By Grace Barlow, daughter of Interi Founder and Creative Director, Jean O’Reilly Barlow.

Interi all started with a fragment – a broken artifact that my mom purchased from a restorer in Italy. This piece that once decorated an important and historic Italian church had gone “beyond restoration” meaning there was no way through traditional means to salvage it. So my mom had an idea – what if she transformed the piece instead? She had a local rock and mineral store down the road from our house and thought the combination of gems could bring the fragment back to life. Using the natural specimens and artistic methods she had learned from Italian artists, she began to create. She put together a collection of these sculptural pieces and brought them with her to the once iconic Scott’s Market in Atlanta, Georgia with her best friend. Within one hour, they all sold. And good thing, she was a single mom supporting my sister and I all on her own with only her artistic talent, rare collection of broken artifacts, and this innovative idea.

This idea sparked great success and soon my mom had her fragment sculptures being sold and displayed in museums and galleries all over the world. The once discarded, “beyond broken” ecclesiastical pieces are now sought after by celebrities, designers, and art collectors. 

Like the artifacts, there are millions of people who see no future for themselves, feeling worthless with no value. The modern world currently faces a slavery epidemic where 40+ million people are enslaved (Source: International Justice Mission). Of those millions of people, 71% are women and girls, many of whom are being forced into the trafficking industry (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime). 

My mom began to learn about the issue through my sister and I and wanted to take part in the fight against human trafficking through Interi. She saw how her pieces emulated the restorative mission and decided to use her art as a form of activism.

In order to take part in the fight against modern-day slavery, we started More Than a Fragment. Our initiative teams up with organizations that advocate on women’s behalf: Lighthouse for Life & International Justice Mission. Both seek to raise awareness about the realities of human trafficking while restoring victims to wholeness. 

In the same line of empowering women to find hope, Interi also teams with Clothed in Hope, a non-profit organization providing micro-loans and business courses, sewing and skills training, and emergency food distribution to vulnerable women in Zambia. Since January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month, 20% of Interi’s sales will go towards helping rescue, restore, and empower — giving new hope to the hopeless.

Our desire is that the sculptural fragments can artistically articulate that there is beauty behind brokenness. These precious artifacts remind us that what is deemed as insignificant and broken is not beyond restoration, but can be transformed into something much more beautiful than before. It’s just like us, we are all made more beautiful in and not in spite of trials and tribulation. But we must be willing to offer others that hope and Interi’s mission and vision is to do just that.

To learn more about our initiative, click the link below: