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Locals Only Guide to Shopping and Living in Oakland: Jimmy of West Perro

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From the moment I met Jimmy, of West Perro and HEAD WEST Marketplace, I was instantly drawn to his calmness, realness and midwestern roots. Upon our first meeting, we found out that we grew up only hours from each other in the middle of America! Somehow, only a couple years later it seems like we've known each other for decades. That's the type of person Jimmy is. You wouldn't know he was from the midwest from the outside, probably because he oozes the chill calm vibes of the dessert and Bay Area through and through. And his work is definitely a testament to his desire to breath the Joshua Tree air and live in the bustling Bay Area.

Jimmy at West Perro man sitting on wall

The organic shapes and hues of West Perro’s statement wall hangings are inspired by the color, terrain, and texture of the Mojave Desert — where Jimmy spends any extra time. Each piece is handmade from polymer clay, leather, cotton fiber, and wooden beads in his apartment he shares with his partner and dog, Joey (the Spanish word perro behind the brand name) in North Oakland. 

cute little dog

Just last year, Jimmy and I began our own incarnation of the HEAD WEST Marketplace: partnering with Hangar 1 Distillery in Alameda to host a large holiday market under his same name and co-hosted by Bestowe. This year we are expanding our market to be even bigger and better, and to showcase and array of holiday workshops, drinking and music merriment. The event it on Dec 14. You can find out more about it right here: HEAD WEST and if you want to sign up for the workshops go to Hangar 1 Distillery. We have macaron decorating, cheese board making, wreath making and gift wrapping.

He and I also partnered on an exclusive ornament/wall hanging for my Holiday gift box, Celebrate Decor (pictured below). If you are interested, buy now as quantities are limited and running out!

overhead photo of a present with candle and ornament

So, I asked Jimmy a few questions about his business and his favorite things to do in Oakland and Joshua Tree. Read below to get the inside scoop.

If you want to go to his Locals Only Guide of Oakland, head to the bottom of this post.

man artist standing in front of his art booth

Photo // Jordan Katz 

How did you start your business/your craft/your art?

I started West Perro as a hobby -- it actually started with me making statement necklaces for myself. At the time, I was BIG into statement jewelry and as I began wearing them, friends wanted one too. And then it took off, with most of my first pop-ups and markets only showcasing the necklaces I created. One of the first was the Mojave Lunar Necklace. Then I started stretching and testing my abilities to make larger scale shapes and sculptural objects -- which is where wall hangings came in. Then, I scaled back down to earrings. It's been an exciting journey through sculpture and scale.

What were some hurdles you've been overcoming?

My biggest hurdle has been "creative fatigue." I call it this because I don't want to call it boredom. There came a point where I was constantly making orders (and honestly, I'm still in this mode) where I felt like a machine cranking out these beautiful pieces but my ACTUAL creative output was lacking because I was creating anything new. This was happening from 2017 into this year... with next year, being a year to "see things more clearly" I've been saying, because after all... it is 2020. (insert clear vision reference)

west perro artisan booth

Photo // Jordan Katz 

What have you learned about being a maker and craftsman? 

I've learned that the more I'm involved in the process or SHOWING UP as the face vs. just a brand, the more people purchase my work. At the end of the day, I'm overjoyed that people have fallen in love with what I'm making -- and on a level, I feel its created these invisible relationships between me and the person purchasing. It's strange, but the web has grown, and I'm definitely okay with that. The creative community, no matter which side you're on -- is so well connected and close kit, spun in such a way that it supports one another, and truly cares. I've felt that in this journey, and continue to do so.
 

What have you learned about being a marketer and advocate for yourself?

Welp, as most either side hustlers or small brand/business owners have found out -- OVERHEAD will be the death of your business if you're not careful. So, we all end up becoming our own marketers, self-advocators, customer service reps, production + facility managers and of course, makers. It takes a certain type of person to wear all the hats, and do it with poise and ease. Compartmentalizing has been my biggest strength, on top of prioritizing and task management. I'd love to outsource, but because RENT is so damn expensive, it's just financially not possible at this point. But it's definitely a #GOAL. :)

hats on a brick wall

Do you consider yourself a maker or an artist? How do you perceive the intersection of these two worlds? Do you feel like they are one in the same?

I do believe they are one in the same. I call myself a creative that creates, and that doesn't solely mean in the physical sense of creating a "good" or a "product." It also points to creating community and relationships. A friend once told me that to work for yourself, you'll most likely have about 7 streams of income. And... I'm sure one of those streams begs the individual to be an artist, maybe a maker, and then an organizer, probably an influencer... and so on, and so forth. So, for now... creative works.

What type of challenges do you find yourself faced with at this stage in your career?

When I think of challenges, my mind immediately flips it into the questions "what opportunities do I currently have" with my career. Again, calling my life or what I'm doing a career isn't exactly accurate because my definition of career tends to be; something you're working towards, or upward mobility. What I'm doing in my life tends to have more outward progression and growth to include others. Those opportunities typically revolve around growth (outward, not upward) and scale. "How do I include and impact more people through what I'm doing, without feeling like I need to clone myself?"
 
wall hanging man holding art

Have you had to make sacrifices in order to live your life as an artist? Do you encounter misconceptions about that life or choice?

My sacrifice has come in forms of security, but I'm thankful, grateful and knowingly privileged to be in a committed partnership that helps reinforce or fill in the gaps of what I sacrificed in my loss or transition into what I do now. I do believe that sacrifices have come in forms such as relationship detriment or self-care neglect. I'm sure many, many people that work for themselves can relate -- but just like when we learned how to walk, we adapted and figured out our way. I believe to be equally true in this time of transition from full-time career to self-employed creative.

jimmy brower in artisan studio

Photo // Gillian Walsworth – @gillianwalsworth

What gets you excited about your product being in the world and growing as a business owner?

The freedom to create gets me the most excited, and the ability to utilize my time, on my own terms.

Who/What are your influencers

My upbringing, my relationships, my surroundings, my neighborhood, the culture I am submersed in and the world that is currently revolving, with its both positive and negative impact on all communities.

 

Thank you Jimmy, this is a perfect segue into our Artisan Travel Feature. We've asked Jimmy some questions about our home town, Oakland, CA. 

 

Travel Feature:

1. What are your 4 favorite things to do in N. OAK?

-Enjoy my neighborhood with my partner + pup, eat local food, drive around town, dream up community + business development ideas.

2. Name three things that you would do on your perfect day when taking time for yourself? Are there specific places that come to mind that you would do?

-Eat the BEST breakfast at places like Doyle Street Cafe, shop for plants from East Bay Nursery + take a drive up into the Oakland Hills.
East Bay Nursery plant store cool mural of flowers

3. What is something that you absolutely can't live without in N. OAK and why?

-The local economy (minus big business and unaffordable condos).

4. Where are your top 3 places to shop in N. OAK and why (a sentence about each would be fine)

Honestly, there aren't many places I shop (in store). Most of my shopping comes from HEAD WEST Marketplace, other artisan/crafter/designer markets + shows... and of course vintage from everywhere.

6. When you go shopping for unique items, where would you recommend going in the N. OAK? (these can be shows, or specific stores, or events, whatever.)

Urban Ore Salvage Yard is one of my favorite places to find all things obscura. 

joshua tree man standing on jumbo rocks

8. Since J Tree is a hot spot for travel and trips, do you have any advice for those wishing to travel there?

Spring and Summers are HOT, so ensure you pack plenty of water and sunscreen. Also, Joshua Tree is High Desert, which means higher altitude and closer to the Sun. Ensure you take that into consideration when planning activities as it can wear folks out and also dehydrate quicker. Winters are also COLD, as in last year it snowed in the desert. So, ensure you bring plenty of layers to keep you warm. Other tips -- don't spend a ton of time at tourist traps... go out and see the unknown and far seen. Do some research ahead of time on what's happening, especially with local artists. Go to their shows, support the local creative community and eat local food. Take a drive through JTNP, but don't get stuck -- I would recommend going a few hours before sunset, and staying to watch the sun hover over the boulders and Joshua Trees. Be respectful -- walk on paths, don't climb on trees, SLOW DOWN and enjoy the view, don't wander too far into the desert, keep your phone batteries charged and water on you at all times. Also, have FUN. Keep Mojave Weird and pay respect to nature. It's a magical place filled with lots of love. 
Jimmy Brower – @jimmybrower_ – West Perro – HEAD WEST
artisan Bay Area events locals Only market oakland Studio Tour wall hangings

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