Twig Shellman. Photo: Courtesy of Russell Andavall

The Telegraph Avenue vendor and street community are mourning long-time craftsman, Twig Shellman, who was killed Monday in a car crash near King City.

Shellman, 67, a longtime Grateful Dead fan, was driving back from a music festival in Ventura County on Highway 101 around 4:25 p.m. when he made an unsafe turning movement and lost control of his 1998 Toyota Tacoma truck, according to the California Highway Patrol.  The truck flipped over. Shellman was rushed to Mee Memorial Hospital but later died of his injuries.

The news of his death has hit Telegraph Avenue’s many vendors hard, said Russell Andavall, who has sold his pottery in Berkeley since 1970.

“This guy was a very popular man,” said Andavall.

Shellman, who Andavall believes was originally from New Jersey, found his way to Berkeley in the 1980s because of the Grateful Dead.

“He and a group of vendors appeared following the Grateful Dead from town to town,” said Andavall. “They sold tie-dye shirts, beads, necklaces, crystals and other items any Deadhead would buy…. When the Grateful Dead played in Berkeley, many of these touring folks joined the ranks of street vendors by buying a license and finding a place to live in the Bay Area. Twig was just one such vendor.”

In addition to tie-dye, Shellman made hair wraps, game sticks and metal objects. Shellman set up his wares, most of the time, at Telegraph and Durant, outside Bear Basics.

“His small metal figures were much sought after,” said Ted Friedman, a Berkeleyside contributing photographer.

Andavall said Shellman was a calming presence on the street, which has a number of people who can act erratically.

“We have a lot of tense situations,” said Andavall. “We have people who are bat-shit crazy. Twig, in dealing with them, was very mellow. He would calm things down, also among vendors.”

Shellman and a number of friends went to Ventura County to attend the Skull & Roses 2 Festival at the Ventura County Fairgrounds. The festival explores “unique interpretations” of Grateful Dead music, according to its website. More than 20 bands played.

Plans are underway for a colorful Telegraph Avenue street pole honoring Shellman, according to Friedman. Friends are also planning to gather Wednesday night at Ashkenaz, where the band Stu Allen and Mars Hotel will play as part of the club’s regular Grateful Dead night. Andavall said Shellman’s friends will sit together at a table and offer tributes.

Andavall said Shellman is survived by at least one brother.

Update April 18: This article has been updated to remove incorrect information that Shellman wore a chain mail vest and may have lived in a van. We also added some photos taken by Ted Friedman of a memorial set up for Shellman on Telegraph Avenue.

Memorial on Telegraph Avenue for Twig Shellman. Photo: Ted Friedman
Twig Shellman memorial. Photo: Ted Friedman

Frances Dinkelspiel, Berkeleyside and CItyside co-founder, is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California, published in November...