As summer draws to an end, so too does our Summer Interview Series. Last, but certainly not least, we bring you our conversation with Mike Fretto, whom I met this summer at the Camp Firebelly Wrap Party. Mike is a full-time freelance print designer that lives in one of the oldest cities in the United States. When he’s not designing for his clients, he is screen printing t-shirts for a business he runs with his father. Mike spends his sparse spare time volunteering for a non-profit organization he co-founded called ROSA LOVES.
You and your father run a screen-printing business together. How do the two of you balance business and family?
I certainly have learned that operating a business with family can be challenging, but my dad and I have a great relationship that I believe contributes to successfully balancing both aspects of our lives. Good communication while working together helps get things done, and hopefully when that happens, we can leave it all at the print shop when the work day is over. There are times when business-talk or actual work makes it way into personal time, but we take each situation as it comes.
Earlier this summer, you helped mentor this year’s class of Camp Firebelly campers. Was there anything about the experience that you’d like to share?
Camp FB was a great experience for me. It was an honor for me to be among Dawn Hancock and her talented team, not to mention all of the amazing campers! As you know, there were continuous activities and workshops taking place at camp, but I was specifically responsible for helping with one in particular. In partnership with Reason to Give, we split the campers up into small groups, and visited three families in the Humboldt Park neighborhood. Each group spent about an hour with one of the three families in their homes, hearing about their families, their jobs, and life around Humboldt Park. Each group of campers recounted the stories they had heard from the families to the rest of the group. From there, each camper worked on a t-shirt design that somehow told the story of the family they met. It was fascinating to see the variety of interpretations from one story within each group of campers. After a few crit sessions and late nights, each camper finalized their designs, and we all hand screen printed each of them (despite some last minute technical challenges). On the last night of camp, we raffled off all of them at a big party that the Firebelly crew threw. I think we raised somewhere around $450 for the families, which was spent on stuff like school supplies and clothing for their children. Overall, it was quite a moving and enlightening experience for all of us. There was much learned, so many great human beings that we encountered— and I was pretty impacted by all of it to say the least.
Everyone has a favorite (or lucky) shirt: what’s yours?
No one has ever asked me that before, ha! Years ago, as a joke, I stole a t-shirt from one of my best friends (and roommate at the time), JP. I know you’re probably thinking that stealing is not cool. I’ve never stolen before, and I certainly do not condone it—but this was sort of a joke. You see, this dude has a TON of t-shirts, so the whole joke was to see if he’d ever notice that it was gone. It’s a super-soft navy blue t-shirt, probably made in the eighties. Fits me like a glove! It was funny when he noticed it on me one day, but even funnier that I never gave it back to him. I fell in love with it, and couldn’t find the strength to hang it back up in his closet. I still wear it sometimes. Well, let’s be honest… I wear it constantly.
Do you have any big plans for this fall?
Since the folks behind ROSA LOVES have been super busy with their full-time jobs and families during the past year, we’re long overdue for releasing a line of new tees. We’re in the process of putting some new ones together and are planning on releasing them sometime this fall. Stay updated by following us on Twitter or Facebook, and of course on our website at: www.rosaloves.com.
All images © ROSA LOVES and Mike Fretto