A Northwest Indiana Life in the Spotlight: Jamie Panicali

A  Northwest Indiana Life in the Spotlight: Jamie Panicali

It’s incredible how one single moment can completely change a person’s life for the better. When Jamie Panicali was traveling the country, she never thought she’d one day settle down and start her own business. A chance encounter changed everything for Panicali; she now has the opportunity to touch people’s hearts through art and that is truly amazing. 

Panicali grew up in Lake Station and spent most of her time working at her parents’ boat marina. After graduating from high school she went to college for a while but decided she wanted to let loose and have some fun. She put the real world on hold and did what most people only dream of doing: she became a groupie. 

Panicali followed The Grateful Dead all across the country. She attended an endless amount of concerts and met countless people--she even went on the last tour before Jerry Garcia died.

Eventually, Panicali decided it was time to come back home and settle down. She started having a family and dove back into the retail business. She worked at Bath and Body Works for nine years as well as GAP and Old Navy. 

Then the pandemic hit. Art has always been a calming part of Panicali’s life, so, to escape from the stress of the world, she started making ceramics. She made so many that she had to start selling them to keep them from overrunning her house.

Panicali spent her time doing this for a while until one day she ran into a family who had a small ceramics shop in their basement. The woman who ran the shop had passed away in 2018 and her kids were looking for someone to take their mom’s molds and carry on her legacy. After talking to Panicali for a while, they knew she was the perfect fit. 

Panicali ended up acquiring over 20,000 different molds; some of the molds are over 70 years old. Wanting to spread her love of ceramics with the community, Panicali decided to open up her own ceramics shop in Hammond. She named it Gratefully Painted in homage to the time she spent following The Grateful Dead and officially opened last September. 

Even though Panicali’s shop has only been open for a short time, it’s already doing fantastic. People come from all over the place to paint, take lessons, and buy ceramics to take home. Panicali has been blown away by how successful her shop has been and loves that it’s already created a special community of painters.

“We've created a community which I didn't expect to happen. Customers have become friends here. On Tuesday afternoons a group of retired people loves to come in and hang out and paint. I have sisters that come in every Thursday night to catch up and paint together. When people are here there’s literally no one on their cell phones. Everyone's talking because they're painting and there's always a conversation happening. It's nice to give people the space for that quality time,” said Panicali. 

Because many of Panicali’s molds are so old, a lot of her ceramics are ones that can't be bought in stores anymore. Panicali is proud that she’s given people the opportunity to fall in love with old ceramics they never thought they’d get to see again. 

“A guy who was 28 came in around Christmas. He told me that when he was six years old he accidentally broke the ceramic Mr. and Mrs. Claus that his mom had in the living room and that she’s never let him forget it.  When he asked his mom what she wanted for Christmas she told him all she wanted was a new Mr. and Mrs. Claus. I had the exact Mr. and Mrs. Claus ceramics that he broke when he was little, so he painted them for her which was really neat,” said Panicali. 

Panicali hopes that as her shop continues to grow she can encourage more and more people to relax and get in tune with their creative side. 

“Painting feels like therapy--it's just so relaxing and helps get your mind off of things. I think in life everything can get a bit robotic, so just getting in touch with that creative side is amazing. I have people that come in and they're like, ‘Do you have a picture or a technical sheet?’ I tell them you don't need a technical sheet. What's in your mind is good enough. It's perfect,” said Panicali. 

Starting up her own business in such a short amount of time was no easy feat, and Panicali still finds it a bit mind-boggling at times, but she encourages anyone who’s interested in starting their own business to just come up with a game plan and stick to their dreams. 

“I came up with a business plan and wrote down exactly what I wanted and how I wanted to do it. Of course, that plan has changed 100 times since I wrote it, but you have to start somewhere,” said Panicali. 

Panicali is grateful to everyone who’s supported her. Her family and friends have been a huge help and she’ll always be thankful to the family who gave her the molds. 

Even with her new business keeping her on her toes, Panicali is still the free-spirited person she’s always been. She spends her free time going to concerts, hanging out with her family, and, most of all, just enjoying life.