Alameda Business Buzz: Sunday Crafternoons

Alameda Business Buzz: Sunday Crafternoons

Janice Worthen
Sunday Crafternoon

Handmade stamps from a recent Sunday Crafternoon at Modern Mouse. Photo by Janice Worthen.

Sunday Crafternoons have returned to Alameda South Shore Center’s Modern Mouse. On August 10 about 20 participants showed up for the first Crafternoon of the year to learn how to make handmade stamps from San Francisco artist and Foreignspell founder Niki Baker. I was one of those eager – if wary – participants.

As a Crafternoon regular, I have learned how to make everything from pin cushions to bottle cap necklaces, but I had never made a stamp by hand before. All the tools and techniques were new to me. Fortunately, Modern Mouse and its artists have structured Crafternoons to be fun but not frustrating.

Each two-hour crafting session costs just $5 per person, and this fee covers all materials, tools, and even light refreshments. Clear steps are provided by the leader of each workshop, who often travels from table to table to provide advice, tips, and personal instruction. In this way, Crafternoons allow customers to interact with local artists they admire in a relaxing and creative environment. Customers often walk away clutching their handmade treasures with pride.

I wasn’t sure I’d be one of those customers at the beginning of Baker’s Crafternoon, but her happy and confident demeanor soon put me at ease as I learned what a bone scorer and v-gauge are as well as basic techniques for stamp and printmaking. I didn’t realize until I sat down before my materials that I hadn’t planned any designs in advance, but I found a picture of a koi on my phone that I felt confident working with.

Modern Mouse owner Eleen Hsu Agustin started offering crafting workshops called “Crafty Hour” back in 2011 in order to share her love of making things by hand with the community. Sunday Crafternoons officially launched in February 2013; Hsu Agustin estimates that 15 to 30 people participate in each event.

From time to time, Modern Mouse also hosts a special version of the workshop called Sunday Crafternoons for a Cause, where participants gather to craft items that will be donated to various organizations. Hsu Agustin said one of the most popular Crafternoons so far was also a Cause event in which participants made knotted fleece blankets for Project Linus.

Hsu Agustin said she, her staff, and local artists have all taken turns leading Sunday Crafternoons, but Pollyannacowgirl’s Polly Conway led the workshops for nearly a year. Baker, who led this year’s first Crafternoon, will lead future workshops as head of Crafternoons. Hsu Agustin said special guests may also make an appearance.

Matt Ortega, manager at Modern Mouse and co-host of each event, has been helping with Crafternoons since 2013.

“The Sunday Crafternoons really bring to light what we're all about at Modern Mouse,” Ortega said. “We love handmade goods and independently designed products, so why not make your own?

“With the help of some of our amazing artists and staff, we've been able to lead these workshops for the community and let them know that we all have that creative spark inside of us,” he added. “Whether it’s crocheting, felting, printmaking or anything, we believe that anyone can craft, and I love that.”

Sunday Crafternoons remind customers to shop local and support local artisans, and Modern Mouse provides a home for those artisans. Hsu Agustin opened the store in 2009, and though it may have a small name, it carries one of the largest selections of local artists and merchandise on the Island. Shoppers can find Alameda-themed gifts including bumper stickers, key chains, shirts, pins, and much more.

Shoppers can also find art, jewelry, and clothing that celebrates the Bay Area. One of my favorite jewelry lines at Modern Mouse is hrvst3D, which makes earrings and necklaces of Bay Area landmarks out of nylon plastic; hrvst3D even has a BART necklace. I also can’t resist the work of artist Tomoko Maruyama, who provides bright San Francisco cityscapes and other cute designs on a variety of items.

San Francisco artist Nidhi Chanani, who is known for her heartwarming scenes of love, friendship, and the Bay Area, is a newer addition to Modern Mouse. I have her mermaid print on the wall in my bathroom, and her books on my coffee table.

Modern Mouse’s Crafternoons are also good for at least one other business at South Shore: Many participants stop in at Beverly’s after each event to purchase supplies to make the featured craft on their own. Baker said they Modern Mouse bought out Beverly’s supply of v-gauges for the event. After learning how to make bottle cap necklaces last year, I was able to find all the supplies I needed at Beverly’s, and other Crafternoon participants were doing the same.

I started my stamp-making by using a bone scorer to transfer a pencil sketch from a piece of tracing paper to a rubber block. I then learned how to carve the transferred design out of the rubber with a v-gauge. I found the carving to be challenging but not too difficult to enjoy, and I was happy with my final product.

For those who didn’t want to use sharp instruments, Baker provided Styrofoam pieces that people could press designs into with the end of a paintbrush. I tried this technique as well and found it to be much easier. I noticed that a v-gauge gives one a sharper line than the paintbrush, but the softer and more subtle design the paintbrush provides was just as pleasing to me.

Baker travelled from table to table to check on our progress and provide feedback. I quickly learned that the simplest design provided me with the most successful result. I stamped the journal and bookmarks that were included in my supplies with my stamp of a koi, and I made a few bookmarks with my Styrofoam acorn stamp. I was initially proud of my work, but after walking the room and seeing the amazing designs other participants created, I was duly humbled.

Looking over people’s final products was almost more fun than doing the craft. A young girl at my table bested most of us with an adorable Panda print, and other participants made everything from pugs to a collage of gears. By the end of the workshop, I was swept up in the sociable atmosphere. The community spirit that builds during these events is one of my favorite aspects of Crafternoons.

Modern Mouse provides a variety of gifts for men, women, and children. Keep them in mind this holiday season, and keep Sunday Crafternoons in mind if you’re looking for a fun and relaxing activity you can do with your family and friends. Hsu Agustin said the next craft hasn’t been chosen yet, but Niki Baker is expected to lead September’s Crafternoon, which is expected to be held from noon to 2 p.m. on September 14. Follow Modern Mouse on Facebook or check the store’s website for updates.

Modern Mouse, 2223 South Shore Center. 814-8830. Open from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays.


West Alameda: Bucket O’ Crawfish, a Cajun-inspired seafood restaurant, is now open on Webster Street. Diners can choose among crab, crawfish, shrimp, mussels, and more with Cajun, lemon pepper, or garlic butter sauce – or a mix of all three. Garlic noodles, Cajun fries, catfish, calamari, and alligator sausage are also on the menu, and a variety of draft beers is available. 1919 Webster Street; 263-8578.

Owners Zack and Cassandra Thompson have changed the name of The Diaper Connection on Webster to Sweet Charlie Boutique. Cassandra Thompson said they wanted to get away from the baby name because it doesn’t reflect the variety of merchandise the store offers. In addition to a selection of cloth diapers, the store carries clothing for girls from sizes 0 to 12 and boy’s sizes 0 to 6. Thompson said the store’s fall collection will have a larger selection of size 12 clothing for girls. 1513 Webster Street; 523-7766.

Alameda South Shore Center: Fashion store Charming Charlie and the Bagel Street Café will open this fall. Charming Charlie is hiring. Visit for more information.

Park Street and beyond: John and Linda Costello have handed over ownership of McGee’s Black Skillet Grill to Tim Goodman, who has managed it for 20 of the 37 years it’s been open. Goodman said he plans to keep McGee’s the same but wants to provide a variety of live entertainment, including karaoke and comedy, on the weekends. 1645 Park Street; 522-3470. Open daily from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.

Capone’s Speakeasy will celebrate its long-anticipated grand opening on August 30. The community can get a sense of Capone’s atmosphere and menu during a soft opening the week before the grand opening. 1400 Park Street; 522-2391.

Walgreens will be celebrating its grand opening on September 4. Stephanie Prothero of the Park Street Business Association said the drugstore chain plans to make this Walgreens a “Wellness Experience Center” where pharmacists venture beyond the counter to interact with and advise customers. Prothero said Walgreens reps expect this experience to set the Park Street store apart.

Team Silva Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and Yoga Alameda are graduating from studio space on Lincoln Avenue to their own place in the former A-1 Vacuum & Sewing spot at 1502 Park Street. They're hoping to open up shop in their new space in September.

David George will be changing the name of Park Street Antiques to Lost City Antiques, which he will run by himself as a dealer co-op after a little remodeling. 1519 Park Street; 523-0895.

Sakura Sushi Bar and Grill has finished a remodel and expansion of the restaurant, at 2408 Santa Clara Avenue, and is open once again.


Submitted by C. (not verified) on Fri, Aug 22, 2014

Your column is a wonderful addition to the Alamedan. I have attended a Crafternoon and agree they are great fun. I hope you can find out about the new businesses going in on Santa Clara Ave. between Park St. and Broadway and give readers a preview of them. It looks like something called Alameda Grocery (featuring organic items) will be coming in as well as a gift, flower and craft shop next to it. Also wondering what will be going in on Park Street (which has some vacancies now with Dog Bone Alley, the designer dress shop, the gift shop at Santa Clara and a few other tenants gone. Also Anna's Linens left So Shore as did the chocolate covered fruit shop. It appears there is a new restaurant coming to So Shore - from the sign it looks like it will be barbecue. It would be great to hear about businesses leaving as well as those arriving.

Submitted by Eleen (not verified) on Fri, Aug 22, 2014

Thanks so much for the wonderful write-up, Janice! We're so delighted that you enjoy the Crafternoon events and are grateful for your participation as well as your support of the shop and our artists. We look forward to seeing you and others at the next event. Thanks again!

Submitted by Niki Baker of F... (not verified) on Mon, Aug 25, 2014

Yay! So happy you had a great time. Loved that koi!! It was such a pleasure teaching all of you amazing students. Looking forward to seeing you at the next Crafternoon - we will be creating Fabric Bleach Art! Thanks so much!

- Niki