There are hobbies and then there are passions. 

For a dedicated group of UCSF faculty, staff and learners, their diverse set of talents and artistic prowess are on full display as part of the Artisan Guild by the Bay.​​​​

​​​Founded in 2009 as the Laurel Heights Artisan Guild, the group celebrates, supports and promotes crafts and artwork made by and for members of the UCSF community.

“There’s something special about sharing artistic endeavors while being at UCSF in our workspace.”

Brandee Woleslagle Blank
President, Artisan Guild by the Bay

“When you’re around other artists, there’s something special about sharing artistic endeavors while being at UCSF in our workspace,” said Brandee Woleslagle Blank, guild president and academic program manager for the UCSF School of Nursing’s Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences Sociology Doctoral Program

“It feels good,” she added. “It pushes me to keep doing my art.” 


Brandee Wolesagle Blank selling her necklaces
Brandee Woleslagle Blank, Program Manager for the Sociology Doctoral Program at UCSF, sells handmade jewelry and other crafts at the Spring Handmade Market hosted by the Artisan Guild By The Bay in Genentech Hall at the UCSF Mission Bay campus in San Francisco, CA on Tuesday, May 7, 2024.
customer holding a necklace by Erin
A customer looks at a handmade necklace crafted by Brandee Woleslagle Blank made from a magnolia tree at the Laurel Heights campus where Blank worked for 15 years.


Artisan Guild by the Bay recently held a Spring Handmade Market at UCSF’s Mission Bay campus to showcase and sell items from its members, one of two semi-annual events open to the public. It’s only the second time the event has been held since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic after it was resurrected last December. 

The goods sold at the markets, conveniently placed just before Mother’s Day and during the holidays, run the gamut. 

Handmade crafts and artwork include jewelry, crochets, home décor, pottery, stickers, art prints, journals and knitted gifts. Moon jars and vases made by Asa Kalish, a second-year PhD student in the UCSF School of Medicine’s Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics, have been on hand at the last two events. 


Asa sells his handmade ceramic pieces
Asa Kalish, a bio physics graduate student, sells their handmade ceramic pieces.
students shop for ceramics made by their classmate
Graduate students (left to right) Divya Kranthi, Jonathan Borowsky and Alex Long, shop for ceramics made by their classmate, Asa Kalish, also a bio physics graduate student.


“Pottery has this kind of ego, perfectionist thing,” they said.

“You watch a master potter make this vase and you can chase that technical competence forever. After doing that enough times and getting better and better, I finally felt like I can do pottery.”

Kalish, an Oakland native, is part of The Gartner Lab, where they’re studying how cells use mechanical forces to self-organize tissues.” 

As a relative newcomer to pottery, Kalish “just got obsessed” and never looked back after a friend suggested they try their hand at pottery. 

“I didn’t think I could do it,” they said. “I could read and play guitar but I didn’t feel any good with my hands or that I could make something new. The creative people were there, I was over here. This is related to the science, but it’s that practice of jumping into something without thinking too hard about it and seeing what comes of it.” 

Kalish’s first “proper” show was the guild’s comeback event in December, an outing that went better than they could have expected, despite their nerves. “I spent three hours selling pottery and I still wondered who would want to buy this,” they recalled. “It feels extra vulnerable to put a bunch of one-foot-tall vases on the table.”


Iris Chin sells her crocheted items
Iris Chin, a graduate student in the Biomedical Sciences program, sells her crocheted items.
A shopper looks at charms made by Jennifer Chan
A shopper looks at charms made by Jennifer Chan from the UCSF Real Estate office.

Lots of time spent discussing patients.


Like many in the guild, Kalish’s artistic side is fed by their passion for science. 

“It’s a great chance to think about how the physical process of combustion and melting combine with motion and form and texture,” they said. “It’s a lot going on, just like with tissues. People making pottery and working with materials inspired physicists. It takes a lot of trial and error, and open-mindedness, to understand pottery in terms of the behavior of its microscopic components, especially because you can’t easily see what each little particulate is doing. There are patterns but also a mystery to the interplay between these scales of matter and for me that mystery is where the fun happens.” 

Unlike Kalish, Cindy Cheng, UCSF Radiology and Biomedical Imaging communication and events manager, has been in the guild since its beginning. She was part of the original formation of the group that came out of the beloved Halloween costume and door decorating contests at UCSF Laurel Heights. It was later made official – only open to Laurel Heights faculty, staff and learners at that time – when some faculty and staff got together and held a craft show in a meeting room. 

With that, a creative movement was born at UCSF. 


Cindy  sells her knitted hats and jewelry
Cindy Cheng, communications and events manager for UCSF Radiology and Biomedical Imaging, sells her knitted hats and jewelry.

Rachel sells her personally designed stickers
Rachel Huynh, a medical student at UCSF, sells her personally designed stickers.


“There’s so much talent here,” Cheng said. “It’s nice to see UCSF colleagues thrive in what they’re making. We’re more than just administrative assistants or techs or doctors. It’s a way for all of us to connect in one way or another.” 

Cheng, who also dabbles in Chinese brush painting and watercolor using rice paper, has sold knitted hats, baby items and scarves, along with greeting cards and jewelry at guild events throughout the years. “It’s a nice outlet,” she said. “I like to see the hidden talents in all my colleagues. It’s nothing you would think is basic skill. They amaze me. It’s so inspiring. It keeps me going. I love looking at what other people produce and how their minds work.” 


A shopper looks at paintings by artist, Julia Kay
A shopper looks at paintings by artist Julia Kay.


For her part as a creator in the Artisan Guild by the Bay, Woleslagle Blank does “junk journaling,” a way of recycling papers as memory books. She also makes electroforming jewelry, earrings, necklaces and storage jars. 

“It gives them an opportunity to be creative, to have their hobbies,” said Blank, who was recently recognized with the 2024 Chancellor Award for Exceptional University Service. “It’s important for mental health. As a staff member, I’m so busy at work. I’m usually so burnt at night and it kind of pushes my crafting to other times. That’s what I get out of it, knowing that it’s forming community.”

The Artisan Guild by the Bay is a Staff Registered Campus Organization supported by Campus Life Services.