How Freehand Profit supports his art, his business, and his fans with enamel pins

Art, hip-hop, sneakers, and . . . gas masks? Sculptor Freehand Profit (aka Gary Lockwood) combines an unexpected mix of mediums and motivations to create bold, otherworldly pieces of art. And then he designs enamel pins based on those creations, giving the artist another way to connect with his fans.

At first glance, you may wonder why someone would make functioning gas masks out of deconstructed shoes. That’s the thing about art: it doesn’t need a reason. But it always has a purpose.

For Freehand Profit, there’s a purpose behind both the materials and the finished product. The shoes he sacrifices for his sculptures are symbols of the hip-hop culture he loves. And the masks?

Mask making is an ancient art form and I look to link our modern times to this ancient art,” he says. “The gas mask is the mask of our times, it represents atrocities at war, civil unrest, environmental damnation, and works both as a symbol of fear and of protection.”

But even for the most talented and purpose-driven creator, making a living as a full-time artist is a challenge.

Enamel pins give Freehand Profit an easy-to-manage income stream and the financial freedom to keep creating. Even better, the pins provide a way for this elite artist to share his art and his purpose with a wider world.

Pins make his one-of-a-kind art accessible to any fan

A Freehand Profit mask isn’t something you pick up at Target on a whim. Few exist in the world, and they don’t come cheap. Enamel pins give Freehand Profit a more accessible medium to share his art with everyone.

You can see a Freehand Profit mask in person — if you know where to look

Photos of a Freehand Profit mask only hint at the detail involved. Seeing one in person provides a better way to appreciate the complexity of these sculptures.

Freehand profit mask
Mask No.196: GFK asics Gas Mask

If you’re paying attention and are a little lucky, you can spot Freehand Profit’s work in some pretty prestigious galleries and corporate headquarters and at events.

“One of my favorites (exhibits) was the ‘Above the Rim’ show at CAM [the Contemporary Art Museum] in Raleigh,” he says. “It was an honor to be able to show work alongside artists I admire, like Hank Willis Thomas, Kori Newkirk, and Hueman.”

His work has been displayed at events like Sneaker Con and DesignCon. Freehand Profit has also created work for the likes of Nike, Champs, Cadillac, and Adidas.

Actually getting your hands on a mask is a little more difficult

When you don’t mass-produce your art, and you design it with the intentionality of a Freehand Profit mask, it isn’t easy to make it available to millions of people.

At $3,000 to $15,000 each, a Freehand Profit mask isn’t an entry-level collectible. And since he’s designed a total of 200 masks, you can’t exactly buy them in bulk.

The beauty and rarity of a Freehand Profit mask is why his clients include celebrities, athletes, and some of the biggest stars in hip-hop.

In fact, not only has he made a mask for hip-hop artist Method Man, but there’s also an animated cartoon that tells the story. You can also find Freehand Profit art in the homes and offices of Kevin Durant, Everlast, and P. J. Tucker.

Pins make Freehand Profit’s work available to any collector

Enamel pins give Freehand Profit another medium for his work, one that’s accessible to almost any fan who wants to own a piece of his art.

The pins he creates are just as intricate and powerful as the sculptures they’re based on.

Source: Freehand Profit Instagram

View this post on Instagram

🐗🌵 I’m so excited to finally share the Travis Scott Jordan 1 mask today! There’s plenty to tell you about it so let me start with the basics. It was created for @jewsifer_ of the @mainxhastings podcast from 2 pairs of Travis Scott Jordan 1s. If you haven’t already you can watch the IGTV video of my dissecting the shoes that went into this mask. I want to thank my apprentice @the_nolanrockwell who helped customize the bomber jacket and stepped behind the lens so I could model the mask. I had originally hoped to shoot this in a real desert but for a variety of reasons it made much more sense to shoot it at the @SnkrInc studio and then add the environment in using Photoshop and stock photography. #travisscott #jordan1 #cactusjack #wildboar #mask #nicekicks

A post shared by Freehand Profit (@freehandprofit) on

Source: Freehand Profit Instagram

Actually, pins get a little exclusivity that’s not even available in the masks. For every mask pin he designs, Freehand Profit includes three different colorways. Masks come in only one color variation.

But the big difference between his masks and his pins is that you can nab your very own Freehand Mask pin right now without breaking the bank.

“Accessibility is a big part of [selling pins],” he says. “Most of my audience can’t afford a $15,000 sculpture. But a $15 pin is a much easier sale.”

Eventually, the artist says, he’ll make a pin for every mask he’s completed. Since he started creating pins in 2012, he’s designed about 100 pins, including the multiple colorways. Each design and color gets a run of 100 pins, meaning there are around 10,000 Freehand Profit pins in the world.

Pins are also an important perk for Freehand Profit’s Patreon supporters. Patreon is an online platform that helps artists and creators maintain a steady income through fan support.

Patreon supporters usually get things like exclusive content, behind-the-scenes looks at their artist’s process, and sneak peeks of upcoming projects. Freehand Profit sweetens the pot for his supporters by offering pin discounts, exclusive pins, or, at some levels of support, free monthly pins.

Multiple enamel pins designed by Freehand Profit
If you join Freehand Profit’s Pin Club on Patreon, you get a new pin every month.

Patreon supporters also get to help decide future pin projects, giving them a direct connection to the artist and his process.

All of this accessibility would be difficult to offer fans and supporters without enamel pins.

Pins give him the freedom to create

Like much great art, Freehand Profit’s sculpture work isn’t scalable. It’s not supposed to be. Enamel pins give him an income stream that’s easy to manage so he has the financial runway to focus on creating the next sculpture.

“There’s a reason there’s a starving artist stereotype.” — Freehand Profit

Making a living as a solo artist isn’t easy. Making mask sculptures out of shoes is a particularly tough business model to scale.

For one thing, the masks are super labor-intensive. Each mask takes hundreds of hours of work to complete. Depending on the design and the creative flow involved, that could mean weeks, months, or even years to go from concept to completion.

Artist Freehand Profit with several of his mask sculpture
Caption: Freehand Profit puts hundreds of hours in each of his masks.

Storage and handling of his masks are also an issue. These are large, valuable pieces. They take up space and need to be protected until they’re sold. In L.A., where Freehand Profit’s studio is located, space isn’t cheap.

In some ways, it takes as much will and creativity to make a business of art as it does to make the art itself.

“There was never a doubt [I would be a professional artist]. I never wavered in my direction.” — Freehand Profit

Even in his early school days, the artist’s talent was obvious. In fact, his handle is partly a nod to his ability to draft complex compositions.

“I came up with the Freehand Profit moniker in middle school; it was my tag (graffiti) name,” he says. “‘Freehand’ because other students would ask ‘did you draw that freehand’ because they thought it looked traced.”

The second half of his tag may seem to indicate some sort of clairvoyance, but it’s actually a much more practical reminder that any self-supporting artist can relate to. “Folks were skeptical that I’d make a living at [art].” So Profit is in recognition of that doubt.

“But of course it was never promised. Even now I have to fight hard to keep it going.”

Enamel pins have become an important weapon in Freehand Profit’s fight to “keep it going."

“Some weeks, a simple pin sale puts food on the table.”— Freehand Profit

Rushing or changing the creative process for the sake of revenue isn’t an enviable outcome for any artist. Selling enamel pins is the solution that allows Freehand Profit to keep a steady income stream without allowing financial pressure to affect his work.

First of all, enamel pins can be produced quickly. For example, turnaround time on a WizardPins order is less than three weeks, once a proof is approved.

Plus, enamel pins are an inexpensive product. Freehand Profit’s WizardPins pins come with a low cost per unit, small minimum order quantity, and no shipping costs. And because they’re small, Freehand Profit doesn’t need a huge storeroom to keep stock.

All of this means that Freehand Profit can create new pins for his supporters every month without tying up additional resources.

“I love collecting and creating pins because of their longevity and versatility,” Freehand Profit says. “They have a decent profit margin with reasonable production cost, and it doesn’t take much space to store inventory.”

Support your own purpose-driven business with enamel pins

If you have an artistic side hustle or just a passion to create, WizardPins can help you generate an income stream from enamel pins. All you need is a design, in just about any format, to create a pin people want to buy.

“I keep coming back to WizardPins because they do it right,” Freehand Profit says. “Consistency is important to me. I believe in trading in abundance, and WizardPins has repeatedly exceeded my expectations. ”

Should you sell enamel pins to support your business?

“Just Do It! Ha, too on the nose from a sneakerhead? Seriously, though, pins are dope. Join in!”

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