Above: Inside the Kei and Molly Textiles Albuquerque shop. Photograph by Douglas Merriam.
“We ourselves identify as immigrants,” says Kei Tsuzuki, co-founder of Kei & Molly Textiles, in Albuquerque. “We know how hard it is, when you come to a new country with very little support, to make it. And what it means to have kids who you want to make sure get educated and have safety. All of these things Molly and I understand.”
In 2010, she and fellow immigrant Molly Luethi started their company, which employs refugees and immigrants to create silk-screened kitchen linens, aprons, scarves, and pillows. They focus on whimsical themes with a folk-art edge, depicting subjects like the tree of life, San Pasqual, cherry blossoms, native plants, and a cross-country skier. Even the Very Large Array has earned a callout.
The designs are printed with bright colors developed in-house with special proportions of ink. Tsuzuki and Luethi are the designers, producing two collections a year. Their employees come from places like the Philippines, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ukraine, and Cuba. It can take a few years to master the printing process, which they learn step-by-step during their training.
“We are always talking about ‘good jobs’ and that they include respecting our workers, providing a place of support, and also treating people with kindness,” says Tsuzuki. “All of those things are really important.” Lutheran Family Services helps them find the right employees, which currently total eight—“and everybody prints,” Luethi says.
When I park my car at Kei & Molly, near the International District, for our interview on a chilly morning, I can hear children across the street laughing, panting, and chasing one another. “All we want to do is give back to the community,” Tsuzuki says. “We really care about our employees,” Luethi adds. “We want to make them feel safe and happy here.”
Kei & Molly Textiles
4400 Silver Ave. SE; Suite A, Albuquerque