The DIOP Circle V.30

January 19th, 2020


Mike Farrell

Every Sunday, we publish a story from a member of the DIOP community. Because each and every one of you is on a journey and we're right there with you.

This week, we're excited to bring you Mike Farrell. Our 1,087th customer, Mike doesn't play favorites. Learn from Mike how life dedicated to making beautiful things can help make a beautiful world.

“It’s not about never giving up. It’s about finding something important and beautiful every day that you live. You’ve got to get in life’s car and enjoy the ride.”

At the International Textile Machinery Association’s international textile show Showtime, Mike Farrell and his crew finished their third award winning showroom for a collection of fabrics designed with a small upscale Argentine jacquard mill, Adesal. “Our entire mill had just burned to the ground two months before we launched,” Mike said.

For most people this would have been mostly a disaster. When asked, Mike responded, “it was an opportunity. A hot one.” The theme for the collection launch was renamed It’s Hot in Here. The team and owner scrambled to find help from other factories to produce our designs while they rebuilt the mill in record time. Meanwhile, Mike and his design team had hot pads made with scrap fabric for customer gifts. The showroom soundtrack morphed into one where every song had a heat, smoke, or fire theme. An enormous photo of the weaving shed, the most important part of the mill, in complete ruins was hung on the wall of a small lounge area for customers and the pattern names changed to Too Hot to Touch or Burnin’ for You.

“I like running my company like it’s a great band. We don’t launch on season; we launch collections, albums so to speak, with “cover art” and a strong story line. I have always looked to my love of music for inspiration.” Wherever Mike is, anyone in the industry who knows his transformative force, will tell you to expect a story.

Mike would say his life has been a piece of art, so why wouldn’t his vision reflect that? “It took a long time to get to this point,” Mike accepts with a tinge of resignation. “I spent a lot of time around people I’ve known for three decades. It’s always interesting to hear them speak about my work, my life, and me. It was during one late night discussion on a friend’s patio in Grand Rapids, Michigan, that I had an epiphany about my career and work, especially relating to design.”

Mike began designing high end stick umbrellas in 1985. He started by learning to weave at silk jacquard mills in Italy and Pennsylvania after his business evolved from rainwear to scarves sold in Macy’s and Bloomingdales. This lead to throw blankets, which opened the door to home furnishings. “I’m like a leaf in a stream. That’s how I see my life. I have some control of where I want to go, but it pales in comparison to the force of the current. I trust life will take me where I’m needed, or to places I’m not, and therein lies the challenge. I don’t think I was needed necessarily in the home furnishings industry, but a colleague later told me I had transformed the way the industry thought about fabric design, and how it is sold.”

If you ask Mike what makes his work transformative or challenging, he would say it is based solely on his sense of urgency he has always felt; to travel, meet people, speak languages, and live in other places, reportedly having over 40 addresses in 5 different countries throughout his life so far. “Don’t forget, my hobby. What I love almost as much, maybe a little more, than design is cooking. I’m not a chef. I don’t have the formal education but I am a creative cook and I’ve taken jobs in small inns and as a personal chef from time to time.

I have learned everything I know in the kitchen through grandmothers from Italy to China, and friends in Central Pennsylvania to North Carolina. At the same time, I was inspired by the rich stories of street art, tagging, graffiti, and popular art movements in many cities around the world. I got to fill my mind and heart with beauty while learning to delight tongues and fill bellies with deliciousness.”

Mike bores easily. He needs lots of stimulus in life, which rings true if you see the seventy-five spices in his kitchen, some brought from some pretty exotic places. Or the supply closet for his art installations which include thousands of butterflies, Crayola crayons, vintage game boards, embracing plastic army men with flowers instead of guns, Scrabble pieces, stacks of flattened cleaned coffee bags, wooden clothes pins, cookie cutters, and Lite Brites. “I have spilled boxes containing 5000 Lite Brite pegs all over the floor of my studio. If my neighbors only knew that the slew of F-bombs they heard were the result of Lite Brite pegs scattering in all directions.”

“I have spilled boxes containing 5000 Lite Brite pegs all over the floor of my studio. If my neighbors only knew that the slew of F-bombs they heard were the result of Lite Brite pegs scattering in all directions.” For the last 15 years, he and his crew have produced work like a 4000 square foot maze called AMAZED at AmericasMart in Atlanta or a puzzle installation called BLUE HOME in High Point Market in North Carolina, or ABC Home in NYC where Mike was invited to do the corner windows expressing the civil rights movement through his own lens. “We’ve made a Virgin of Guadalupe out of 20,000 Lite Brite pegs, a massive peace sign with 700 black and white photos of the civil rights movement, and a work of very heavy art due to the 800 or so crayons used to make a White House in honor of Barack Obama’s first election.”

When asked, he said he titled the politically underscored art piece Put a Little Color in Your White House. “Honestly, that piece got the most interesting reactions from visitors to my launch and art installation that year. People who supported Obama got it. People who didn’t support Obama thought they got it. Definitely a strange win-win situation.” His work has not been without controversy, often referred to as the bad boy who makes graffiti inspired fabrics with curse words or politically charged phrases hidden in the chaos.

His work has not been without controversy, often referred to as the bad boy who makes graffiti inspired fabrics with curse words or politically charged phrases hidden in the chaos. “Once a big customer out west, RC Wiley, called us to tell us how well the product was doing on the floor, but also to point out that they “found the bad stuff.” When asked how he resolved that, he said, “I took another cue from the music industry and made two versions, one clean and one explicit. Almost everyone, except the coasts, bought the clean version after that.”

He may see himself as a leaf carried by currents but there is method to his creative madness. His preference when making friends is similar to how he creates. “I don’t want to be surrounded by people just like me. That’s boring as hell. I want to meet people from all over the spectrum of human identity. I live with the funnel right side up; lots goes in the top like people, places, music, graffiti, lovers, art, history, pop culture, politics; and I suppose a number of factors determine what comes out the bottom of the funnel, from best life long friends to the coolest ideas to create or attempt to do so.”

His life has landed him on radio shows, in the director’s seat at a small inn, as design director of a fabric factory in China, colorist for a velvet company in the Netherlands, co-owner of a bed and breakfast off the coast of Venezuela, in a startup fabric and product development firm in Brazil, and over 35 years designing and living part time in Buenos Aires.

“With a friend I made in São Paulo, Brazil, we bought old patched and stamped cotton canvas tarpaulins from truckers, and washed and cut the fabric into segments and with or without embellishment sold at Anthropologie, ABC, Environment Furniture, and other leaders in the upcycle movement. I speak Portuguese. And that’s a good thing as I recently dated a guy from Rio. Felipe, his brother and I love shopping for African textiles in Harlem, eating soul food, listening to Hip Hop and R&B and watching diaspora inspired movies. There’s always a lively discussion about the state of the world when me and my friends are together. I can have these conversations in four languages. Maybe I should be glad that Chinese isn’t coming as fast as I hoped when I started studying. I’m not sure I could have the same conversations without getting myself in trouble there.”

“When I first saw DIOP, some algorithm targeted me on Insta and suddenly there are these bold organic geometrics in deep saturated color expressing something deeply significant. I didn’t know what the message was but I had to have the product. I mean this shit is cool. I didn’t know anything about DIOP as a company, nor the people who created it. I didn’t troll them or anything, I just posted me wearing my new DIOP shirts on the streets of NYC while answering the three or four people each block who asked me where I got it. At the amazing Scotch & Soda store near Union Square, I was stopped by both the salesperson and the cashier to inquire about my threads. This happened surrounded, literally, by some of the best designed stuff around. DIOP is a Trojan Horse product, I thought. It must be.”

The first telephone call between Evan and Mike turned into a long laughter filled talk about design, diversity, inclusion, diaspora, LGBTQ, equality, mormons (Mike was raised mormon and left the religion at a young age because of a culture of inequality and prejudice towards gays). “I knew about the church’s history with anyone of african descent until 1978 and then the whole anti gay thing, and I was out. Since then I have tried to look at for ways to be involved in LGBTQIA+ starting with Act Up during the AIDS crisis and the Reagan administration. But I wanted to look beyond my own community’s struggles for equality to keep some balance. So I became interested in the history of Civil Rights, Jim Crow, The Black Panthers, Angela Davis, Assata Shakur and other movements around the world against oppression.”

"I’m less extroverted than most people think. It’s kind of weird when you achieve a little recognition for your work. When it’s “out there”, it isn’t uncommon to have total strangers come up to you and ask what it’s like to be inside of your own head. My first reaction is to tell them my head isn’t for rent, or sale, so why do they need to know? But my stock answer is that it is like the restaurant scene in Being John Malkovich. The subtext is that you need an invitation to visit."

"I knew early on my identity wasn’t going to be an easy fit in the 1970s suburban conservative Orange County, California so I planned my escape. I think way back then I thought every move was another escape. Some guy once told me I would eventually land, as if my wanderlust was holding me back from something important. It was at that moment that I watched my hand go in the air and I listened to myself explain, for the first time, how I felt about that. “Naw, when I’m done flying I’ll just go straight into the ground and if I’m lucky someone will write something nice on my tombstone.”

"People are lucky when something in their life shakes them out of vertical thinking and into a horizontal process. I thought, well, if there is a God, he must be okay with gays. Then this illness started destroying our community just as I began to really understand who I was. People said God was killing gays. That line didn’t really work for me, so I set God free and haven't looked back since. Instead I found connection with the mysteries of life in friends, art, cooking, gardening, community and volunteer work."

"And then in Autism."

"As a father and sole surviving parent of an almost 30 year old neurotypical son, I had never made much of an effort to know about families raising children who are neurodiverse. That all changed in 2017 when I met my now business partner and, in a sense, the Art Director of the company we founded, Three Pears Productions. Madison is also 30, and 26 of those years he, his parents, and his siblings have survived his devastating autism diagnosis at the age of 4. I saw the art that he produced- at the time there were 5000 works and doodles and sketches (we have over 8000 now)- and knew I was looking at something so “out there” it defied comparison with any previously seen art. And I’ve seen a lot of art in my life."

"I knew nothing really about autism. I see myself as a communicator, and I was about to take on the challenge of creating a company with a partner who was non verbal. Someone who, quite literally in my opinion, used his art as his primary source of communication. He was showing us his world through lines and colors. I had often considered myself someone able to see beyond what others see and it underscored all of my work. And now, here I was contemplating that a man left outside of the communities we depend on had a gift that I would never have."

"What I could do, I thought, was to partner with him to give him a shot at the recognition he deserved. With the help of me and my team of designers, maybe we could give the world a new model of inclusion; one that doesn’t depend on the charity of others. Instead, people would be so captivated by his work that he could stand in the same ranks of other great artists as an equal. Of all of the stories I’ve told with my work in design and art over the years, this was the biggest challenge I would take on. And knowing what could happen if we were successful, changed the way I saw everything. We quickly decided on our hashtag; #seedifferently and launched into the unknown."

"I had to hand pick a team of people to form the company. The criteria was dramatically different than any other team I had formed in the past. Not only did I need to find the best designers, thinkers, and visionaries, but each had to have a commitment to a purpose. Each member had to have a sense of having been an outlier themselves. And, most importantly, a deep love for Madison and his work. Then I had to work closely with Madison’s parents, who I knew would be very protective, rightfully so, of their son and his well-being. Something happens when you achieve notoriety and it’s not always positive. We had to design a way to protect him while moving him into the spotlight. We knew that to build a brand around his work meant that the public would want to know him as they became fans."

"The decision was made to form a team in which each member became a collaborator with Madison, each person drawing on their own talents and sensibilities to interpret collections that would build on this vision. Everything I had known about creating collections and running a company changed. The past gave me some sense of having a foundation for doing the work, but nothing else helped. Madison may not know this the way I do, but he, with the help of his parents, has let me know what to do next."

"I don’t know how many people in their professional lives have the luck of having to rethink everything you thought you knew, but I feel enormously blessed that life led me to this place. At my age, most of us are going through the motions. I feel younger and more hopeful than I have in many years. What appears to be missing in our society is not another creative person with a degree from a design school, but something that sparks interest in our human ability to connect intimately with others who are unlike us. Art has long been the catalyst for such shifts in the way we see each other. To see differently."

"People misunderstand the word empathy. In the creative process, everything begins at a place of empathy. It’s where we identify what is missing. When we see what is missing, we are given a chance to dream and to ideate ways to fill those voids. In art and design, there can be no creation without empathy."

"I thrive in a chaotic environment of horizontal thinking. To many this is a scary place- as it can be for me as well. I’m a bit messy and my sleep patterns are all over the place. I don’t use alarms because they interfere with my lucid dreaming each morning- a place I find room to see new things and solve existing problems. Thanks to my wisest smartest long time friend Stephanie, who has worked with me on numerous projects, I hired an accomplished designer, Agostina. She is both a stellar creator and a focused task master, building calendars and cracking the whip."

"It’s less about never giving up than finding something that is beautiful and meaningful to you every day that you live. Maybe I learned this when I was diagnosed with HIV 30 years ago; I learned that letting go is crucial to a life well lived. Believe in yourself and your vision. Learn to work with others who do not agree with your vision. Find your people and trust them. Don’t micromanage. Be patient. Teach when you want to complain. Enjoy every failure as a step towards true progress. And above all, steep your life in love. You can stand up for yourself and fight to change the world, but it must be underscored by a deep sense of love and a belief that all of us, no matter who we are or how we think and act, deserve love."


The DIOP Circle V.30

January 19th, 2020


Mike Farrell

Every Sunday, we publish a story from a member of the DIOP community. Because each and every one of you is on a journey and we're right there with you.

This week, we're excited to bring you Mike Farrell. Our 1,087th customer, Mike doesn't play favorites. Learn from Mike how life dedicated to making beautiful things can help make a beautiful world.

“It’s not about never giving up. It’s about finding something important and beautiful every day that you live. You’ve got to get in life’s car and enjoy the ride.”

At the International Textile Machinery Association’s international textile show Showtime, Mike Farrell and his crew finished their third award winning showroom for a collection of fabrics designed with a small upscale Argentine jacquard mill, Adesal. “Our entire mill had just burned to the ground two months before we launched,” Mike said.

For most people this would have been mostly a disaster. When asked, Mike responded, “it was an opportunity. A hot one.” The theme for the collection launch was renamed It’s Hot in Here. The team and owner scrambled to find help from other factories to produce our designs while they rebuilt the mill in record time. Meanwhile, Mike and his design team had hot pads made with scrap fabric for customer gifts. The showroom soundtrack morphed into one where every song had a heat, smoke, or fire theme. An enormous photo of the weaving shed, the most important part of the mill, in complete ruins was hung on the wall of a small lounge area for customers and the pattern names changed to Too Hot to Touch or Burnin’ for You.

“I like running my company like it’s a great band. We don’t launch on season; we launch collections, albums so to speak, with “cover art” and a strong story line. I have always looked to my love of music for inspiration.” Wherever Mike is, anyone in the industry who knows his transformative force, will tell you to expect a story.

Mike would say his life has been a piece of art, so why wouldn’t his vision reflect that? “It took a long time to get to this point,” Mike accepts with a tinge of resignation. “I spent a lot of time around people I’ve known for three decades. It’s always interesting to hear them speak about my work, my life, and me. It was during one late night discussion on a friend’s patio in Grand Rapids, Michigan, that I had an epiphany about my career and work, especially relating to design.”

Mike began designing high end stick umbrellas in 1985. He started by learning to weave at silk jacquard mills in Italy and Pennsylvania after his business evolved from rainwear to scarves sold in Macy’s and Bloomingdales. This lead to throw blankets, which opened the door to home furnishings.

“I’m like a leaf in a stream. That’s how I see my life. I have some control of where I want to go, but it pales in comparison to the force of the current. I trust life will take me where I’m needed, or to places I’m not, and therein lies the challenge. I don’t think I was needed necessarily in the home furnishings industry, but a colleague later told me I had transformed the way the industry thought about fabric design, and how it is sold.”

If you ask Mike what makes his work transformative or challenging, he would say it is based solely on his sense of urgency he has always felt; to travel, meet people, speak languages, and live in other places, reportedly having over 40 addresses in 5 different countries throughout his life so far.

“Don’t forget, my hobby. What I love almost as much, maybe a little more, than design is cooking. I’m not a chef. I don’t have the formal education but I am a creative cook and I’ve taken jobs in small inns and as a personal chef from time to time. I have learned everything I know in the kitchen through grandmothers from Italy to China, and friends in Central Pennsylvania to North Carolina. At the same time, I was inspired by the rich stories of street art, tagging, graffiti, and popular art movements in many cities around the world. I got to fill my mind and heart with beauty while learning to delight tongues and fill bellies with deliciousness.”

Mike bores easily. He needs lots of stimulus in life, which rings true if you see the seventy-five spices in his kitchen, some brought from some pretty exotic places. Or the supply closet for his art installations which include thousands of butterflies, Crayola crayons, vintage game boards, embracing plastic army men with flowers instead of guns, Scrabble pieces, stacks of flattened cleaned coffee bags, wooden clothes pins, cookie cutters, and Lite Brites. “I have spilled boxes containing 5000 Lite Brite pegs all over the floor of my studio. If my neighbors only knew that the slew of F-bombs they heard were the result of Lite Brite pegs scattering in all directions.”

“I have spilled boxes containing 5000 Lite Brite pegs all over the floor of my studio. If my neighbors only knew that the slew of F-bombs they heard were the result of Lite Brite pegs scattering in all directions.” For the last 15 years, he and his crew have produced work like a 4000 square foot maze called AMAZED at AmericasMart in Atlanta or a puzzle installation called BLUE HOME in High Point Market in North Carolina, or ABC Home in NYC where Mike was invited to do the corner windows expressing the civil rights movement through his own lens. “We’ve made a Virgin of Guadalupe out of 20,000 Lite Brite pegs, a massive peace sign with 700 black and white photos of the civil rights movement, and a work of very heavy art due to the 800 or so crayons used to make a White House in honor of Barack Obama’s first election.”

When asked, he said he titled the politically underscored art piece Put a Little Color in Your White House. “Honestly, that piece got the most interesting reactions from visitors to my launch and art installation that year. People who supported Obama got it. People who didn’t support Obama thought they got it. Definitely a strange win-win situation.” His work has not been without controversy, often referred to as the bad boy who makes graffiti inspired fabrics with curse words or politically charged phrases hidden in the chaos.

His work has not been without controversy, often referred to as the bad boy who makes graffiti inspired fabrics with curse words or politically charged phrases hidden in the chaos. “Once a big customer out west, RC Wiley, called us to tell us how well the product was doing on the floor, but also to point out that they “found the bad stuff.” When asked how he resolved that, he said, “I took another cue from the music industry and made two versions, one clean and one explicit. Almost everyone, except the coasts, bought the clean version after that.”

He may see himself as a leaf carried by currents but there is method to his creative madness. His preference when making friends is similar to how he creates.

“I don’t want to be surrounded by people just like me. That’s boring as hell. I want to meet people from all over the spectrum of human identity. I live with the funnel right side up; lots goes in the top like people, places, music, graffiti, lovers, art, history, pop culture, politics; and I suppose a number of factors determine what comes out the bottom of the funnel, from best life long friends to the coolest ideas to create or attempt to do so.” His life has landed him on radio shows, in the director’s seat at a small inn, as design director of a fabric factory in China, colorist for a velvet company in the Netherlands, co-owner of a bed and breakfast off the coast of Venezuela, in a startup fabric and product development firm in Brazil, and over 35 years designing and living part time in Buenos Aires.

“With a friend I made in São Paulo, Brazil, we bought old patched and stamped cotton canvas tarpaulins from truckers, and washed and cut the fabric into segments and with or without embellishment sold at Anthropologie, ABC, Environment Furniture, and other leaders in the upcycle movement. I speak Portuguese. And that’s a good thing as I recently dated a guy from Rio. Felipe, his brother and I love shopping for African textiles in Harlem, eating soul food, listening to Hip Hop and R&B and watching diaspora inspired movies. There’s always a lively discussion about the state of the world when me and my friends are together. I can have these conversations in four languages. Maybe I should be glad that Chinese isn’t coming as fast as I hoped when I started studying. I’m not sure I could have the same conversations without getting myself in trouble there.”

“When I first saw DIOP, some algorithm targeted me on Insta and suddenly there are these bold organic geometrics in deep saturated color expressing something deeply significant. I didn’t know what the message was but I had to have the product. I mean this shit is cool. I didn’t know anything about DIOP as a company, nor the people who created it. I didn’t troll them or anything, I just posted me wearing my new DIOP shirts on the streets of NYC while answering the three or four people each block who asked me where I got it. At the amazing Scotch & Soda store near Union Square, I was stopped by both the salesperson and the cashier to inquire about my threads. This happened surrounded, literally, by some of the best designed stuff around. DIOP is a Trojan Horse product, I thought. It must be.”

The first telephone call between Evan and Mike turned into a long laughter filled talk about design, diversity, inclusion, diaspora, LGBTQ, equality, mormons (Mike was raised mormon and left the religion at a young age because of a culture of inequality and prejudice towards gays).

“I knew about the church’s history with anyone of african descent until 1978 and then the whole anti gay thing, and I was out. Since then I have tried to look at for ways to be involved in LGBTQIA+ starting with Act Up during the AIDS crisis and the Reagan administration. But I wanted to look beyond my own community’s struggles for equality to keep some balance. So I became interested in the history of Civil Rights, Jim Crow, The Black Panthers, Angela Davis, Assata Shakur and other movements around the world against oppression.”

"I’m less extroverted than most people think. It’s kind of weird when you achieve a little recognition for your work. When it’s “out there”, it isn’t uncommon to have total strangers come up to you and ask what it’s like to be inside of your own head. My first reaction is to tell them my head isn’t for rent, or sale, so why do they need to know? But my stock answer is that it is like the restaurant scene in Being John Malkovich. The subtext is that you need an invitation to visit."

"I knew early on my identity wasn’t going to be an easy fit in the 1970s suburban conservative Orange County, California so I planned my escape. I think way back then I thought every move was another escape. Some guy once told me I would eventually land, as if my wanderlust was holding me back from something important. It was at that moment that I watched my hand go in the air and I listened to myself explain, for the first time, how I felt about that. “Naw, when I’m done flying I’ll just go straight into the ground and if I’m lucky someone will write something nice on my tombstone.”

"People are lucky when something in their life shakes them out of vertical thinking and into a horizontal process. I thought, well, if there is a God, he must be okay with gays. Then this illness started destroying our community just as I began to really understand who I was. People said God was killing gays. That line didn’t really work for me, so I set God free and haven't looked back since. Instead I found connection with the mysteries of life in friends, art, cooking, gardening, community and volunteer work."

"And then in Autism."

"As a father and sole surviving parent of an almost 30 year old neurotypical son, I had never made much of an effort to know about families raising children who are neurodiverse. That all changed in 2017 when I met my now business partner and, in a sense, the Art Director of the company we founded, Three Pears Productions. Madison is also 30, and 26 of those years he, his parents, and his siblings have survived his devastating autism diagnosis at the age of 4. I saw the art that he produced- at the time there were 5000 works and doodles and sketches (we have over 8000 now)- and knew I was looking at something so “out there” it defied comparison with any previously seen art. And I’ve seen a lot of art in my life."

"I knew nothing really about autism. I see myself as a communicator, and I was about to take on the challenge of creating a company with a partner who was non verbal. Someone who, quite literally in my opinion, used his art as his primary source of communication. He was showing us his world through lines and colors. I had often considered myself someone able to see beyond what others see and it underscored all of my work. And now, here I was contemplating that a man left outside of the communities we depend on had a gift that I would never have."

"What I could do, I thought, was to partner with him to give him a shot at the recognition he deserved. With the help of me and my team of designers, maybe we could give the world a new model of inclusion; one that doesn’t depend on the charity of others. Instead, people would be so captivated by his work that he could stand in the same ranks of other great artists as an equal. Of all of the stories I’ve told with my work in design and art over the years, this was the biggest challenge I would take on. And knowing what could happen if we were successful, changed the way I saw everything. We quickly decided on our hashtag; #seedifferently and launched into the unknown."

"I had to hand pick a team of people to form the company. The criteria was dramatically different than any other team I had formed in the past. Not only did I need to find the best designers, thinkers, and visionaries, but each had to have a commitment to a purpose. Each member had to have a sense of having been an outlier themselves. And, most importantly, a deep love for Madison and his work. Then I had to work closely with Madison’s parents, who I knew would be very protective, rightfully so, of their son and his well-being. Something happens when you achieve notoriety and it’s not always positive. We had to design a way to protect him while moving him into the spotlight. We knew that to build a brand around his work meant that the public would want to know him as they became fans."

"The decision was made to form a team in which each member became a collaborator with Madison, each person drawing on their own talents and sensibilities to interpret collections that would build on this vision. Everything I had known about creating collections and running a company changed. The past gave me some sense of having a foundation for doing the work, but nothing else helped. Madison may not know this the way I do, but he, with the help of his parents, has let me know what to do next."

"I don’t know how many people in their professional lives have the luck of having to rethink everything you thought you knew, but I feel enormously blessed that life led me to this place. At my age, most of us are going through the motions. I feel younger and more hopeful than I have in many years. What appears to be missing in our society is not another creative person with a degree from a design school, but something that sparks interest in our human ability to connect intimately with others who are unlike us. Art has long been the catalyst for such shifts in the way we see each other. To see differently."

"People misunderstand the word empathy. In the creative process, everything begins at a place of empathy. It’s where we identify what is missing. When we see what is missing, we are given a chance to dream and to ideate ways to fill those voids. In art and design, there can be no creation without empathy."

"I thrive in a chaotic environment of horizontal thinking. To many this is a scary place- as it can be for me as well. I’m a bit messy and my sleep patterns are all over the place. I don’t use alarms because they interfere with my lucid dreaming each morning- a place I find room to see new things and solve existing problems. Thanks to my wisest smartest long time friend Stephanie, who has worked with me on numerous projects, I hired an accomplished designer, Agostina. She is both a stellar creator and a focused task master, building calendars and cracking the whip."

"It’s less about never giving up than finding something that is beautiful and meaningful to you every day that you live. Maybe I learned this when I was diagnosed with HIV 30 years ago; I learned that letting go is crucial to a life well lived. Believe in yourself and your vision. Learn to work with others who do not agree with your vision. Find your people and trust them. Don’t micromanage. Be patient. Teach when you want to complain. Enjoy every failure as a step towards true progress. And above all, steep your life in love. You can stand up for yourself and fight to change the world, but it must be underscored by a deep sense of love and a belief that all of us, no matter who we are or how we think and act, deserve love."


Mike Farrell

You can reach Mike at mikepiola@me.com or follow him on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Tumblr.

Visit www.threepearsproductions.com to learn more about Three Pears Productions and shop their goods atwww.shop3pears.com. You can also follow them on Instagram @threepearsproductions.

To support the Madison House Autism Foundation, a 501(c)(3) which carries Madison's name, created by his parents to help autistic adults with life span issues, please visit www.madisonhouseautism.org.

And to support Madison Fields, the working farm which provides job preparedness, employment and venues for helping adults with autism, veterans with PTSD, and other neuroatypical individuals, please visit www.madisonfields.org.

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of DIOP.


- Mike Farrell


You can reach Mike at mikepiola@me.com or follow him on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Tumblr.

Visit www.threepearsproductions.com to learn more about Three Pears Productions and shop their goods at www.shop3pears.com. You can also follow them on Instagram @threepearsproductions.

To support the Madison House Autism Foundation, a 501(c)(3) which carries Madison's name, created by his parents to help autistic adults with life span issues, please visit www.madisonhouseautism.org.

And to support Madison Fields, the working farm which provides job preparedness, employment and venues for helping adults with autism, veterans with PTSD, and other neuroatypical individuals, please visit www.madisonfields.org.

The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of DIOP.