Back in May, I attended a Detroit SOUP dinner for a feature on the Awesome Mitten. For those who haven’t heard of Detroit SOUP, the concept is fairly simple: make a donation of $5 to get in, listen to four unique project idea presentations, enjoy delicious soup, salad, and bread, and vote on which project should receive the entry money.
Each project presented at Detroit SOUP offers unique and creative means to improve the Motor City, and those who attend are able to provide much needed funding to organizations making a positive impact on the city. One such inventive project (and winner at the July 2013 dinner) is Rebel Nell.
At the most fundamental level, Rebel Nell produces beautiful jewelry. But it is how this “defiant jewelry with a purpose” is created that makes it such a compelling venture. Founded in April by Detroiters Amy Peterson and Diana Russell, Rebel Nell employs, educates, and empowers disadvantaged women in Detroit, providing them with training and guidance to help improve their lives.
The training provided by Rebel Nell extends far beyond jewelry making; the women hired by the fledgling company also develop life management skills, learning how to set up a bank account, establish credit, and be successful, independent businesswomen. The company partners with COTS in order to determine candidates who are ready to begin a new
chapter improving their lives.
In addition to helping the disadvantaged women of Detroit, Rebel Nell jewelry itself also taps a hugely overlooked local resource: Detroit’s broken graffiti. All of the pieces from Rebel Nell repurpose chips of paint that have fallen to the ground (because of the weight of the layers of paint, wear from the elements, etc.) and been salvaged.
Because of the unique materials used, each piece is completely one of a kind. Meaning when you buy a pair of earrings, a ring, cufflinks, or a pendant from Rebel Nell, you are purchasing wearable art. Both founders have a background in art and fashion (Russell’s studies at Wayne State University centered on photography, metalsmithing, and fashion, and though Peterson is an attorney, she taught herself to make jewelry while in law
school) and are Detroit natives, so there is no question that you are taking home a well-crafted piece of the Motor City.
And here at the Awesome Mitten, we aren’t the only ones lauding Rebel Nell. Earlier this year, the company held an Indiegogo crowd-funding campaign and was able to raise over $25,000. And since it has only been a few months since Rebel Nell has opened its doors (at 4731 Grand River, also HQ for the Grand River Creative Corridor project), the Motor City has only just begun to see the far-reaching benefits (and beautiful jewelry) of Rebel Nell.