How Quirky is Berkeley? Buldan Seka’s ceramic friends

"Quirky Berkeley in Berkeley, Calif., on May 7th,  2015."
Buldan Seka. Photo: John Storey

Buldan Seka’s giant, brightly painted, freakish ceramic sculptures have caught the eye and attention of drivers and bikers and walkers on upper Spruce Street in Berkeley for years. Her front yard is a stunning gallery of her large, ceramic works.

Seka was born in Macedonia to Turkish-Yugoslavian family that moved to Istanbul at the outbreak of World War II. She studied ceramics in Istanbul and opened a gallery featuring small pieces, nothing like what she has in her Berkeley yard.

707 Spruce Street.  Photo: John Storey
707 Spruce St. Photo: John Storey
707 Spruce Street.  Photo: John Storey
707 Spruce St. Photo: John Storey

During a visit to a sister in California in 1963, she met George Seka, an Austrian-born lawyer. They married, she stayed, and they have stayed married. Seka studied ceramics at the California College of Arts and Crafts under the paradigm-shifting Viola Frey, who took ceramics from craft to art.

Seka has been a resident artist at the California College of Arts for 30 years, laboring up to eight months on each piece. She considers her sculptures her “friends.”


After several smaller pieces being shown near the sidewalk disappeared, Seka began showing only her largest pieces in her yard.

707 Spruce Street. Photo: John Storey
707 Spruce St. Photo: John Storey
707 Spruce Street. Photo: John Storey
707 Spruce St. Photo: John Storey
707 Spruce Street. Photo: John Storey
707 Spruce St. Photo: John Storey
Husband George Seka, 707 Spruce Street. Photo: John Storey
Husband George Seka, 707 Spruce St. Photo: John Storey
707 Spruce Street. Photo: John Storey
707 Spruce St. Photo: John Storey

Seka’s works evoke carnival art, the exaggerated, the grotesque. Laughing Sal from Playland at the Beach comes to mind.

Buldan Seka, 707 Spruce Street. Photo: John Storey
Buldan Seka, 707 Spruce St. Photo: John Storey

But they are her friends, carnival-like or not.

Tom Dalzell, a labor lawyer, created a website, Quirky Berkeley, to share all the whimsical objects he has captured with his iPhone. The site now has more than 8,600 photographs of quirky objects around town as well as posts where the 30-year resident muses on what it all means.

A longer version of this post may be found at Quirky Berkeley.

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