About 18 years ago, my mom, Jean O’Reilly Barlow, had a creative vision that completely changed our lives for the better. My mom had been traveling back to Ireland to take care of her parents and would pass through Italy on her way home, collecting discarded relics sold by Italian church brokers. She was a newly single mom who immigrated to America with no family nearby, having to take on the task of solely supporting my sister and me. With only the broken Italian fragments and minerals she bought at the local rock and mineral store, she started to create a fusion between the two – establishing a piece that looked as though it organically evolved together over time. Through that one piece, Interi was born.
Our old garage became my mom’s studio and she worked relentlessly to build Interi. The woman never stopped – creating pieces all day and then managing business matters by night. Even in miserable 100 degree South Carolina weather, she passionately worked to maintain the dream, restoring and transforming each historic relic into a sculptural masterpiece. Naturally, we became part of the business – driving to design shows at 4 am, packing till the early hours of the morning, composing website and email content, and managing social media. I can honestly say, I’ve probably learned more working for my mom all these years than earning my university degree. We’ve seen how to work harder and smarter and picked up on the art of networking and getting a great deal.
Compared to my peers, my mom has had the most eccentric career by far, and being the daughter of an artist and restorer has its perks. Our vacations became work trips, but we were lucky enough to be dragged to incredible places for the fragments and minerals – from the Great Smoky Mountains to the Tuscan streets of Italy. During our summers, we would explore 15th century churches, learning about the incredible history of where the discarded artifacts came from. Slowly but surely, I started to take a deep appreciation for Italian religious art and preservation. It has made me realize how important my mom’s work truly is.
With each Italian fragment, my mom’s work reveals that something that was broken and discarded still retains its rich history and can become lovely once again. Like the fragments, she took our broken home and turned our situation into something beautiful. Through her tenacious spirit, undeniable talent, and incredible work ethic, she has built her dream into existence. This dream created out of a garage has grown into a successful business, with her pieces being featured in magazines, shows, galleries, and homes around the world. In addition, she now uses Interi to empower and invest in other mothers and female entrepreneurs to chase after their dreams through Interi’s initiative, More Than a Fragment.
I am so proud to call this dreamer my mom and I am passionate to help continue to make her vision a reality through Interi.
Cheers to the moms who dream and who teach us how to chase after ours. We see you, we’re inspired by you, and we celebrate you this Mother’s Day.
– Grace Barlow, daughter of Jean / PR and Marketing Director of Interi