(originally posted March 17, 2010)

Time to tell you how we’re going to fill up our dance card this spring:

Next week we will paper over the windows at Artists & Farmers for a major systemic Spring cleaning. When we re-open, as Studio Barndiva, we will have lightened our load of small pieces, allowing us to deepen our connection to painting and sculpture and giving us enough room to use the gallery for live events. In April we’ll move outdoors and “finish” the gardens. In May we’ll throw a party to celebrate with Friends of Barndiva. We wouldn’t be able to do any of this without your support.

For the past three years Artists & Farmers has been privileged to represent some of the finest craftsmen and women in the world, many of whom had no previous representation in this country. That will not change. But our strength as a family, and as three individuals, has always been to follow our interests, and our instincts, even in the crazy world of food, drink, art and design, even as this recession rocks us all from side to side, up and down. You don’t get on a roller coaster unless you crave, at some level, thrill for the ride. And while uncontrollable forces can make you dizzy (or sick to your stomach) they can also make your heart beat a little faster, your creative juices start to flow. We feel a flow coming on.

Most of you know the history of the studio up to now. My friend Bonnie Z is fond of putting on what she thinks of as her Bella Lugosi voice (which in reality sounds more like one of her crazier chickens) to intone ‘first there was 3.... then there was 2… then there was…’ but as we’ve run through partners, eventually inheriting the entire space, we’ve used the time to study this extraordinary property. Building the herb beds and throwing down Sonoma gold on what was just a parking lot was a no-brainer, but we’ve never lost sight of the fact that this land, before the old auto-body shop was built on it, once housed Healdsburg’s first opera house ~ can you imagine the cultural optimism this town had two hundred years ago to have tried to create that scene when you still tied up horses at the front door?

We’re not advancing the notion that a frontier opera house is what’s missing in town (though we certainly wouldn’t mind one) merely that a little frontier spirit is never amiss, especially now. Our MO, the same one that built Barndiva ~ is to have fun, work hard, and build something that doesn’t exist yet in town. We want to be proud of the product we’re selling, whether it's an invitation for you to eat and drink in one of our spaces, entrust your wedding day with us, or buy an object of significance in the gallery and take it home.

So here’s our thinking:

  • There are wonderful galleries in town, but there remains a need for art + performance.
  • There is not yet a great space to dance after a wedding, then stumble safely back to your bed whether it's in a hotel or your own home.
  • There is no small venue, no beautiful room, where a string quartet can play on a summer eve while you sip.
  • The town could use a salon ~ the 18th century definition of one (look it up) where lively intellectual conversation in the fields of arts and letters and, yes, politics, are discussed with wit and verve (remember those things?) over a good cocktail.
  • Finally, if all that weren’t enough (we will never be accused of doing things in half measures) we’d like to advance the notion that coffee is not the only hot drink we long for throughout the day (sorry Phil). I drink tea a lot ~ not least for it's suspected medicinal effects ~ black in the morning, white in the middle of the day, a lightly caffeinated green to get me to cocktail hour, after which my momentum seems almost pre~ordained. But I wasn’t always a tea drinker, even after many years in London. My friend Todd at Rishi never gave up on me, sending small elegant black sachets with every Barndiva order, with intriguing names like Iron Maiden and Ancient Moonlight White. The idea for an occasional tea bar came to me one afternoon during a very long walk across Paris. I must have passed two hundred great bars ~ you know the ones, zinc or marble counter, Godard pinball sounds in the background ~ where for 3 euro’s I could have walked up to the bar, slung my foot over the brass rail and had a moment to myself over a quick espresso. Jeez, even the Queen of England calls it a quick cuppa~ why can’t you get a perfect cup of tea, made and served properly (as befits a drink that goes back 2,000 years) the same way? In the new gallery space we’ll be working with our friends at Rishi, ~ who we believe source the finest organic, fair trade teas in the world, to redress this inequity.

Things will change slowly until the end of May when wedding dinners start beneath the arbors in the new Studio gardens. We invite you to come in and share the transition period with us. If you are on this list you’ll naturally be invited to our Salon Evenings and all of our opening night parties for art shows, the first of which will be Art of the Rind, with photographer Wil Edwards, working with Cowgirl Creamery, in June. In July the crazy talented (and just plain crazy) Frane of worldwide children’s book fame will be in residence. Frane is working big for the first time in years ~ this is fabulous work, work to make you dream, and we are so proud we will be representing her. If we play our cards right in Carmel next week, Susan Keifer will follow Frane in August.

But hey, listen, If you don’t collect art, have no interest in raising high the roof beams at a wedding, are uncomfortable with the idea of Salon Evenings, and would never be caught dead alone at a bar with a cup of rare tea, you still have something to look forward to after our upcoming zeitgeist at 237 Center Street…For YOU, dear reader, there is the great news that as we shift our wedding celebrations to the Studio, Barndiva will be no longer have to close to the public on Saturdays!


All text and photos, Jil Hales (unless otherwise noted)