Monday, May 13, 2013

Patchwork Show at Jack London Square

     If there is one event in the Bay Area where I can really get into trouble, financially speaking, it's the Patchwork Show at Jack London Square in Oakland.  The Patchwork Show is a collection of local vendors who sell handmade products from art and clothing to food. The show was founded by Delilah Snell and Nicole Stevenson who call it a "modern handmade festival" (see their website at The show has been going on in various areas, especially California, twice a year.  And just last year the show came to Oakland, a test of the handmade market in the Bay Area.  Needless to say, demand is thriving.
     To give you a better sense of what you'll find at the show (and won't be able to live without), I'll walk you through my own path of destruction.  My first stop was at MisoHandmade where I found tote bags with a silhouette of my favorite dog breed (pug) sewn onto the front.  I also found a set of magnets of funny pug close-ups, a set of magnets with crafting quips, pro-pet pins, and a squeaky donut for the pug himself.  Next was Bottle of Clouds where I found hand cut and hand painted wooden pins by Min.  Her designs are cute, classy, unique, and very Bay Area.  I chose one with a picture of a scooter and a heart.  Then on to OopisNein where I found a few more "plushies" for the pug in my life, two cute little creatures artist Gretchen Lewis calls "Baby Octopods."  I picked up one-of-a-kind scarves from Lazy Lotus and Harlequin Feltworks, handmade stickers from Bird vs Bird and PapaSupply, and a wall hanging of the mounted head of a monster called "Uniworm" from Ghoulie Girls.  I was also tempted by handbags, shirts, art, jewelry, and knick knacks.
     What will impress you the moment you enter the show is the detail each artist has put into their business.  This detail starts with the materials used for the products (antique metals, repurposed maps and wood, handmade paper...) and extend down to things as small as the business cards.  Each card is a work of art in itself, and it is a fun challenge to collect one from every booth for a scrapbook of future shopping.  Each piece from every vendor is of the highest quality.  The designs are fresh, unique, and full of local flavor.  If you want a necklace, a wallet, or a scarf that set you apart and beg for compliments, this is the first place to look.  And almost every vendor has a shop on Etsy so you can continue shopping after the show.  This is an event that proves that the American craft scene is alive and thriving.  You can visit the show's website at (seriously, this is your second chance to CHECK IT OUT) to get a feel for the designs you'll encounter, pictures of the event, locations and times, and other info.
     The Jack London show is held in the old Barnes and Noble building right down by the water.  And this May's event coincided with the Jack London farmer's market, so shoppers could take a break and pick up a few pieces of fruit, a slice of stone fired pizza, or some freshly baked bread.  Shoppers could also take a break and enjoy the free yoga session on the water's edge.  I personally enjoyed having lunch on a bench watching the ships pass.  And I definitely needed to take a time out.
     Overall, Patchwork is a show that reinvigorates shoppers.  I usually can't help making frequent outbursts about how cute, unique, or new an item is at every single booth I visit.  Much to the joy of the vendors.  The artists' use of their material is brilliant.  There handiwork is exceptional.  And everyone is so happy.  These are people who do what they love, make what they sell, and support their local economy.
      If you missed May's show, you have another chance to redeem yourself.  The next show is on November 24th from 11 to 5pm.  Christmas shopping.  Check it off.  Oh, and you better start saving NOW.

Photos (top to bottom): My sister Hilary wearing one of the felt scarves from Harlequin Feltworks; a view of the farmer's market with the water in the distance; unique finds at this year's event; and the Jack London Pavilion where the event took place.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Alameda Farmer's Market

     Something magical happens in the Bay Area on a weekly basis.  I'm talking about The Farmer's Market.  You might think me sentimental calling a farmer's market magical, but in today's corporate climate, it is almost miraculous that something like a farmer's market even exists.  Let alone thrives.  And out of all the places in the U.S., the Bay Area probably has the most and best farmer's markets.  One of my favorites is the Alameda Farmer's Market.  Not only is the vendor turnout strong and consistent, the produce is always perfectly ripe, and the selection is always excellent.
    The Alameda Farmer's Market also happens twice a week year round.  Depending on your schedule, you can visit the market on Tuesdays from 9am to 1 pm or Saturdays from 9 am to 1 pm.  The market is located on Webster and Haight so you can have breakfast or lunch at one of the charming local eateries either before or after the market.  My suggestions are CafĂ© Jolie, Domenico's Italian Deli, or Croll's (especially if you want a little something to drink).
    Or grab the ingredients to make your own tasty and unique meal from the market.  Items I always get are a variety of homemade breads, local honey, organic fruits and vegetables, hummus, pita chips, flowers, and kettle corn.  The bread vendor always has whole loaves ranging from sourdough to levain as well as individual pastries and croissants. The honey vendor offers clover, flower, and sage honey.  And you can actually watch the bees hard at work! Organic fruits I've recently enjoyed include Asian pears the size of grapefruits and strawberries the size of baseballs.  My favorite vegetables include radishes, snow peas, and carrots.  And if you like the kettle corn, you should also pick up a bag of caramel corn.  You can also find a homemade soup vendor, a butcher, a pie maker, and a vendor who carries every Indian spice and ingredient you could ever need.
    I have to dedicate a whole paragraph to the hummus vendor (Hummus Heaven).  Not only do the workers of this booth encourage you to try every hummus they offer, they can tell you which hummus works best with which foods.  And talk about variety and quality.  You won't find a better selection anywhere.  They have any flavor you can think of.  Avocado, artichoke, tomato, garlic, jalapeno, chive, eggplant, basil...The list goes on and on.  And they also sell pita chips to go with their hummus.  These crispy beauties are buttery and wholesome.  You can get garlic or lemon pepper.  And the price is great.  You get three items for $15.  So you can choose three different flavors of hummus or get two dips and a bag of pita chips.  You'll definitely be coming back for more.
    Because of the Alameda Farmer's Market I always have fresh flowers in my bathroom, kitchen, and balcony.  You can get a beautiful, varied bouquet for just $3, and the flowers will stay fresh for up to two least.  My current bouquet includes tiger lilies, mums, carnations, gerbera daisies, and baby's breath.
    There's always a musician to listen to while shopping, schmoozing, and eating.  And the vendors are all very friendly.  It's almost not an option to pass on free samples.  But beware.  Anything you sample you will probably buy.  This market, in particular, reminds one that supporting local vendors, farmers, and businesses is not only affordable, it's fun.  What better way to enjoy your community than to go out and taste it.  If you want to try something new and unique, you have to shop the Alameda Farmer's Market.  You can learn more about it at  Or visit your own community farmer's market.  Remember that these are the people who keep variety, quality, and the environment alive.