Jewelry designer April Star Davis has created pieces worn onscreen and off by celebs such as Jennifer Garner, Justin Timberlake and Kate Moss. But one of her proudest accomplishments was founding Designers 4 Africa (designers4africa.org), which helps nonprofit groups raise money for those needing aid in Africa. Davis recently traveled to Uganda to teach HIV-positive widows how to create their own jewelry — work they can do while caring for their children. The 41-year-old artist, who lives in San Diego with her husband and daughter, says she has learned that helping others isn’t as daunting as it initially seemed. “You just need to start somewhere,” she said. “It gets easier after that.”
Q: What is your favorite vacation destination?
A: France. Honestly, one thing I loved was the women. They had lines on their faces, and I don’t think I saw one person with any traces of plastic surgery. Coming from California, that was a novelty. The Louvre is breathless, but the street art surpassed anything in the galleries there.
Q: Where are your favorite weekend getaways?
A: I like Salvation Mountain in Niland, Calif., (salvationmountain.us). Leonard (Knight) is an amazing outsider artist who lets anyone paint on his crazy manmade mountain.
Q: What are your favorite hotels?
A: They’re all in California: Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim, Calif. (tinyurl.com/63z738j), the Madonna Inn(madonnainn.com) in San Luis Obispo and Humphreys Half Moon Inn & Suites (halfmooninn.com) in San Diego. When I travel outside of the United States, I stay in really inexpensive places on the igri outskirts of the city.
Q: What are your favorite restaurants?
A: Filippi’s Pizza Grotto (realcheesepizza.com) in San Diego’s Little Italy, Pappaleco in San Diego (facebook.com/pappalecco).
Q: What are your favorite cities?
A: Kutna Hora, New York City, Bali (Indonesia) and Lugazi (Uganda), where I left part of my heart. … I learned more from them than any people I have ever met.
Q: What kind of research do you do before you go away on a trip?
A: When I was going to Paris, I did no research except to contact a painter I wanted to meet. I never use maps and avoid most tourist places. I feel like if I’m going to a new country, I want to be … a part of how they live.
Q: What is your best and/or worst vacation memory?
A: Best memory would be in Paris. I went to dinner with Cristobal Jodorowsky — son of Alejandro, who directed my favorite film, “Santa Sangre.” One day we hung out at his flat, and I watched him paint for hours while I worked on a piece of jewelry for him. The best part? We traded. He gave me three small paintings for a necklace. My worst memory — well, in Uganda, I got kidney stones but didn’t tell anyone. I was teaching at the time and at one point I had to go to the hospital. The roads were so horrible. Kidney stones and a bumpy ride didn’t make for a great time.
She has designs on building a better world
When we got started with Drop in the Bucket, none of us had any experience with charity work, but we knew that there was a desperate situation and somebody needed to do something. That same passion inspired April Davis to start Designers 4 Africa. There is obviously so much care, passion and love that went into getting this project off the ground and it’s starting to bear fruit. Please support Designers 4 Africa, we at Drop in the Bucket wholeheartedly do.
-John Travis Drop in the Bucket
“Fighting poverty isn’t something that should be left to a select few. We all can help fight poverty. We at Trendi think Designers4Africa is an easy and effective way to raise funds for those in need.” – jeni trendi blog http://www.trendi.com
“It has been a pleasure to know April Star Davis this past year. She is an extremely talented jewelry designer and incredibly generous. When Kenya Kids in Need sponsored a fundraiser for destitute children and orphans attending Galilee Primary School in Kenya, April stepped forward to offer some of her beautiful necklaces to the auction. She also spearheaded a campaign to spread the word to other jewelry designers , resulting in the donation of additional pieces of jewelry and boosting our fundraising efforts. Many thanks to April for sharing her creativity and artistic talents to help children in Kenya.” Brenda Hagood Kenys Kids in Need
April Star Davis created an organization to put ‘odds and ends’ to good use
By Nina Garin ,
Sunday, March 8, 2009 at 3 a.m.
JEWELRY DESIGNER: April Star Davis
COMPANIES: April Star Davis Jewelry Designs and Designers 4 Africa
AS SEEN ON: Davis’ jewelry has been used in movies (“Four Christmases,” “Wedding Crashers”) and TV shows (“Nip/Tuck,” “ER,” “Friends,” “Melrose Place”)
CELEBRITY FANS: Kate Moss, Jennifer Aniston, Cher, Tommy Lee
ONLINE: aprilstardavis.com and designers4africa.org
KEY COMMENT: “I’m not rich or famous, I’m just a regular person, but I can do my part to help.”
We’ve all seen the photos of a starving boy in Ethiopia or a little girl from Sudan who can’t afford medical care.
But when jewelry designer April Star Davis sees an image like that, she takes it as an individual cry for help.
“I don’t know, maybe it’s because I was conceived at a hippie commune in Ocean Beach,” she said. “But if there’s anything I can do to help someone, I’m going to do it.”
Sure, it would be easy to donate some money to a charity and keep going as before. But that’s not how Davis operates.
Two years ago, she created Designers 4 Africa, an organization that donates jewelry and art for charity auctions. Her goal is to hold at least four fashion-related auctions a year.
“All designers have odds and ends laying around,” she said. “So, it’s easy for them to give a piece for a good cause. And 100 percent of the funds we get will go to a health clinic being built in Lugazi, Uganda.”
Last month, Davis traveled to Lugazi to see the conditions in the village for herself. She also wanted to teach widows with HIV how to make their own jewelry so they could afford food and rent.
But she ended up helping out much more than that.
During her three-week stay, she took families to the hospital, gave kids candy and toys and even helped young girls carry heavy buckets of drinking water back to the village.
“Little girls, maybe 6 years old, have to walk into the jungle for clean water,” she said. “It’s extremely dangerous, and those buckets are heavy! After I got back, I was able to get the organization Drop in the Bucket to build a well for them.”
Because Davis funded the trip herself, she figured she’d stay in the village slums, with the families she was there to help.
“I didn’t want to be the person who, you know, just comes in to help and then goes off to my nice hotel,” she said.
Having to padlock her room shut every night didn’t scare her off. And neither did the nonexistent bathrooms. But Davis eventually got severely dehydrated and had to stay in a hotel for the last week of her stay.
“I thought I was prepared for what I’d see and how the conditions would be,” she said. “But I wasn’t.”
Davis, whose modern silver and gold pieces are used in big-budget movies and TV shows, discovered her passion for Africa five years ago when she helped resettle refugees.
Lately, she’s been spreading the word to celebrity stylists and designers to get involved.
She’s also trying to turn the organization into a nonprofit, but after spending all her money on her Uganda trip, Davis is having a hard time coming up with the paperwork fees.
“I left Uganda with nothing,” she said. “I gave them everything I had – my clothes, money, I even left my camera with them.”
As eye-opening as her trip was, Davis didn’t expect to return with a newfound happy-go-lucky attitude.
“I was always freaked out about little things,” she said. “I thought I’d be even more serious after my trip. But it just made me realize that the small things don’t matter. I’m not as hermitish as I was. I’m giving myself permission to have fun.”
JEWELRY DESIGNER & PHILANTHROPIST
Here is her story …
Ask just about anyone in Hollywood and they either know April Star Davis or wear her jewelry. It wasn’t always this way. April is a person with a humble beginning ……April Star Davis started making jewelry 14 years ago at a bead store. “I wanted to make things that myself and friends could afford.” So with $60 and some beads, she decided to strike out on her own. “I certainly wasn’t making a lot of money,” said April, “but I really loved what I was doing,”.
Without any Hollywood connections, and frustrated at the hesitation from shops about purchasing jewelry from unknown designer, April decided to try selling to costume designers & stylist as she had worked in that field briefly.
April says, “I was very surprised to find that the shows were so receptive to me and much more responsive than any of the stores I had tried to get my pieces into. Melrose Place was the first series to purchase my jewelry, and then it built up from there.” To this day Denise Wingate, costume designer from Melrose Place, continues work with April’s jewelry, which has been spotted in movies like Employee of the Month, Four Christmases, and The Wedding Crashers as well as Ghosts of Girlfriends Past with Jennifer Garner.
April Star Davis uses a chef’s butane torch and her favorite materials such as sterling, semi-precious stones like jade and pearls, to create her one-of-a-kind rings, bracelets and necklaces that have been showcased on cast members of Nip Tuck, Friends, ER, Charmed, All My Children. Desperate Housewives and Private Practice. Kate Moss, Jessica Simpson, John Leguizamo, Monica Huerte, Justin Timberlake and Tommy Lee have worn April Star Davis jewelry as well. (We are hoping April adds the cast of Best Ever You to her accomplishments.)
Even with the success April has achieved, she has not forgotten how to be help others that need a jump start. April started Designers 4 Africa which is an organization that assists non-profits groups raise money to help with projects in Africa. What makes April unique and stand out amongst others is that she makes everything herself. It is not “farmed out.” The more work she receives, the more she is able to hire local women whom she knows from volunteering in the refugee community in San Diego.
“My desire is to teach women a skill they can make money in and still be with their children while working”Some companies say buying from them helps different organizations, however with April, you’re truly having a part in everything from local refugee resettlement to teaching in war torn countries.
As a result, April Star Davis has been invited to teach jewelry and micro business to women in Gulu Uganda by 2006 Nobel Peace Prize nominee and star of a Fall Out Boy video Jolly Okot. April is currently assisting the director at the San Diego South Community Center and hoping to go to both Sudan and Uganda this year.
~~~ April went alone to a rural village in Uganda & did start a jewelry business that has been supporting a group of HIV positive widows in Lugazi as well as their childrenSee More