Shop Talk: MaiSilk; Ink.Academy; Azalea

MaiSilk on Solano Avenue sells fine silk fabrics and clothing. Photo: MaiSilk

MAISILK In the space formerly home to Thousand Oaks Art Gallery on Solano Avenue, MaiSilk opened six months ago as a boutique featuring fine silk-wares. Owner Mai Nguyen said: “We are one of the only boutiques specializing in hand-crafted fine silk and embroidered fashion, providing fabrics, custom-made silk clothing, accessories and home linens. Our team is made up of highly skilled designers and embroidery artists creating unique and authentic items.” Nguyen grew up in Hanoi, Vietnam, which has been the center of silk weaving and sericulture (silk worm production) in Southeast Asia for over a thousand years. She developed a strong passion for silk weaving, tailoring and hand embroidering at a very young age from her grandmother. Using the same tools for the past 20 years, Mai designs clothing for women that are, in her view, bold, yet feminine, carefree and romantic, modern, yet classic. “Our silk fabrics range from exquisite Shantung taffeta to elegant jacquard, which are supplied by small weaving and farming households in Vietnam where silk production has been a tradition for generations,” she said. “Our suppliers use traditional methods of thread spinning, weaving and dyeing by hand in small batches with weaving patterns containing centuries-old symbols and characters.”. MaiSilk, 886 Colusa Ave., Berkeley 94707. Tel: 510-529-4336. Open Mon. – Sun.,  10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Connect on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.

INK.ACADEMY North Berkeley’s Twig & Fig boutique is launching Ink.Academy, a resource for artists of calligraphy. With a pre-launch party held at the store on March 18, and a Kickstarter campaign set for April, shop owner and Ink.Academy founder Suzie McKig intends to offer classes beginning this Fall. According to the website, the school will be the first  international academy of its kind, featuring courses, workshops and global retreats. “By founding Ink.Academy we will secure the future of calligraphy in this modern era,” said McKig. “Although we move through an increasingly digital world, there is still so much need for handwritten words. In addition to online courses, including an upcoming certification series, we will organize classes in which masters and students can meet face to face at various locations, primarily at the Berkeley City Club. Recently, we hosted two masters in the world of Calligraphy, Barbara Calzolari and Michael Sull, who gave a special introduction to Spencerian Script.” Ink.Academy, c/o Twig & Fig, 2110 Vine St., Berkeley 94709. Tel: 510-848-5599. Administrative hours for the program are at Twig & Fig, Mon. – Fri., 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Connect on Facebook and Instagram.

Welcome Stranger is now Azalea, adding women’s clothing to the previously men’s only fashion store Photo: Tracey Taylor

AZALEA The Elmwood neighborhood boutique formerly known as Welcome Stranger reopened three weeks ago under the parent company name of Azalea after expanding to include women’s wear. Located at Ashby Avenue (at Benvenue), the shop, which originally opened in Berkeley in 2014, specializes in goods by up-and-coming and local designers. Azalea opened its first store in San Francisco’s Hayes Valley in 2002, followed by a second store in the Mission. The company continues to operate its first Welcome Stranger men’s clothing store, also in Hayes Valley. Azalea, 2633 Ashby Ave., Berkeley, 94705. Tel: 510-646-8128. Open daily 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Connect on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest

Shop Talk is Berkeleyside’s regular Berkeley local business column. If you’re a Berkeley business with news, or a Berkeleyside reader who has spotted a change in your neighborhood or on your travels, shoot us an email with the details at editors@berkeleyside.com. Read previous Shop Talk columns. And catch up with all food business news with our Nosh coverage.