On any given day, you will find over a hundred artists at Justin Herman Plaza at the foot of Market Street where it meets The Embarcadero, five spots at Westfield Center at Powell and Market, and the cable car turnaround. Local festivals such as the Fillmore Jazz Festival also attract street artists. Wherever you find them, whether you talk street art or the street artists themselves, San Francisco has been a great place for freedom of expression. The affordable, carry-away art can come in the form of fantasy sculptures, crochet puppets, fleece menageries, origami swans, pearl earrings, leather goods or even gorgeous, handcrafted wood pens. The photographers seem to love the water, nature and animals and many do custom work on commission.
Street Artists Program
San Francisco Arts Commission
25 Van Ness Ave., Suite 345
San Francisco, CA 94102
Street Artist spaces at Justin Herman Plaza, Fisherman’s Wharf, Downtown area, by the Cliff House at Ocean Beach and in the Castro. Click here for a guide to Street Artists maps.
Celebrating the 40th year of the street art program, the best street artists in San Francisco design and create their art in the city, which is then displayed by the Arts Commissions in Justin Herman Plaza. The San Francisco Art Commission fosters original, quality art created in San Francisco by providing affordable space in accessible, world class locations. Whether quality silver, gems and glass catch your eye, or you love photography or textiles, the art in San Francisco runs as diverse as the personalities and cultures originating it. The City makes art accessible by offering space on a street artist’s budget, at $166 a month for three months, which compares favorably to art festival prices. Each morning, 140 artists draw a space from the lottery, which the city’s art commission conducts near Civic Center and includes the few spots at Westfield Center, the cable car turntable and Fisherman’s Wharf outside of Ghirardelli Square. Many artists hold degrees in art and some had the tradition passed from parents, each artist offering originality and one of a kind treasures as well as a chance to chat with them, discuss custom work and take pictures. Stop by and take a look, especially on Saturdays.
P.O. Box 30
Moss Beach, CA 94038
Price: Swan or butterfly origami earrings – $24-28; Semiprecious bracelets and necklaces - $48 to $70; Original watercolor prints at $25 to $55 or cards at $4.95; Sea Glass Earrings – $38 to $62.
Chiyori Filion, pronounced Chee-or-ee, creates all-original, soft-finished sea glass jewelry along with eco-glass priced from $26 to $58, plus exquisite origami swan and mother of pearl earrings and pendants. She says she learned origami from her mother, an art Japanese mothers traditionally teach their daughters. She folds and varnishes birds and butterflies one by one. Filion also paints handcrafted cards with watercolor.
A. B. “Abe” Petrow
Price: Wood Pens - $25 to $65, up to $225
Abe Petrow handcrafts and engraves gorgeous wood pens that he’s been making since high school. He cuts each tiny piece and color to form precisely original designs, and sells calligraphy pens and also used turquoise. An interesting piece is Petrow’s space pen, which uses rubber instead of ink so the writer may work upside down and under water. Petrow learned his craft in wood shop in high school, a lost art as insurance problems and computer labs replaced woodworking and arts like ceramics and jewelry making.
A Thousand Words Photography
P.O. Box 9336
Berkeley, CA 94709
Price: $20, $28, $38
Do you have a nostalgic streak or love antiques or the quiet beauty of farm life? Jill Gustafson, who studied fine art in school, takes quiet, warm photographs in natural light at her parents’ homestead farm. Gustafson is of Swedish heritage and returns often to the farm in South Dakota to see the Big Sky she loves. Her heartwarming photography of home captures her mom hanging fresh laundry on the line in the summer breeze; her dad’s antique, manual typewriter that would make Herb Caen proud; the antique stove, tea cups, fresh doughnuts in the box, juicy deep red cherries in a porcelain country bowl, old fashioned glass jars and bottles in a rainbow of colors and light. Her work reflects her travels with festive Chinese parasols and Brazilian architecture’s vibrance. Gustafson sells full-size pictures, but also tiny versions in a two-sided silver pendant.
Rebecca Wolford Designs
Price: $155 to $250, Unique fused glass design
Rebecca Wolford makes bright and exotic jewelry with handmade glass beads hung from asymmetrical, silver pendants. She makes a living with her art and holds an art degree from the Art Institute in Chicago. Wolford grew up in a U.S. foreign service family, so her artistic influence first came from contemporary African artists in Ethiopia, Nigeria among other places. Wolford will participate in San Francisco Open Studios in May.
Photography and Digital Art
Price: $25 to $35
Bo Bixler plans to live on his sailboat called Imagine. He takes photographs in natural settings from the water to the zoo and Golden Gate Park. Bixler presents his work in triptych or duos, such as a zebra in sections. He’s pictured above with a sepia toned photo of his foredeck and mainsail. He says the snake on the deck is rubber, placed to fake out the seagulls and rats.
Sheila Tayler Hill
Price: Cloisonne’ and glass earrings $10; Photo cards $4; Card and matching photo pendant $20
Sheila Tayler Hill creates vivid floral pendants with her photographs, with matching original photo cards. She likes photographing wildlife parents with babies, such as a giraffe mother and baby at the San Francisco zoo. She has a lively shot of the parrots of Telegraph Hill, who reside in the trees at Ferry Park and return at dusk. Hill captures ocean waves and cable cars, too.
John O or Osterhaug
P.O. Box 26670
San Francisco, CA 94123
Price: Earrings $8; Interchangeable pendants $12 – $20
Since the 1980s, John Osterhaug has made glass jewelry, including cufflinks for the men, by creating bright and reflective, almost neon color on fused glass with oxidizing metals, which he kiln fires. Osterhaug, who learned to sail in Sausalito, is of Norwegian heritage and says his last name comes from the estate his father worked on before immigrating.
Wind Spirits Power Objects
Guidance, Insight and Knowledge
Price: $25 and up
William sells mesmerizing and hypnotic hanging art with quartz crystal balls that seem to spin in the wind, but remain embraced by twirls of stainless steel ribbon as they hang. He’s from Twin Peaks in San Francisco and waxes poetic about life to the international visitors. He calls himself the anti-Hemmingway of literature, the anti-Christ, or alternatively, a kinetic gardener as his metaphor for existence, he who wants to transform life. “For the better,” he adds wryly.
Fine Jewelry Design & Composition
40 Rich St, Unit B
Greenbrae, CA 94904
Price: $100 to $1,000
Michael Borofka designs simple and substantial oval rings and pendants in solid tones, each with a story to tell. Gaze at the Citrine and blue topaz or London blue from Brazil; petrified Palm Wood from Indonesia; green Vesuvinite from Mt. Vesuvius; or a ring with a face carved in Mastodon by Innuits in Canada. Borofka rolls out all the gold and sterling silver and cuts the settings from scratch. Originally a gallery artist from Carmel, Borofka also sells natural black diamonds from India, which he says are individually cut and strung into a necklace.
Mara Murray sews fleecy, cuddly, tactile creatures bursting with color and imagination, from giraffes to cats to porcupines. Murray started her art form after collecting dolls from her travels, after which friends requested her to make some. She honors custom requests and will ship, but only sells at the San Francisco location. A former creative director, Murray one day had an epiphany and decided to quit to do what she loved. Now, she says, work is fun instead of obligatory. Mara also helps photographer Joe Ramos of Homeless Connect, who is known as the “photographer who sees the homeless with dignity.”
Jackie and Sue
843 Taft St
Fairfield, CA 94533
Jackie and Sue started their fantasy ceramics with dragons evolving into comical cat fish (cats with mermaid tails), flying pigs, a pink elephant and Big Red the octopus. Jackie and Sue also create a collection of colorful little chickens as well as a big red rooster and bunnies, some of which are stoneware and may live outside in the garden.
Handmade silver jewelry
567 Kansas St,
San Francisco, CA 94107
Emilio Sotelo is an affable young man who learned from his father to create original silver designs, his signature being a whimsical daisy. He only uses solid silver, which is easy to keep shiny. Sotelo has cheerful, lighthearted pieces and designed a special hoop earring from which a butterfly hangs in the center. He also creates starfish and stamps his initials in each piece.
Price: $20, $40
Mandi Stillwell is a friendly newcomer to the Arts Commission program and started with her pictures of antique boats and local surfers, customizing shots by overlaying other shots. She texturizes and enhances photos. A 75 year old fishing boat called the Nina Tarantino, heading to the Golden Gate, has an overlaying shot of parchment to make the shot look antique and compliment the aged wood of the boat’s foredeck. She also has an interesting shot of surfers walking with their boards with a cross walk superimposed in the sand, a twist on the Beatles’ Abbey Road. She posed for a picture next to her work with her dog, a chocolate brown spaniel named Lennon.
San Francisco, California
Sureyya Ozsoy learned to crochet and knit from her mother and transferred the skill to wire, creating fishnet necklaces with gems in the netting and starfish charms dangling. She twists some of her designs and some joke it’s a strand of DNA. She has fluffy colorful scarves with materials she purchases in her native Turkey, and some designs more upscale for business attire.
Tania Echegaray, an engaging and resourceful personality, designs by transforming sweaters into new creations, a twist on quilting. She says with animation that many things are reusable if you give them a little twist (such as hand stitching, shrinking and cutting) to transform them. She makes neck warmers and scarves from sweater sleeves to give them shape, movement, interest and a sense of fun. Echegaray also makes a perky knit hat with a drawstring at the top to hang a pony-tail out of. Match that with a cashmere knit purse.
Price: Crystal jewelry with sterling silver wire $5 to $28
John Ammann creates dangly heart and obelisk earrings in pretty colors using Swarovski crystals and good, 20 gauge silver wires cast in Petaluma. He will also rewire earrings purchased elsewhere. Check out a pair of his dangling silver feather earrings.
Anne Dal Pozzo
Vintage and gothic, Dia De Los Muertos
Anne Dal Pozzo paints little canvases with vibrant color in interesting graffiti artist style, mixing vintage and gothic, turning Victorians into skeletons like Dia De Los Muertos figures. She finds 1800s posters and the artist Passaro inspirational, and likes Haight Street cards, which she turns gothic. No two paintings are alike.
San Francisco, CA
Price: $18 to $22 puppets in natural fibers
Diana Samuelson’s puppeteer characters come with a handcrafted tiny envelope with the character’s name. She crochets in silk and wool, inspired by children’s books. Also find fun jewelry like a bracelet made from a bunny eating a carrot or a scarf from a sea serpent. She only appears on Saturdays.
Make-Up by Minnie
Laura Mercier Counter
Macy’s Union Square
San Francisco, CA
Some art graduates work in unexpected places, such as makeup counters at Macy’s on Union Square. Minnie Netty graduated from U.C. Berkeley with a degree in art history and works independently as a make-up artist. Minnie is putting together a portfolio from weddings and private events.
Related: A Guide to Literary San Francisco
Finally, you will find street artists at the festivals such as the Fillmore Jazz Festival.
Fillmore Jazz Festival
Fillmore Street between Eddy and Jackson
The Fillmore District
San Francisco, California
July 7 and 8, 2012 from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Price: Free admission
Visitors blend art, music and food over 10 blocks, including fine arts and crafts, jazz performances and swing dancing. 90,000 visitors have a choice of live Venezuelan, Cuban/Latin, Hawaiian, Flamenco, Nigerian music and more. You can even learn to swing with no partner and no experience necessary, or watch the pros perform. This is the coolest neighborhood in San Francisco, below Pacific Heights and nestling up to Japantown. Shoppers enjoy the Nordstrom of Goodwill stores or consignment shops to the hippest boutiques and bistros.
Related: Best Dance Studios
Cindy Warner is a freelance writer and a San Francisco Bay Area native. Cindy has covered SF theater and opera for Examiner.com via her bicycle since January 2009. Check out her work on Examiner.com.