We had the chance to sit down with Kimmy Rohrs, the ceramic artisan behind Whiskey & Clay in her studio to talk about how she found her calling, making home special, inspiration behind her pieces and her must visit spots for a local Santa Fe experience.
TELL US ABOUT YOURSELF!
I’m an east coaster originally, who through a couple job moves, found herself in the desert southwest. I remember being a kid living on the Chesapeake Bay shores of Maryland and having no conception of a desert or the southwest - I had some friends move to NM and was so fascinated by the lifestyle out there and downright curious. Maybe I manifested it at a young age? I was born on the beach in New Jersey, grew up on the bay in Maryland, went to college in the mountains of western Virginia, and ended up in Austin for work.
WOULD YOU SAY YOU’VE ALWAYS EMBRACED YOUR CREATIVE SIDE OR HAS THAT BEEN A RELATIVELY NEW TRANSITION?
In Austin is where I developed my love of clay. But, as a kid I had always loved working with my hands, taking things apart, and playing in the woods. When things around the house would break, like a stapler for instance, my dad would sit me down at the table and take the thing apart with me. I loved knowing how things work and making was such a part of my nature. My partner, Aaron, is similar in the tinker way. He’s an accomplished software engineer, amazing backyard mechanic, and problem solver. We met in Austin 8 years ago and quickly built a unique life together, fixing old cars and making pottery. I feel so lucky to have a life that’s so aligned with my deep interests and passions.
' I loved knowing how things work and making was such a part of my nature. '
SOUNDS LIKE THAT CREATIVE SIDE TO YOU WAS ENCOURAGED BY THE PEOPLE IN YOUR LIFE, WHICH IS AMAZING! WOULD YOU SAY YOUR PROFESSIONAL LIFE STAYED PRETTY CLOSE TO THOSE CREATIVE FOUNDATIONS? HOW EXACTLY DID WHISKEY & CLAY COME TO BE?
Well, after college I took an entry level bookkeeping job at a software startup in downtown Annapoli. I was dating a Baltimore artist and when he dumped me (on Valentine's day!) I felt like I had nothing interesting going on in my life. My roommates invited me to a pottery class and I fell in love. It felt really right for me at the time and inspired my maker brain in ways I hadn’t yet in life. The job I worked in MD moved me to Austin a few months later, so I joined a studio out there to keep my passion going. I learned a lot at that spot, and eventually was asked to leave because I was experimenting with blending clays and other “improper” techniques. Right around then, I met my partner Aaron. He was on the software end of things at the start up and I was so smitten. I used to deny his expense reports so he would have to come talk to me :) We moved into a sweet house on the east side of Austin where running a kiln wasn’t an issue (now I think that neighborhood is sadly gone to make room for more condos), and we built a little studio on our front porch. I switched jobs and started working full time as a bookkeeper for a brewery, but my passion for pottery really grew. I would spend my evenings and weekends working with clay...and drinking whiskey...hence the name :)
Aaron worked from home so he could easily run the kiln anytime and we developed this unexpected business of making pots on our porch in Austin. It grew so fast that we both felt it was time to leave our traditional careers for pottery. Now we live in Santa Fe, make pottery full time, and are more fulfilled by this life than any career success in the past.
YOUR PIECES HAVE SUCH A WONDERFUL AND DISTINCTIVE STYLE TO THEM, HAS THERE BEEN A PRIMARY SOURCE OF INSPIRATION BEHIND YOUR POTTERY?
My inspiration was and will always be the far west Texas terrain. The land out there is something else man! It’s earth is a beautiful blend of light and dark (my clay bodies), sky is always a magical sunrise and sunset, and jagged raw mountain edges all around. We live part time in Terlingua, Texas as an escape from the real world, and a reset for our creative selves.
TOTALLY GET THAT! I’VE VISITED TERLINGUA BRIEFLY, AND WAS AMAZED BY THE DIFFERENT HUES AND TONES BROUGHT OUT BY THE DESERT. HOW DO YOU FEEL THAT TYPICALLY TRANSLATES INTO YOUR HOME? HOW DO YOU MAKE YOUR HOME FEEL SPECIAL?
I love this question! Sitting in front of our raging wood stove, cat next to me cuddled up, my body super warm from a bath, and some calm music. What I do to make my home feel special is just that - create a space for warmth, closeness, reset, and quiet.
'create a space for warmth, closeness, reset, and quiet.'
SOUNDS PERFECT FOR GETTING THE CREATIVE SIDE REVITALIZED! IN THAT RECHARGE SPACE, WHAT DO YOU TYPICALLY GO FOR IN TERMS OF READING/WATCHING/LISTENING TO/EXPLORING?
Lately, I’ve been listening to quite a bit of car talk on NPR. My partner and I work on cars as a side hustle to pottery. We have mostly vintage diesel Mercedes and Toyotas that we love so dearly. Aaron has that miraculous mechanic mind and therefore can basically fix anything. He’s taught me so much and sadly since I’m so busy with pottery these days, I get my mechanic fix in the form of two hilarious radio personalities who happen to be car savants.
KIMMY'S MUST DO LIST FOR SANTA FE
- Start off the morning with breakfast burritos at Betterday (i get the green chile, no meat)
- Mid-morning Sun Mountain hike to get the day going
- Lunch coffee or tea at Iconik on Lena street
- I’m a huge fan of taking a drive to a scenic spot and cracking a beer - Pacheco Canyon is hands down my favorite. It’s about 20 minutes from town, a gorgeous drive, and amazing overlooks. You can also take that road all the way up to the ski basin if you have a 4x4!
- My favorite warm-weather dinner activity is to get take-out from Tesuque Village Market (and wine from their fridge) and driving over to Shidoni’s Sculpture Garden for a picnic
- I’m totally biased on places to stay because I work at the El Rey Court as an occasional bartender, but for real it’s the most special in all of Santa Fe. Especially that room #50 :)