Neighborhood Shops & Such

Neighborhood Shops & Such

Picture This

If you’re like most of us, says Berkeley life coach Eva Ruland, you’re reasonably content—and “there are aspects of your life that don’t feel as perfect as you’d wish them to be.” Ruland’s SoulCollage® workshops help sort-of-satisfied folks picture—quite literally—more fulfilling possibilities. A trademarked practice combining hands-on artistic expression and Jungian interpretation, SoulCollage®, founded in 1998 by California therapist Seena Frost, might be considered the sweet spot where “How are you?” meets “Who are you?”—and spawns some revealing answers. One of approximately 800 trained SoulCollage® facilitators worldwide, Ruland, like her colleagues, has compiled a vast collection of cut-out magazine images spanning every conceivable aspect of life—arts, sports, family, spirituality, and more—for workshop participants. Collage-makers begin by choosing the images that they find most compelling to create a personal deck of cards.

Ruland, who holds a doctoral degree in East-West psychology, and offers other process-oriented collage workshops and events, then helps group members interpret their cards according to SoulCollage® principles. For example, she says, she once created a card that included, among other things, a large book and a grieving figure. The juxtaposition of these images helped her recognize her distress at being blocked on a writing project.

Although the cards themselves are often aesthetically appealing creations, no art background is required to enroll in a SoulCollage® workshop. “It’s not about the beauty. It’s really about the meaning,” Ruland says. “The beauty unfolds automatically.”

Eight-person groups, with members typically ranging in age from late teens to 70-something, meet in an attractive artists’ workshop space in North Berkeley. Ruland will lead a four-session SoulCollage® group on Mondays from 7:15–9:30 p.m., Aug. 9-30, and another four-session group on Tuesdays from 7:15–9:30 p.m., Sept. 7-28. She’ll also present a SoulCollage® introduction on Monday, Aug. 2, from 7:15-9:30 p.m., with a fee of $55. The charge for a four-session workshop plus materials is $215—“much cheaper,” Ruland says, “than a month of therapy—and chances are, more fun.”

The real you — SoulCollage® card “surprise” by Eva Ruland.

SoulCollage® with Eva Ruland, (510) 644-1566;

—The editors


A Religious Conversion

After years of managing clothing shops in the Haight and the Castro, Randy Brewer reignited his enthusiasm for the business by going in a different direction: “I wanted to feel like I was doing something of value,” he says. Thus was born Convert, a fashion-forward emporium of hip men’s and women’s clothing and accessories, all made from renewable, recycled, or otherwise eco-friendly materials—often by companies who give back to the community. Brewer had worked previously with many of the manufacturers—mostly local—who agreed to provide him exclusive garments that met his eco-conscious criteria.

Studying the materials at Convert is like taking a master class in sustainability: cashmere from goats that are grazed in a way that preserves grasslands; blue jeans dyed with recycled water or water-free ozone processing; water-based inks for organic cotton T-shirts; recycled leather or Naugahyde accessories (no Naugas were harmed in the making of these items); watches made from recycled stainless steel; and even colorful headphones from recycled plastic and metal.

Visually, the store blends elegance with cheeky warmth. A chandelier lights up the dressing area and an old gas-lit fireplace hearth bordered by iron stanchions sits on a shelf above the front door. “The community loves the idea of the shop,” Brewer says. “Some people don’t realize what’s going on when they first walk in, and that’s OK—I’m about fashion first.” This is a place you can find a hip graphic T-shirt, a jaunty straw summer fedora or striped seersucker driving cap, a sheer angelic blouse layered over a drapey hemp tank, or a man’s casual jacket—and walk out with a good conscience.

Convert, 1809B Fourth St., Berkeley, (510) 649-9759;

—Andrea Pflaumer


Through a Glass Clearly

There’s something sacrilegious about sticking a vinyl window in a Craftsman-style home. That’s where Oakland’s Wooden Window comes in. For more than 30 years, this locally owned and operated business has resuscitated ill-fitting, dilapidated doors and windows to their original glory—a boon not only to aesthetics, but to energy efficiency. “Restoration is the ultimate green and there’s nothing greener than a wood door or window,” says owner Bill Essert. “We’ve worked really hard to make a highly energy-efficient window [to] tie in with a building constructed from 1880 to 1940.”

Skilled staff assesses which windows can be salvaged using original wood and glass. (Check out the cool website video.) But “if a window is too far gone,” says Essert, the company replaces it “using highly efficient double-paned glass and sustainable wood, much of it from fallen timber.”

More than one local Cub Scout pack has visited Wooden Window’s warehouse to learn the craft of millwork—an indispensable skill for building Pinewood Derby racing cars. “Not everybody [today] is a computer nerd,” Essert says. “Some people make stuff in this world. It’s critical to our existence as Americans, as Californians. We use technology where it makes sense but the craftsmen are the heart and soul of our company.”

With multiple awards under its belt, Wooden Window is also the first call for institutional preservation projects throughout California. “We’ve done a Native American museum in Antelope Valley, the San Francisco courthouse, the Mission library, the Bohemian Club, and the chancellor’s residence at U.C.,” Essert says. “That one was fitted with bullet-proof glass.”

Wooden Window, 849 29th St., Oakland, (510) 893-1157;

—Andrea Pflaumer


Women’s Wear Daily

Decades before Brandi Chastain took her notoriously exuberant victory lap (sans T-shirt) in the 1999 women’s soccer World Cup, the federal government opened a door equalizing federal funding for female college athletes. In homage to that law, known as Title IX, a 26-year-old named Missy Park founded Title Nine, a women’s athletic clothing catalog company, launched in 1989 out of her Berkeley garage. “What gets me out of bed in the morning is being evangelical about the transformative power of sport,” says Park, who still lives in Berkeley.

Long the go-to catalog for women’s athletic apparel, Title Nine established its first brick and mortar store on 10th Street in Berkeley in 1992. Now that shop, one of only 15 in the country, has moved to the Fourth Street shopping district. The company’s inspirational messages, featured on the front window and throughout the store’s walls, would motivate even the most entropic couch potato: “We believe a fit woman is fit for everything,” “We believe aerobics may have been the start but nothing can stop us now.” And something every woman who jogs, dances, or plays basketball understands, “We believe the value of a good sport bra cannot be overstated.” In addition to their cheery, durable athletic and workout-to-work activewear, the company sells a bevy of bras, rated in barbells—five being for the richly endowed.

If you watched the Olympics this year, you no doubt noticed that necklaces are the de rigueur athletic accessory. The shop features Berkeley designer Bronwen Lodato’s silver-and-gold charms, strung on brightly colored waxed linen cord, demonstrating the essential qualities of the female athlete: delicacy and strength.

Title Nine, 1840 Fourth St., Berkeley, (510) 526-1972;

—Andrea Pflaumer

Faces of the East Bay