By Christina Fuoco-Karasinski | February 3, 2021
Kathleen Sabol comes to the door of her parents’ Carefree Ranch home in North Scottsdale. The glamorous blonde is wearing subtle-yet-glistening jewelry — pieces she made herself.
Sabol founded Mila + Stevie, a modern bohemian glam jewelry line she handcrafts herself. She mixes natural gemstones and metals to create dainty to statement pieces. The company is named after her fluffy golden retrievers — although Stevie was also inspired by Stevie Nicks — and it supports the ASPCA.
“I always try to give back to the ASPCA and try to really get awareness out there about prevention of cruelty to animals,” she says.
Creating jewelry for herself was, initially, a way of unwinding from her graduate school studies at the University of Florida. After graduation, she hoped to work for the FBI.
“I was working on a master’s in political science,” she says. “I would be in class all day studying very analytical material, but I’ve always been a very creative person.
“I was seeking a creative outlet to do when I wasn’t studying. I had some things at home, so I started tinkering and I made jewelry.”
She made a bracelet with agate wrapped in wire for herself. Everywhere she went, she received comments about her pieces.
“I said they couldn’t buy it because a store didn’t exist,” she says with a laugh. “So, my dad said, ‘Hey, let’s try selling a couple and start a business.’ We started very small with just this one design and I had four colors. It’s slowly evolved into necklaces, earrings and bracelets.”
High demand for her jewelry persuaded her to start Mila + Stevie Jewelry in 2016. When she graduated in 2018 from the University of Florida, she decided to do jewelry full time.
One of the pieces Sabol frequently wears is the Olivia bracelet ($30), with a gold plate, an oval druzy stone and an adjustable toggle chain.
“It’s my most popular style,” she says, adding that the agate cellphone holder ($23) is the No. 2 item. “The bracelet has an adjustable toggle chain, so it fits so many different size wrists. It makes a great gift for women of all ages.
“I have a lot of women who buy them as a best friend gift. They buy one for themselves and for their best friend. It’s the adult version of the best friend necklace.”
Sabol is inspired by the “incredible beauty of the Sonoran Desert.” She finds her stones at the Tucson Gem and Mineral Shows and from suppliers in Brazil, the United States and India.
“It’s so cool to be able to see all these gems and minerals and lapidary materials from all over the world,” Sabol says. “It’s a great way to be educated about those types of materials.”
The COVID-19 pandemic has hurt her business. She pivoted from selling at events to her website, which was revamped over the summer. Fortunately, folks have also reached out to her for custom pieces for life events like weddings.
“It’s really cool because it becomes more than just a particular product,” she says. “I had a woman reach out to me during COVID. She said, ‘Oh, my granddaughter graduated from high school in May. I feel really bad that she couldn’t have a normal graduation.’
“So, we worked together, and I helped her pick out something. That was a really nice way to memorialize a very unique high school graduation experience.”
Besides online, her pieces are found at Wild Holly Gallery in Carefree, Charmed Avenue and Why Hello! Modern Home in Scottsdale, and Rusty Shack in Cave Creek.
Born in Los Angeles, Sabol was raised in Florida and Arizona. Sabol began expressing herself through music, writing, theater and art from an early age. She loves music, especially Nicks, Cher, Tina Turner, Bob Seger and Queen. Sabol started singing at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Roman Catholic Church in Scottsdale. She continued it with the Orlando Opera Company.
“I started signing there in the fourth grade and just haven’t stopped,” she says of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. “I had a great music teacher there who really encouraged all of us to pursue music regardless of our levels.”
Music was an organic choice for her, as she was surrounded by music growing up. Her father, Byron, plays the guitar and was a singer. Her mom, Joy, plays the piano and was a dancer when Sabol was younger.
“I think music is an incredible art form that just gets into your bones,” Sabol says. “It’s so amazing. It just moves you in so many different ways and can recall memories and it’s so amazing.”
Sabol’s mind is occupied with music and how to expand Mila + Stevie. She recently started creating and selling home accessories like agate coasters, which she calls “statement pieces.” Her hand-painted vases and pots are moving, too.
She hopes to expand the staff beyond herself and her parents. She’s proud to have a family-run business, but her parents have encouraged her to “reach for the stars and shoot for her goals.”
“I would love to be able to build the brand nationally and internationally and then be able to hire people,” she says. “I want to create a jewelry brand that’s based here in the Scottsdale/Phoenix area that people recognize. I want to get that name recognition and be able to hire really great people.”
Mila + Stevie