I talk about community a lot in my every day life. Being part of a healthy, loving, giving community is important to me. I am not just part of one community, but several. There is my work community, my neighborhood community, my creative community, and of course, my family community. It doesn’t stop there, though.
I have met two women who make me proud to be part of my Albuquerque community. If you haven’t heard of Kei and Molly, then you have most likely seen or purchased their beautiful handprinted textiles. I would imagine most of you have at least one of their dish towels in your kitchen. I have an extensive collection myself!
They have recently moved their operation and have a new building at Silver and Washington. It serves as a production house and has a storefront. It’s a gorgeous space and in the heart of the International District.
Kei and Molly are the dynamic duo who started a business to specifically create jobs in their community. Neither are classically trained or even strive to be artists. The driving force behind the business was to create jobs particularly for the refugee and immigrant communities in Albuquerque.
Kei had screen printing experience and did micro-crediting in Canada. She received her MBA at UNM. Molly taught ESL (English as a second language) classes through Lutheran Family Services and got to know and learn about Catholic Charities and how both organizations bring in refugees. The idea of self employment and economic development and doing something sustainable was very important in the formation of their business.
Through Lutheran Family Services, Asian Family Services and Catholic Charities they hire refugees and immigrants. Right now they employ six women. These women are from the Republic of Congo, China, Cuba, Philippines, Australia and the Ukraine. They appreciate their employees’ willingness and eagerness to learn and their incredible work ethic.
I loved the stories they told of the women that work for them and how proud they are to be an international group. They appreciate their attitudes and outlook on life and bring that to work with them every day. They have a potluck once a month with staff and try each other’s food and try to learn a little of each other’s languages. They say they have so much to learn from their staff and are often reminded that because they haven’t grown up with a Western mentality they all have very different outlooks on life. They each respect each other’s customs and religion and each come from such desperate situations from their homeland. They are thankful they are here and they persevere. Because they love being in the U.S. and especially Albuquerque, they give thanks all the time.
I asked about these women becoming acclimated to life in the U.S. and if they have adapted any American customs. They said that while one Congolese woman adapted to wearing pants, another swore she would never wear pants because that is not her culture. One woman asked how to make sandwiches because everyone in America eats sandwiches! She got her sandwich making lesson from a volunteer. And one common thing among all of them, they like tacos!
It may be cliché to say that as different as we all are, we are really more alike than not. Kei and Molly have found their niche with a group of women who share their values of community and hard work. It makes me happy that this business is thriving and helping a community in Albuquerque that deserves the help. If you want to check out their new shop, their grand opening is on April 20th from 5-7pm.
Lucky you for having read this story!
There is a bonus giveaway of two of Kei and Molly’s classic dishtowels! In New Mexico when talking about red and green chile we often say Christmas and today we are saying it too! The first person to answer the following correctly wins a red AND a green chile dish towel straight from their new store!
Question - Name two places you can buy Kei and Molly textiles in Albuquerque, other than their new store!