Mining 8th Street East
Looking for loot in all the wrong places we came up with discoveries new to us, perhaps to you, that will please your eye and, in some cases, your pocketbook.
Somewhere along the Great Dyke, a 2.5- billion-year-old range of mineral-rich hills in northeast Zimbabwe, a Shona tribesman is this moment carving a striking, stylized face in a chunk of serpentine rock. He will sell the ensuing sculpture at a fair trade price, prior to shipment with well over a ton of other Shona sculpture to a warehouse on Eighth Street East at the southeast edge of Sonoma.
Some of that unique African art will be displayed at the Spirits in Stone gallery on the Plaza. The rest will either remain in the warehouse or be distributed to other company galleries around the state.
That warehouse is, surprise-surprise, open to the public, and because it's a working warehouse without the precise and expensive display requirements of a gallery, you can, in effect, look behind the scenes at row after row of stone sculpture, much of it available at a discount negotiated with the pricing staff. A two-inch-long elephant, for example, that sells for $40 in the gallery is priced at $10 in the warehouse. Frequently, the larger the piece, the greater the comparative savings.
What makes this so attractive, beyond the stunning nature of the work itself, is how hard Spirits in Stone works to benefit the Shona artists, keeping cash flowing into their hands that supports entire villages and conducting benefit events to raise more money.
Buying a Shona sculpture, therefore, is a gift to the self-trained artist who is then free to make more art, and a gift to the recipient who can enjoy it for a lifetime.
Spirits in Stone warehouse,
21889 Eighth Street East.
Joe Hagerman and Dan Dudgeon might not be interested in building you a garage or framing your bedroom addition, although either one could do it in his sleep and make it look like a piece of fine art.
But if you need a table built, a custom door, window frame, bed, rocking chair, banister, cabinet, mirror frame, or some finely detailed finish framing reflecting the fit and artistry of true craftsmen, you'd be hard put to do better.
These guys live and breathe wood. They touch the shimmering grain on a slab of waterfall maple like ardent lovers. The bathroom in their Eighth Street East wood shop has so many woodworking magazines someone referred to it as "wood porn."
They've done the finish framing on countless ultra-luxury homes, including much of Armstrong Estates, and Joe did the finish work on Peter Haywood's stone house featured elsewhere in this issue. Dan has portfolios of his work at www.dudgnson.com.
The two are lifelong friends sharing a work space and a passion for finding the truth and beauty buried in wood. The majority of their medium is reclaimed lumber. "We do that as often as possible," says Dan. "We go as green as we can go. Most of our wood has another life to live."
Bring them a picture of something you've dreamed of having in your home, and they'll turn the dream into fine-grained reality. "It's more of an eccentric art track, to do what we do," explains Joe. "There's maybe a hundred people like us in the nation."
20346 Eighth Street East, #8, Sonoma.
Josef Hagerman - H3 Woodwoking,
Dan Dudgeon - Dudgeon & Son,
Put your All-Clad in the cupboard for a minute and consider the Ruffoni copper pot. Conceived, assembled and blessed by the Ruffoni family in Omegna, a small town in the Italian Alps, this is arguably the finest copper cookware in the world. Hand-hammered, hand-tinned, hand-coated and hand-polished, the Ruffoni collection offers at least as much art as utility. These pots and pans and double boilers are so gorgeous, in fact, that new owners may find it hard to actually put them on a fire.
But once they do, the revelation of copper cooking invariably creates converts. Copper is the best conductor of heat and electricity-one reason the world is connected by copper wires-and it transforms the art of cooking, providing instant and even heat.
There is one significant downside to all this: copper pots are costly and Ruffoni copper cookware is among the most expensive you can buy. What to do?
Three words: Eighth Street East.
A quarter-mile south of Denmark Street at 20350 Eighth, you'll see sandwich signs announcing a cookware outlet on the east side of the road. Pull into the miniature industrial park and you'll see the Ruffoni sign on a door leading into Jacob's Kitchen, a U.S. importer/distributor selling Ruffoni out the door at deeply discounted prices. Example: A $360 stockpot goes for $252. A $224 polenta pan sells for $156.75.
Even better bargains are available for stainless steel cookware and an endless variety of kitchen gadgets.
20350 Eighth Street East, Sonoma.
There's a temptation to compare Brenda Ellis to Mad Man Muntz, the hyper-frenetic Southern California car dealer who once advertised, "We buy 'em retail and sell 'em wholesale."
Brenda is store manager at Sonoma Tabletop, an Eighth Street East outlet store for giftware, featuring wineglasses and other stemware, wine bottle stoppers of every conceivable design, tableware, napkins, place mats and tablecloths, hand-painted platters and bowls, and an endless variety of other table stuff, all at prices Mad Man Muntz would have loved.
Place mats and napkin for $2; ceramic dinner plates for $2; wineglasses for $5; bottle stoppers for $5.
Out of curiosity we put together an artful place setting (see photo) consisting of a place mat, a napkin with napkin ring, a plate and bowl, a medium wineglass and a water tumbler, all for $20.15. Is Brenda crazy? Or what?
Like many outlet stores, Sonoma Tabletop cuts prices 50 percent or more below retail, and inventory is constantly changing. On a first visit she gives an additional discount of 15 percent off any purchase over $50. Craaaaaaazy!
Open 10 to 4, Tuesday through Saturday
at 21660 Eighth Street East.
From the spring 2009 issue of SONOMA