By Jane Vick
Located in Historic Railroad Square, Miracle Plum Market and Wine Bar loves community collaboration. It’s evident on their shelves, in their commissary kitchen and in their public programming. To this end, June 11 Miracle Plum is hosting a stamping workshop—plied with wine and cheese—led by artist and Sonoma State art department professor Jenny Harp.
All materials are provided, including the aforementioned wine and “fancy snacks” per the flyer, as well as paper, linoleum, carving tools and ink. Participants will each make a few of their own stamps, and as many artworks with them as they desire. In addition, the group will make a large communal image on paper, during which stamp sharing is encouraged. The goal is to create a playful, stress-free space to meet new people, and make something unique. There’s no performance pressure on these stamps.
Miracle Plum is all about this kind of process. Dedicated to delicious and beautiful things made well, their love of working with thoughtful and intentional makers and artists is evident from their pantry items to their wine to their collection of ceramics. Miracle Plum’s offerings are a direct result of their caring collaborations within the community, and their goal is to continue supporting the local food, wine and art economy, and to create a place of confluence for all three. This has been baked into the company’s ethos from its origin—pun intended.
“It was something we talked about a lot at the beginning,” said co-owner Gwen Gunheim of her initial conversations with business partner and co-owner Sallie Miller. “We’re not doing anything that hasn’t been done before, and our mission is not to be in competition with any other business. Anybody who is making something wonderful—rather than trying to do it also, we want to figure out how we can do it together.”
To this end, Miracle Plum, which acquired a commissary kitchen in 2020, often rents the space to other chefs, including Song Song and Sonoma Mountain Breads, the latter of which they are also collaborating with for Father’s Day. Any baker or food business testing their concepts and working to get their model off the ground can find a culinary laboratory ready at Miracle Plum. They offer rental scholarships to women, immigrants and the BIPOC community, to ensure that those with the dream of a food business aren’t up against impossible odds due to systemic boundaries. Local natural winemakers are hosted at Miracle Plum’s storefront to share their product and process—the culinary and community confluence is always at work. A patron could happily find some of the best in food and beverage that Sonoma County has to offer here, along with connection to a dendritic network of other exceptional members of the community.
The dream of Miracle Plum came into being after the loss of Traverso’s—a blow, to be sure. I used to get a cheddar cheese and pate sandwich on dark rye religiously—to create a neighborhood market in downtown Santa Rosa with really beautiful ingredients for a picnic, or a dinner at home, a place to which a local could walk. When the building on Davis Street became available in April of 2017, Gunheim called Miller, a longtime friend, and the duo had their first business meeting that night.
As it turned out, Miller knew the building’s landlord. The two got the keys in June or July. The original plan was to change the space significantly, including building a kitchen. But just as the two moved into pitching investors mode, the Tubbs fire broke out, bringing everything to a standstill. With the incredible support of family and friends, and a significantly-scaled back business model, Miracle Plum opened.
While Gunheim and Miller are the owners, both feel nothing would be possible without their incredible team, Bonnie Dada, Joni Davis and Sydney Hollinger. That Dada is part of the team was exciting news to me—I remember her from her Flying Goat days, before she relocated to Portland, OR, as an exceptional baker and all-around joyful human to be around. She heads up the kitchen and can be found in the shop as well. Davis, who Gunheim said has a way with butter “the likes of which she’s never seen before,” is the pie, scone and galette queen. She also teaches at Santa Rosa Junior College, so Miracle Plum is grateful for any time they’re able to snag her. Hollinger, the most recent member of the team, is an expert in the fields of home cooking and wine, and is the go-to when it comes to making selections in the shop. Together, this exceptional all-women team brings the miracles to Miracle Plum, a true gem of a business in Sonoma County.
Santa Rosa born and raised Jenny Harp went to Montgomery High School before getting her BFA at Sonoma State and her MFA at the University of Iowa. Now a practicing artist and a teacher in the Sonoma State art department for the last seven years, this will be her first workshop with Miracle Plum, though certainly not her last.
“[Miracle Plum] just seems so warm and open to community events. And art, wine and food go so well together,” said Harp.
Harp pursued a few different potential lives before ultimately deciding to become an artist. Though she’d always enjoyed drawing and making art, she’d never considered it a viable or lucrative career. She bounced around in her first years at the junior college, switching her major from biology, to child development, not finding the right track. She decided to take a break from college, and moved to Berkeley with her then boyfriend, who was in the UC Berkeley fine arts program.
“Being around a bunch of people in art school made me realize that you could make it work. And I realized that art was the only field that brought all of my passions into one place,” said Harp.
For Harp, whose work is graphic, colorful and most often on paper, the process of making art is also a practice in self care. Her creative process is quite meditative, both in inspiration and in production. Harp likes to spend time noticing things often lost in the hectic pace of life, like the texture of a wall, or a certain color, and using those details as a creative launch point. Harp finds that when she focuses on a painting, her automatic thoughts, worries or otherwise running mind tends to drift to the background. She finds her attention shifts to the creation before her, and her mind begins to engage with a sense of focused curiosity, a willingness to fail within the project, to make mistakes and ask questions, to solve problems within the piece.
Harp feels that the practice of artmaking is also an act of play, and sees the value of play in the lives of adults. When Harp became a mother (she now has two children), she began to see just how closely linked to play her artwork actually is, and it’s this play space she seeks to create with her workshops.
“I know it can be daunting to come sit down, so I’ll have a clipart booklet as a starting point for people, to get things going. There’s no pressure! This is a space to have fun, connect with people and play,” said Harp.
Jenny Harp’s Stamping Workshop is Saturday, June 11 at Miracle Plum, 208 Davis St, Santa Rosa. $175 per ticket includes all materials, wine and snacks. For more information and to get tickets, visit www.miracleplum.com. To stay up to date on Harp’s upcoming workshops, sign up for her newsletter at www.jennyharp.com.