Memorial Day (Commission) – Origin Story

Art, collaboration, creativity, inspiration, Narrative, Origin story, process, Story, Works In Progress
This Spring, I received a captivating commission request. Chris Weber and Jack Gingrich were long-time employees and soon-to-be co-owners of The Herbfarm, a restaurant that creates thematic 9-course dinners showcasing the exceptional seasonal food and wines of the Pacific Northwest.

In his initial email, Chris shared The Herbfarm’s compelling origin story. Theirs is an inter-generational story of hope, ambition, success, tragedy, resilience, and grace. At its essence, this painting would be about inheritance and legacy ~ my creative core. As I read it, I could clearly see how every layer of this painting could correspond to a chapter in The Herbfarm’s life.


On our site visit, a few more things came into focus. The decor of the restaurant is formal Victorian, which is not in my artistic wheelhouse. Having an abstract piece was going to be a departure, so I wanted to keep it simple, organic and elegant. I wanted the painting to feel like a weathered, textured rock face you might encounter on a hike. Against the dark walls, this statement piece would be mostly white and monochromatic. We decided on a diptych with a circle connecting the two halves, but wanted to make sure the two halves could also stand on their own. And mimicking the restaurant’s palette, I limited my paint palette to natural, earth-based pigments ~ ochres, umbers, saffron, indigo… 

 

The following process photos show the evolution of this painting. The captions are pulled from Chris’s initial email…but you can find a beautiful rendition of The Herbfarm’s history on their website.

The original owners, Carrie Van Dyck and Ron Zimmerman, started this restaurant in a plant nursery; Memorial Day 1986. 

 

 
It was built from the ground up…

 

The restaurant flourished…

 
…receiving national recognition and a dedicated cult following within a decade. 

 

 

 

 

 In January 1997, an electrical fire burned the restaurant and offices to the ground. 

 

Ron and Carrie spent the following two years trying to secure rebuilding permits, all the while operating out of temporary structures. In the end, the permits were declined.

 

During the site visit, Chris gave me a small bag of ashes from the fire. We embedded the ashes in this piece as a way of honoring the history, sacrifice, loss, and resilience they represent. Out of these ashes, Ron and Carrie created something beautiful. We hoped to reflect this transformation in this piece… 

 

 

Ron and Carrie ended up getting a small group of investors to help them build a new restaurant in Woodinville, WA; Memorial Day 2001.  

 

New beginnings…

 

 

On March 1st 2021, Chris and Jack, both long-time employees, purchased the restaurant. 

 

In preparation for the transition of ownership, Ron and Carrie spent several months helping Jack and Chris acclimate to their new positions while they phased themselves out. 

 

On Memorial Day of 2021, 35 years to the day of opening, Ron and Carrie retired, leaving their legacy in the capable hands of the next generation of restaurateurs.

“Memorial Day” (diptych) ~ Oil, cold wax medium, ash. 36″x 48″

Leave a Reply