Christmas time is here, and that means the fun of shopping for all of your loved ones. But trying to find just the right gift may not leave you feeling so jolly. Are you tired of buying the same ole same ole? Here are a few shops in the East Bay where you can find handmade, one-of-a-kind gifts. Of course, not everything here will be to everyone’s taste, but that’s the point, right? If you want to find something different, you may have to turn over a few unlikely rocks.
2223 South Shore Center
Alameda, CA 94501
Modern Mouse Gifts sells handcrafted work by local artists. Items include jewelry, paintings, clothing, knick-knacks—almost anything you can think of, and almost entirely created within the community. And everything is one of a kind. In addition to selling handmade work and supporting local artists, the shop sponsors free craft nights (with refreshments) for crafters to develop their skills. More than just a shop, Modern Mouse Gifts is a much-loved community institution.
5488 College Ave.
Oakland, CA 94618
Pretty Penny is a very eclectic store that sells new clothes, used clothes, art and jewelry. Many of its items are original, one-of-a-kind creations by local artisans. Truly a part of the arts community, Pretty Penny often hosts art openings and fashion shows, as well as other community events. Many costumers describe the owner and staff as “super friendly.”
3883 Piedmont Ave.
Oakland, CA 94611
The Rare Bird features vintage clothing, along with local designers and gallery artists who offer one-of-a-kind creations. It has been awarded “best of the bay” classifications by both The Guardian and The East Bay Express. Not just a store, but a gallery, The Rare Bird works closely with local artists of all sorts and participates each month in the famous Oakland Art Stroll. It also offers a variety of arts and crafts classes.
2278 Telegraph Ave.
Oakland, CA 94612
This artists collective is one of the cornerstones of the Oakland craft community. It was one of the original founders of the Oakland Art Murmur, which last year attracted 84,000 visitors to its monthly First Friday Art Walk. Rock Paper Scissors is a great source for artist-made hand-crafted gifts, and even provides classes and workshops for folks that want to make their own. And your dollars spent here go to a good cause as the collective is well known for its work with Oakland youth.
Telegraph Avenue (between Ashby Avenue & Bancroft Way)
Berkeley, CA 94704
This popular street scene by the University of California, like the world famous Venice Boardwalk near Los Angeles, is one of the last survivors of the hippie era. Walking along Telegraph Avenue, you can still encounter 60s-style activists gathering signatures on petitions, street musicians and poets and more hair than you’ll find on any barbershop floor. You’ll also find talented street artisans, some of whom have been here for decades, selling a wide variety of handmade goods. Your finds might include handmade jewelry, leather goods, woven clothing, tie die or even handmade books with original writing.
Charles Kruger is well known in the Bay area as “The Storming Bohemian” ever since he entered the Bay Area cultural scene in the summer of 2009, attending 90 cultural events in 90 days and blogging about it. This project was successful enough to warrant a mention in The New York Times. His coverage of Bay area theatre can be found at Examiner.com.