The motto promises “weaving a better life.”
Re:loom is a nonprofit job-training arm of the Decatur-based Initiative for Affordable Housing. Employees learn to handcraft textile items of high quality and enduring beauty on a loom, and then they sell those goods as full-time work with full benefits.
“During the recession, we had so many homeless women struggling to support themselves and their families,” says Executive Director Lisa Wise, “and many of them had no GED or job experience. So we came up with this idea to solve the problem.”
Weaving is a linear skill that requires project management. “Say you want a three-by-three rug or a tote bag,” Wise says, “You have to plan for your supplies. So the women are learning transferable job skills, and they’re learning how to work together with people from different backgrounds.” (Some of the employees are refugees.)
The initiative helps the women develop self-esteem while keeping textile refuse out of landfills.
Re:loom has some helpful corporate partners. Delta Air Lines, for example, donated outmoded safety vests to be deconstructed and then woven into objects that the company purchased to give its employees, and Cinnabon donated old T-shirts for a similar project.
Re:loom has employed 23 weavers since it began in 2009. “Two recently left for higher-paying jobs,” Wise says. The organization is funded partly by grants and donations, but one-third of its income is from sales. The items can be purchased at several boutique retailers around Atlanta, including West Elm at Atlantic Station, and through an online shop at reloom.org.
“We have a lot of repeat customers,” Wise says, “so we know we’re doing something right.”