Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Local business finds beauty in age

Jamie Cicatiello returned to Tuscaloosa, her hometown, with a dream. With a desire to hoist local artists up by their paint-splattered slacks, she wanted to provide a venue for their works. Her dream was realized when she opened Grace Aberdean Habitat Alchemy in January 2009.

Located on Ninth Street in downtown Tuscaloosa, her store offers artists a place to flaunt their work with the possibility of profit. Her customers get a taste of the town as they come to appreciate and connect with the local talent.

Jamie Cicatiello comments on her shop’s mission and merchandise and shares her take on the Tuscaloosa art world with the Crimson White:


The Crimson White: What will people find when they walk into your store?

Jamie Cicatiello: I think people will find items that they don’t normally see in other stores in Tuscaloosa or Northport. We do resale vintage clothing, which is popular among students, but it’s also a lifestyles store. We promote up-cycled furniture, jewelry and other accessories that have been altered by artists. The idea is to up the value of the item as the artists make the pieces their own.


CW: How did you get started in the retail and art world?

JC: Both of my parents owned businesses. After helping them and others brand their businesses, it came to a head. Do I want to work for other people or myself? I chose myself, so I went to SCAD and got my MA in photography. Everything I’d been exposed to in Savannah was nonexistent in Tuscaloosa. I felt like I could do a service bringing art, the neo-craft movement and up-cycled vintage furniture to Tuscaloosa.


CW: Where do you get your clothing and other items?

JC: I have three women who find clothes for the shop under their own labels: “M,” “This Ol’ Thing Vintage,” and a new one called “Prose and Palaver” who has an active etsy store as well. Oftentimes, people see me on Facebook and suggest their items – especially jewelry. I find local artists, tell them I have a store and ask if they’re interested in using my space. Also, I have friends who have estate sales. Funny thing, they sell me things no one else wants.


CW: What do you look for in the art, clothing, and furniture you select to sell?

JC: I look for something that speaks to me: something that brings up a fond memory or something optimistic. We are all consumers, so we consume and throw away. But the stuff we throw away is actually pretty neat. A lot of these discarded things can be reused, and I try to look for the household items that still have life. For clothing, I look for things that are fun and stylish. My customers don’t want to look like everyone else; they want to mix and match. It’s supposed to be extremely eclectic.


CW: What is First Friday? Why would students enjoy it?

JC: On the first Friday of every month, we host an event, conveniently called First Friday, where we showcase a new artist in our gallery. Sometimes we have a band, and we always have spirits and some hors d’oeuvres. The artist Alon Wingard and the rock band Shiny Machine will be featured at our October First Friday. I think students would enjoy it because the whole idea is to get people talking. The artists are available to answer any questions those aspiring student-artists might have. First Friday is a chance to network. I’ll see farmers, artists, and even people looking for internships. One of my goals is to get people comfortable asking questions to each other and artists. That way, we can build an artistically aware community. Plus, free drinks and snacks never hurt – so get there early.


CW: What local initiatives do you support around the state?

JC: We work with Homegrown Alabama – they came to me this past summer and asked if I’d be on the board. My friends and I did cooking demos to encourage the public to come down and talk to the farmers and to make healthy, fresh, fun meals. Ultimately, I want the public to be able to engage in Homegrown and understand that they can ask farmers questions. I also support Black Belt Bamboost. Three others and myself are bringing a bamboo park to Northport, and we plan on having everything planted by 2012. Of course, I love Kentuck. I’ve been a judge escort; when I showed up in fishnets, they knew I was taking it way too seriously. I’ve also helped to organize the patron party and the artists’ party on the festival weekend.


CW: What is your favorite movie, book, or artist?

JC: My favorite movie is “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou.” I like Wes Anderson. My favorite book is “The Americans” by Robert Frank. I love his photography. As far as artists go, I like Walker Evans and William Christenberry. But occasionally I’ll splurge on “The Paris Review” or “Artforum.”


CW: What do you like about the Tuscaloosa art scene?

JC: I don’t want to sound cliché, but I love its tradition. People don’t understand how liberal the Tuscaloosa art scene can be and has been. Even the music scene –recently, everything seems like it’s been thriving. There is work to be done. But I hope we’re coming into a renaissance period where art can really flourish. I hope there’s more dialogue about it. There’s a value to being creative in today’s society. I hope people in Tuscaloosa continue to take advantage of that.


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