East Bay Open Studios 2013

East Bay Open Studios at the beginning of June is an ideal time to visit artists you know and also to discover some you don’t. The newly formed South Berkeley Artists group has been meeting regularly to discuss and show current work and now we get to share it with a much wider audience. Each member works to a high standard and the variety is amazing. We’re challenging visitors to make a trip to each one of the ten studios listed on our map and report back. The numbers correspond to the ProArts website map and you can also download our local map from the link below.

Download South Berkeley Artists 2013 MAP 

.MAP-postcard

You know it makes sense

Visitors get an opportunity to see work in progress and discover where an artist might be heading as well as seeing and connecting with the materials and methods of each artist’s approach. Buying work directly from artists can also be a sensible financial move and many in our group are happy to take commissions.

We all look forward to seeing as many old and new friends as possible during these hectic first two weekends in June.

The full list below is also on our embryonic blog http://southberkeleyartists.tumblr.com/

  1. Peter Baczek: Printmaking & Painting, 2808 Adeline Street, #4, (510) 841-1774, www.baczekstudio.comimage
  2. Ekabhumi Ellik: Painting & Drawing, 2112 Carleton Street, (510) 684-0970, www.oneearthsacredarts.comimage
  3. Harley Jensen: Photography, 131 Alvarado Road, (510) 917-7837 www.harleyjensen.comimage
  4. Kristen Jensen: Painting & Jewelry, 131 Alvarado Road, (415) 310-1103, www.kristenjensenstudio.comimage
  5. Maj-Britt Mobrand: Weaving & Textiles, Glimakra Weaving Studio 2728 MLKJr. Way, (510) 549-0326, www.tapestryweaverswest.orgimage
  6. Fran Osborne: Painting & Printmaking, 2925 Ashby Avenue, (510) 717-8612, www.franosborne.comimage
  7. Gillian Servais: Painting and Mixed Media, 1219 Grand View Drive, Tel (510) 548-8453, www.gillianservais.comimage
  8. Sylvia Sussman: Painting & Printmaking, 2227 Parker Street (rear), Tel (510)  843-0370, www.sylviasussman.comimage
  9. Lee Williams: Painting and Mixed Media, Glimakra Weaving Studio, 2728 MLKJr. Way, Tel (510) 206-9265, www.leewilliamsart.comimage
  10. Joanne Yeaton: Printmaking (Sundays only), 2733 Alcatraz Avenue, Tel (510) 655-5612image
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Sacred art awakening

South Berkeley Artists Profile 2

On an ordinary Berkeley street just off Shattuck Avenue, in a typical lower-level studio, a unique artist works carefully, and with great focus. What is not so ordinary however, is that the artist is also a student and teacher of Classical Tantric Hatha Yoga, and his studio produces sacred art and images for meditation. Enter the studio of Ekabhumi Ellik, and you will step into the realm of a tangible and ancient spiritual practice and discover a complex and beautiful artform that is integral to the practice of tantra.

Yantra, by Berkeley's Sacred Artist Ekabhumi Ellik

Yantra by Ekabhumi Ellik

How is this kind of traditional sacred art developing within our contemporary western culture? Is this an artform we can appreciate even if we don’t share the faith, or can we best understand it as sacred craft? How do Ekabhumi and his assistants keep their hands steady when painting all those freehand lines? Still so many questions.

From artist to poet and back again

Like many artists Ekabhumi’s creative journey has been an unpredictable one. He went to art school in SoCal but became frustrated with the gallery system and wanted to follow a different path, one that would lead him away from visual art completely, into a twenty year career as a poet, emcee and organizer of poetry competitions, as well as a teacher and coach for poets of all ages. He returned to making art with his hands again in 2010.

Ekabhumi Ellit, South Berkeley Artists

Creating sacred art

While this work uses the wide visual vocabulary of several traditions, he and his associates specialize in Tantric Hatha symbolism. The imagery one usually sees of deities such as Kali and Lakshmi often date from the stylistic dictates of much earlier times, with goddesses dressed in the royal garb of a particular kingdom. The challenge for a sacred artist today is to capture and embody the same essence and original meaning of the image but try and modernize a little for western practitioners. Updated depictions of deities such as Ganesh, Lakshmi or Kali have more humanoid physiques for instance. Though the visual differences from earlier times are subtle they are quite significant because, as with any religious or faith system, the visual stories they use carry a meta meaning, more than a sacred text can convey.

A book release for spring carries illustrations by Ekabhumi in Awakening Shakti, The Transformative Power of The Goddesses of Yoga, a book by Sally Kempton from Sounds True Press.

The grammar of yantra

While tantra refers to certain religious rituals and meditation practices that have influenced Hindu, Sikh and Buddhist traditions since at least the 5th century, of itself however, it is not a distinct religion. Tantra involves the use of the mantra, phrases repeated while meditating, and the yantra which is a physical and symbolic tool for meditation focus. Each geometrical element of a yantra has a specific meaning and the composition of the overall design may follow traditional configurations for deities or vedic astrological planets. I find it fascinating that the elements of yantra grammar relate very closely to the symbolism of other systems of visual language. Architectural yantras for instance may be used as the ground plan for temples and within this plan, basic geometrical elements have specific meanings and can be ‘dynamic’ or ‘static’.

Ekabhumi’s studio produces large colorful yantras, beautifully painted on wood completely by hand, and built up in layers so that the object has a clear physicality. All are created with the same kind of spiritual devotion and ritual preparation that are an essential part of their purpose and meaning. The pace of creation has to be slow, the intention clear and the mind focused in order to produce perfect lines and curves by hand. I wonder what kind of art we would all create if meditation were to become standard artistic practice.

If you need to know more, Wikipedia has some great information about tantric traditions and history and you can contact Ekabhumi directly here. For information on his yoga classes at the Yoga Tree on Shattuck Avenue in Berkeley, visit the main Yoga Tree website.

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Maj-Britt Mobrand weaves jazz

South Berkeley Artist Profile 1

Maj-Britt (pronounced Mybritt) Mobrand is an expert weaver and teacher of weaving, and a founder member of the South Berkeley Artists. I used to drive past her very enticing Glimakra Weaving Studio, and wonder who worked there, and how they were making a living as a craft weaver in the 21st century. I was very fortunate to meet Maj-Britt, as part of the East Bay Open Studios 2012, and she shared some of her work and process with me.  She came to the US in 1961 and learned to weave in classes at the Berkeley Adult School and in Sweden. It’s perhaps no surprise that she comes from a family of weavers and textile people from the south of Sweden.

Maj-Britt

The Code of Weaving

Many of her pieces are inspired by her love of jazz, and often use strong colors and abstract forms that seem to reflect her dual heritage as well as her love of practicality and order. Maj-Britt explained that the weaving loom was a precursor of the computer and I began to understand and marvel even more at the parallels and relationships between mathematics, music and weaving. She often uses complex repetitive, graduated rhythms, varied textures and subtle color progressions, though some pieces are more subdued and earthy.  I noticed as she worked in her studio, that even the sound of the loom in operation has its own soothing musicality. “You start a weaving and see where it will take you” she told me.

Maj-Britt Mobrand, weaving, Berkeley

Maj-Britt takes weaving to the streets

Community

Being a craftsperson and artist can often be a solitary and all-absorbing activity but Maj-Britt also teaches and is not shy about bringing her art to the streets. The vintage image above dates from the 1970s when the Berkeley Coop was in full swing, and note that she still wears that groovy hand-woven dress.

Maj-Britt Mobrand, Watermelon Man, 48" x 58"

Maj-Britt Mobrand, Watermelon Man, 48″ x 58″

One large abstract piece welcomes visitors to the studio. “Watermelon Man”, a well-known Herbie Hancock track, began life as a small watercolor by one of her grand-daughters and she found it so unusual and wonderful she wanted to use it as the basis for a larger work. The original design was quite small and Maj-Britt had to enlarge it to make a huge and distinctive weaving at 48″ x 58′. 

In addition to the freeform weaving shown here, she also takes commissions and produces beautiful hand-woven scarves and wraps in a myriad of colors and combinations.

A short blog post can only be a taster of her work, and photographs do not easily reveal the variety of colors and textures or the beautiful natural yarns that Maj-Britt uses and so I urge you to visit her studio during one of the weekends of East Bay Open Studios, June 1,2 and 8,9 2013.

Her studio is at 2728 Martin Luther King Junior Way, Berkeley 94703, or call 510 549 0326. You can email her at glimakraweavingstudio@comcast.net