Evan Linden: an American vendor

Evan Linden's self-taught jewelry making is on display on Telegraph. Photo by Austin Matloff

Evan Linden’s self-taught jewelry making is on display on Telegraph. Photo by Austin Matloff

BERKELEY, Calif. — Lining Berkeley’s well-known Telegraph Avenue — with its year-round street vendors and entertainers — sits Evan Linden, who has been making wire and hemp accessories for 15 years.  He started off back in 1997 when his girlfriend gave him a necklace made out of hemp, which made him want to try to make one.  “I was really bad,” he said.  But instead of giving up, he found a way to make himself better at it.  “I had a goal to make 365 bracelets, one for every day of the year,” he said.  “I accomplished it in about six months.”

Even though Linden is one of the most profitable vendors on the streets, others try to soak up some of the profit, he said.  “You can’t help but realize this is a competition.  I know they copy me,” he added.

As a result, he now adds different varieties of jewelry to his shop.  In addition to hemp bracelets, he has branched out into making hemp belts and also wire accessories, including rings, bracelets and earrings.  “I really started loving the wire, wrapping the wire,” he said.

Linden has fallen in love with all of the pieces he’s made over the years, and said,  “I have a history with every one of the pieces here. I’ve put about $3,400 into the stone beads,” he added.  If it were up to him, Linden would keep all of the pieces he makes.  But “I can’t afford to keep them,” he said. “It’s not all I have, but I’m glad I have it.”

Linden said a gang threatened him one, which led him to learn  Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and grow more comfortable on the streets.  He said, “It means I can have all the money in my pocket, and I can walk feeling confident.”

He’s only been in his current spot for a month now, but he said he already fits in.  He picked it because “I feel comfortable when I’m vending here,” which is next to the popular ice cream shop, Cream.  He said, “You’ve got to go where the people are lining up.”