Renga and Jenner

I wanted to get out today. I wasn’t sure where, so I pulled out a map and decided to head towards Jenner, where the Russian River meets the Pacific.

I took Guerneville road west, went through Graton and all the way to the Bohemian Highway. Since this journey had no firm timetable, I stopped off in Occidental on the way (having never really been there either) and poked my head in a few shops.

Mural map of downtown Occidental, California

The first was an antique store with a lot of old china and glassware, all neat to look at, but nothing I’d want to buy. Next was an artful glass and pottery store, made slightly eerie by a Julee Cruise song from Twin Peaks playing in the background. The stuff was all a little too clean for me. Maybe sterile is a better word. Or garish?

Storefront of Renga Arts in Occidental, CaliforniaI crossed the street and ducked into a small nondescript store called Renga Arts, which affirmed for me why it’s so good to go on these advertures.

At first glance Renga is like those hip stores with a lot of recycled material repurposed into objects of greater utility. A place where I wouldn’t be surprised to find purses made out of license plates and belts made out of seatbelts (with the original buckles), lots of cute stationary, and other gift-geared trinkets.

I say “like” because actually Renga is not like any of those stores at all—except for the recycled materials part. In fact it’s pretty much a miracle to imagine this store existing at all outside of San Francisco.

The first thing that caught my eye was this birch veneer bangle. How cool (I thought), but what would Stephanie think? J’sais pas. And then my eyes wandered over to some bracelets fashioned out of metal rulers displayed on Erlenmeyer flasks. How cool!

When I saw some other bracelets made out of vintage typewriter keys, it occured to me that I might need to end my long-standing aversion to jewelry. Ananda Khalsa’s necklaces, “miniature hand painted images set behind hand-ground glass and mounted in custom sterling silver frames” were the last nails in coffin. Her pieces are so incredibly beautiful I wanted one just for the shear pleasure of looking at it. All the time.

Bracelet by Jessica Lee DesignsAnd lest you believe the whole store was filled only with retro-cool handmade jewelry, there were also wallets and purses made out of repurposed outdoor billboard material, which on that small a scale gives the impression of psychedelic benday dots.

After seeing a boxed set of Make magazine available for sale in the store, I thought I should get Renga in touch with Make. Turns out Sherry Huss, the co-owner of Renga, is helping to organize the upcoming Maker Faire and already knows Bruce, Shawn, Goli, Gina, Dale and pretty much every O’Reillyer of notoriety. Well, now she knows me.

Eventually I got back on the way towards Jenner, as always racing against the setting sun. The drive on 116 along the Russian River was amazing. The quality of light at 4:30, the round hills descending into the recently flooded river banks, it was really too much to be driving and experiencing all at once. I’m already looking forward to my next trek out. I did make it, snapped a few pictures before my camera’s battery died, and then continued along the coast towards Bodega before heading home on CA-12.

The mouth of the Russian River at the Pacific Ocean, near Jenner, California
The mouth of the Russian River, emptying into the mighty Pacific, shortly before sunset

4 Comments

Oh man, Jenner is one of my favorite places, well, anywhere.

Jackson, lemme know if you’re coming out to visit any time soon.

Deborah

Hey Justin, My name is Deborah and I manage a small website for the Occidental community. I was wondering if it would be OK with you if I use your image of the Occidental mural on our home page. If not, I guess I could drive downtown and take one myself, but yours is so nice, and would eliminate me wasting gas. I’d like to put it near the top by Welcome. I’d be most appreciative.

liz

Saw your place on a news show cool stuff !and wanted to know if you were interested in a retail opportunity in denver I am a recycled artist and felt that what you have in Cali is what we need here please email me at elizafshar@gmail.com
I wll download some of my wor k for you to check out as well
thanks
LIz

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