Back to the Garden

Back to the Garden

Because spring is too lovely for hard hearts, because it is the ninth anniversary of my mother’s death, because I buried a mother-in-law last week, and because my father lies dying too slowly of advanced dementia paired with cruelly efficient good health, I’m going to tell you a story. It has nothing to do with a pink sweater or a nine inch blade, but there are sticks involved.

When I was a girl, our weekends were always the same: an hour or so of hard labor behind the wheelbarrow, tracing a familiar path from garden to street and back again before my sister and I were set free to play in the neighborhood for the long idylls of childhood. I can’t remember whether or not I grumbled, but I do remember loving the vast oasis that my parents created in our modestly-sized yard. As soon as I had my first patch of dirt, nothing could stop me from transforming it, even though it was a scrappy bit behind a two bedroom condo on a busy street. In went the brick terrace and planting bed walls and matching semicircles on each end, laid as my father had taught me, and using scavenged brick, which is always, somehow, the prettiest. I learned the name of every plant I saw and sank the sweetest into the tiny two foot wide beds, and to be honest, the hours spent there were the best part of my introduction to marriage — working together to create something lovely.

I was an odd child, and my parents worried about me. Far too quiet, they were never entirely certain what was going on with me and I consistently refused to spill, never learning to love the sound of my own voice when there were so many deeper, richer, more exquisite voices to attend to: leaves rustling in the wind, clear water spilling over mossy stones, or whispery moments of tender stillness. As I grew, my passions fell into categories like: You Can’t Make a Living at That or Pam, Don’t They Teach Anything at Duke That You Could Put on a Resume? And so the Dreamer/Watcher/Seer/Knower/ became a woman of immense awareness and modestly practical skill sets who still runs on quiet passion and an infinite belief that anything is possible.

And so it happened that I recently spent many days in preparation, scouting perfect malleable fresh and willowy newly spring-trimmed branches of hornbeam, cherry, redbud, crape myrtle, and ligustrum, loading them into a truck with my partners in crime, hauling them home and stacking them to the size of a small cabin, and then taking each in hand and clipping every side branch of every stick until each inch was long and lithe enough to slide unfettered into new life.

On Sunday we eased them back into the truck and Laura and her boys delivered them to the gallery, all in lovely bundles tied with white bows and standing coyly against the brick like wallflowers hoping for the next dance. On Monday, a bevy of us gathered around the welded frame created by our friend and partner Amy, and began to circle and consider and select and place, which just happens to perfectly match my non-paying skill set. Most came by for an hour and stayed for three or four. Passersby stopped and gladly accepted a branch to place. A news videographer finished filming a same-old event two blocks up, made his way back to us, and bemusedly asked question after question as he added his own pieces to the whole. A gentleman in a hurry made sure we knew he’d like an extra bedroom added on, and that in exchange, he’d build the brick terrace. In herringbone please.

So yes, on March 30 I spent a day doing all those things that pay nothing and yet have made me who I am today, considering and placing, building and creating something where there was nothing before. It’s what I do; it’s who I am, and it may not look like much (“Every time I look at her she’s staring out the window,” a co-worker once said), but isn’t that how the universe is born? Brick and mortar, leaf and bloom, novels and poetry and art (we are all masters) all begin with staring out the window for hours at a time, and then it begins, twig by twig to masterwork.

And to be honest, of course, I’m no Patrick Dougherty. But I’ve become, in some small way, a bit of a stick whisperer, as have the many Ciel artists, family members, and strangers who’ve worked alongside us to birth an idea for the simple joy of creation. This was, in short, one of the best days I’ve spent — under glorious skies side by side with those I love in both body and spirit. But it was more. It was a deep and powerful and abiding connection with my childhood Saturdays, with the attention and joy embedded in the gardens created from scratch by my mother and father and mother-in-law. I know my mom is shaking her head just a tiny bit at what is aptly called a folly, but I know it feeds her joy just as it feeds mine, and I know my father is placing twigs alongside me and showing me how to frame the arch above that window. And even though it hurt to be without them on March 30, I know they were there with me, and we were all happy to be making something pretty on a beautiful day.

Never Goodbye; Hello World!

What Are You Waiting For? Pamela GoodeI’ve always been a believer in signs and wonders. Sure the signs are written in cryptic scribbles and wonders are all-too-often mirage-like. I know I saw this yesterday . . . didn’t I? Or was that the day I had three desserts for lunch? Nevertheless I work to recognize them, roll them around in my consciousness, and act … always the hard part. But the universe tends to take care of our reluctances and procrastination as well, usually by giving us first multiple signs, then several open doors, and finally a whack over the head. And honestly, don’t we sometimes need it?

In the early spring of 2006, my mother died after an all-too-brief and wholly-unexpected illness. She left me some money, also wholly unexpected, and over the next couple of weeks, a small studio in the arts district of Charlotte became available. It was a mess, and therefore a blank slate, and of course as it follows, completely irresistible. I had never considered running an art gallery, but there it was, and I happened to know all too well that mosaic art was often overlooked and in dire need of exposure. Ciel Gallery was born of an intersection of fate, opportunity, and need. Taking that unanticipated step, a step that had never once wandered around in my what-to-do-with-this-life wallowings, changed my life. And it changed me.

I’ve always reveled in behind the scenes work, creating in the low digit hours after midnight, wordsmithing the minutiae of contracts, or divining the exact intersection of visual and mental in graphic design. I’m the worker horse, never the face. Opening a business, and a cutting edge business at that, demanded more of me than I ever considered giving, and skills I would have been quite happy never to develop. But I did it, and it wasn’t as scary, in the end, as all that.

In 2008 I opened a gallery called Ciel, and I grew as a person and artist by leaps and bounds. In 2011, Ciel grew to include five partners and a brilliant new space, bringing in an all-star cast of visiting artists for workshops, hosting critically acclaimed exhibitions such as the Emma Biggs-curated Pattern Now, and coordinating the 52-artist mosaic mural Unfurled with Lin Schorr. I don’t care what others think about Ciel’s run — it knocks my socks off.

In true Pam fashion, I gave a lot of thought to the next step, but when it came, again it was universe-orchestrated. As of March 2014, Ciel Gallery + Mosaic Studio will become Ciel Gallery, A Fine Art Collective, with seven Member Partners, thirteen Member Artists, and a handful of consigners from North and South Carolina. Our new partner base is hugely talented in a variety of media, excited, generous, brimming with ideas, YOUNG and energetic.

Ciel Gallery Charlotte

Lease Signing Ciel #1; Guts and Glory Ciel #2; Lease Signing Ciel #3

I am thrilled and excited for a new venture. Of course it’s been bittersweet, and not without lingering moments of the unsettledness that bleeds from giving up your identity and wondering if there is a “next.” I know Ciel will thrive. I know the mosaic community now has ample opportunities for exhibition, and that I have had a part in that expansion. I know the Charlotte community and visitors will revel in greater access to local artists, and the art-hungry will thrill to offerings from new teachers. We’ll still feature mosaics of course, and we’ll still bring in visiting artists, but mosaic will no longer be isolated from other artforms. A good thing.

I worry about losing touch with the artists who’ve become close friends over the years, and who have, in so many ways, created Ciel right along with me. I feel angst about deserting a community that has made me who I am today, but at the same time, I’ve watched you all become superstars, and I’m excited to have new conversations about design and technique, or Gaudi and zellige instead of pixels and tracking numbers. And speaking of tracking numbers . . . NO MORE TRACKING NUMBERS! No more Box Room! No more trips to Office Depot for 50 more rolls of packing tape!

Instead of packing boxes and the daily details of gallery-running, I’m giddy at the idea of more art and more writing in my life. I’m thrilled with the growth of Mosaic Art Retreats and upcoming mosaic travel to Barcelona, Morocco, Costa Rica, France, Italy, and Greece. And over the moon with the beauty of Unfurled, my first and hopefully only-the-beginning collaborative public art project with Lin Schorr and 52 fabulous participating artists.

I’ll still be at the gallery weekly, still educating art lovers about the fabulous art of mosaics, still planning and hanging exhibitions and dreaming up new ways to infuse the universe with art. I’ll also be actually making art, spending time with my dad, cooking a bit, and maybe even jumping in the car for an impromptu visit to Asheville (or Creemore or Michigan or Sedona) with my guy.

So you’ll still know where to find me. What neither of us knows is exactly who I’ll be next time, because the universe may have a few more unexpected paths lying in wait. And I will walk them. With bells on.

Endless love to all who have supported Ciel (and me) through all our incarnations. Please stay with us for the rest of the ride. Paths diverge and reconnect. Never goodbye.

Why I Make Mosaics

Photo by Ashley Hayward

A young man came into the gallery one day and, like many, stood with his mouth agape staring at the art on the walls. “What is this?” he asked. “It’s mosaic!” I answered with a smile. “Well how do you make it? Where do you get all these little pieces of glass?” “We cut them,” I said with a little glow. “Cut them? You mean you have to cut every one of these pieces?” “Yes,” I said. “Every piece.” “Oh man,” he said. “Why would anyone do this? There’s got to be a way to streamline this process. Somebody needs to sell the glass already cut. Doesn’t anyone sell pre-cut glass?” “Well, possibly,” I said, “but then I wouldn’t be interested.”

And there you have the answer in a  nutshell. I make mosaics because it’s hard.

During the monthly and often weekly classes I teach, new students will often take on a familiar stricken look when they first start cutting. I tell them to relax and cut for the pleasure of exploration — that making mosaics means learning the love to process. And the process is hard.

Some might say I like a hard life in general. I’m a good one for trudging through the minutiae of a situation, considering every possibility, and then selecting the most time and soul-consuming avenue. To me, this simply equates to actually living my life rather than just going through the motions. It’s the same way with cooking, planning, picking out (and decorating) a Christmas tree, traveling, thinking, loving, and art. Either I do it to the max, or I don’t do it at all. Otherwise, what have I gained? What have I given?

I love mosaic art. I love the interplay of color. I love the dancing of light. I love the intention of andamento and the way it makes your eyes move. I love the heft of a piece, and not only the weight of its gathered materials, but the sum of thought and labor involved. I love the antiquity of the artform and the accumulated labor of so many who have labored before me. But most of all, I like the slow, intentional, repetitive, considered and exacted repetition and thrill of determining the perfect cut, achieving it, and fitting it into place to create, many hours and days and weeks and sometimes months later, a piece of art that demanded and received my full attention — my full passion.

One of my favorite mantras is from the movie “A League of their Own,” when Gina Davis admits that something is hard. Tom Hanks (isn’t it always Tom Hanks?) says “Of course it’s hard. If it was easy, everyone would do it. The Hard is what makes it Good.” He’s so right.

It’s a funny thing about “easy.” There are many things that I do because they are “easy” for me, like sorting or folding laundry or unloading the dishwasher or writing a press release — I can have them done in the time it takes to think “oh — I should do this.” Accomplishment is a powerful feel-good, and we can rack up way more of the easies than the hards. But does that make them good? Well, no. None of my easies will ever make it to my Very Favorite Things list.

But give me something hard: determining and creating the ideal ratio of perfect cuts to “human touch” in art, cooking the (very) occasional meal that takes alllllllll day, raising a child, or growing the balls to be my fullest self, and I’m all over it.

So yeah. I love mosaic because it’s damn hard. I think we all need to love and engage in something that tests us, that pushes us flat up against the wall and says, “Do your best. Now.” What tests you? And what do you love about it?

Crazed with Light

Italy Mosaic Workshop

It’s cold and gray on the long march to Spring, and I’m in love with these words by Italian poet Eugenio Montale: “Bring Me the Sunflower Crazed with Light.” What I wouldn’t give to wander a new path and come face to face with a field of bright suns shimmering in the subtlest breeze and arching heavenward with never a doubt or “what if.”

One of the best gifts of too-many-gray-days is the chance to mosaic again, no matter how briefly. In the past couple of months I’ve managed to knock out two bursts of color in a new series, Postcards Home. Both created primarily with Mexican smalti (plus a little Italian, dalle de verre, glass rods, and some art glass), they represent the personal travel talismans we’ll be creating in my mosaic workshop this May through Adventures in Italy. I think we all need to be reminded, and fairly often, of our sum total — our quiet insides as well as our shiny feathers, our bucket lists as well as our To Do lists. I call these mosaics “minis” even though they’re pretty good-sized postcards at 6″ x 8″, yet still pocketable enough to follow me around and keep me warm when skies shed snow and ice and hearts sigh a bit more often.

Pamela Goode MosaicsThe first in the postcard series was a very simple lane lined with cypress. Some years ago Sweet Pea and I bought a watercolor path through the trees titled “The Road Home” — still a favorite. And yet sometimes I wonder about that word Home, which certainly holds at least a double meaning. Where we’ve been, or where we’re going? What we know or what we seek? Easy chair or the (rocky) road less traveled? Head or heart? Beyond the arms of those I love, where is Home for me? For you?

Flowers and trees, who doesn’t love them? The strongest talismans can be the most basic. They make me laugh. They make me long. They help me remember. They urge me along the path, crazed with light, and momentarily fearless and sure.

Color Me

Fluff my petals, Sweet Pink. Splatter me with color til I’m overfull and drool my yellow footprints smack across the roads. I crave the crazed inanity of a blue-tailed skink, the bite-me brilliance of a psycho-electric bleeding heart, the frivolity of sidewalk elms sporting useless knitted frocks. Color me. Color me to insanity and genius, then wipe me clean and color me some more.

The photos below are from recent walks around Charlotte, mostly in South End. Newspaper Box on Camden Road, Mural Detail by Carlleena Person on Camden Road, Glass at Ciel Gallery, Spinach Wrap at Common Market, Farmer’s Market Veggies, Candy Wrapper Purse (happily mine), Pastels at Cheap Joe’s Art Stuff, Road Kill of a Kinder Kind on East Boulevard, Smiley Face on the Painted Bench at Common Market, you make my days.

Call to Artists: Contemporary Mosaic Art 2010

It’s that time again! Ciel Gallery is pleased to announce a Call to Artists for the 2010 edition of Contemporary Mosaic Art, an international juried exhibition celebrating the scope and artistry of mosaic art created today. A full prospectus and entry form is located at http://www.cielcharlotte.com, or you may contact me for an email version. Pictured above is last year’s winner, The Visit, by Kathy Thaden, Colorado. Entry Deadline is Monday, August 9.

Call to Mosaic Artists: Flights of Fancy

Show us your Whimsy! Bees’ knees, purple trees, humongous nests, the witch of the west, broken crockery birds or a chair made of herbs — go mythical, magical, fanciful and fabulous to give your imagination free reign on 2-D or sculptural pieces that defy the humdrum. Art in any medium, style or size, will be considered. Exhibited work is not limited to mosaic but, as always, mosaic art is especially welcome.

For a full prospectus, go here and click on Flights of Fancy. Digital submission deadline March 1. International Juried Exhibition runs April 2 – May 21, 2010 with receptions Friday, April 2 and Friday, May 7 at Ciel Gallery, Charlotte, NC.

Shown above, Jocasta, by Australian Artist Marian Shapiro, from her series of Forbidden Fruits.

Tickle our fancy. Seven weeks left to pull out the stops and splash a little whimsy across these winter blahs.

Winter Whites at Ciel Gallery

Kaye Iverson, Aspens in Winter

Kaye Iverson, Aspens in Winter

October 5 is the deadline for Ciel Gallery’s November/December juried exhibition, Winter Whites. With entries already in from Australia, Cyprus, Monaco, Canada, and the US, this show promises to rival our current Contemporary Mosaic Art 2009 in its international-ness. Primarily fine art mosaic, the exhibition will also feature textiles, watercolor, acrylic and photography. For a full prospectus, go here.

I’m avalanche-ally excited about this show. Last year’s Simply Red was a bonfire-al success. The artists loved creating the heat and visitors basked in it. This year we’ll put the chill on. With an almost total absence of color, Winter Whites will be a textural banquet, and a deliciously apt follow-up to our neighbor Charlotte Art League’s October exhibit, Art Beyond Sight — that which tickles the four less used senses rather than the rods and cones of our retinas.

I am an unabashed color slut, but these Winter Whites are tickling my fancies big time.

Submit; Partake; Revel; Glean; Go Forth.

Fall Color Wheels

I’ve just returned from a visit with my sister in Virginia, and the October slant of the sun is currently pickling even the lowliest subject matter into a sparkling celebrity in Fall’s Five Minutes of Fame. I’m a snap and run kinda girl, not by nature but by practice, stealing as many shots as I can while companions wait with varying degrees of patience ten paces ahead.

Not every face is lovely, but this one is Beyond Beautiful. Ancient Indian elephant, Wise Woman, patterns of dew-starved earth? Fall colors steal the show, but I’ve always been a sucker for the overlooked.

Art: Not (Just) a Pretty Picture

Ciel Gallery’s exhibition entitled The War Against Peace presents the responses of artists across the nation as they ponder the question of why we continue to cry for peace and simultaneously continue to wage war. Best of Show winner Janet Kozachek, whose Fallen Floyd is pictured above, illustrates the emotional and physical torture of war in stone and handmade ceramic. Phil Fung‘s War and Peace depicts a hundred or so maniacal Continue reading