Textile artist creates artwork from garbage

Hands are a textile crafter’s most important tool. With each grab, flick and pull, even the slightest flaw could put his work in the trash. His hands are what make each item, from quilts to fabric pieces, different from every other mass-produced item for sale on the shelves.

Dan Freeman, a fine arts alumnus, has been working since February 2014 as a studio assistant in South San Francisco.

Freeman said working at Josh Faught’s studio has been exactly what he wanted. When he’s not weaving and dying fabric, he helps the studio by making floor looms and crafting fabric by hand.

Freeman got into textile making three years ago after finding himself inspired by meshing together a rainbow of colored fabric. He bought himself a sewing machine selling his own fabrics. Later, he enrolled at SF State in pursuit of evolving his craft.

There, he networked with various artists and assisted his professors on their own projects, which gave him the background needed to work the position he currently holds.

“(The) level of perfection in his work was not being satisfied by something less,” said professor Victor De La Rosa, who teaches textile in the art department. For him, he saw that Freeman did a lot of trial and error in what he was making.

In his last semester, Freeman was featured at the 26th Annual Stillwell Student Exhibition. He earned best of show for his piece titled, “This Is Not A Toy.” The piece, a three-by-four foot teddy bear, was handcrafted from and stuffed with plastic bags.

The idea behind the teddy bear represents items that are valuable verses garbage, said Freeman. He used the plastic bags to represent the material value that comes in those plastic bags that are manufactured like pants or shirts that consumers can buy at department stores and toss the bag away.

“I used garbage to make something valuable,” said Freeman. “(I) wanted (my) hands to be seen in (the) material.” He didn’t want the clean look of his work to appear as if it had come from a machine but wanted his flaws to reflect the work he put in to the piece.

The result of his work came from taking SF State’s textile class , which provided the framework that helped him produce the teddy bear. Professor De La Rosa said trial, error and technique came in handy during both the creative process and exploring those steps on his own, which was a two-month process.

Freeman attributed his luck in the professional world to the networking he did as an undergrad.

“Working with (professors) personally and giving up (my time) is how I got this job,” he said.

His time paid off after De La Rosa and another teacher, Kate Martker took notice of his hard work and recommended him to Josh Faught while working with De La Rosa’s solo show, “Mi Barrio Es Tu Barrio.”

“As a professor we have to know what the job market is like , and do the most (to) prepare (for) what to expect,” said De La Rosa.

His advice for other art students is to “work harder than the next person. It’s competitive, everyone wants these jobs. You have to want it more than the next person.”

With the experience of assisting in an art studio, Freeman is able to help other artists with their pieces. But he hopes to have a residency with Root Division in the Mission in the near future, which he said will give him an opportunity to have his own studio to showcase his own pieces and have educational classes for the public.