Q: You have said that Sophisticated Stones Outreach began because of a bird-watching tour, a cow and a photograph. What did you mean?
A: While on a bird-watching tour, my guide, Ateeq, and I traveled through the village of Bodal in India. A cow was in the road and we stopped. There were children waving to us and we took their picture. When I returned home, I decided to send a copy of the photo to the children, contacted Ateeq and he took the pictures to them. From that day, I began sending money to Ateeq to buy things the schoolchildren of this village needed. Now, we have created a foundation, Sophisticated Stones Outreach, to raise funds to help these children and many others in different villages.
Q: Why did you choose to visit India?
A: I have always loved their beautiful and colorful fabrics, jewelry, etc. This is what piqued my interest first.
Q: How does the outreach program work?
A: Sophisticated Stones Outreach has two members, Ateeq and me. All of the money that SSO receives goes directly to Ateeq, and from there, he purchases the goods that are needed. Sweaters, shoes and school uniforms are a few of the things we've bought so far. With the money we raised over the 2009 holiday season, we had tables and benches made for two schools. Since all of the startup expenses have been covered and since neither Ateeq nor I takes a salary, all funds go to the children.
... The outreach program isn't a tax-deductible organization. We tried to establish one but ran into problems due to the U.S. laws that have been created since 9/11. With one member of the program in the U.S. and one member in India, it was virtually impossible to form a tax-deductible organization.
Q: What is your goal for Sophisticated Stones Outreach?
A: Our goal is to build a school of our own. We wish to feed and educate -- and house if possible -- those children that do not attend school now. They're typically the orphans or ones without a father. Ateeq is now making a list of the orphans in the Bodal village. He is passionate about these children. He grew up in a village similar to Bodal, too. With the help of someone that took an interest in him and taught him English, he was able to leave the village and get a job as a travel agent, which is his current job.
We feel so strongly that education is their door out of poverty, and we want to help this happen.
Q: In 1986, your daughter was diagnosed with leukemia. The next year, you learned you had multiple sclerosis. What do you remember most about that time, and how are you both doing now?
A: I remember it being a very stressful time. However, the tremendous support from friends and family got us through it. There is always so much learned from adversity, and this taught me to draw from my spiritual beliefs for everything!
My daughter, Catherine, has been doing great since she finished her treatment five years after being diagnosed. ... I am doing very well now -- have been in a good remission for the past seven years.
Q: You have been making jewelry for seven years and you're trying to get celebrities to notice your designs. How is that going?
A: As the result of a trip to Los Angeles and participating in a Pre-Emmy Gift Suite, I now am represented by Gith Public Relations in L.A. Eric Zuley and Devon Guzzie are the publicists that are promoting my business. They have had celebrities wear my jewelry, and a necklace is already to be featured in a film, "The Killer Priest," coming out in 2011. I am planning a jewelry show in L.A. in the spring and hope to do a SSO fundraiser there later that year.
Q: How often do you wear jewelry you've made?
A: Every time I leave the house! Wearing it is the best advertisement.
Q: What are your favorite materials to work with, and where do you find inspiration?
A: Natural gemstones, feathers, shells, ribbons are a few. I am inspired by colors and textures. Just looking at the different materials that I have in my studio sparks ideas and creations. I love the tribal look and the elegant also -- both extremes. I am spiritually guided in my designs, also.
Q: What do you mean?
A: I have a strong relationship with the angelic forces and feel their presence when designing. It is as if the ideas are being given to me by them.
Q: Describe your favorite piece of jewelry you've made.
A: It has to be one of my feather necklaces, probably SASSY. I call it my "red carpet" piece. You will see it on the red carpet one day!
Q: Besides India, where was your most memorable trip?
A: New York, always -- love this city! And Australia.
Q: What do you like about the Big Apple?
A: The tremendous "electric energy" in the city. Being there just energizes me! NYC offers so much to artists. I can find anything I want in some part of the city. It is just a very special place where I go to be energized and inspired. I miss it. Haven't been in over a year.
Q: Anything in particular you want people to know about your upcoming bazaar (To India With Love Bazaar on Tuesday at Creative Spark)?
A: Ninety-five percent of things are truly one-of-a-kind. I bought only one of each piece to make them special and tried to find things that aren't sold in the U.S. Get there early!