Inspirations for Summer Fun

The Best Classes You Never Knew Existed

By Nancy Millar Patton

If you’re taking the summer off from Berkley City College, you can still take a local class for fun and keep the brain engaged. In the East Bay, we have lots of classes that won’t break the bank. The BCC Voice did some investigative work and found a sampling of intriguing options.

Have you ever wanted to learn the art of calligraphy, making perfumes or loom weaving? The Handcraft Studio School in El Cerrito is a little-known gem with many different arts and crafts classes and workshops. Started by Marie Muscardini in 2013, it’s now run by a community of artists, students and teachers who are committed to the preservation of handcrafts. They partner with local craftspeople to offer a wide variety of classes such as wood carving, ceramics, flower arranging and more. Some classes, like Table Loom Weaving, are offered at $275; however, there are some, like Natural Perfume Making, that start at a more moderate rate of $85. Instructors are attentive and the space is airy, bright and clean. They provide snacks and small bites to keep students’ energy levels up and even pop open bottles of wine for the evening classes. Handcraft Studio School is located at 10368 San Pablo Ave., El Cerrito. You can contact them at (510) 332-6101, and online at

Berkeley Improv is a great place to practice some real-world skills. Located in Downtown Berkeley, they offer a variety of classes from Improv 101 to Improv for Real-Life, which is promoted as a workshop that will enhance your self-confidence in all kinds of everyday situations, such as dating, interviewing and making presentations. Improv can enhance your capacity for spontaneity and meaningful connection, help you gain poise and presence, and improve your body language awareness. Their group of veteran improv artists will take you on an exploration of your emotional depths and supportively reconnect you to your sense of joy and play. Prices vary from $29 for single evening classes to $139 for a series package. Be sure to check out their student discount offers. Classes are held at the Sacred Stream Center at 2149 Byron St., at Allston Way, Berkeley. You can register online at

Maybe you’ve always wanted to learn how to make your own home-brew or discover the health benefits of kombucha. If that’s the case, take a trip to Preserved, Elizabeth Vecchiarelli’s kitchen shop located in the Temescal district of Oakland. Preserved strives to teach community members about the lost art of preserving foods and flavors. “Preserving foods in a way that not only extends their shelf life, but also enhances their nutritional value and digestibility was of great interest to me,” explains Vecchiarelli. She and three other enthusiasts from her store offer instruction on beer and kombucha brewing, sourdough bread baking, creating jam preserves, and other fermentation-related kitchen skills. Courses are offered Sundays, Thursdays and some Wednesdays, and generally start at $45 per class. Preserved is located at 5032 Telegraph Ave., next to Bakesale Betty. Check them out at (510) 922-8434 and

Belly dancers might seem exotic, but they’re right in your back yard! Internationally recognized belly dancer Nathalie Tedrick teaches classes in her craft at The Works Cooperative located at 2566-C Telegraph Ave. Oakland. Tedrick has performed and taught belly dancing all over the United States, Canada, Europe and the Middle East. She offers an eight-class beginner series for $100. Drop-in classes are $18. For more information, contact Nathalie at

Tired of your same old gym routine? Would you rather fly than log another dull workout on the EFX? Well, there’s a dance studio in Berkeley that can help you out. Upswing Aerial Dance Company, located at 2525 Eighth St., Berkeley, specializes in merging dance with the aerial arts, including rope and harness, low flying trapeze, bungee and tissu (also known as aerial silks). Despite all of the fancy offerings, at $22 a class, their rates are quite reasonable. For questions and more information on package rates, contact the studio’s director, Cherie Carson, at (510) 587-0770 or

This summer, give yourself a well-deserved break from traditional school and check out some fun, quirky classes. You might even find that your newfound experience makes you the center of attention among your friends; bragging rights are a perk of the curriculum.

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