Former addict turns it around

Wayne Freeman now an accomplished potter

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A Liverpool artist who once battled alcohol addiction and homelessness has graduated after returning to education at the age of 53.

Wayne Freeman, now 58, recently graduated from Liverpool Hope University and is now an accomplished ceramics creator currently engaged in a commercial project supplying items to cosmetics store Lush.

“Spiralling out of control”

A decade ago Freeman’s life was going down a different path. In 2010 he broke his leg in an accident and suffered the trauma of finding his ex-docker father, Alfred, dead in his home. Unable to work, Freeman turned to alcohol.

Now a grandfather of two, Freeman said: “My life was just spiralling out of control, largely because of the drink. Around this time I was also going through a very troubled relationship with an ex-partner. I lost my job, I lost my flat, I lost my partner. I’d drink just so I could sleep and not have to think about what was happening to me.”

Over the next four years Freeman was made homeless, living in a hostel near Liverpool’s Sefton Park. He said: “I wasn’t doing anything with my life. I couldn’t even see my children because I wasn’t in any fit state to be
a parent.

“I was at rock bottom and I knew I had to dig myself out. Thoughts of suicide flashed through my mind – I can admit that now.”

In 2014 Freeman’s mother Kathleen passed away. It was her dying wish for her son to get back on track. Freeman says it was the turning point he needed.

He said: “Something happened to me where I was just pushed onto the right path. I gave up all of my vices there and then – I just stopped. This was the moment I vowed to change my life.”

Taking heed of his mum’s plea, he enrolled at the City of Liverpool College to study for a diploma in design.

“I knew I wanted to go to university, and going to college was the first step I needed to take. At the time, I knew nothing about ceramics and clay. I just wanted to go and draw.

“But something just clicked as soon as I saw the pottery wheel. I didn’t leave the ceramics room. I wasn’t a natural, but I got there in the end with it and I knew that this was what I wanted to do.”

Freeman enrolled at Liverpool Hope University in 2017 to study for a BA in design, specialising in ceramics, and began honing his skills, experimenting with his love of Native American art in particular.

Granby art workshop

After completing his course in 2020 he graduated in September this year, with a photograph of his mum in his pocket.

“Mum was right here with me,” said Freeman. “She had to come. And I hope she was proud.”

Now he is working with the Granby Workshop in Liverpool, a social enterprise set up by Turner Prize-winning architecture collective Assemble.

The Granby Workshop forms part of community-led efforts to rebuild Granby, a Liverpool neighbourhood that was nearly made derelict by decades of failed regeneration initiatives.

Freeman creates soap dishes using workable clay from a mix of sink, toilet and tile industry waste materials that would otherwise go to landfill.

Freeman, who is working in a studio within the Granby complex, said: “I absolutely love it. I’m the first here and I’m the last to leave.

“When I’ve told people I’m making products for Lush they just can’t believe it. They’ve told me: ‘Hold on a minute – is this you? Is this the same Wayne?’

“I’ve even had people who’ve said: ‘I thought you’d be well dead by now, not getting a degree from university! Wayne? A degree!?’

“I’m in a really good place now.”

Now Freeman is sharing his story in the hope of inspiring others who have fallen on hard times.

He said: “It’s never too late. And you can only get so low before there’s a turning point that allows you to climb the ladder of life again.”

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