What do you want to be when you grow up? It’s a question we were asked many times throughout our formative years. Perhaps you wanted to be a writer, dancer, actor, professional athlete, doctor, musician, or many other things in between. The beauty of being a child is imagining the possibilities – and they are truly endless. Even if you’ve “grown-up,” maybe you ask yourself, what do I want to be? What do I want to do?
Anna Vasquez, talented founder of Nested Yellow Jewelry, asked herself these questions. She always had a creative spirit and an appreciation for nature around her. While working in architectural design after graduating, Anna started to feel as if she was walking in someone else’s footsteps and completing work that others needed from her. She felt torn having gone to school for a specialized profession, but found that it was a field where she wasn’t able to fully express herself. Feeling a desire to make things with her hands and wanting a deeper connection to people and her work, she started asking herself, “What do I want to do?”
What do I want to be? What do I want to do?
Reflecting on her time in architecture, Anna said she felt “I’m doing what everyone is telling me to do…am I supposed to feel this way? I just asked myself, what do you feel like you want to get into? What would make me happy? I felt awkward and vulnerable and like two different people and I thought, I need to figure out what that is.”
While visiting Savannah, Georgia for a friend’s wedding, Anna found answers to her questions. She wandered into a small co-op with different artisan pieces that caught her eye. The owner was in the corner, hand-making jewelry, drilling, hammering and forging pieces using various tools Anna recognized from her time in architecture school, and some she had never seen before. She watched the shop owner and asked her questions about creating the pieces, expanding her knowledge of how jewelry was made. Anna came home and signed up for a jewelry-making class in an old cigar building nearby. Each week her Wednesday class couldn’t come soon enough. She would dream up pieces, sketch them out and then let the creativity flow through her as she brought the designs to life.
“I think you just know what your purpose is and what you’re passionate about and when you do what you’re passionate about or what inspires you, what brings you happiness…things align and you have so much clarity.”
Anna began a new journey designing, creating and eventually starting her own business. She discovered a space for her own studio in that same cigar building, where she would create on the weekends. She continued to work in architecture on the weekdays, but was thinking about jewelry “99.9% of the time.” As people would ask her about the different pieces she would wear, Anna drew more attention to her creations. Based on recommendations from friends, she put her work on Etsy in 2009 and officially launched Nested Yellow Jewelry. Her Etsy shop was a way for her to ease into this new world while still working in the other industry. Then in 2013, Anna moved to Portland, Oregon to work on an architecture project for the Ace Hotel with one of her friends. At this same time Etsy selected Nested Yellow as a featured shop, providing additional exposure to her work. Not long after her move, Anna knew the timing was right. Even though it felt scary and outside the realm of what she had gone to school for, she took a leap, left her career in architecture, and gave her full attention to designing and making jewelry.
“I don’t think you have a choice” she openly shares about following your heart. “I think you just know what your purpose is and what you’re passionate about and when you do what you’re passionate about or what inspires you, what brings you happiness…things align and you have so much clarity. I love doing this. Things will come up, but that’s part of the growth process…It’s all in your own timing, whatever that is…I realized I needed to be my own boss. There was no fear. I went in bravely.”
Anna sketches out the designs as she comes up with her jewelry pieces, moved by what someone has said to her or a story they have shared. She sets aside extra time for packaging, building a meaningful experience from the first instant her jewelry arrives to its owner. Anna loves how her work is “multifaceted,” much like a gemstone. She finds instant gratification in making something for others by hand and is able to be authentic, fully present and say yes to the opportunities that come her way.
“When an opportunity comes, go for it. Experience it fully. And you’ll know whether it’s right for you or not.”
Whatever your pace may be, Anna shares that when the time is right, you’ll know. She suggests finding your calling by taking a class, practicing a hobby, trying out different things, and indulging in your interests. “Do it. If you think it, it will happen. If you’re willing to ask that question, deep down inside, say yes. When an opportunity comes, go for it. Experience it fully. And you’ll know whether it’s right for you or not.”
Spending time with Anna, you can see how her creative process is filled with so much heart. Her designs are imaginative and she translates these visions into beautiful handmade creations. She lives in the Alphabet District of Portland, Oregon, where she shares her home and workspace with a gentle, four-legged canine companion named James. The natural light streams into her studio, showcasing her handwritten notes and sketches of projects she is working on, the sparkle from pieces she has just made, and various plants and décor that reflect elements of nature which inspire her work.
With any significant transition in life, it’s important to peel off the insecurities. After leaving her former career and traveling down this new path, Anna worked on herself personally. She spent time defining who she was, recalling what she loved and was inspired by from her childhood. “As a kid you’re fearless. ‘I want to do this, I want to grow up and be this.’ You’re open and can do anything. ‘I want to be an astronaut, a jewelry designer,’ whatever your mind puts together…getting back to that moment, being that child, playing in nature and the sand…finding that rhythm and space…that creative space.”
“Getting back to that moment, being that child, playing in nature and the sand…finding that rhythm and space…that creative space.”
So keep asking yourself, what do I want to be? What do I want to do? What would make me happy? Never stop exploring. Get back to that creative space, take a risk and live boldly. When you find your answer, it just may be extraordinary.
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Written by Angelina Lusetti
Photos by Andrea Garrity &Angelina Lusetti of Sentiero Photography