Our Affordable Art Gift Guide

The best places to find budget-friendly presents for the art-lover in your life.

There’s no shortage of artistic output in the East Bay, especially in Oakland. In fact, you might even say art is to Oakland what garlic is to Gilroy. That makes it easy to support the local creative economy through gift-giving, and actually offer something of lasting value to your family and friends. Buying art doesn’t have to break the bank, either. The trick is knowing where to look. Here is a list of the best spots and opportunities to buy affordable art gifts in the East Bay this season — without having to set foot in a craft fair.

Creative Growth’s Vice + Virtue

Every year, Creative Growth (355 24th St., Oakland) hosts a holiday exhibition and studio sale featuring more than one hundred works by its talented artists, all of whom have developmental, mental, and/or physical disabilities. This year, the show is called Vice + Virtue, and aims to complicate the infamous holiday distinction between naughty and nice. It will feature original drawings and paintings, along with hand-upholstered furniture, original textiles, ceramics, mosaics, and work in many other media. An exclusive line of Anthropologie home decor featuring Creative Growth artwork will also be available. The studio space and gallery already offers a quality collection of affordable art products year around — such as the adorable cup set featuring drawings of ice cream and blue dinosaurs ($32), or the colorful “Poketo” wallet featuring work by Merritt Wallace ($20) — and patrons can expect more of the same quality from the holiday sale.

The exhibit runs Dec. 5 through Jan. 8, free. CreativeGrowth.org

Compound Gallery’s “Art in a Box”

The Compound Gallery (1167 65th St., Oakland) is only a small portion of the massive artist studio space attached to it that is constantly producing work. To distribute the creative fruit of its resident (and other featured) artists, the clever organization has been packing up CSA boxes since 2009. That’s community-supported art, not agriculture. First, subscribers have to tackle the challenge of choosing three adjectives that describe their taste in art. Then, they decide how often they want to receive a box, and how many months they want to sign up for. Finally, they get a package containing original artworks specifically chosen for them. At $40 per box if you pick it up in Oakland, $50 if you want it shipped, and $60 for international shipping, it should seem like a solid deal to those who realize original art ain’t cheap. Granted, there’s risk involved. What if you don’t like the work? But when you make it a gift, that risk saves you the daunting task of picking out art for another person. Plus, with talented artists such as Yuki Maruyama, Crystal Morey, and Shannon Taylor at the other end, that chance is nothing to worry about that. ArtInABox.net

OMCA Store Holiday Trunk Show: CCA MADE

Museum stores are notoriously expensive, but also oddly irresistible. This season, the Oakland Museum of California (1000 Oak St., Oakland) store is hosting a three-part series of curated holiday trunk shows that promise high-quality crafts at a reasonable price. Handmade jewelry and ceramics saturate the selection, with a few glass and textile artists among them. But it seems that the most exciting work will be offered at the California College of the Arts edition on December 12, for which twelve CCA students were selected to present their handiwork. Among them, for example, is the nature-inspired yet steampunk-esque wearable metalwork of Devon Matlock. Sometimes bold, young talent is the smartest investment — and produces the most unique gifts.

Friday, Dec. 5, 12, 19. 5–9 p.m., free admission. MuseumCA.org

Brick and Cotton Apparel

I’ll admit that sometimes stand-alone art doesn’t make for the most practical gift-giving. But that doesn’t mean you can’t still support local artists directly with your patronage, especially if we’re talking about apparel and accessories. A freshly launched online marketplace called Brick and Cotton allows artists to customize their own merchandise. Because it uses 3D modeling software, the clothes can be more exciting than your typical screen-printed T-shirt — with art that wraps around the back or adorns the sleeves, for example. On top of that, each artist gets the opportunity to take over the design process, deciding exactly how their art will appear on the apparel. And, although the online platform is available to anyone with access to the Internet, it’s coming from folks at LeQuiVive Gallery in Uptown Oakland. That means that the first artists to offer up products are some of the best local talent. An ESK shirt or an IROT backpack, for example, would both make great gifts for the youngins who would rather own art they can wear.


and boutique formerly known as Loakal has recently become LuckyLo (560 2nd St., Oakland). There have been a number of changes to the space, but the selection of local art products has only grown. Featuring a wide array of handmade goods — including clocks, pillows, and screen-printed totes — the store also carries a broad selection of affordable art prints. Lisa Pisa’s quirky paintings and illustrations, in particular, offer an aesthetic that’s easy to appreciate. If you want something more colorful — and meta — then the hyper-saturated prints from Pixelina Photography featuring Bay Area street art and graffiti will do you good. But those are just two in a broad range of artists offering up work at the store. Prints go from about $20 to $60 depending on size. If you’re looking for more of a stocking stuffer, though, opt for a $5 sticker pack instead.

Betti Ono

Bettio Ono Gallery (1427 Broadway, Oakland) always has a solid selection of affordable artistic treasures filling up a corner of its space. For example, the original Joshua Mays ink drawings, displaying his signature science fiction-inspired renderings of detailed female figures and dreamscapes, are currently on sale for only $50. Or consider the $10 packets of hand drawn illustrations from LOSTBOY, which explore identity through small, emotive scenes; and the same artist’s $20 booklet of illustrated Yoko Ono tweets. But for the holidays, you can expect an influx of even more work that will span media — from notebooks to necklaces — all specially curated by the gallery. And if you don’t find anything there, you can always head to the attached boutique Show and Tell for work by artist Crystal Vielula, which includes a cheap illustrated coloring book of street fashion photos rendered with animal figures.


Mary Weather

Although they don’t get as much hype as the Art Murmur galleries, a group of small art spaces in Uptown Oakland have been gaining momentum for a while. Among them is Mary Weather (333 15th St.), a clothing boutique that also hosts art shows in its cozy space. There, designer Judy Elkan sells an original line of apparel that features her photos and collages printed on shirts and sweaters. Elkan also sells hand-painted clothing by local artist Kate Klingbeil as well as hand-painted Shrinky Dinks earrings by Erika Acuna. In addition, she often does collaborations to make clothing featuring art from the gallery’s shows. Through the end of the year, the shop will also offer affordable works by local painter Chris Granillo. The wood panel and acrylic pieces, from his recent solo show in the space entitled Honey Thieves, feature his signature hummingbirds disguised as bees.



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