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Cleveland Artist Spotlights
From a landscape of sawdust, table saws, and stacks of hard wood, spring pristine and meticulously crafted pieces of furniture: a chair with a satiny smooth seat; a clean-lined credenza. The studio and workshop of Cleveland artist, designer and Creative Workforce Fellow Freddy Hill, is clearly a space used for constructing things, the mark of a craftsmen’s hand here is obvious. Freddy Hill Designs is located in Lakewood’s Birdtown in the Screw Factory building, home to several dozen local artists.
Freddy’s work is contemporary, minimal and masculine, with an aesthetic distilled from both Asian and Danish modern mid-century design. Following the philosophy of Japanese designer, George Nakashima, he says “there are no intentional decorative elements to my pieces; there’s visual appeal, but every element is strictly functional.”
While the utilitarian nature and evidence of his touch is important in each of his pieces, Freddy says for him there is a constant struggle to “tune out” emotional distractions. His psychological state has the power to influence the quality of his craftsmanship; rough personal moments can result in uneven joints or a too-heavily planed surface.
He continues to strive for perfection in his craft, but avoids the idea of preciousness altogether. He advises anyone considering a custom furniture investment to steer away from pieces “that tell you don’t touch, or don’t sit on them.” Furniture should be inviting.
Describe briefly the work that you do.
I'm a designer, focusing predominantly on furniture with an interest in lighting.
How do you feel your work affects your audience? How do you want your work to affect your audience?
I love focusing on the interface. I want the knobs of my cabinets to be friendly to the touch. I want the back of my chair to cradle the sitter's back. I want the table surface to invite the touch of a hand. The objects in our house make it a home and I see my work as a way of developing intimacy with our immediate environment. I want my objects to become intensely personal with those that live with them. To the point where they recognize every little nuance and flaw in the surface; every change in direction of the grain; every undulation left by the edge of a plane blade. I want the owner to run their hand over the surface of a piece that I've built and see it as a snapshot in time, to know that at that moment the only thing that existed in my life was making this piece of furniture to the absolute best of my ability and to know that it brought me a great amount of happiness to make it.
How did you get introduced to your craft?
I played and toured in a band for the better part of my 20's. The band broke up for a short time and I took a job in a cabinet shop sweeping up and sanding. I fell in love with woodworking almost immediately and immersed myself in any book or magazine I could find on the subject. It was like finding the piece that I had never known was missing but had accidentally found.
Do you have any long-standing influences?
Sam Maloof, James Krenov, Hans Wegner, George Nakashima and Zivko Radenkov. That's the short list. My love of art and artists could go on for miles. Locally I think Amy Casey, Dana Oldfather, Steven Yusko, Yumiko Goto and Derek Hess are fantastic and I draw inspiration from all of them.
Describe your idea of artistic success?
Having the stability and confidence to push the boundary of what my skill set allows me to do. I want to make pieces that I don't know that I'm capable of making. I want to explore that area where concept and craft don't agree.
What is your process for generating new ideas?
There's a lot of staring at the wall -- without even seeing the wall. I take inspiration from myriad sources. Nature, architecture, Picasso, Tom Waits. I can't narrow it down to a specific method.
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