Portrait: Mike Farrell
Susan Dickenson -- Gifts & Dec, October 30, 2012
The best way to describe Mike Farrell is to ask him to describe himself: "A bad boy trapped in a good boy's body. A dad. A dreamer. A Facebook addict and social pot stirrer. A fop inside a hippie. A tease, a pontificator, and a provocateur. A mess masquerading as neat. The most loyal, good-hearted friend you will ever have, that you swore was a complete jerk when you first met him."
Professionally, Farrell is a designer, product developer, marketer and artist. His innovative showroom environments, art installations and window displays are always unconventional, usually irreverent and sometimes a bit freakish, in a Dali-esque sort of way. Farrell's work has dressed galleries, stores, museums and entertainment industry party sets. At present, he's very busy growing his footprint in the home furnishings arena.
At the October High Point Market, Farrell added eight more designs to his hand-tufted and flat-woven rugs, throws and pillows collection for Surya, which launched this past spring under the label "Lies." "When I asked Satya (Tiwari, CEO of Surya) if he was OK with the name, he looked at me as if I were, well, a bit off," Farrell said. "Then I said, ‘Surya, where great rugs lie!' Done. Every design is a story. I build the artwork from the ground up, with no rules except to make sure that only when it is art can it become a rug. I want to reflect life as I see it - chaotic, individual, colorful - and to make things that spark conversation and laughter."
In that vein, Farrell recently signed a deal with Valdese Weavers to design textiles for contract environments, beginning with a healthcare collection he says could "radically redefine the way patients might want their healthcare facilities to look, vs. what specifiers think patients want."
"Two years ago my son's mother, Elizabeth Miller, passed away after a five-year battle with breast cancer," Farrell said. "Liz was the VP of design at Karastan when she died, but she was also my good friend and former design partner. We met at the Eastern Accents launch of a pillow line I designed for them called Fiasco, which became the name of a store she and I opened in ABC Home in 1991. On many trips to healthcare facilities we would take humorous stabs at the patterns and colors used to ‘make a patient feel better.' With this first collection, instead of pretending that I could help people feel calm and happy during treatment, I decided it should make people want to laugh, smile and say ‘this place is as cool as my favorite cafe or bar or restaurant or store.'"
Farrell also has a line of fabrics with Adesal Jacquards and a new digitally-printed fabric line for Blue Moon Printworks. He's working with an Argentine manufacturer, Huitru, that is entering the U.S. market with a line of funky throws, pillows and tabletop. And, there's a collection in the works with a major U.S. manufacturer of bedding and soft goods.
Who have been influences/inspirations in your work? Warhol. Keith Haring. Angelo Donghia. Alexander McQueen. The creators of South Park, because they create from what they see every day, scoffing "correctness" and imperial civility. Grace Coddington, creative director at Vogue Magazine because she made theater out of fashion. My friend Elizabeth Miller, who never shied away from a challenge to make something beautiful for the home. And my mother, Sandi Thompson, who since my earliest memories has never tired of creating, designing and innovating.
Where do you live? I have been a nomad for 33 years. A few years back I bought a corner apartment in a century-old building in my much-beloved port side Buenos Aires neighborhood, La Boca. So, I call Buenos Aires one home, New York City another home, and for the last eight years I've maintained a flat in the coolest apartment building in High Point, across from Krispy Kreme on North Main Street.
Where did you grow up? Fullerton, Calif.
Hobbies/interests: Travel. Skiing. Art using ubiquitous and or recycled media. Butterflies and butterfly art. Musical theater. Language studies.
What did you want to be when you were growing up? An actor.
The three words that best describe you: Unplugged. Connected. Nomadic.
Complete the sentence, "I wish I knew how to..." Fly
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