Telegraph Vendor Shares Inspiration

M. Freeman

Megan Freeman and Rachel Oczkus

Telegraph Avenue in Berkeley is a unique place, for lack of a better word. Miramonte students are drawn to the colorful street for good food, people watching, and shopping.  The myriad of street booths selling one-of-a-kind crafts and jewelry is a big draw, especially during the holiday season as students search for fun and affordable gifts.

Does anybody ever take the time to think about the people behind the booths?  Who are these street vendors?  Mirador looked into this question and were pleasantly surprised by the fascinating stories that unraveled.

Daniel is just one of the many street vendors on Telegraph who hand-make their jewelry.  He humbly displays his few detailed creations on a cloth-covered table just outside T-shirt orgy. But not all of the vendors have such a passion for their work, or amazing stories behind why they do it.  Daniel’s passion for his work is evident in his carefully designed jewelry. Accompanying his complex designs are the amazing stories behind them.
Daniel was born and raised in a small town in Chile, where he had always been fond of art.  He followed his love of art to an art school, but after his first year there his parents divorced and he could no longer afford the tuition.

Unhindered, Daniel decided to take to the streets, selling his art for a living.  He soon discovered that he made more than enough money to maintain a humble standard of living, and used his excess profits to travel around Chile.  Through his travels Daniel learned more and more about art and jewelry.

“Everywhere I went I saw something new and I would say, ‘Oh, that’s beautiful, how did you make that?’” said Daniel.  “And they would always say, ‘I’ll show you!’  The street is like another college, everybody teaches each other how to be better and to do new things.”

Daniel also discovered his insatiable thirst for traveling. Chile was not enough for him anymore; he wanted to see the planet through his own eyes.

“You can see the world on the TV, but you can’t experience it,” said Daniel.  “I want to know about the cultures in different countries for myself, not just by what someone tells me.”

His first big trip was to Brazil, then on to the rest of the world: Peru (eight times), India, Vietnam, Cambodia, Rome, England, Portugal, Czech Republic, Greece, and more countries, all funded by selling his jewelry.

“Brazil was my instrument to see the world,” he said.  “From then on I decided I didn’t need money for a lot of things, just to do the things I love.  It’s more important to go see Asia and the ancient architecture in Greece than to own a new car and a new computer.”

Seeing so many different places and cultures shaped Daniel’s life in every aspect. While traveling in Peru, he met an American woman named Pamela.

“We fell in love and we wanted to get married so I could go into the United States where she is from,” he said.  “And her mother lived in San Francisco, so we moved over there to continue to study art together.  We studied sculptures and paintings, and we kept selling our jewelry to pay for it.”

Daniel and Pamela had a daughter together, and continued to travel, taking their young daughter with them.

“My daughter still tells me today, ‘Thank you, Dad, for taking me on all these trips’ because it really is the richest experience you can have growing up,” Daniel said.  “She is working at a Thai restaurant now, and she saves up her money for plane tickets too.”

Their daughter is now 21 years old, and Daniel and Pamela divorced after 15 years of marriage, but they remain close.  Daniel still supports and loves his daughter unconditionally.

“I know someday she is going to come to me and ask to get a better education, and I am going to say okay, and try to help her as much as I can,” Daniel said.

Daniel is still traveling whenever he can.  He just returned from a two-month trip to Peru and his home country Chile, which is still his favorite location.

“Traveling is the food for my soul.”

Whenever he travels he tries to learn how to be a better person— kinder, more humble, compassionate.

“I want to treat everyone well, and be more than an just ordinary person.  Traveling teaches me how to do that.  It’s like a diamond and each time you travel, you polish the diamond and you are polishing your soul.”

His jewelry keeps him busy between trips, and he loves that just as much as he loves seeing the world.

“I owe everything to [my art],” he said.  “I love it when people come by and see my work and say ‘oh this is beautiful, I want to buy this for a present for my friend’ and they really appreciate it.  It just makes me feel so happy, I wouldn’t care if I didn’t get any money for it.”

Mostly overlooked, Daniel reveals that a seemingly common street vendor’s trinkets may contain unknown stories and care behind the unique items. Daniel’s jewelry is his gateway to the world. While one usually does not even take the time to look, if they simply turned their head or stopped to examine it, they would see the real beauty.