If you’ve nestled into a corner at Light House Coffee while sipping on a cup of joe or stopped by City Pork at the LSU Art and Design building to pick up a specialty sandwich, odds are you’ve come across a Freeman Handcrafted design.
Conrad Freeman’s one-man furniture studio has been on the rise since his time as an art student in the very place that one of his designs now sits. And while his admiration for natural materials is part of his entrepreneurial story, it certainly isn’t all. We reached out to Freeman to walk us through the world of furniture design and the many influences that have shaped his career and work.
1. What inspired you to start Freeman Handcrafted?
I guess it was the natural way of being able to make art for a living. I love to make things and fulfill the ideas in my mind, and the only way to really do that full time is to have clients. I never considered myself to be a businessperson in any regard, it just kind of evolved into that.
2. What has influenced your work?
Nordic design, Bauhaus, Jeff Martin Joinery‘s furniture design and Andy Goldsworthy’s natural outdoor sculptures. I also take a lot of influence from my time studying sculpture and taking design classes at LSU. All of this laid the foundation for my love of design and natural materials.
3. What is your professional background? How did you get your start?
I learned how to make things in college as a sculpture student. After graduation, I got a job at Benchworks making fine furniture and architectural millworks and cabinetry. The vast majority of what I know is self taught from problem solving and necessity. On-the-job experience and a huge desire to get better and better is so important.
4. What type of wood do you favor for your designs?
Walnut because it’s timeless. Rift sawn white oak for its consistency in grain and peacefulness. And hard maple because the tone lends itself to modern design.
5. What project are you most proud of and why?
My first collection of furniture I released back in August. I’m so happy with the designs and the cohesiveness of it all. It incorporates ideas I’ve been sketching and thinking through since my sculpture days and is highly influenced by contemporary design. They’re simple, functional, and attractive!
6. What’s the one tool you couldn’t do without?
It would be hard to do anything without my table saw, jointer and planer.
7. Do you have any tools that hold sentimental value for you?
Back before I was even thinking of a business in this craft, I totally restored my grandpa’s old Shopsmith. It’s a goofy old thing. It’s about five tools in one and takes up around the space of a bike. I used it solely to make many projects back in the day and love it so much. I’ve totally disassembled it and put it back together several times and know it better than any machine in my shop. Grandpa would be proud.
8. What is one thing you would like our people to know about Freeman Handcrafted that they might not be aware of?
I put so much care and obsessive energy into my pieces. This is not just a job for me but an expression of my innermost parts. My drive to always be better than the last time and to be as precise and clear with my work is something that continues to drive me. I never go halfway on anything.
9. What does a typical day look like for you?
Lately, I’ve been taking slow mornings with my wife and getting to the studio around 9 a.m. Work is pretty constant until I start to wind down around 6 or 7 p.m. I usually only take Sundays off. I keep the pace sustainable for the long run, which avoids burnout and keeps me enjoying the work.
10. Where do you seek inspiration for pieces?
Currently, I look to architecture and interior design blogs and magazines. These tend to get me really excited to think and sketch. Listening to design podcasts and hearing designer stories is awesome too. I always have my top people on Instagram that always inspire me: Jeff Martin Joinery, Kylle Sebree, Siosi Design, New Format Studio and Allied Maker, to name a few.
Learn more about Freeman’s furniture on his company’s website.