Shopping Stories: Arts and Crafts in Berkeley’s Labyrinthine Sawtooth Building

Painter Salma Arastu surrounded by paintings in her Berkeley CA studio. She wears a beige and red sari. Photo by BF Newhall

Salma Arastu in her Berkeley studio, surrounded by hundreds of paintings, prints and sculptures she has made over the years.

By Barbara Falconer Newhall

I caught the last minute of the last day of the annual San Francisco East Bay Open Studios on June 9. I didn’t go there intending to shop. My plan was to stop by painter Salma Arastu’s studio in the funky Sawtooth Building on Eighth Street in Berkeley. Salma is an Indian woman who converted from  Hinduism to Islam — and I wanted to talk about interviewing her for my book.

As I left Salma’s studio, however, I realized  that the Sawtooth Building was rabbit warren of

A painting tucked away in the back of Salma's studio. Red and green with human figures suggested. Photo by BF Newhall

I spotted this painting tucked away in the back of Salma’s studio.

tunnel-like halls and spaces packed with painters, textile artists, jewelry makers and sculptors. My trusty point and shoot in hand, I ducked in and out of several studios.

More than 400 artists and craftspeople participated in the East Bay Open Studios this year. Sponsored by Pro Arts, the annual event takes place in Berkeley, Oakland and other locations in the East Bay.

Next year I won’t wait till the last minute to stop by.

More East Bay craftspeople at “Sue Johnson Lamps and Shades — Works of Art in Berkeley,” “Amazing Clay” and “Ceramics Envy.”

salma arastu painting detail with abstacted outlines of human heads. Photo by BF Newhall

Salma Arastu uses the human figure in her work these days.

Narrow hallway in the Sawtooth Building, which houses artists' studios in Berkeley, ca.  Photo by BF Newhallwtooth building, 2547 Eighth St. Berkeley

Narrow hallways connect dozens of artists’ studios in Berkeley’s Sawtooth Building.

Potter Bob Pool at work in his studio with orange vases and bowls in the foreground. Photo by BF Newhall

Potter Bob Pool got some work done during his Sawtooth Building open studio.

Doughtut-shaped wall sculpture by Curtis H. Arima. Photo by BF Newhall

Curtis H. Arima makes sculptures mimicking the shapes of plastic retail packaging.

Pottery plate by Bob Pool of Berkeley with peach background, lavendar spots and brown lines. Photo by BF Newhall

One of many plates by Bob Pool hanging on the walls of his Berkeley studio

Curtis H. Arima, a Berkeley sculptor, with a sculpture made of an old side table and thorny sticks. Photo by  BF Newhall

Sculptor and jewelry artist Curtis H. Arima with a work in progress. The piece needs more sticks, he says.

The painted entrance to Salma Arastu's studio in the historic Sawtoothe Building at 2547-8th Street in berkeley ca. Photo by BF Newhall

Salma Arastu painted the entrance to her studio in the historic Sawtooth Building at 2547 Eighth Street, Berkeley. The building gets its name from its twenty rows of angled skylights.




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