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From shelter to self-sufficiency, Rebel Nell empowers women through graffiti and craft

Rebel Nell Michelle & Chris Gerard

Along the art-lined Grand River Creative Corridor lies a building that houses a church, a tattoo parlor, music studios, galleries, and more. Included in this building is Rebel Nell, a brand working to empower women by giving them jobs, financial training, and providing legal aid - all while making jewelry from graffiti found around the city.

When Amy Peterson moved to Detroit, she lived near one of the city's womens’ shelters. She soon began chatting with many of the women who lived there and learned about their stories. She began Rebel Nell in 2013 to help women transition out of the shelter, and also provide the resources they need to sustain themselves and empower their future.

The graffiti they use for the jewelry is found on walls all over the city, but mainly from the Dequindre Cut and the Alley Project in southwest Detroit. Some has been sent from cities across the region.

Rebel Nell
A pile of graffiti ready to be transformed

The women then take each piece and work through a rough process to reveal the layers of the work. Then they cut out patterns into earrings, necklaces, and more.

Rebel Nell
Rebel Nell
Rebel Nell
Rebel Nell

The jewelry is sold online, in stores, and through art fairs. Here's a look at their work space and process.