WHAT EXACTLY DOES "ARTISAN" MEAN?
"Artisan" has more to do with the way the bread is made than the form. That is to say, ordinary white bread baked in a loaf pan qualifies if it is made simply and developed slowly. The whole thing started as a reaction against commercial bread-baking with lots of yeast and dough conditioners to make large quantities in a hurry.
Low leaven and long ferment are sort of the founding principals of artisan baking. Obviously, there are zillions of variations in techniques, ingredients and shapes, but those are the keys.
Basically, an artisanal bread is a bread made by a craftsperson using largely traditional techniques.
It is usually assumed that such a bread is largely made by hand, however many artisanal bakeries use mixers, hydraulic dividers, and molders so the amount of hands on craftsmanship is greatly diminished.
There is a lot of argument in artisan bakeries about where the line should be drawn between artisanal bread and artisanal-style bread. The bakers who do everything by hand draw the line differently than the bakers who use lots of automated help.
If you make a loaf of sandwich bread, shaping it by hand, putting it into a bread pan, and baking in your home, it is an artisanal bread.
Artisanal bread definitely does not have to be free form!