Mariya Amijee traces her roots toHyderabad, India. She moved to the United States when she was 10 and spent most of her years in St Louis Missouri. In 2015, she moved to Austin, Texas, after her marriage and cites faith and society as two cornerstones that have bolstered her ambitions- in her own words, “they’re my primary support in both of those aspects of my life, and I can’t be thankful enough.” Below is a short interview where we get to learn more about Mariya’s booming sustainable jewelry business.
How did you think of the idea for sustainable jewelry?
When I was studying at Maryville University as a design student, I got approached by the science department to participate in a research grant. This would entail working with botany and biology students to make something with the biomass of invasive honeysuckle growing all over our campus (and the rest of the city of Saint Louis). I used various parts of the plant to make all different products to raise awareness about how this plant negatively impacts our biodiversity (killing native plants and animals). Some of the products I made include paper, candle holders, planters, lamps, and jewelry.
Making jewelry was the most fun because there were a million different ways of making it, and everyone always wore it so proudly and raised awareness without much effort. Since I was a design student, I used the laser cutter for most of my jewelry pieces. I held a gallery showing and a silent auction at the end of the semester. We raised over $1,200 in a couple of hours and attracted a huge crowd from all over campus and the city.
After graduating from college, the urge to continue this effort still interested me. I began volunteering with environmentalists in Austin and realized that our invasive plants are killing a lot of native species here too, and nobody seemed to know or understand that this problem was affecting us more than we could ever imagine. So I began using the harvested biomass from our volunteer trips and working with invasive bamboo and ligustrum. Though I made different products again, jewelry was always the most popular
Who or what was your inspiration?
My mom has always been the backbone of my inspiration when it came to excellence. My professors are still the ones who encourage me – I can hear their voice in my head, hah!
Tell us more about your day to day?
I’m a mom now, so that’s my main focus. However, I love attending corporate and private events in which I’m invited to host a fiberology workshop. Attendees request what they’re interested in making (jewelry, coasters, artwork, papier mache crafts with invasive plants fibers).
Apart from hosting workshops, I work full-time as an interior designer. My main focus is commercial design, working on large and small-scale construction projects around Austin. I also have the opportunity of working on the Plano Masjid project at the moment.
How do you balance your faith and beliefs with your other life goals?
We are taught that Bohras should be contributing members of the society they live in. That’s what keeps me going. I’m most proud of the fact that I can represent people of our faith in a good light whenever I introduce myself and the ongoing efforts to anyone.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
In 5 years I hope to be a licensed interior designer, and I hope to be able to grow the effort of raising awareness about invasive species around the state as well as around the country. With this, I would like to come up with a product that not only looks good aesthetically but is also functional in our daily lives.