Thank you, 2008

Although people from all over the country are saying good riddance to 2008, I must say that 2008 was a great year for me.

At some point over Christmas, I jokingly said that my iPhone had dramatically improved my life. While I don’t seriously think that is the case, I do think that it has something to do with spending less time behind the computer. I was quite pleased to look around my studio at my opening and realize how much work I had created in the last year.

I have spent most of my life thinking about what I wanted to be when I grow up. I started reading “What Color is Your Parachute?” in the 9th grade. I mentioned this to a friend last week and she said, “Oh yeah, I remember when my dad gave that to me.” My life’s work was my obsession. With a full commitment to my art, I started out 2008 by finally taking a class at the Corcoran after living in DC for three years.

This class stressed me out. I was taking it way too seriously. It was like all of my life’s hopes and dreams hinged on how well I did. Sometime during the month of March, I got over it and just got to work. I also had the realization that I didn’t need to spend all of my time searching for ways to make things work. Instead I wanted my work to speak for itself and people would come to me. That made all of the difference.

By the end of the semester, I found myself right where I always knew I needed to be. From the first couple of weeks of classes, my classmate told me each week that I was a book artist. As part of my final critique, my teacher recommended that I go to Penland. Timing was right and I no longer had any excuses not to go after ten years of having that at the top of my wish list. So I went…

The above picture is one of my favorite photos from my time at Penland. We were sitting in the cafeteria with my parents. I turned around and snapped the picture. My mom commented, “No wonder you like it here. Everyone thinks just like you.” Until that moment, I had no idea that she thought I thought any differently from her or the rest of our family. I finally was in a place where I was meant to be. Even though my skill level was pretty low in comparison to so many of the artists there, it didn’t matter. People were so generous with their ideas, encouragement, skills and creativity.

An excerpt from my journal on Monday, May 5th, the month before I went to Penland.

The first week I was there, I had continuous dreams and conversations about shape shifting. This was too much of a science fiction concept for me. Just totally not what I am about. But after finally realizing the messages I was receiving, I accepted the fact that in that week I had transformed from one person into another.

I also had an aha moment that I had found my medium of the narrow, but remarkably broad, medium of book arts. I spent my four years of graduate school studying how remarkable artists evolved into themselves. I read about their childhoods, their education, their friends, their influences, etc. These artists were my role models for how to become an artist. But I still could not put my finger on my medium. What was it?

Finally one night around 11 pm when I made my list of the dozen projects I was trying to accomplish within the two week period, I realized that this is it. I love paper, books, paper dolls, pop-ups… these were all of my favorite toys when I was a little girl. I would have never considered these formats an acceptable art form until spending time working with them at Penland.

Once I returned home, I wanted to make sure I didn’t lose the momentum of the two weeks. I got to work practicing skills I learned. So after that, Amy contacted me about creating the ten projects for church, entitled Telling Stories. I considered these ten projects to be quick creative exercises, all of them stemmed from the work I did at Penland. When I finished, I found that I had a nice body of work.

And that’s when I got pregnant. All of my creative energy was hidden away from me, deep within my body. I wanted to do nothing for the next two months. I stopped reading, writing, dreaming, blogging, coming up with ideas… pretty much all of the core of who I really think I am. I was shocked to realize that I only had four blog entries for all of November! I guess I was also pushing my little grandma cart back and forth moving into my studio. I was never sick, just a complete zombie stuck to my couch. It was the first time in two years that I really wanted a job. When you are self-employed, you have to keep things moving. I just wanted someone to tell me what to do. Fortunately my energy came back just in time for me to complete the tobacco project for my sculptural books class and a few projects for Christmas.

At my opening, one of my friends said to another, “I remember last summer when I met Caroline and she was reading business books.” Yep! I am not sure how but I managed to shake that pretty quickly and finally become who I am supposed to be. I honestly must say that I am surprised at how easy it has been. Way easier than my experience of being a successful entrepreneur. One of my goals for 2009 is to somehow slip in my touch of business experience without freaking the artist side of me out.

So thank you, 2008, despite all of the financial fears and wake up calls we have faced! And Happy New Year’s! I am excited about all that 2009 has to bring – more art projects and studio openings, some evolution of our family store, and, most of all, motherhood. A lot to look forward to… plus a promise of more blog entries from me. (But much shorter than this one!)

PS – If you hate those annual letters, I am sorry. I think that this turned into one.

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  1. carolinagirl

    Happy New Year, my friend! Here’s to us both adding to our families! PS – I found Kermit the other day! I really should send a picture to you!

  2. Caroline Armijo

    Thanks! I know that is very exciting to meet your little girl, too. Wow!

    I am very excited about hearing that you found Kermit! Brought back lots of memories of Sean Cassidy.

  3. Amy

    So proud to be your friend and to watch this journey, Caroline. As always, I am cheering you on!

  4. Melanie

    Caroline….I suspect I am the one responsible for the “business books” quote. I hope you realize how inspiring your creative journey is for me. I’m thinking 2009 may be my year! Your just do it attitude is a great example. Happy 2009 to you my friend.

  5. Caroline Armijo

    You know, Amy, I left out one of my favorite memories from this year! Our trip to New Orleans! Certainly a memorable highlight.

    And, yes, Melanie, you said the business book quote.

    Thanks to both of you guys for being so supportive!

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