Kimmy Rohrs, Potter and Owner of Whiskey & Clay
Ceramics, owner of Whiskey & Clay
Restoring vintage cars, distance running
Pieces available in Santa Fe at:
Opuntia, Alembic Apothecary, Beals & Co, Meow Wolf
Kimmy Rohrs does a bit of everything. She's a data analyst, bartender, long distance runner, vintage car restorer, and owner of her pottery business Whiskey & Clay. She's also new to Santa Fe, having just moved here in the fall, but has seemingly fit right in and found her niche. She has a friendly, confident personality and everybody seems to know her around town. If you haven't met her yet, there's a good chance you've come across her work at your favorite spots in Santa Fe. She has pieces for sale at Opuntia Cafe, Alembic Apothecary, Beals & Co/Craft & Culture, and Meow Wolf. Her distinct aesthetic is easy to spot, so keep an eye out - you may already own one of her pieces! Kimmy invited us into her studio and shared with us her recent transition from full time data analysis/finance work into running her business, her recent move to Santa Fe from Austin, and what truly makes Santa Fe special in her eyes.
SFF: What are you working on right now?
KR: You caught me at a moment between a kiln run. Two days ago this whole room was completely full with clay, but I just ran a kiln yesterday and I’m waiting for it to cool. I don’t know if you can tell, but my anxiety is insane today because you never know what will happen when you open the kiln! Until I know that everything worked out, I’ll just be a ball of work.
SFF: How many hours worth of work is in the kiln?
KR: So many. Like three weeks’ worth or work… including a lot of custom pieces that I need for customers.
SFF: That sounds really scary. But I guess you’re used to it!
KR: Yeah, I am. Right now I’m about to start throwing and make some vases. I have a rolling order with Opuntia where they allow me to just bring whatever in, and I’m really lucky in that way.
SFF: Do you have your pieces for sale anywhere else in Santa Fe?
KR: Yes, at Alembic Apothecary. I first got connected with Laurel right when she opened up her store Alembic Apothecary and we became instant buddies. I started showing a bunch of my work at her place, and she’s friends with Jeanna, the owner of Opuntia, so she reached out to me as well.
SFF: What makes your work unique?
KR: What’s unique about my work is that I blend two clays. I typically throw with porcelain and stoneware. The red turns to an awesome brown, and the grey clay turns white. The striations will really come out after firing. One time I was throwing porcelain and I started crying because it felt so good. It is so soft like cream cheese - it’s amazing. Often people wonder how it’s possible to blend the clays because they shrink at different rates, but I don’t have a problem with it. It works for me!
SFF: How long have you been making ceramics?
KR: Just over 5 years. I got dumped on Valentine’s Day five years ago and felt so lame because I didn’t have much going on in my life. I was living with a couple St. John’s students in Maryland and one of them told me I’d like pottery, so I tried it. I totally loved it the moment I jumped on the wheel. It just felt right. The best feeling was seeing the finished piece. To literally make something with my hands that I could customize, and see the outcome be more beautiful than what I put into it, just really spoke to me. So I stuck with it for a while, and then the software company I was working for moved me to Austin, and the first thing I did when I moved there was find a studio that I could be part of. The studio in Austin was called Clayways and I took classes there for about two years. I met my partner to be, Aaron, at the startup because we worked together. He’s a fix-it guy, and he said he could make me a studio and a kiln, so we took our little shack on the East Side and turned it into a studio and put a kiln on the front porch. The rest is history!
SFF: How did you come up with the name Whiskey & Clay?
KR: I’ve had full time jobs for the duration of my pottery career. Everyday when I would get home in the evening I would pour myself whiskey and work at the wheel all night long.
SFF: Was your startup job really stressful?
KR: It wasn’t stressful, but I didn’t like it. I don’t really like working full time jobs because I like to own my hours. But Aaron was really encouraging of me doing ceramics, and he worked from home, so we could run the kiln twice a week. It just took off from there, and five years later (July of last year) we decided to move away from Austin and pursue pottery. We started shopping for land out here, found the most perfect plot, and we really fell in love with Santa Fe. Aaron was my facilities guy. He fulfilled orders, ran the kiln, and sanded all my pieces. We’ve since splitted ways, but remain friends and help each other out in our endeavors.
SFF: So is this your full time job now?
KR: I still work at Meow Wolf part time as data analyst in the finance department. I’ve worked in finance since I graduated college, and they made a role for me when I moved here. It worked out really well and I’ve learned so much. I was working there full time until a month ago.
SFF: That’s nice that you have a part time job with a stable income that still allows you enough time to do this.
KR: It’s really great. It’s very classic Meow Wolf. Of course they’re going to say, “Yes, please go do art!” That’s what all of them did - they left their jobs to do art!
SFF: What made you switch to part time one month ago?
KR: I went to SXSW and I just got the itch while I was out there. I realized that working as a data analyst was not what I wanted to do forever. I want to be a potter ultimately, so I decided I’m going to make that happen, and fast.
SFF: What did you study in school?
KR: Economics. It’s what my dad studied, and his dad. It felt really natural to follow their path, especially since it’s something I’m also passionate about. I paired it with philosophy and statistics as minors and have been really pleased with my career path thus far. When I switched to part time work at Meow Wolf, my mom was like “Oh, but I paid for your college...” and I told her, “Yeah, well I’m still going to be doing everything I’m doing now, but for myself!”
SFF: What is this box of pinecones for?
KR: That’s our packing material. People love it. It’s so beautiful and simple. Aaron and I were really trying to noodle on a good way to pack pieces, and things like packing peanuts and packed air all suck. At the time, we were staying at our friend’s house out in the country and we realized that there was stuff all around us that we could use and that it smells amazing. So we decided to use pinecones, and we give each customer a little piece of New Mexico.
SFF: Where are you originally from and how does it compare to living in Santa Fe?
KR: I grew up in Annapolis, MD and went to James Madison University in Virginia, but I like living out here. I’m really happy with my life path so far. Since I grew up on the East Coast, I know what I’m not missing. I just love it out here so much more. Life is so simple, beautiful, slow, and there’s blank space here; whereas on the East Coast it’s one thing after another. For example, this morning I worked a bit for Meow Wolf out of Betterday Coffee, then I had to run out to our land in Glorieta to make a glaze, and I bought my ukulele just because I wanted to. I sat on top of this mountain on my land and played it for half an hour. And I could do that. On the East Coast it just doesn’t feel the same. I can do OK here on making pottery and bartending and working for this cooky art place, whereas one the East Coast... that just wouldn’t work.
SFF: When you’re not working, what do you do for fun?
KR: We have a thing for vintage Mercedes’, so we have seven cars and we work on all of them. We’re kind of backyard mechanics - it’s so fun! We rebuilt three engines together. Our newest project is this Mercedes named Stella. We got it from our friend for $300 and it wasn’t running. Within one day, Aaron and I got it running and drove it here and it hasn’t moved since. My dad hates this other one because the floor is giving out. One day I’m going to Flinstones that thing and totally fall out. I also run marathons, usually one a year, but halves are also fun. I usually run at sunset, after work and before potting, so I have a buffer to cleanse my mind. I play ukulele (not well), but I feel like I have to because my dad made it for me.
SFF: Where in Santa Fe do you hang out?
KR: I frequent Betterday Coffee. I go there every morning. There’s a group of people who go every morning and we just have this daily cult of morning kids. That’s how I got Stella - one of the people there was selling it. I also work at the bar at El Rey. It’s so fun and I love the environment. The owners, Jay and Alison, are good friends of mine and I love working around them and being around them. I like to go to the Desert Dogs bar downtown and it’s fun to play pool there. Alembic Apothecary is a place I often go to just chill and hang out. Overall, I really like Santa Fe. We specifically chose this place out of a list of places we were considering. We were a little worried about the size of the town, but it’s been so perfect.
SFF: What’s one thing that you want to change about Santa Fe?
KR: Growing up around the water, it feels kind of weird that there’s no open water here. I have this feeling when I’m around water that I have this kind of escape. I wish the rivers here flowed, but it was a conscious choice to move to the desert.
SFF: What inspires your work?
KR: I’m super influenced by the desert in West Texas. The land is just so beautiful. It’s these lovely shades of brown and beautiful tones and the sky is so bright and blue, which comes into my work sometimes.
SFF: What were some of your biggest fears when you started your business?
KR: I didn’t have any really, because people just approached me and asked me to make pieces for them or their coffee shop….So I just started doing it and it just didn’t stop. So I don’t have any fears about it. I have an income that pays for it, so I don’t really need much. I feel really sustainable.