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Crafted with Care: An Artist Feature with Whiskey & Clay

When considering pieces and offerings to stretch across the tables at Manna, it is essential that we feel a connection to the makers, their work and their stories. It's one of the reasons we carry small-batch, artisan goods that are made by real human hands and crafted with care. These works always reflect a detailed level of attention and speak to the artists that formed them. 

We've found this to be especially true when it comes to the medium of ceramics. Every glaze and stroke from the wheel paints a picture and engages with us, intimately, as we eat, drink and serve others. The human needs for sustenance and art is met all at once and whether your sip of choice is an oat milk latte, hot herbal tea or glass of red wine, taking that first drink from a handmade vessel has a way of enhancing and slowing the experience. The simplest task is transformed into a sweet ritual. 

When we discovered Kimmy and Aaron Rohrs of Whiskey & Clay, we were immediately captivated by their one-of-a-kind pieces. The earthy, marbled clay textures, soft forms and creamy glazes testify to the warm desert landscape each piece was crafted and fired in. We are beyond excited to announce that Manna is now carrying Whiskey & Clay Ceramics and are honored to be able to offer their work to our beloved community. We had the pleasure of interviewing Kimmy Rohrs, the founder of Whiskey & Clay, and sincerely hope you enjoy a glimpse into her story, process and inspiration. Our team sure did! 
Rooted in neutral tones, earthy textures and exposed clay, Whiskey and Clay is a brand after our own hearts. How did you develop your signature look and aesthetic, and in what ways does your environment influence your process or pieces?
The first time I traveled to far west Texas, I fell in love. Being an east coast girl who had just moved to Austin, I had never been to a desert, let alone a completely isolated spot like the big bend region. My partner owns a big chunk of flat land out in Terlingua and we quickly started spending as much time as possible visiting it from Austin and soaking in the energy. The way the earth's light and dark tones blend, the shocking bright sun against the jagged mountains, the incredible sunsets and pure simplicity of life out there are my deepest inspirations. I sought to make pieces that honored life out there - raw clay to remind you of the feel of the dirt and creamy white glaze to mimic the clouds and earth.
How did your journey lead to ceramics? When did you become interested in this medium?
It's all thanks to a break up. Back in 2012, I was working a bookkeeping job at a tech company in Annapolis, MD and seeing a boy in Baltimore. He abruptly ended things in early 2013 and I felt so incredibly empty. Working a stale job was not in any way fulfilling. My roommate at the time was taking a ceramics class at a local art institution and invited me to come along. I wasn't great at first, like most people who embark on throwing pots, and made some embarrassing pieces that only my mother cherishes at this point. But something about the tactile experience worked for me. I'm a maker at heart, and seeing the outcome of the process was enough motivation to pursue it fully. Later that year, when he wanted to get back together, I felt so whole from my new art life that I didn't need him at all, plus I was on the move to Austin :).
Before becoming a full-time artist, you worked as a bookkeeper at a tech company. Seemingly, these are two completely different ends of the career spectrum, but are there any common threads or skills that translate to both?
What an interesting question and honestly one I hadn't ever thought of before, but yes! A fair amount of accounting work is worker bee type activities: booking expenses, repeating financial patterns, tracking trends, etc. I would point to the heads down repetition of booking, or categorizing expenses as a similar skill to making pottery in a production environment. There are days when I set out to make 60 of the exact same piece. On those days I get into such a flow that it reminds me of end of month inventory counts or bank account reconciliations, which require a similar heads down worker bee flow of repetition.
Do you have any advice for artists or makers looking to leap into their work and creations full-time?
Oh man. I've given so much of it over the years and would have to say the most important advice to give is about discipline. Being a full-time maker requires self-discipline to create a schedule or routine that works for you and not budge on that. It's so easy to think "oh I just work for myself, I can stay out late and start later tomorrow" but those lapses in judgement can throw off a work flow. Being a full time creator takes a certain perseverance and truly an obsession with what you do. I go to bed after a long day of throwing clay completely fulfilled by what I do, and wake up early the next day eager to get started again. 
What is the most exciting part of your work?
Hands down the most exciting part is unloading the kiln. Even after 7 years of this stuff, I still get giddy to open it, like a kid on Christmas morning seeing presents piled up under the tree. Our firing method is tricky and totally wild so each firing is different. Some days I'll open the kiln and everything has a hue of blue to it, or a pale yellow across all the clay bodies. As I write this I'm waiting for the kiln to cool to room temperature so I can crack it open and start unloading.
We have to ask, do you have a favorite whiskey cocktail you’d be willing to share with us?
Aw! Well I'm most partial to whiskey and water, as simple as it sounds. Back in the days of throwing on my porch in Austin, I used to drink a lot more whiskey - we were so busy with orders even then that my life outside my full time accounting job was those two things - whiskey and clay. Fun fact:  I also bartend at a local hotel here in Santa Fe called La Reina, so I do like to craft up a fun cocktail every now and then. I'd have to say my favorite whiskey cocktail is an old fashioned. Though lately mezcal and sotol have been my evening go-tos :).