The Detroit-based, women-owned business and social enterprise, Rebel Nell, has been working in collaboration with Albion College to create pieces for their campus rocks collection.
The campus rocks collection is a set of jewelry pieces that are crafted by artists at Rebel Nell using samples of paint taken from campus rocks at various colleges across Michigan. Available items in the collection include earrings, necklaces, money clips, bottle stoppers and more. Every item is uniquely handcrafted by jewelry artisans in Detroit.
Rebel Nell is known for collecting paint samples from graffiti and fallen street art and transforming it into unique, one-of-a-kind pieces. The idea of using paint from campus rocks came about while looking for ways to expand to other mediums.
Amy Peterson, co-founder and CEO of Rebel Nell, discussed the origins of the campus rocks collection idea. Peterson herself attended a college that had a campus rock, which gave her firsthand experience with the great opportunity that campus rocks provide for students to express themselves. She wanted to create a way to capture the many memories that run between the countless layers of paint, so that students and alumni could fashionably display their school spirit.
“It’s just the preservation of so many different memories and students, and I thought it would be really cool to do a campus rocks collection and have a different way to show your school colors,” Peterson said.
Peterson also said that campus rock jewelry can provide an alternative to the more traditional class ring.
“I’m very motivated by disrupting the class ring concept and having something more meaningful, more impactful and more sustainable than the traditional class ring,” Peterson said.
Campus rocks have, for a long time, been a way for students to communicate their stances on important issues. Amy Everhart, Director of Alumni Affairs at Albion College, said that the role that campus rocks play in student expression and activism is important.
“I really like the angle that they’re doing on celebrating student activism and student voices, that campus rocks are a medium for students to express themselves and the things that they care about.” Everhart said. “I think that that has some substance to it, in addition to those feelings of nostalgia for people.”
There are four colleges collaborating with Rebel Nell on their campus rocks collection: the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, Wayne State University and Albion College. Albion College is the only private institution on that list, as well as the only institution with an enrollment under 25,000 students.
The campus rock is not unique to Albion College. There are many rocks at a multitude of schools across the country. Yet, Peterson said Albion’s selection for the collection was simple.
“We love Albion,” Peterson said. “Honestly it’s the people. There is an incredible group there that really does walk the walk, and talk the talk about supporting small businesses and supporting community.”
Albion College’s partnership with Rebel Nell began in 2018 when Rebel Nell used paint samples from the rock to create necklaces and pins in the shape of the Albion shield for a donor gift. With paint samples left over from that project, Peterson reached out to Albion College and asked if they could be used for the campus rocks collection, to which Albion agreed.
Since the students are the artists behind the rock, Peterson wanted to incorporate a way to give back to them. She reached out to Albion College for ideas on how to do this, and they suggested the Briton Scholarship Fund. The Briton Scholarship Fund is a general scholarship fund, meaning it benefits the greatest number of students. Rebel Nell will be giving 10% of the sales of the Albion College campus rock collection to the Briton Scholarship Fund.
“We have such a great partnership and relationship with Albion that we wanted to support them in some way, so this is our answer to that,” Peterson said.
Peterson said that she has high hopes for the collaboration between Rebel Nell and Albion College.
“I hope that someday we become the gift for all Albion College grads. I would love to do that,” Peterson said.