Freehand Profit: From MASK365 to Creative Director - An Artist on the
Freehand Profit: From MASK365 to Creative Director - An Artist on the Way to New Horizons

Freehand Profit: From MASK365 to Creative Director - An Artist on the Way to New Horizons

The creativity of Gary Lockwood aka Freehand Profit is remarkable and inspiring. As the artist of MASK365, a year-long creative project, he shared his passion for art and creativity with the world. Today, he focuses on new possibilities and opportunities as the Creative Director of Metavasion, a Web3 company in Hong Kong. Nevertheless, his art, especially his unique masks made of sneakers, remains an important part of his creative life. In an interview, he shares his experiences and gives insights into his work as an artist and businessman.

Gary, it's a pleasure to have you as an interview guest. How are you and what are you doing these days?
Always happy to talk to folks about the work. I’m good, counting my blessings despite the curve balls life can throw at us. Still living a creative life, still making masks from sneakers, but doing so much more and focused on embracing the transition into new possibilities and opportunities. I’m now also a Creative Director for a Web3 company based in Hong Kong called Metavasion, a lot of building behind the scenes but quite rewarding being in a cutting edge field and to lead a team of creatives. 

Your art is something really extraordinary. Do you remember when you first started experimenting in this direction and what triggered this new approach?
Most people have heard me tell the story of MASK365, a year long, daily creative project where I made or designed a mask every day for a year. It was inspired by Noah Scalin’s Skull-A-Day project. Over the course of that year I was working with all different types of materials but wanted to find materials that mattered to me. Just so happened the answer was on my feet the whole time.
You are undoubtedly a businessman and very entrepreneurial. Are you completely self-taught or do you have some "formal" training as well?
I appreciate that, but to be honest, I see my business acumen as a weak spot. My passion is in creativity and art, and so I sometimes make decisions that are good for the art but not for the business. Any smart plays or entrepreneurial wisdom would have to be attributed to listening to Jay-Z, really listening, and applying those insights to my own decisions. But no, no formal training or education on the business side, just a life-long artist (part traditionally trained, part self-taught) with a whole lotta determination.

In 2017, adidas approached you to spotlight your "SNEAKERHEAD" exhibition at the SoHo office. Are such run-ins with brands or celebrities normal for you, or are you looking forward to new partnerships? 
Pre-pandemic (2019) collaborations, events and promotions were pretty “normal”, although I never got jaded to it - every time it felt fresh and special. But when COVID-19 hit masks (as in N95s and such) became a politicized issue, and brands didn’t want to trigger and distract their customers from the product they were trying to promote. That’s my understanding of how it played out at least. Always looking forward to new partnerships, especially because they are getting more interesting - now I get chances to design team mascots, metaverses, physical collectibles and sneakers instead of just sneaker masks. Not letting those go but the possibilities are much more expansive.
Mask No. 211: Reebok Instapump Fury Tom Cat was created in collaboration with Reebok Classics and uses the Instapump Fury from the Tom & Jerry shoe collection. This unique mask combines streetwear with a touch of cartoon fantasy.

In September 2022, you officially exhibited your first museum show at Savannah College of Art and Design. How did that come about and how did that make you feel?
My show, ‘Face Value’, at SCADFASH was truly a dream come true. That came about thanks to a fantastic, visionary curator - Rafael Brauer-Gomes. SCAD was introducing a new program where students can minor in Sneaker Design, and so they were looking for artists who had worked with sneakers to exhibit at SCADFASH. Raf saw my work on IG and reached out. 

I was nervous it wasn’t going to happen, sometimes it’s the thing you want the most that gets ripped from under you. I legit worried I wanted it too bad for it to come true.  One thing’s for sure, I’ll never ever forget that exhibit. It was the last time I saw my dad in person outside of the hospital bed, he died February ‘23. So incredibly grateful he got to see that show. 
We know that what's on @freehandprofit is only a tiny part of your art. Can you tell us about your other projects?
At this time, I can’t share much. Mostly because of NDAs, but also because while I experiment creatively I’m enjoying the freedom that privacy brings. I can tell you I’m working on my next art book. The first, Army of the Undeadstock, was self-published in 2012 and featured 35+ sneakers masks. There’s more than 200 in the new book and I’m keeping a few new works under wraps as exclusives for the book.

You always seem very motivated and full of energy, which is reflected in your work. What drives you?
Good question, I often say art making is compulsory but I’m starting to wonder if depression is part of what drives me, it’s not easy to explain but I’ll try. I don’t know that my natural state is motivated or energetic; I think those are engines I’ve built to fly out of the void. Kinda like the old sayings: Shoot for the stars, land on the Moon. If you want to hit your target, aim past it. Get busy living or get busy dying. If I’m not going as hard as I can, the negative void sucks me back down.
You often use trendy and expensive sneakers for your masks. Do you always have the costs in mind when you create a mask?
Some of my favorite pieces have been from sleepers/bricks, but those pieces don’t get picked up by blogs or go viral, they just don’t cut through the immense noise of social media. Sacrifice is an important aspect to the work so when I chop a hype/expensive pair of kicks a larger percentage of the audience registers the sacrifice - whether they think it was worth it or not is another topic altogether. 

What would you recommend to people who want to get into the sneaker industry because they love the subject? What do you have to bring to the table to make it work?
I think the best thing people can bring to any industry is an outlier’s perspective or at least external expertise. For example, I brought what I know about art and what I love about masks to the sneaker industry. Maybe the next great sneaker is designed by a martial arts student who understands foot movements differently, maybe a biologist will develop a new sustainable material that can be used in soles and midsoles, who knows?! But I’m betting it won’t be someone following in someone else’s footprints, that path has been made, be brave enough to carve your own.
Mask No.198: adidas Harden V3 Iron Man Helmet - Freehand Profit's 198th sneaker mask is an Iron Man helmet created for adidas Basketball from the "Heroes Among Us" pack Harden Vol 3s. The result is impressive.

Is there anything else you would like to share with the sneaker world at this point?
Remember: Collections fade, midsoles crumble, feet grow, hype fades… how we treat each other is what will outlast the sneakers we give so much “love” to. 
Thanks for the interview, Gary!
Thanks for the chance to speak to the Grailify fam.

Mask No.154: Nike MAG Shark Gas Mask - The sneaker mask was made from a pair of the 2011 Nike MAGs. They were no longer in perfect condition, but Gary took this as a challenge and set about reviving them.

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