mentorship, and educational connections to bring art inspired by Jewish text, tradition, and ritual to those who appreciate or want to learn more about the world of Jewish art,” she says.
Twice per month Addison volunteers at the Nature Connection, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to bring the healing power of nature to those who cannot get out and experience it, such as at-risk youth, elders, and people with disabilities.
Addison works primarily in pewter and often incorporates brass and other unique elements through sawing, hammering, soldering, and riveting. “I enjoy piercing appropriate Hebrew words, quotes, or expressions into my pieces using Hebrew as a means of communication and ornamentation,” she says.
The artist takes great pleasure in knowing her creations will be lovingly used by individuals or families as they perform ancient rituals linking past and present. Addison says, “Tradition, spirit, and family — this is what is important to me.”
Frann Addison Judaica