Joseph Freer - Masterpiece Decorative Artistry
Although his passion for the arts and his keen eye for color began when he was a young child, Joseph Freer did not take the direct route to decorative painting.
“I can remember when my first grade teacher gave me some primary colors to paint with, and I somehow automatically knew how to mix them into secondary colors,” Joseph recalls. “And so all my classmates would ask me to help them mix their paints.”
From those auspicious beginnings, he continued to draw and paint. After high school, Joseph wanted to attend the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. But instead of pursuing his dream, he followed his brother into the engineering field thinking it was the “safe” career path. For eight years, he worked in designing nuclear power plants but knew it wasn’t his true calling. The arts kept beckoning to him.
“I wasn’t passionate about engineering … it was just a job to me,” he admits. “A lot of people in life take on jobs that they’re not passionate about and end up getting stuck. So I knew I had to get out and follow my heart, which brought me back to the arts.”
In 1996, Joseph decided to leave engineering behind and worked as an apprentice for a decorative artisan. In 1998, Joseph started his own business called Masterpiece Decorative Artistry, which specializes in interior decorative finishing and murals. He is best known for his textured finishes, including a “suede parchment” technique that uses cheesecloth and oil glaze.
One of his first jobs was for a professional football player. And not just any player – one who was part of the 1985 Chicago Bears Super Bowl team. Although it was intimidating working on such a high-profile client right out of the gate, the project was a great success and quickly led to more work. “It was really my calling card into the business,” Joseph acknowledges.
Over the years, Joseph has worked primarily on residential projects in the northwest suburbs of Chicago, such as Inverness and Barrington. Since moving to downtown Chicago last year, he is looking to expand his work in the city as well. His artistry has been featured in several designer showcase homes, the Luxury Home Tour and Parade of Homes throughout the Chicagoland area.
To expand on his faux finishing techniques, Joseph enjoys visiting various studios to view the different finishes on display, pick out what he likes, and learn how to master them on the spot. That is how he first came into contact with Kathy Carroll and the Chicago Institute of Fine Finishes.
“Kathy is so friendly and personable,” Joseph explains. “Whenever you come into her studio, she goes out of her way to spend time with you, figure out what you need, and try to get you set up. I think with Kathy, it’s just a natural thing. It’s who she is.”
Joseph frequently uses products that Kathy offers through her studio and Faux by Kathy eStore, including: Shimmer Suede, Versiplast, Veilcalce (“goes on like butter”), Indiana Limestone, Bella FrescoTM, and Liberon colored waxes (“they beautifully enhance finishes and add color and depth”). Some of his favorite tools include Neon Leon brushes and Pigeon trowels (“they’re lightweight and flexible for Venetian plasters”).
Although he has quite a few favorite projects, one that sticks out most in his mind is a bathroom in which he created his own technique called “Cascade of Color” – a waterfall of colors using Modern Masters Metallics. This bathroom project has received many accolades, including First Place and Best in Show awards from the National Kitchen & Bath Association, and was featured in Chicago HOME + GARDEN magazine in 2004.
Joseph also points out another memorable job involving a house in St. Charles that took six months to complete: “I enjoyed the opportunity to work on an entire home, which required balancing a variety of techniques in an open floor plan. All the colors and finishes needed to be in harmony with each other.”
It was also one of his most challenging projects because he tried a new technique in the two-story great room that consisted of nine archways rendered in rough tumbled stone and walls done in limestone blocks. It was physically taxing to complete, but he was pleased with the outcome of using this particular product for the first time. In fact, when a rep from the company came out to see Joseph’s work, he was so impressed and said: “Our artisans on staff haven’t accomplished anything like this with the product.”
Currently, Joseph is working on a model home for a builder in Richmond, Ill., to upgrade its appearance and appeal to potential homebuyers. Although he employs a full-time assistant as well as a part-time associate when needed, Joseph insists on being on the job everyday to oversee all the work and executes all the techniques himself because of “all the idiosyncrasies that go into a decorative finish.”
When asked what tips he has for newcomers to the faux finishing and decorative painting field, he advises: “Be diligent and follow your heart. Let your passion lead you in what you want to create. Don’t be afraid to try something new and different.” Which is exactly what Joseph has accomplished.
For more information on Joseph Freer and Masterpiece Decorative Artistry, contact him by phone at 847-791-6658 or e-mail at email@example.com.