By Becca Freed

If the prospect of braving the megastores or picking up a handful of plastic gift cards at the grocery store isn’t putting you in the holiday spirit, consider doing some gift shopping with local artists at the Berkeley Artisans Holiday Open Studios.


Running every weekend through December 20, this Berkeley tradition of nearly 20 years features the work of 100 artists and craftspeople. A map to all the participating studios is available from the Berkeley Artisans website or at any of the studios on the self-guided tour.


Yesterday I visited a handful of studios in the Sawtooth Building on 8th St. between Parker and Dwight, as well as in the ActivSpace building on 7th St. between Carleton and Pardee. My friends at A Verb for Keeping Warm are not participating in the Open Studios program, but they are having a holiday party this weekend that continues through 5 p.m. today (Sunday, Dec. 6). Stop by to see (and touch) their hand-dyed yarns and handspinning fibers, meet Marcel the bunny and Cleo the dachshund, watch a spinning demonstration, think about learning to spin yourself and check out their class schedule, and peruse the wares from local fiber vendors Girl on the Rocks, Faerie Mountain Fibers, and Pigeonroof Studios.


Also in the ActivSpace building, I stopped in the studio of Mirto Golino and had a lovely chat with her while admiring her crocheted hats and mitts and her mixed-media sculptures. Derik Van Beers’s ceramic skulls feature found objects and epigrams. In the pop-up shop hosted by Papaver Vert and Relish at Home I found some intriguing and inexpensive accessories (I should go back and pick up a necklace for my niece), as well as lovely modern housewares and stationery. In Shaya Durbin’s jewelry studio I admired her graceful hand-hammered hoops and the intricate work by David Giulietti. I think my mom would really like one of James Nevitt’s peppermint candy–striped plates (also on display in Shaya Durbin’s space).


Two of my favorite stops in the Sawtooth Building were at This Into That, where Jim Rosenau crafts furniture (including shelves and tables) from vintage books, and Katie Carrin’s studio, where she makes beautiful pendants from sea glass, pearls, and gems. My wife needs to pay Katie a visit, because one of her necklaces is now on my Christmas list.


I also lingered over the photo prints by Katie’s studiomate, Carl Mehler. I really liked his themes and aesthetic, and his prints are very reasonably priced. I felt a bit Scrooge-ish keeping my wallet in my purse throughout my visits yesterday, but there are two weekends between now and Christmas, and I gotta pace myself.

These are just a fraction of the artists all around town who are showing this month—some studios are open on the weekdays leading up to Christmas; check the tour map. All of them would love to meet you, show you their work, and hopefully send something home with you. Get out there and explore for yourself.

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