Anastasia McNeal’s creative path serendipitously began while a graduate student and working full-time for Estee Lauder Cosmetics. On a whim, she visited a second hand shop where a collection of mismatched, broken costume jewelry was offered for sale in a unappealing heap. Without understanding or hesitation, she purchased nearly the entire lot.
Anastasia grew up imagining and playing among the contents of her mother’s, and more clandestinely, her grandmother’s jewelry boxes. She regularly conceptualized, designed and made rugs and interior furnishings for her Barbie Dolls’ homes. While her career path was not initially one immersed in creative pursuits, Anastasia’s interest in building and design— particularly involving jewelry— endured to what has evolved into a nuanced process of repurposing and reinterpreting seemingly “useless” objects, each reborn from a dynamic inventory of found elements.
After completing her education, Anastasia moved to Washington, DC where she found her first job with the United States House of Representatives, working first for a Congressman from New York, and later for a Member from Pennsylvania. During this time in the evenings as a hobby, she began making her one-off creations. These distinctive pieces soon captured the notice and appreciation of her Capitol Hill colleagues.
Aside from her creative interests, some of Anastasia’s passions include collecting and wearing vintage clothing; mid-century and modern furnishings/art; architecture; alpine skiing; following various global animal welfare issues; photography; vintage cars; world travel. Two countries leaving profound impressions on her life occurred when she travelled to the East African nations of Kenya and Tanzania and, later the same year, visited several regions of Northern India.
Anastasia graduated Edinboro University of Pennsylvania with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Communications, and Gannon University where she achieved a Master of Arts degree, English.
Can you point to one event that triggered your interest in your career?
I’ve only recently made jewelry design a concentrated focus. But as a child, I remember being transfixed by my mother’s jewelry, and have obsessively collected vintage costume jewelry since my early 20’s.
What about this career choice did you find most appealing?
It’s fascinating to collaborate with objects that have/hold their own energy.
What steps did you take to begin your education or training?
No steps! I surrendered to a life-long interest that never dimmed.
Along the way, were people encouraging or discouraging?
Friends as well as total strangers have been encouraging—- and discouraging, too.
The voice that carries the greatest influence —- if one is open to listening to it— is one’s own.
Did you ever doubt your decision and attempt a career change?
I sense it’s a common experience for most creatives to harbor some doubt about their path and their “art”.
When did your career reach a tipping point?
My tipping point arrived when I accepted that I need to become the person directly responsible for how I use my time, my ideas, my energy….
Can you describe a challenge you had to overcome?
Impatience. I struggle with impatience.
What single skill has proven to be most useful?
In work—-and life— be wiling to continue to take risks.
What accomplishment are you most proud of?
While traveling is not what I would consider an accomplishment, I’m grateful to have visited many countries, met and interacted with amazing people/cultures. These experiences profoundly influenced—and continue to influence—my life.
Any advice for others entering your profession?
Believe in your vision.
To see more of Anastasia’s designs visit her Website.
Follow her on Instagram – atelier.anastasia
Full length photo of Anastasia by Scott Elmquist
All other photos courtesy of Anastasia McNeal