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These 20 Makers Are Fueling the East Bay’s Design Boom

From pot throwers and metalsmiths to extreme weavers and medicine-hat fabricators, the creative streak is strong in the East Bay. A portfolio of leading craftspeople.


Willee Roberts
Hampui Hats, Berkeley; custom medicine hats.

“Before I was making hats, I spent a lot of time praying. Hats became my channel for speaking with the Unknown. It was my service to the world.”

(1 of 20)

Meghan Shimek
Oakland; fiber art.

(2 of 20)

Roseli Ilano
Ilano, Oakland; textiles and accessories.

(3 of 20)

Liz Thayer Claflin
Thayer & Co., Oakland; leather jackets and bags.

“I recently opened a shop and workspace in Temescal Alley—a thriving community of creative small business owners, many of them powerhouse women.”

(4 of 20)

Dorian Webb
Oakland; jewelry and chandeliers.

“I make what I make because it brings me joy. It forces people to confront their expectations of me. It enables me to be seen and heard.”

(5 of 20)

Vicken Donikian
Good Fishing, Berkeley; clothing and accessories.

(6 of 20)

Candice Cox
CanDid Art, Piedmont; jewelry.

“I always tell people: ‘Don’t wear my jewelry if you don’t want to get noticed.’”

(7 of 20)

Jimmy Brower
West Perro, Oakland; home decor and jewelry.

(8 of 20)

Erica Tanov
Berkeley; clothing, textiles, and home decor.

(9 of 20)

Shawn Kam
Luvhaus, Oakland; ceramics.

(10 of 20)

Debra Szidon
The Cass Clutch, Lafayette; leather and suede bags.

“My father was an auto body mechanic. Now I’m doing the same—just with handbags. It’s a family thing.

(11 of 20)

Megan Bre Camp
Summer Solace Tallow, Oakland; skincare, soaps, and candles.

(12 of 20)

Ariel Gordon
Ariel Gordon Jewelry, Piedmont

“If I’m going to work this hard, then I want to be the one to reap all of the benefits of my hard work.”

(13 of 20)

David Jacob Ball
Jacob May Design, Oakland; wood furniture.

(14 of 20)

Sarah Koik
Koik Ceramics, Oakland.

(15 of 20)

Aman Athwal
Telegraph Ave, Oakland; kids’ clothes.

(16 of 20)

Aliya Wanek
Emeryville; clothing.

(17 of 20)

Victor Kali
Kali Made Garments, Oakland; clothing.

(18 of 20)

Melanie Abrantes
Melanie Abrantes Designs, Oakland; cork and wood home decor.

(19 of 20)

Amy Morrell
Watersandstone, Oakland; jewelry.

(20 of 20)

Editor’s Note: This is one of many stories San Francisco is publishing over the next month as part of the June 2018 East Bay Issue. To read stories as they become available online, click here. 

“The narrative
of the East Bay versus San Francisco isn’t relevant. Oakland is and has always been a giant in its own right,” says Roseli Ilano, who designs handbags and sandals in partnership with women’s weaving cooperatives in Mexico and the Philippines for her line, Ilano Design. A Pop-Up Magazine community producer by day, she hustles nights and weekends in her Oakland studio sketching new collections and fulfilling orders. Regular trips to East Bay flea markets—Laney College, Ashby, and the Coliseum are her go-tos—provide endless inspiration as well as motivation for her moonlighting. Indeed, many of the makers featured here insist that it’s the energy of the East Bay itself that fuels their artistic streak. “The culture here encourages taking risks, making your mark, and going against what’s already established,” says Victor Kali of Kali Made Garments, an Oakland-based label that makes polished button-down shirts, sport coats, and track jackets for men and women, all of which are produced in an Oakland factory. “In some ways, there’s almost a pressure to be creative.”

Pressure creates diamonds, and these days the East Bay is glittering with them. But the region’s makers and designers know that inspiration only goes so far: They also need infrastructure, and the East Bay has been quietly building up a support system for creative entrepreneurs for years. There are the local factories that Kali Made, Aliya Wanek, and the Cass Clutch use to produce their pieces. There’s an abundance of organizations that offer mentoring and education, such as the Renaissance Entrepreneurship Center, Apparel Arts, and Lana Hogue’s famous manufacturing workshops, which so many have taken advantage of. And then there are the independently owned shops that carry and promote local makers’ goods, including Øgaard, Esqueleto, Morningtide, Rabat, and dozens more.

Kali, a fourth-generation Bay Area resident and a skilled tailor, started out working in merchandising and product development for a global fashion brand. But it was his exposure to Oakland street culture that gave him the confidence to strike out on his own. And while Kali believes that the “sense of community is palpable,” he’s also pushed by the no-BS ethos of his peers and rivals. East Bay makers, he says, are “a proud group of folks, and we value authenticity, in some ways more so than talent. So if you don’t respect the game or come correct, we’ll tell you to kick rocks right quick.”

Originally published in the June issue of
San Francisco

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