How Quirky is Berkeley? Mark Bulwinkle’s tiles.

Bulwinkle tiles, 2454 Telegraph Avenue. Photo: John Storey
Bulwinkle tiles, 2454 Telegraph Ave. Photo: John Storey

Let angels prostrate fall – another post about Mark Bulwinkle art.  He is best known for his steel and metal work, but his artistic expression is not confined to his welder’s torch.  He is a wicked good tile maker.  The restrooms at the Old Cody’s, now the Mad Monk Center for Anachronistic Media, at Telegraph and Haste, showcase Bulwinkle’s tile work.

Bulwinkle tiles, 2454 Telegraph Avenue. Photo: John Storey
Bulwinkle tiles, 2454 Telegraph Ave. Photo: John Storey
Bulwinkle tiles, 2454 Telegraph Avenue. Photo: John Storey
Bulwinkle tiles, 2454 Telegraph Ave. Photo: John Storey

Mike Dawoud’s Jumpin’ Java is just inside Oakland, meaning it is just outside Berkeley – but very close.  The shop is filled with Bulwinkle metal work and is one of the largest concentrations of Bulwinkle art in a public place, if not the single largest.

Bulwinkle tiles, 6606 Shattuck Avenue. Photo: Coleen Neff
Bulwinkle tiles, 6606 Shattuck Ave. Photo: Coleen Neff

Dawoud sells individual tiles and Bulwinkle note cards.  Dawoud is friends with Bulwinkle, as is Richard Ward at the Dry Garden Nursery just south of Jumpin’ Java.  Bulwinkle art laces the windows of the office and is scattered throughout the nursery.  And – there are Bulwinkle tiles for sale.

Bulwinkle tiles at 6556 Shattuck Avenue. Photo: John Storey
Bulwinkle tiles at 6556 Shattuck Avenue. Photo: John Storey
Bulwinkle tiles at 6556 Shattuck Avenue. Photo: John Storey
Bulwinkle tiles at 6556 Shattuck Ave. Photo: John Storey

Donna Reynolds and Tim Racer live in the Oakland hills.  They are artists who give a great part of their lives to pit bulls – rescue, rehab, place, educate, preach.  They too are Bulwinkle friends, and they too have Bulwinkle tiles in their home, including this hearth in the pit bull barn:


BAD RAP, Oakland. Photo: John Storey
BAD RAP, Oakland. Photo: John Storey

Far away, but illustrative of what one can do with Bulwinkle tiles, is the Harrison House Music, Arts & Ecology house in Josha Tree, California. Lou Harrison was a music composer who was – yes – friends with Bulwinkle.  Harrison built a straw bale house in Joshua Tree shortly before he died.  Eva Soltes carries on with the artist residency program therehttp://quirkyberkeley.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/Desertbathroom1.jpg

Bulwinkle has shown his tiles there and there is a Bulwinkle tile bathroom.

Bulwinkle makes his tiles at his Hannah Street home/workshop/garden/gallery in West Oakland.  He buys his clay from Michael Haney in Richmond.  Haney made Viola Frey’s clay, and Bulwinkle uses that mix.

The tiles start with a mold. A mold is the negative produced around a sculpted positive piece for use in creating multiples of that piece.

Mark Bulwinkle tile-making. Photo: John Storey
Mark Bulwinkle tile-making. Photo: John Storey

Mold and clay go into the press.


Mark Bulwinkle tile-making. Photo: John Storey
Mark Bulwinkle tile-making. Photo: John Storey

Press away, trim the edges, and you have a tile that then goes to the kiln.  In Bulwinkle’s shop, there are many molds and many finished tiles.

Bulwinkle tiles at his shop. Photo: John Storey
Bulwinkle tiles at his shop. Photo: John Storey
Bulwinkle tiles at his shop. Photo: John Storey
Bulwinkle tiles at his shop. Photo: John Storey

Bulwinkle finds making the original positive mold to be creative and fun, while the rest is repetitive and potentially boring.  But Bulwinkle draws on childhood gardening work and does just fine with repetitive and potentially boring.

Mark Bulwinkle, Oakland. Photo: John Storey
Mark Bulwinkle, Oakland. Photo: John Storey

Bulwinkle sells his tiles on his website and at Jumpin’ Java and Dry Garden – two businesses that deserve visits on their own merits.  The tiles rock quirky.  They are affordable.   They deserve our attention.

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 and more idiosyncratic version of this post may be found at Quirky Berkeley.