When I signed the lease on a small and buggerdly ugly space on May 20, 2008, a former friend wrote me the following: “It was a rainy day with big dark clouds and secret whispers floating throughout the air the day Pam Goode moved into her new studio space. Her head was heavy and felt full of cobwebs, and the room was not worthy of energy. It was just a smelly, dank, gross, dark, negative space with a terribly big bad vibe — and nothing could be done to save her from the frightening fate that was ahead.”
I bought a lime-scented candle and went at it.
Frightening fate, indeed. When I opened Ciel Gallery + Mosaic Studio, I had zero experience running a gallery — but I knew there were artists who needed a space to exhibit, and I knew I could provide that. I had zero experience selling art — but I knew I could speak knowledgeably about the work. I had zero experience teaching, but I knew I could share my passion. I had a very, very minimal bit of experience in social settings — but I knew I could be articulate about my love of mosaic art, even if more frivolous chit chat wasn’t my thing. I wasn’t much with a hammer, but give me a crowbar and a paintbrush and I can do wonders.
In short, it worked. And it worked because it was everything I love all rolled into 588 square feet. “Find your passion,” they say.
Frightening fate, indeed. I walked in three years and three months ago with little more than an idea, a smidgeon of unexpected cash, a perhaps ill-advised amount of energy and optimism, and an enthusiastic husband. Today, I closed the door and walked out an entirely different woman.
It all began with a fairly modest plan. But you know how our offspring are . . . . She wanted to grow, wriggling and pushing against her baby-ness, swimming laps around the woman with one toe in the water, testing for tepid. Finally, I stood back and let her have her way with me.
A favorite mantra is that in order to bring change to your life, you must first make space for it. In this instance, the “space” was very literal and, uncharacteristically for me, more external than internal. That 588 feet changed my life, not only with her lime green floors (she insisted), but with her open-door policy and her abundant trust that everyone who stepped inside would become a friend. She was right, of course, and the “space” that we made together with several hundred artists and students was not only a gathering spot for mosaic art, but a sanctum for laughter, learning, letting go, and forging ahead.
I do think it’s possible for a place to have a smelly, dark, negative vibe. But I also believe that sometimes that smelly, dark, negative vibe is coming less from the smelly space, and more from the smeller.
It’s funny how some of us believe that nothing is possible, and others of us believe that everything is possible. Reality, of course, is surely somewhere in the middle, but as always, we tend to get what we’re looking for. Actually, we usually get a whole lot more.
The new space is perhaps more frightening than the first — crumbling floors, three layers of bad ceiling that need to be removed , uneven walls and missing plumbing. Crowbar heaven.
Old Ciel, you were my first, and I’ll never forget you. New Ciel, bring it on. Cold water, trepidation, frightening fate and all.
Bye Bye Baby — see you around.