We had the good fortune of connecting with Matthew W. Townsend and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Matthew W., do you disagree with some advice that is more or less universally accepted?
There are times in life and work where you have to run a deficit. Emotionally, mentally, relationally, fiscally, there are times when you’re required to give in excess of your sustainable ability. Personally, when we were in the final stages of completing the Criterion Building at 400 Bryan Ave., we were at the end of our budget and I had to jump in to complete a host of items. I was working 16 hours a day for weeks in the Texas heat. It wasn’t sustainable but it had to get done. It was needed for that season. I have seen the busy person become oddly exalted in our success driven society. It’s a badge of honor to be busy. I have found, for me, that pace is not conducive to creative or critical thought. More recently, I’ve been trying to push back on being so busy. I am trying to work less so I have time to be more creative. Creativity and the freedom to step back from problems and follow curiosity is paramount. Working more hours doesn’t necessarily translate to better ideas or results. I try to focus my efforts and attention on the work when I’m working, but make a point to pull back and evaluate what’s working and what isn’t.
It’s also been really important for me to work on projects that are adjacent or even unrelated to my daily work. About a year ago, I helped a friend build a bed frame. He needed access to some tools we had in the Freeform Made Custom Shop and we just made a day of it. It ended up taking almost a full day to carefully mill the custom cut black walnut bed frame pieces. While we were working on how to join the pieces together, I realized we could use a similar design on our Freeform Frame stands which were due for an update. Helping my buddy helped me reimagine a new, better way to make our main product. It simplified production, cut costs, and ultimately helped our company make a better product. Some tech companies offer similar program to some staff calling it “20% time”. I’m trying to setup my business so I’m able to work on other projects at least 1 day a week. As it turns out, sometimes working on a project that doesn’t make any money, was the best use of my time.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I see myself as an artist. My work doesn’t show up on display at any art galleries, but we’re often there. We have thousands of wooden iPad stands going to work all over the world: in food trucks, and farmer’s markets, and coffeeshops, and – yes – more than a few art galleries. Freeform Made makes functional artwork: artwork which is designed for the real world. It’s designed to be used and interacted with. It softens the hard edges of technology with a handmade wood enclosure. Each stand requires 4-6 hours of labor and each one is different.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
Coffee at Roots Coffeehouse on Bryan Ave, one block east of South main Street. From there, we’d hit Black Cat Pizza across the street, and grab a beer at Funky Picnic. We’d have to hit HopFusion followed by dinner at Tinies. After that, we’d duck over to “the Skinny” (the new amazing park created by Near Southside Inc.). If we were feeling gutsy we might sneak into the Bowery’s killer fourth floor deck around sunset or a cocktail at Tinnie’s on South Main St for a killer view of the city. Come to think of it, we pretty much wouldn’t have to leave Bryan Ave and South Main… It’s a really cool up and coming area with tons of stuff coming online every month.
Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
My wife, Janice Dotti Townsend, owner of Roots Coffeehouse, has continually inspired me to create and build. She has provided a framework and honest feedback which has enabled me to pursue my curiosities.