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Snapshot: Jessica Williams, owner, Brushstrokes Studio

Jessica Williams. Photo: Pete Rosos

By Pete Rosos

The daughter of an engineer who worked for the US government, Jessica Williams grew up in Bangkok, Vienna, the East Coast, and the West Coast. Her ability to speak five languages (English, French, Spanish, Dutch, and German) landed her a job at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York City. After ten years of working in politics, Jessica decided to follow her passion, move to the Bay Area, and study ceramics at the California College of the Arts. She became the owner of Brushstrokes Studio, a pottery painting and ceramics studio on Page Street, 15 years ago.

When did you arrive in Berkeley?
I arrived from New York City 17 years ago.

What’s your ‘hood?
Berkeley Hills, up by Tilden Park.


As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Pretty much exactly what I’m doing right now. I loved art, and I wanted to do my own thing.

Where and when are you happiest?
8:30 in the morning, here at Brushstrokes, listening to Gillian Welch, organizing the shelves, tidying up and getting ready for the customers to come in.

Which living person do you most admire?
I’m going to say my mother, because she’s the strongest person I know well. She survived the second world war. She survived the loss of a child. She survived raising four daughters that were all a year a part. She’s funny. She’s independent. She managed to be a mom without being a martyr and without conveying a single iota of guilt to her children. She was green before it was cool to be green.

What drives you mad?
Disorganization.

If you could change something about yourself, what would it be?
Disorganization.


Who, or what, is the love of your life?
The three men in my life, two of whom are still young.

What is the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
Possibly quitting my job at a foreign policy think tank in New York to come out here and and play with mud in art school. That was a pretty big leap of faith.

What three things would you take to a desert island?
My sketchbook, my iphone, and a knitting project.

What does Berkeley mean to you?
New York on a smaller scale. It’s kinda got everything you love about New York. It’s got great people, smart people, sophisticated people. Good restaurants. A more relaxed version of New York. Yeah.

If you didn’t live in Berkeley, where would you live?
Portland, Oregon.


Berkeleyside’s “Snapshot” column, inspired by the Proust Questionnaire, is a new, occasional series by Pete Rosos in which we take a moment to get to know some of Berkeley’s most interesting people. Pete Rosos is a freelance photographer, husband, and father of two who lives in south Berkeley. Read the inaugural Snapshot of Urban Ore founder Dan Knapp. And let us know in the Comments who you would like to see featured here.