Creating a Life: Inspiration from Orvieto

Pamela GoodeThere are those who ask me why I love to travel. In a few words: the exploration, the reversion to a simple and spare life, the crisp solitude of being alone in a new culture and unfamiliar language. Quite simply, stripped of my accustomed ways of being, I open my eyes and see. I remember who I am (and who I am not) and redefine the ways I want to experience my finite number of years. Travel sets me free to choose anew and gives me focus.

Below are a few things I’ve learned about myself during a cultural immersion week in Orvieto, Italy, and a handful of images to remind me when I’m tempted to give in to big city ways and forget.

I Want to Live a Life

I want to live a life on the edge — a life between consciousness and culture, between solitude and community, with easy access to the gifts of both.

Adventures in Italy

I want to live a life where city walls both shield and embrace, but also beckon me past my accustomed boundaries.

I want to live a life engulfed in scents and tastes and textures, with visual surprise around every corner, be it a new village or a just-unfurling jasmine bud.

I want to live a life where the strong and stalwart and majestic serve as constants for the fragile, a land where the porosity and lightness of stone do nothing to diminish its fortitude.

I want to live a life where both the dead and the living are honored, and joyously — a life where Etruscan tombs from 400 BC sit beneath the waving of wild cherries, and a waiter from lunch three days ago will wave you down in the lane for a smile.

A life where it’s okay to say hello to anyone you pass, to acknowledge life wherever it exists, including your own.

I want to live a life on many levels, from the surety and abundant offerings of ground and field to the communal path, the surprise and joy of rooftop gardens, the soaring art on soaring cathedrals to cotton ball skies and Jupiter shining above the lane after dinner in Charlie’s gardens.

I want to live a life where children in gingham smocks gather magnolia leaf bouquets and squeal with delight, where song is a part of every day’s curriculum, where physical safety is a given.

I want to live a life as many-layered as this cypress, this town, these rooftops.

I want to live a life with as much community as these vibrant streets and as much peace as these convent gardens.

I want to live a life as broad as this vista, completely unbounded by my psyche and conventions, my habits and my fears. I want a life with such clarity and vision that all of my options are recognizable.

I want to live a life where unexpected joy exists stunningly, and sometimes consists only of a gathering of simple greenery. Where the breezes dance, where the air is cool and clear and food holds the tastes of sunshine, rain, and origin.

People ask me why I travel. I travel to pull myself out of daily habits and rituals that keep me from growth. I travel to empty and refill my soul, to recapture moments that makes my heart beat faster.

So Go. See. Assimilate. Love It Up and let it make you better. And do whatever it takes to sear those images and awakenings onto your heart for the days ahead. Take photos. If there’s one thing I’ve learned taking 57 million photos of life, it’s this: turn around. From every position, there are at least two views, and they will constantly surprise you.

P.S. I’m very blessed to be traveling for six weeks in Italy and Ireland. Endless thanks to Adventures in Italy for giving me the fabulous opportunity to teach, to the loving and adventurous  group that accompanied me to Italy, to Olive Stack Gallery in Listowel Ireland for gifting me an entire month to explore and create, to the inimitable and wondrous Olive herself, and to Laura McRae Hitchcock, best residency partner on the planet. You can read more about my Irish adventures for the month of June at https://exciraanddelira.wordpress.com. Love to All!

Little Hurricanes

Prettier in Paris

My daughter arrived on Wednesday, creating a little hurricane in my carefully organized room, and isn’t that what we all need? Someone to stir the pot, to rustle us from the same old, to say “no” to our plans and shoulder us into the new?

She was ten when we first came here together, posing beneath the miniature Statue of Liberty in Luxembourg Gardens and dressed all in purple and pigtails. She won’t let me show the photo and she knows a secret: Honor the past, but don’t let it define you. I need to remember that myself.

Dressing this morning, she pulled a straw-like and scythe-shaped grey hair from her locks and held it toward me. I told her it didn’t belong there and not to worry; it had most likely blown off the weathered head of a boat captain as we walked along the Seine last night. Another gift from getting outside your self. He knows secrets too, but we decide to only imagine them.

 

Reinvention

Paris Portal I try my best to remember how long it’s been since I traveled alone. Where I went, when I last felt this blossoming possibility of quietly intense discovery, the possibility of returning to the pulse so firmly silenced by the minutiae of days upon days of falling further behind with every tick of the clock. Melodrama, and yet the truth of it eats away at me.

I’m certain there are bad meals to be had in Paris, and certain that the odds are good on a street just off the plaza in front of Notre Dame, but the dressing on my salad of bright greens and deep purples is as light and crisp as air, and the generous slice of quiche is so breathy and moist that, having baked a gazillion quiches in my life, I can’t imagine what alchemy has gone into this one, how the maker has combined eggs and cream and cheese and ham and crust to bring forth a meal totally unlike what I know as quiche. And it strikes me how life is like this: how often we look in the same direction we’ve always looked, grabbing the same materials to create a life day after day. I am a mix of A, B, C, and D, and that mix creates X. Why do I so rarely see that ABCD can create P just as easily? How are we clear-eyed and blind simultaneously?

I’ve come to Paris to meet my daughter, who’ll be reviewing hotels. But I’ve arrived a few days early to get my bearings on my own terms first. It was a stroke of genius, but the timing is awful. I’m hopelessly behind on several deadlines, struggling with remnants of the flu, and I’ll return amidst frenzied preparations for our biggest event of the year.

Notre Dame GardensAnd yet, of course, the timing is perfect, coming as it does at the moment before implosion. I’m at a tipping point, and I desperately need the space and time to reinvent. How much easier it is to take the hard looks and consider alternatives surrounded by strangers instead of those we don’t want to disappoint. How much easier it is to imagine change when everything I see is already a drastic departure from my everyday.

The girl at my left has managed all of her salad, a slab of French bread, and at least 4/5 of her enormous quiche. She sips randomly on a lemonade, an ice water, and a glass of white (not bothering to choose only one), scrolling her phone and smoking in the breezy sunlight. A couple several tables over pays and stands up to leave, the woman becoming louder and louder as she speaks with agitation to the owner. I can’t/don’t-want-to hear her, don’t want to know if she is French or American or Other, don’t want to wonder what stuck in her craw on this gorgeous day of freedom and light. She leaves and we all shake it off and try to move back to ourselves.

So what will it be Pam? In the last 37 hours of flight and flu recovery, I’ve slept 16 hours, read a 451 page book, eaten two meals, and downed 8 cups of tea. I’m primed. Let’s get to it.

Hôtel de Ville, Paris

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.

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.