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One Mercantile

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Wing & Clover: An Artist’s Palette

By Kathryn Matthews
Perhaps, it’s the name “Wing & Clover” that catches your eye as you stroll down East Market Street in Rhinebeck.  Or, the chalkboard, stationed outside the storefront, listing “Weekly Workshops” that piques your interest.  Or, maybe you’ve just wandered in by accident. 

No matter.  This tranquil, white space, which triples as a workshop studio, gallery and retail store, immediately engages your imagination.  The minimalist, light-filled interior features a curated selection of work by local artists and artisans.  And a well-edited collection of art and crafts-themed books, supplies and gifts line the shelves.  Workshops run the creative DIY gamut, from oil painting and knitting, to bookmaking and Photoshop.  Taught by local Hudson Valley artists,
most classes are one-day, limited to 10-12 people, and last two or three hours. 

“We’re committed to the process of being creative” says owner Marla Walker (below left, with employees Alex Batkin and Yvette Rogers), who opened Wing & Clover last December. 

The seed for this kind of storefront was planted in 2007 when Walker, her husband, Brian Walker, an architect, and their two young sons moved from Brooklyn to Barrytown.  Away from the City, she said, “I gained not just greater physical space, but also more psychological freedom, allowing me to think and to reflect.”

This opportunity for reflection sparked Walker’s desire to be creative—and to try new things.  One of her recent creative endeavors was teaching herself how to quilt.

“I figured that there might be other people like me, who want to expand their creative horizons,” she said.  At the same time, she was meeting many talented, creative people in the area.

The impetus for opening the store—and its guiding tenet—is that an “examined life” —one that taps into your creative potential—is an enriched life. 

Its unusual name, referring to both tool (wing) and raw material (clover) that bees need to make honey, is Walker’s metaphor for the creative process.  In this case, the store supplies the books, materials and classes that help create your “honey”.

For Walker, the store has been a way to connect people who are eager to learn, with a community of local artists and artisans, who are happy to teach.  She has also just begun using the workshop studio to showcase the work of the instructors.  Eventually, what students make will also be displayed.  “It’s a great way to discover a local artist—including yourself!” she said. 

Rural Intelligence StyleThe overarching theme at Wing & Clover is documentation—and the many forms of storytelling.  One of the most consistently popular workshops is papercutting, taught by Jenny Lee Fowler, a traditional silhouette artist, specializing in custom profile portraits.  Her work, which currently appears on the cover of Neiman Marcus’ Fall 2010 catalog, is also on display at the shop.  Classes on fiction-writing, pattern-making and block printing also tend to fill up quickly.

Much of what Walker sells complement the workshops being offered.  Over time, she intends to create whole sections in the store devoted to fabric, textiles, quilting, photography and film-making, as well as art supplies for painting or collage classes.

Walker is used to thinking out-of-the-box.  While getting her Masters in Education at Harvard, she specialized in media and technology.  Inspired by her graduate work—helping inner city, pre-teen girls make documentary videos about their lives—Walker founded a “Monday for Girls” after-school program that encouraged girls’ use of technology at The Computer Museum.

From Boston, she headed to New York, where she worked as a producer at Children’s Television Workshop, then at Noggin.

Her foray into retail was another—albeit accidental—creative outlet for Walker.  In 1999, she and a friend opened “Bird”, a clothing store in Park Slope, after searching their neighborhood in vain for stores that sold cheap, stylish clothes. Filling an obvious retail void, Bird was instant hit.  (The duo sold the business to its current owner in 2004.)

But with Wing & Clover, Walker wants to go beyond just a commercial retail experience:  “I want to inspire others to participate in the creative process because, whatever the medium, we all have stories to tell.”

Wing & Clover
22 East Market Street
Rhinebeck;  845.876.1035

Summer Hours: Monday-Saturday 11am-6pm; Sunday 11am-4pm

Kathryn Matthews, Rural Intelligence’s Dutchess County correspondent, is a lifestyles writer based in Red Hook and New York City who frequently writes about travel, health, food and leisure for the New York Times, Town & Country and O Magazine.


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