Today my son began high school. New school, new neighborhood, new everything. As I gave him a hug before he walked to the bus stop, I thought about the new beginnings in my own life which have shaped me as an artist.
In kindergarten, I remember being nurtured by my teacher, who was an African American woman. I also recall her insistence that I color inside the lines, and that I use expected colors (no, bears are not green). I wasn't a rebel in those early days--I conformed--it was the 60's after all, and we did what we were told.
Beginning the next year, and throughout the next 5, I remember being fascinated by art class and art materials. In those days, we shared everything and I recall the joy I felt when by chance, I got the "good" box of pastels which weren't all broken. Creativity was applauded, and the pride I felt seeing my work pinned up on the classroom or hall walls was a great feeling.
In high school, I was recognized as "artsy"(even then, I didn't like that term!). I began doing posters and acrylic paintings, (love those florescent paints from 1972!) including the ones here.
College: A New Beginning in Every Way
At Wellesley, I knew I wanted to study art, but I also knew I had to "have something to fall back on," which meant an academic discipline other than art. A real turning point was my freshman year Art 100 class. For the first time, I was able to study art history, and it was an eye-opener. It cemented my resolve to pursue art, despite my family's misgivings about my being able to earn a living with such a major. To satisfy them, I majored in art history, minored in studio and English, with an eye to working in education, in some way. To satisfy my own creative needs, I started a campus publicity organization, which created posters for organizations, student government candidates etc., which as I look back on it, was the beginning of my entrepreneurial experience. Later, I partnered with a fellow student in a screen-printed t-shirt business, with my own original designs for Black Greek-letter organizations in Boston.
After Graduation and Beyond
A new beginning, a fresh start; working in Boston in textbook design. I was actually able to put my college training to good use. Involved in developing the illustration and photography programs for textbooks, I worked with artists, designers and photographers to ensure ethnic balance and accuracy of depiction (an aspect I took on myself).
After several years, I realized that while what I was doing was important and necessary, it wasn't as creative as I needed it to be (by then I was in management; farther removed from the hands-on aspects of the job). I enrolled in a porcelain jewelry class, found I loved it, and created Camida Designs, a handcrafted jewelry business as a result. After taking a polymer clay jewelry class, I added polymer clay to the mix of beads and focal pieces I incorporated into my work. As a small-scale business owner while working full time, I felt successful and creatively fulfilled. I traveled to Asia to purchase beads, did home shows and fashion shows, and developed my own signature style.
When I was designing jewelry, I wasn't painting, and I found I missed it. By the time I was married and my son was starting to potty train, I looked in vain for a small stool with an African or Afrocentric pattern or theme for his room. To no avail. My mother suggested I make one myself, and the rest, as they say, is history: Jordan's Treasures was born; yet another new beginning.
So, as I reflect on the beginnings which shaped me, I realize each was a steppingstone to where I am now: about to complete the final year of Jordan's Treasures. Next year will be yet another new beginning; the launch of the new business name (not ready to reveal it yet--soon, I promise) and some new directions for the business.