Valerie Perez Ordonez: Startup Craft-Maker, Artist

Spotted in: Jack London Square, Oakland

Occupation: Startup Craft-Maker, Artist

What are you up to today?

Today I'm just moseying about. I like coming here 'cause it's always really lively—there's always something going on. It's encouraging to see everyone and their families. It feels really communal. I've been living in West Oakland for maybe two years and it's slowly starting to feel like, yeah, this is West Oakland. This is my home.

So in a way this is becoming more your home?

In a sense yes, and in a sense no. I see that slowly people of color are being pushed out of this neighborhood, primarily black folks. It's just really shitty to see that whole gentrification process happen all over again here in Oakland. I saw it happen in San Francisco—I couldn't afford living in San Francisco so I moved here. So some mixed feelings.

You met up with your friend here. Did you go to the farmers' market too?

Actually I just got here, so we were planning on checking out the estate sale that we saw a sign for. I've actually never been to one but I'm excited because I've heard great things—that you can get really cool things there. I really like thrifting and I feel like I haven't done that in a while. I go to all the flea markets and stuff.

Any good thrift store finds lately?

I usually wear a bunch of jewelry although lately I've calmed down and been more simple. These stone pendants are not really thrifted, but I do find cool gems. I find this kind of stuff and really cool rings. I don't know, lately I've been more minimalist.

Where did you find these stones anyway, they're so interesting!

This one is from Berkeley, this is a tiger's eye, and this one is from Crossroads—it's a fire agate stone.

And what is this button? I keep thinking it's Bauhaus or something.

It's Gary Numan.

Tubeway Army!

Yeah, I think it's the album cover.

Where did it come from?

In Melrose they have this one store, though I don't know if they have it any more. I liked going there because everyone's street-savvy and the street style is super on point. I just get really influenced by everything that's edgy and punk. Every realm of post-punk and all that stuff.

Were you visiting friends in LA?

No, my aunt used to live in Silverlake. So as a kid I would always go to Melrose. I remember I bought my first pyramid studded belt there. I thought I was such a badass. I was like 6th, 7th grade.

[Author's note: Valeria was with other Street Meeter Veronica during meeting]. Have you guys known each other for a while?

Since 6th grade, yeah! [Asks Veronica]: Remember when I showed up with that belt?

Veronica: [laughing] I was wearing that denim skirt!

Oh my god! That's so weird! The first time I met her she was wearing a denim skirt! A long one like this one, and it had little frills and she had like high top chucks, all black.

So the denim thing was always happening!


Forgot to ask—what's your occupation?

Special projects. I do crafts for a startup company called Darby Smart. It's funny—[looks at friend Veronica]—'cause when you were talking about your occupation I was thinking that I'm the complete reverse. I used to work for a nonprofit and that was really cool, but I didn't get enough hours. It just didn't work out. So then I went to a startup.

So what do you do? You do crafts?

I make samples of all of the projects that are proposed to the company. We sell mostly DIY projects and they're all online. So everything that goes on the site I take the step-by-step photos, I write the descriptions, the how

-to's. I make sure that if the designer is proposing a project, I take the time and test out the project, use the right materials and then it goes live. The company started about a year and a half ago.

What kinds of projects do you like to do in your spare time?

Recently I've been more into printmaking. I do a lot of linoleum prints. I really like watercolor, acrylics are definitely my staple. Oh yeah, I'm going to be selling some zines at EBABZ—the East Bay Alternative Book Fair. I'm trying to get at least three new ones out by Dec 6. We'll see what happens. At least one for sure.

What's usually your inspiration for your projects?

It's funny because everyone always wants to know an artist's process and I think for me it's so reflexive to express myself artistically—to have an internal dialogue and just make it visual. I don't really have to try. My grandfather was an artist, my dad was an artist. It just kind of trickled down. They passed me those traits.

It's not like, "Oh I have to plan this out, I have to have a blueprint, what am I going to do?" I just do it. And it took me a while to be like, oh, I'm an artist! It's really weird to claim yourself as an artist and claim that identity because I feel like a lot of contemporary art is about parading around a certain image or identity—mostly latching on to other works of art that have been successful in that realm. I feel like I'm going on a rant here! [laughs] Art is just fun to me. I actually want to be an art therapist. I think it's really cathartic, that experience. It's self-healing.

You said your grandfather and father are both artists, what kind of work do they do?

Mostly drawing, illustration. My dad does a lot of caricatures. He just really influenced me and supported me to pursue art in any capacity. So I did. I was starting off school as an art major. I tried to—I wasn't even in the major. It was just really bureaucratic and stupid and I hated it. So I didn't do that—I studied American Indian Studies! [laughs]

What led you to that?

I was actually going to minor in it because I was really interested. I took a few classes; I took an indigenous women class and was like, this is really cool, I like the professors, I like the department. So I ended up just switching over to it and majoring in it. And I've done some really cool stuff with that. Earlier on in the game I was working as a youth coordinator for that non-profit, the Cultural Conservancy, and did some cool work where I co-facilitated media intensive programs with Native American youth. So it was really cool to provide a safe space for them to learn and apply and reclaim their cultural knowledge systems. You know, a lot of things that they're not really able to do in Western academic settings. I really, really loved that.

So tell me about what you're wearing. Where did this bag come from?

This is a bag from work it's actually one of our supplies. It's a Baggu bag but I actually put this patch on it. I don't really remember the artist, it was at Ladyfest—a festival celebrating women, with music, art workshops, all kinds of stuff. She was selling this patch, and the symbols mean no gods no masters. I like hands, I like drawing hands too so I really connected with it. And I loved what it said so I was like hell yeah.

And this pin on the bag—is this a local band?

Grass Widow, yeah. It's an all-female group. They play kind of surf/garage rock but with a different sort of beat. They actually broke up, and my friend Keith knows one of the members and I saw her at a house show and was like, Oh my god, are you in Grass Widow? And she's like, yeah . . . we broke up. So I was said "What, I didn't know that! I really love your music!" I was such a fangirl. It was really funny.

I like your shoes—where did those come from?

These are actually hand-me-downs from my friend Candace. I guess they didn't fit her. She was like, I know you've really been looking for creepers and you can't find your size, so here you go. When she bought them I was like, "Where did you get those!" Now they're all beat up because I wear them to shows all the time.

I also noticed you have a dagger tattoo—how did that come about?

I don't really like traditional tattoos, but I always thought if I did get one, I thought I would get a dagger. I really like the placement of this one. It's kind of like, I'm ready. I've had some shit happen to me. I just need some kind of safety. I need to be protected.

That's another nice stone on your ring.

Yeah, this one my mom got for me. It's Himalayan quartz. Where the water collects at the bottom of the Himalayas, there are quartz deposits. The vendor told me the story, and then my mom was like, I really like this one for you! And I'm like OK, I really like it too! It's really pretty. I'm really connected to water so it was perfect.

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