July 22, 2014
The artist behind the popular Eat Local Calendar, Maria Schoettler draws inspiration from Oakland’s farmer’s markets and reminds us how lucky we are to have so much beautiful produce at our fingertips. When she first moved here, she says “Oakland felt like uncharted territory, where exciting things had space to grow.”
This summer I will have lived in Oakland for seven years. In the exact same apartment in Temescal the entire time, at that! When I was deciding where to go to undergrad, it was between Berkeley and Santa Cruz. I visited Berkeley and instantly felt so at home in the area, though I ultimately decided Santa Cruz was a better fit for me. I had misgivings about this choice because I loved the Berkeley area so much, but I told myself that it was fine, I would live in the East Bay after graduating, and that was exactly what I did.
I originally wanted to live in Berkeley, but my boyfriend at the time, who I was finding a place with, recommended we look in Oakland – it was cheaper and up and coming. Driving around Oakland, a place I’d never really explored, I was pleasantly surprised and immediately warmed up to the idea of living here. At the time, Temescal was very different, but showing signs of something new emerging. The East Bay Depot opening up just blocks away sealed the deal for me.
My first impression of Oakland was that unlike Berkeley and San Francisco, Oakland felt like uncharted territory, where exciting things had space to grow. It felt a bit gritty and desolate in ways, but I’m sort of used to that, being from Fresno. I like the idea of living somewhere that you can make your own, where you have space to invent and make your own fun. Obviously, things have changed a lot since then, and someone moving here now might not feel that way.
I felt at home here almost the instant I landed. My neighborhood has always been a source of delight for me. I’m somewhat of a “nester” and I loved making my space feel like a home. Being that I went to college not too far from here, a social network was transplanted here and I always had a good network of friends that grew upon itself.
I’ve carved out my own little footpath here. I have a lot of favorite spots depending on my mood. I’m a regular at the Mountain View Cemetery where I do my morning walk or run, a great place to clear my mind. In the evening, when I’m looking to jubilate and be social, I often turn to Commonwealth Pub. It’s a unique cafe that serves as a neighborhood hangout that isn’t just a bar. They serve food and coffee in addition to spirits, and it’s the kind of place you always run into someone you know and you can sit down and chat. It’s casual and slow, yet fun. Not just people hiding behind their laptops, nor people simply getting wasted. People actually go here to talk with each other and laugh and play! All of this to a soundtrack that is very often 90’s hip hop. A rare kind of spot, in a world of where internet-y cafes prevail.
In addition to feeling at home right away, being an artist was easy for me in Oakland. I could have a part-time job and do art on the side because rents weren’t so heinous that you had to grind away at jobs you didn’t like just to pay rent, with no time for art. That sort of freedom paved the way for me to explore and define what kind of art I wanted to do. Just having the time to play with my creativity was how I fell into what I am doing now, pretty haphazardly at that. I started doing works on paper of farmer’s market goodies for fun and then it took off. Who knew? Perhaps if I didn’t land in Oakland my path would look totally different. Certainly if I didn’t live in an area so food-centric, it would.
I feel really lucky to live in a place where fresh beautiful produce is so readily available. The abundance of farmer’s markets and interesting places to eat in Oakland has been a huge inspiration. Also, living somewhere so close to a good hike and a good beach day has hugely shaped my work and my quality of life. What I love about Oakland harkens back to what drew me to Oakland in the first place, that there’s space to grow here, be it a business, a creative life, or even a quiet life. Oakland can be anything you want it to be and is still being defined. There’s so many different kinds of people here and a sense of humility that our neighboring city of San Francisco is losing. There’s an element of surprise still left in Oakland. When something new and interesting appears, a hole is still poked in the universe.
It feels like I’m in good company living in Oakland as an artist. I know a lot creative, interesting people who are pioneering their own businesses or just doing art for art’s sake, the latter of which is equally impressive to me. I love Oakland for allowing me to be an artist. I feel like at this point, being an artist in the Bay Area is really hard and getting harder, but I’ve been really lucky in the way of having a space to work and the time to do it, which is a unique thing to Oakland. And people are really supportive; they want to have the work of a local artist on the shelves of their shops and in their homes. I am incredibly grateful to Oakland for enabling me and supporting me in this crazy and risky thing called pursuing a creative business.