Remembering Claudia Hoffberg, who yarn-bombed Berkeley

Claudia Hoffberg, 62, a textile and ceramics artist, performed many clandestine acts of yarn-bombing street art.

Claudia Hoffberg. Credit: Josh Baxter

Claudia Hoffberg of Kensington — a prolific artist, loyal friend, faithful partner, loving sister, aunt, daughter, and godmother — passed away on Aug. 21 at the age of 62.

Born in Rochester, New York, Claudia held degrees in ceramics from The School of American Craftsman in Rochester and from The California College Of Arts and Crafts in Oakland. She started a ceramics studio right out of college and for 15 years showed and sold her ceramics in many galleries and stores across the country, including The Craft and Folk Art Museum, The Virginia Brier Gallery, Neiman Marcus, and 300 more.

She was always studying and practicing different art forms and, in her early 30s, she transformed her ceramics studio into a fiber studio. She hand-dyed and spun wool, wove intricate tapestries, knitted, felted, pom-pomed and explored many other forms of textile art. She taught these skills to hundreds of students at her Deep Color studio in Kensington. She also performed clandestine acts of street art under the name Streetcolor and unofficially put up her yarn-bombs outside of museums. She wrote: “I view yarn bombing a museum as tossing a ball out and seeing if anyone will play. Street art is a big part of the contemporary art scene so I place it near a museum and see if they consider street art as something they are interested in.”

She also was invited to exhibit her art in museums, including the San Jose Museum of Art, the Sonoma Valley Museum of Art, the Oakland Museum, the Contemporary Jewish Museum Sukkah Studio and the DeYoung Museum.

Her final delight was drawing, as evidenced by her dozens of journals filled with landscapes, portraits and pastries.

Courtesy of Claudia Hoffberg

Many in the Bay Area have seen her street art on bicycle racks:

On BART:

Courtesy of Claudia Hoffberg

On fences:

Courtesy of Claudia Hoffberg

Hanging from bakeries (she loved bakeries!):

Outside Nabolom Bakery. Courtesy of Claudia Hoffberg

She yarnbombed throughout the state, including in Mendocino, where she was the fiber artist-in-residence at the Mendocino Art Center in 2017:

A home in Mendocino covered in felt. Courtesy of Claudia Hoffberg

And in Paris, France:

Courtesy of Claudia Hoffberg

The press was fascinated with this form of art and many articles were written about her and her stealth assistant The Russian. Berkeleyside covered her in a half dozen stories

Why yarnbombing? As she wrote on her blog, “I really like the idea of people running into art on the street while they are just in their regular life, of art being ordinary but provocative and beautiful.” She went on to explain, “it subverts the idea that art should be inside in a gallery being judged by experts. By putting it out on the street it breaks down the barriers of what is art.”

When she was invited to be the artist-in-residence at the De Young Museum in San Francisco for the month of December 2014, she wanted to mesh an outdoor yarnbomb alongside her art exhibit. And she wanted to teach museum-goers how to create felt flowers and included their work as part of the evolving exhibit.

She gathered encyclopedic knowledge about something, practiced it obsessively and then shared that knowledge with others. Whether it was spinning, knitting, felting, kayaking (she taught at UC’s Cal Adventures for 10 years), Breema Bodywork, or, simply, how to live. She loved the work of learning something new, which is how she was able to be proficient at so many different forms of art. She wrote: “I love the process of being bad at something and steadily getting better. Many people hate the “being bad to start” so much that they don’t want to learn new skills. But you can’t get better if you don’t start kind of bad.”

Claudia loved to teach and often incorporated a teaching or interactive element to her exhibitions. She wanted as many people as possible to get to do art. Her primary focus and joy was art. In her studio, Deep Color, in Kensington, she taught hundreds of people different aspects of art-making. Many of her students have said that their lives were significantly changed by her guidance.

This was true of her friends and family, as well, all of whom have felt the incredible impact of her generous, brilliant insights in their lives. And, especially, it was the way she lived her life that inspired us all. As she wrote: “It’s an amazing thing to go ahead and do what you want to do. Very energizing. Why not?”

Claudia is survived by her partner of 22 years, Josh Baxter; her father David (Gwen) Hoffberg; her brothers Kevin (Eddy) Hoffberg and Eric (Leah) Hoffberg; her niece and nephews, Emily, Jake and Jace; and her goddaughter, Penny Armstrong.