Artist Highlight: Safiyah Hernandez

Safiyah Hernandez is best known for her original songs and rich voice. She accompanies herself on the ukulele and piano, performing at festivals, cafes, and open mics.

Her musical influences include the Beatles, Lauren Hill, and Sade. Safiyah also finds inspiration through creative writing and animation.

Safiyah will be performing alongside Brother Theodore, Paul Keim, and Kate Lamont at our Songwriters Showcase on Friday night, September 28, 2018 from 7:30-10pm.

Songs About Dads

I had this idea awhile back: Why not write about songs that are about or refer to dads? That
could be fun, right?

I mean, I’m a Dad, and I like songs, and I like overthinking things and, in particular,
overthinking songs, and wanting to talk about songs, and also I like being a Dad and thinking
about how to be a good Dad and also I love writing so then I thought, “Well shit, let’s put ‘em
all together!”

So I did.

I’m excited about this. I want to look at lyrics to songs at that directly or indirectly address the
artists views of being a father or their father. What can we appreciate from these songs? What
can we learn? What silly jokes and pop culture references can be made?

So, if you’re interested, here we go! We’re going to go through a lot of fun stuff here, and some
sad stuff, and some heavy stuff and I think it’s going to get really interesting.

Here are some thoughts about this project in no particular order:

1. What kind of songs? It’ll mostly be punk or hip-hop. Maybe some indie or alternative. I
have a folk song in mind. Probably no country (well, maybe some Johnny Cash...). I think
it makes sense to do songs that I have a connection with so the blogs will be a little more
personal and heartfelt and thus, hopefully, interesting. Honestly, some of the songs here
will probably not be ones you’re familiar with, and that’s ok, I’m going to keep that in mind
as I write. The goal is for the subject matter to keep it interesting. I’ll include relevant links
as well.

2. Will I have to like the song to read the blog? Nope! I’m going to write them in a way
that’s fun to read and makes sense even if you are not familiar with the song, (say, for
whatever reason, you’re not interested in listening to someone screaming over loud

3. Can I request a song? I’d be honored if you did! I’d love feedback as well. I’ll consider
any thing you suggest, but no promises! If I don’t personally connect with the song or find
something I can address in it, it probably won’t work.

4. Wait, are you even a Dad? I am! I’ve got a 10 year old boy and an 8 year old girl and
they’re amazing and they love hip-hop more than punk, but the other day they told my wife
they love Pentatonix and we honestly feel like we’ve failed as parents.

5. What about songs about Moms? Just like I don’t think John Mayer is qualified to address
Mothers and Daughters on his song, “Daughters”, I also don’t think I’m qualified to address
mothering on this blog. What I think would be even better is if some other fun, talented
Mom wanted to do a similar blog about Moms.

6. Hey! I know! What about “Cats in the Cradle”?!!??!!??!!!!! No. I mean, it’s an
incredible gut punch of a song, but it’s kind of clear what it’s all about, isn’t it? It’s a little
too well known. There’s just not much more to say about it that it doesn’t say itself or that
hasn’t been said. Though, did you know Ugly Kid Joe covered it? And it’s not bad?
Anyway, there you go: Everything I planned on saying on “Cats in the Cradle”

Okay! I hope you’ll join me on this! Maybe we can all learn something about Dads!

Motivāt Coffee Roasters

One year ago, Collin Young began dabbling in home roasting using a $30 popcorn popper, “and it was amazing.” As he roasted small batches of coffee, Collin became, “pretty blown away with how good it was,” and he found his friends shared his sentiments. Having been drinking coffee from household names such as Blue Bottle Coffee and Verve Coffee, Collin knew his small batches, once fresh roasted, were comparable. With encouragement from friends who had tried his home roasted coffee, Collin became interested in how far he could take the roasting side of things.

Collin and his wife Carolyn transitioned into selling bags of fresh roasted coffee out of their home, using the popcorn popper, “and it was so slow, I think we could do an eighth of a pound at a time.” In spite of the tedious process, Collin found, “people would say it was the best coffee they ever had.”

“I’ve loved coffee for a really long time and Carolyn loves any new business idea that we can hustle.”
Carolyn adds, “I like the event side of things.” Motivāt has brought their coffee around communities at weddings, conferences, church plants, and birthday parties.

Carolyn and Collin worked their first event last August when Inspire church launched a theology and coffee series. At the time, the grassroots couple were pastoring and asked if they could serve in another capacity. For five weeks, Motivāt served coffee once a week at Inspire. Carolyn comments that set-up is her sweet spot, “That’s where I come in, I can’t handle too much caffeine, I’m already on a ten all the time,” she says with a laugh. Carolyn found the aesthetics, set-up, and community interaction to be so life-giving and fun that she knew they could branch out to weddings. As synchronicity would have it, just as the thought occurred, a member of their community asked if Motivāt did weddings.

In an effort to save money starting out, Collin used every email address he could get his hands on to acquire samples of unroasted beans from Blue Bottle coffee as he worked to perfect the roasting process. The husband and wife dream team studied at “bible college” and have hearts for ministry; they have been able to do pop-up coffee services at numerous church conferences and events in their community. For Motivāt it was important for them, “To figure out how we can take what we have in our hands and also do what we want to do as far as see this world experience more love.” A unique aspect of spreading love is Motivāt’s partnership with non-profits and seeing their work influence someone else’s community. All of their current selections are single origin coffees which means the beans come from one unique source in a specific corner of the world. Motivāt is committed to giving a dollar back to the country of origin they acquire their coffee from.

A new vision Collin and Carolyn have been fleshing out is the opportunity to do coffee blends with local non-profits. On the subject of non-profits, Motivāt is donating 25 cents of each purchase back to Smalltown Society. Carolyn reflected on Motivāt’s reach, “It has been really cool to see how us doing this small thing has inspired other people. We always want to leave a place better than it was before we got there.”

Motivat Coffee Team.JPG

Although Motivāt has been a significant transition for a growing family Carolyn comments that they are all in, “We’re just really open to wherever God wants to take us. When we bought that popcorn roaster, that crazy $30 investment for Collin’s birthday we never thought we’d be here in six months.”

Motivāt is currently operating on organic self-funding and they work to make smart financial decisions as they grow.

A current goal Motivāt is working towards is direct sourcing their beans, they are especially interested in working with coffee farmers in Guatemala and will visit the country later in the year. They also aim to direct source from Kenya and Brazil. Motivāt currently has single origin coffees from Guatemala, Kenya, and Brazil. They described how proceeds are benefitting each country of origin. For Guatemala, they are supporting the farming community they source from while in Kenya they are giving to Freely in Hope, a non-profit that works to aid and restore the lives of young women who are survivors of sexual violence through emotional support and educational opportunities. Motivāt is currently seeking a non-profit in Brazil to give back to.

The smaller size of the business allows Motivāt the opportunity to engage in sustainable sourcing of beans while finding connections that help them support the community.

In the near future, Motivāt will partner will La Familia, a multicultural organization
committed to strengthening the emotional wellness of individuals and the preservation of families. La Familia provides opportunities for job training to individuals who are formerly incarcerated. Motivāt will work with individuals and provide them with 100 hours of barista training.

Collin and Carolyn hope that their coffee and work with the community continues to motivate people to go to the next level in their lives and abilities to impact their communities.

For more information on coffee subscriptions and featured products visit motivá and follow them on Facebook and Instagram. Motivāt Coffee Roasters will be at Smalltown Society from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. from February 19, 2018 until February 23, 2018.

What Smalltown Means to Me.

I really enjoy and look forward to attending events and meetings at Smalltown Society, The atmosphere is one of friendship, acceptance, and fun. Especially the end of month gatherings are high energy and big fun with great live music. It's also a generous place for hosting civic, social and artistic presentations and talks. I really appreciate the efforts of Paul, Cathy, Emily and all who contributed, for making this a very special and much-needed meeting place in Castro Valley.

- Roy Estrada (Community member)

What Smalltown Means to Me.

Smalltown Society represents a break from the norm in the Castro Valley / Eden area. Not just a physical place for people to gather but a collective of people with a heart for community building and outreach. 
The Space has been an inspiring place to connect and to create.  In the early days, particularly before there was a thermostat, I spent a lot of time alone in the cold writing or recording. 
It has been amazing to see new faces, artists, and passers-by leave a part of themselves with every gathering or casual hang at the Space. 

- Ted 'Blyss' Gould (Professional musician, educator, Smalltown Artist:

Artists Highlight: The Straight-Ups

Artists Highlight: The Straight-Ups

"They were sitting in the front row and like the first set was really calm they were like just having a good time, just having drinks and being fun but then like half way through the second set that they played these girls just had like a round table of just puking on the table.” “It was like Stand by Me,” Julian interjects as Conner laughs and Dan says with confidence, “One after the other.” Adam smiles and comments, “I was like Damn these guys just rocked the puke out of these girls, I will play in that band” and all four boys laugh. “So since then, we’ve been a band. We’ve done a lot of different stuff, and we’ve got lofty goals,” Dan says with a smile as all four members bust up laughing."

What Smalltown Means to Me.

Smalltown has given me a confidence boost as an artist that I never thought I would have. They made an amazing space accessible to me to display my work in and a platform to tell my story and why I do what I do. They've given me an active role to play in developing my hometown in a way I also never dreamt possible. They've let me be a part of the big picture of community and family style networking with no judgements or strings attached. It's a place I always feel welcome and always feel heard. You could say that this means the world to me especially as a creative and humanitarian. I would love to see everyone be able to find a place where they feel so at home like Smalltown Society feels to me.

- Cherie Zulim (Visual Artist/Smalltown Contributing Artist)

Advocate Highlight: Casper Cendre

Advocate Highlight: Casper Cendre

"No Walls Collective was inspired by the desire to support prisoners and make up for the funds they lack. Casper stated that prisoners are required to pay for their meals, supplies from commissary, and for their health care. The price of life in prison combined with the lack of paid work opportunities within prison makes access to items for daily living, according to Casper, 'completely impossible'."

The View

The View

"... I recall that though our galaxy is vast beyond knowing, there are other galaxies, perhaps even billions of other galaxies…. Can this be right? Again, I try picturing a billion of anything, a billion apples, a billion butterflies, a billion smiles; then I try something easier, five hundred, maybe, or a thousand, a sort of gradual assent to infinite numbers."

Artist Highlight: Martin D.C.

Martin is from Argentina, he has lived in Los Angeles, Kansas, and now Castro Valley. Martin is a tattoo artist and painter. Martin started tattooing in 1991. During that time he was also studying graphic design and working in the bicycle industry. He became more immersed in tattooing when he lived in Los Angeles, during that time he tattooed in the Americana style of nautical tattoos, eagles, and pin-up girls and so on. Eventually, he found the Japanese style of tattooing, “I discovered it by accident I had a friend asking me to fix a Japanese piece he had and it was really old and the artist wasn’t around anymore.” Martin told his friend he was not familiar with the style, but this opportunity motivated him to study Japanese culture, art history, and the language to learn as much as he could about the Japanese style. Martin likes that in the Japanese style of tattooing the entire body is seen as one piece, he finds the freedom to create large pieces fascinating. Martin enjoys Japanese tattoos because, “they stand the test of time.” Martin moved to Castro Valley a year ago come September. He describes tattooing as, “a learning journey . . . you’re always evolving,” he enjoys being in such close proximity to artists in San Francisco.  Many artists are accessible and willing to network in the Bay Area, “if you’re a professional you learn from a simple conversation . . . I say the whole Bay Area has a tradition of tattooing.” Martin’s art has been influenced by place, in Los Angeles he was inundated with requests for portraits, praying hands, and Jesus Christ tattoos. With numerous requests for script writing in LA, Martin learned as much as he could from the Latino tattoo artists, some as young as fourteen years old. Martin has noticed the diversity of people who love the Japanese style, he commented, “You can see people from Silicon Valley who go back and forth to Japan because of their jobs and you can see them with suit and tie and you don’t know the guy have whole body style of Japanese tattoo or Americana.” Martin is excited that the acceptance of tattoos has allowed his clients to feel more comfortable with using more of their bodies as a canvas and allowing a liberal use of colors.

Martin's Website


Artist Highlight: Cherie Zulim

Chérie is a east Bay Area native creative passionate about using her art to make a difference in her community and beyond. "I love that I can put whatever message I want into a piece without needing to say a word. Art is so powerful, a language in its own and available to reach anyone. Whether I'm sketching a part of my neighborhood where I grew up or doing a mixed media piece to evoke emotion on a social issue I love how each piece speaks for and to me and is capable of so much meaning. And to be able to share it with people is so rewarding. Each collage is a story, taking hours or even days to piece together, with many pieces holding symbolism for what I'm trying to say. Each sketch of a place is a memory of where I grew up and came to be the person I am today. I want people to be happy of where they come from, realize their significance in this world and aware of where we can allow art to take us." 

Artist Highlight: Cathy, portrait of a mother finding her footing as an artist

“The place is a bit of a mess, and I’m really embarrassed,” Cathy says behind her bangs that curve perfectly over her forehead. I notice blush on her cheeks as her 3rd born smiles at me from across the room in the background of his two older brothers who are leaning on their elbows, their bodies pooling over the kitchen table, engrossed in a cartoon show. Her 11 month old, who took his first steps earlier in the day, is asleep and dreaming in the back bedroom. Her husband, Paul, is here too.

We sit down to homemade pizza and I ask Cathy about how she discovered her art. She confides that she is still figuring her creativity out amidst four young boys and spending 10 years placing herself in the shadow of her husband. She says this in a matter of fact way and with undeniable accountability, like someone who is slowly realizing their own potential. She has been working through, “the idea that you can be a mum in today’s society and care deeply about your children and be completely devoted to them but then also to carve out time to be creative and to care about the things outside of your family that means a lot to you and that being okay.” 

She discusses the “mothering circles” and guilt that comes along with the perception of if you are not one hundred percent “in the mummy world,” then you don’t love your children, if you don’t feel that being a mother completes you fully. When Cathy dropped her eldest off at class, she had to complete a form, under occupation, she wrote down artist, a small but deliberate step away from being defined by her past as just a stay at home mom. Like many budding (and established) artists, Cathy has had a hard time owning her creativity and referring to herself as an artist. She has reminded herself on more than one occasion that she does have something to offer people even if it isn’t as good as she would like it to be. 

She says that her children have influenced her art and helped her make realizations of how she views herself in relation to art. When Louis and Elliot were younger they would create things, she would complement their art, “and hide it in a drawer because, in a very embarrassing way, it didn’t feel nice enough to hang up in the house.” She admits that she has walked a long way to realize that, “things don’t have to look perfect to be valuable. That we’re all a work in progress.”  

Cathy is an accomplished baker, specializing in wedding cakes and celebration cakes. Early August, she made a four tier cheesecake complete with white roses trickling down the side as lush strawberries and blackberries sat atop the surface layers.  While she enjoys baking for special occasions, she is struck by, “how short-lived it is.” She explains her desire to create something with more permanence, “It’s so much work and it’s over so quickly, and so I’m trying to explore ways for me to be able to take the things I love without creating cakes. The side I love is feeding people and moving that to feeding people in a way that sustains them and then taking the artistic creative side and trying to find other mediums that allow what I’ve created to be preserved for a bit longer.” Cathy is intrigued by her quest to find a way to create art that lasts beyond a day. She has recently begun dabbling in watercolor paintings. Finding time away to create has brought insight into the creative process as well. While she would like to work at night she is often run ragged from a busy day nurturing and loving on four boys and a creative husband. She gets in where she can fit in, “This morning I was painting with Theo on my back pulling my hair,” she says with a laugh, “but I have to try.” Cathy is gradually becoming more empowered and having to consistently reassure herself that she is worth the time and act of creating. 

While reflecting on the delicacy of motherhood and creativity Cathy mentions something Paul often says to illustrate motherhood. With their toddler Nathan in his lap, Paul says that motherhood is, “Like pearls on a string, with no knot on the end,” Cathy laughs and adds, “It’s deeply valuable but those pearls just fall to the ground and get trampled on within minutes. . .seconds.”

Cathy met Paul when she was 17, she was married by 20, and in the United States with their first born baby boy Louis by 22. While reflecting on the past ten years, she says, “I always knew I wanted to be a mother, I don’t think I expected it would happen as early as it did and I don’t think I understood how deeply it would transform my life.” She is currently at a place in her journey where she is trying to find pieces of herself amidst the chaos of motherhood. She acknowledges how fleeting her current season of life is, “But I also don’t want my boys to go away from my home and realize I don’t know myself and I don’t know my husband because I haven’t invested in things that make me come alive.” 

The first time Cathy found she could create was when she stepped into the opportunity out of necessity. Her mother burned both of her arms badly while mid-way through creating an anniversary cake, “there was nothing to do then for me to kind of step in, and I didn’t really know what I was doing but she sat with me with her arms bandaged. . .and I realized I was capable of more than I have myself credit for.” 

Cathy was born in a small town in West England, her family moved to Brussels when she was eight, where she lived until age 18. She grew up with two siblings who are both in artistic trades. She credits her artistic impulses to her childhood and being raised without television, “We didn’t have anything else to occupy our time other than my mum providing art supplies for us and that was how we passed our time. So I am definitely grateful to her for doing that because I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t creating something.” That creative nurturing has rippled over into how she raises her children, she spends time creating with her boys, “we just enjoy building spaceships out of cardboard boxes-we’ve built kid stools and bird feeders.” 

Cathy loves creating meaning through her art and getting away from technology through tasks that allow her to use her hands. In the middle of our conversation about art in the area, Cathy’s third born bounces out of the back bedroom and tells his mother, “There’s a big spider in my bedroom,” he says it two more times so she knows; Cathy kisses his head and advises, “Go shoo him away.” She returns to our conversation and acknowledges her desire to spend more time in the adult art world, “I’m aware that I need to spend more time going to galleries and going to classes for myself, but what I’ve been involved in is looking at stuff for my kids to be a part of.” One set back she has identified to nourishing the teaching of art is the high prices of workshops and classes. The lack of affordability concerns her in that people of low socioeconomics will have less opportunity to learn and grow as artists. She hopes to see more community oriented art classes, “and for art to be available for all.” She believes the work of Smalltown Society and the opportunities of how to best use “the space” is helping to intervene in the gaps present in art in the community. 

As far as her artistic goals, Cathy plans to engage in her art more often. She is currently brainstorming ways to provide more opportunities for mothers to get out of the house “get away from housework and babies and have a time and a space to be creative together.”  


Artist Highlight: Naomi PQ "Clove & Whole"

Naomi Phan-Quang is a resident of Castro Valley. "At a very young age, I developed an affinity for old things. I always imagined the people who owned them and what stories they told. While my peers hung out at the mall, I charted out my next visit to the flea market. As a college student, I'd take a train almost every weekend to a warehouse packed with second hand treasures and would furnish our tiny apartment with my finds. These early experiences really shaped my creativity and resourcefulness. Now, as a mother of four, a trip to the thrift store or a neighborhood estate sale is a part of the rhythm of home making." It's no surprise that Naomi's art involves curation and careful restoration. 

Clove and Whole 

Artist Highlight: Tara W. "Freckled Floral"

A Bay Area native currently resides in Hayward with her husband. Six years ago, Tara owned a rental business, although the business was not her passion, she offered floral design within the company. Eventually she left the business and became more intentional about learning as much as she could about floral design. After practicing floral design and finding her path, Tara opened Redwood Floral in the fall of 2015. “The second I opened up my business and started designing for others, the flood gates opened, and everyone was so interested and supportive, so it was just a really cool confirmation.” When it comes to her art, Tara enjoys the constant changes of the seasons and flowers along with the freedom of floral design, “there’s really no rules to it." She describes her process as, “therapeutic,” and adds, “I love that I get to bless others with it.” A large amount of Tara’s work is for weddings, which she acknowledges, “It’s something that makes a lot of people happy, so I really like that.” Tara’s creative process is humbling and intentional. She begins each design with an earnest prayer and frequently has music on in the background as she creates, “I usually have some kind of candle burning and I just like to have all my senses there in what I’m doing.” Tara has been able to connect with community through her art. Given the personal nature of floral design, she finds opportunities to get to know her clients, sometimes for an entire year prior to creating their design. “I’m getting to know their families usually, who their marrying, what their likes are, what they do for a living, it helps me really design an arrangement that caters to that person.” Her clientele stretches from San Francisco all the way to Napa. Regarding the Eden area, Tara states, “I wouldn’t say there’s a ton of artists in this area...or maybe there are, and I just haven’t been exposed to them.” She notes how often artists are drawn to San Francisco and areas of co-working spaces and collaboration, a quality she finds that the Eden area lacks. Tara recognizes the universal struggle of the artists and their ability to support one another in their creative pursuits and desire to support themselves and their families. Although the struggle to sustain as an artist may be unspoken at times, Tara knows it is ever-present. She looks forward to building relationships where support and collaboration can grow.

Freckled Floral