Freehand Profit INTERVIEW:
The Man Behind the Masks
Freehand Profit is an LA-based artist who came up scrawlin’ graffiti on the walls of DC and Northern Virginia. And, he smokes marijuana daily. Back in ‘05 he scored a BA in Fine Arts from the Corcoran College of Art & Design. And, since then…he’s embedded himself in LA’s Hip-Hop scene, check out Zodiak Killa’s new free album (debuting today on freehandprofit.com) and he’s been tryin’ to forget all he learned in art school ever since.
Freehand Profit’s style ain’t like that typical LA pretentious bullshit you see on Madonna’s album covers, it’s raw, real and multi-dimensional. Literally. This dude takes shit like shoes, you know…shit you’d wear on your feet…and transforms ‘em into something you’d pay hundreds of dollars to wear on your head. Or smoke weed from. Or both…at the same time.
What we’re talking about, to the right, are shoes…er, uhm…were shoes, some of the most sought after-STONER kicks around, the Todd Bratrud-designed, Cheech and Chong Dunks…deconstructed…then reconstructed into a gas mask helmet bong…one of the most unusual smoking devices we’ve ever seen. When Gary Lockwood aka Freehand Profit caught our attention by Tweeting us a pic of this piece we had two questions for him 1. WTF? and 2. WTF?…which led to our 420th post…this in-depth interview with the creative genius.
STUFF STONERS LIKE: Seriously, tho, how’d you get a pair of those Cheech and Chong dunks, dude? Aren’t they supposed to be all rare and stuff?
Freehand Profit: I really lucked out to get my hands on those Cheech and Chong Dunks, it cost me a pretty penny, but I found those at Flight Club LA. There’s no planning ahead when I design a mask so it’s always a risk cutting into a new pair of shoes. When possible I grab two pairs, a back up plan that usually ends up with the second pair being worn during the photo shoot and eventually end up in my collection.
FP: Long story short, it’s always painful cutting into a $300 pair of kicks. But people dig the end result and the materials add to the value of the piece. Smokin’ before hand isn’t a must but it sure as hell helps.
Check out the rest of the gas mask series called Guerrilla Art Squadron HERE.
STUFF STONERS LIKE: Does that bong actually work, man? And, shit, dude…how much you chargin’ for it?
FP: The bong does work, although I didn’t smoke out of this piece in order to keep it in mint condition for the collector who ended up purchasing the C&C Dunk piece. It went up for auction on eBay and went for $1000.
FP: Tough call, right? Tommy Chong was rockin’ it from the get go but it’s a chicken before the egg type of question since both the Bloods and Cheech and Chong came out of LA in the 1970’s. Honestly, I’m surprised Nike went ahead with the design at all, even though the red bandana and red corduroy represents the chosen head wear of Cheech and Chong but designers and artists have to pay attention to not just their intent but the popular consensus too. You can’t just slap a Hindu or Hopi peace symbol onto your work and ignore what everyone else is going to focus on.
FP: I’ve cut into a few pairs of women’s Air Force 1s but nothing real fancy. I have done some masks with designer hand bags, though. In fact, the first piece in the Branding Wars series was a Gucci Gas Mask Purse. That one didn’t cost me anything though, the lining was coming out from years of use and my friend’s mom had asked me to take it out to the trash can for her, needless to say I knew I could make something from it.
STUFF STONERS LIKE: We dig the Brand Wars idea. Explain? (Check out the series HERE.)
FP: I should give a little background to really put everything in context. Inspired by the Skull A Day work by Noah Scalin, a friend and I decided to do our own daily creative projects. Charlton Yu started Burger 365 and I started MASK365, on May 17, 2010 and didn’t miss a day. Each day we would post our work on our respective blogs. During that year I had to break out of my “normal” creative process and start working with materials that would keep things interesting for me. I made masks from fruit snacks, post it notes, alphabet soup, beer cans and more. When I finished my first sneaker mask made from some Green Spark Nike SB Blazers I knew I had to do more.
The Branding Wars began developing a narrative with each additional post. It told about a post-apocalyptic Los Angeles that crumbled beneath a big earthquake and a general collapse of society yet held tight to it’s brand loyalty. It’s part Style Wars, part Farenheit 451, part Mad Max.
The series explores advertising as propaganda, both condemning and condoning it. It’s about our love of objects and our loyalty to brands. Companies like Nike, Adidas and Converse were my materials of choice because of what their brands and products mean to me and therefore pass on in my work.
STUFF STONERS LIKE: You seem to be all obsessed with masks, eh? What’s behind that?
FP: There’s probably 8 different answers to that one. Gas masks have always been on my list of things that just are plain cool. Part of it comes from the graffiti artist in me, here we are pumping out chemical weapons into our lungs in the form of paint using terms like “bombing” – a gas mask just embodies that war-time protection from clouds of art poison. It doesn’t hurt that respirators remind us of gas masks (when we wear ’em) and that masks in general hide our identity, something [graf] writers always have in mind.
Masks themselves are powerful images. There are all different types of masks out there dating back to prehistoric ritual and tribal masks to masks worn today by doctors, actors, law enforcement, criminals, athletes and just about everyone at some point in their lives.
STUFF STONERS LIKE: So you made a mask a day for a year? Damn, man, about the only thing we remember to do every day…consistently…is smoke weed. How’d you not forget to make a daily mask?
FP: With my homie Charlton cranking out impressive work everyday for Burger 365 I had a lot of pressure to not let him down, as more people took notice I couldn’t let them down either. What it really boils down to though, is not letting myself down. Sometimes you gotta really step up and do something that’s going to push you to the next level. You can’t be afraid to fail, you can’t win a game you don’t play.
STUFF STONERS LIKE: Probably the coolest mask we’ve seen of yours is that Adidas x Star Wars Superskate sneaker. What’s the story? Why no Star Trek Borg mask? Or do you think Star Wars trumps Star Trek?
FP: Haha. You guys hit the nail on the head. I don’t know shit about Star Trek but Star Wars always had my attention. Lucas is a fuckin’ genius. I’m a nerd, but I own it. To me being a nerd just means loving what you love and being open about it regardless of what others may say or think.
FP: There’s one from early on in MASK365, the Dual Skull Goalie Mask was a vintage style hockey goalie that I painted to look like a skull right side up and up side down. I’m not a real big sports fan but I did a few other sports related masks like the mask I made from a football for Super Bowl Sunday.
STUFF STONERS LIKE: That hockey mask is DOPE! Seems like we could use some of those gas masks here at Occupy Oakland. What are you thought’s about the recent Occupy Protests?
FP: I have mixed feelings about the Occupy Protests, our country needs a great deal of change and protest is a powerful and effective method to bring change. I think we have to come up with a real solution to reform, not just voice that there’s a problem. That being said, the way some of these protestors have been treated is shameful. There’s snakes and fools on both sides of the fence if you ask me.
STUFF STONERS LIKE: So…uh…does the mighty weed influence your art?
FP: Of course, this is LA baby. The Cali chronic is our version of the NY subway, it gets you where you want to be. Off the top of my head, I think of the Pinky & The Brain homage and the Dumbesh design. I’ve been creative with a weird streak long before my love of weed. Smoking has an influence in the sense that it allows me to lose myself in my work. I’m constantly working on multiple projects, smoking calms me and makes it so I can focus on what needs to be done to a piece rather than stressing how long it may be taking me.
FP: The beauty of SoCal is being a daily medical marijuana smoker.
STUFF STONERS LIKE: Does smoking stimulate your creativity?
FP: Some strains help feed my creativity, others sharpen my focus.
STUFF STONERS LIKE: Fave method of smoking?
FP: Blunts and joints are my first choice but being a starving & smoking artist means bongs are the most common means of smoking.
STUFF STONERS LIKE: You’re a craftsman…so can surely appreciate a nicely rolled joint?
FP: Aw man, hell yeah! I envy smokers who can roll up without even trying. My craftsmanship OCD kicks in and I spend too much time tryin’ to make it perfect. Blunts are great, especially passing one around with good friends.
STUFF STONERS LIKE: Fave strain?
FP: OG Kush is always the crowd favorite but I love some good Cherry AK-47 or some Blue Dream. Mainly I’m a sativa fan, indicas are right for some situations but mostly a sativa hits me just right.
STUFF STONERS LIKE: Does weed improve yer life?
FP: Ha! Ask me after this all goes public. I’m far from a closet smoker, hell I was even open with my folks about. I love weed though, that doesn’t make me burn out. Without it I’d probably be on some chemical driven anti-anxiety prescription that’d throw my whole body’s chemistry off balance. There’s a long history of the world’s greatest artists having various mental afflictions and the prescription drugs can solve it, but hinder the creative mind. Marijuana is natural and truly God’s gift.
STUFF STONERS LIKE: How about making a Vader Vaporizer mask for us?
FP: Let’s talk about it! I’ve had a few requests for a Sneaker Vader helmet, and with my love for Star Wars it’s been on my personal list (that and a Boba Fett helmet!). It’s just a matter of finding the right kicks sometimes.
STUFF STONERS LIKE: Tax and regulate or set the WEED free?
FP: If it’s ever done, Big Brother would be a fool not to tax and regulate it. I ain’t trying to see middle schoolers smokin’ at the bus stop, kids gotta stay kids as long as possible. And states sure could use some extra income these days. It’d be nice if there was some type of middle ground, make the laws like the laws for sex: No one under 18 and whatever else is good as long as it’s in the privacy of your own home.
STUFF STONERS LIKE: So Hip Hop, eh? Why don’t you play us out with your theme song. What shall it be, man?
Freehand Profit: Zodiak Killa’s “Do The Math”, the day doesn’t start ’til I hear that beat drop. I did the cover for his new mixtape ‘Window of Deception’, you guys gotta hear “Push” (FREE download HERE) it’s gonna be up there on your Smoke Out mix like Cypress Hill and Dr. Dre. When I want to hear something real rough I got West Side Fo’ Life by Candyman 187 featuring Zodiak Killa & Shock G (Free Download HERE).