Kimmy Rohrs is the ceramicist behind Whiskey + Clay. She sculpts planters and kitchenware, and sells these pieces at pop-up shops and indie stores throughout the American Southwest, including DIRT. Writer Haydyn Marina got together with Kimmy last month at a friend’s home / storefront in Marfa, Texas to talk about unbelievable sky, the makeup of dirt, and having trust in your own hands.
Haydyn Marina: Can I smoke in this bedroom?
Kimmy Rohrs: Yeah, definitely.
Talk about the sky in the West.
KR: The sky is West Texas is specifically what I mean. The first time I ever came out to West Texas, Aaron brought me. It was probably 2014, I was 24, and hadn’t spent much time out in this part of the country. We went to the land, which is in middle of nowhere, to an old shitty trailer full of mouse poop, but with this giant, open sky, with mountains in the distance that are kind of purply-blue. They blended in with the sky, the mesa. And all of this—we arrived around sunset, so all of this was at the golden hour, at the most beautiful time. Before this moment, I had never felt nostalgia for a place I had never been before, but once we arrived, it hit me so hard. I cried. I just wanted to go be alone out there, which feels very cliche, but that’s exactly what happened.
That was around the time I started making pottery a little more seriously. But none of this was cognitive. It just started happening: when I started making it more seriously, people started buying it, and I was seeking influences. I was seeking influences on colors and schemes, and I just remember looking at the West Texas ground floor—which was like whitish, beigey, two pale colors mixed together—and looking at the bluish sky, just feeling like that was the palette that spoke to me.
How about color. Your work is not colorful.
KR: No I hate colors. Well I don’t hate colors, I just don’t like colors on my work. I want the focus to be on the piece and not the attributes. I want it to be on the piece you’re holding, which is the clay, the dirt. I marble porcelain and stoneware together in the clay to capture the white and beigey ground floor. I want that to be the focus. So that’s why I stick with an off-white color palette that doesn’t take away from the value or integrity of the piece, it just adds. In a subtle way.
And the white that drips from the top of the pieces, is that a glaze?
KR: That’s the glaze, yeah. It’s a glaze recipe that I’ve adapted from St. Edward's in Austin, it’s call pure base. A friend of mine shared it with me, and I’ve just adjusted the ratios. There are like four or five ingredients, and I’ve adjusted the ratios for what I like. So, for instance, when I add a little more dolomite, I get slight pink iridescent hues. I like to toss a little cobalt in there to give some pieces a light blue, which is like sky.
And then, there’s a really special thing that happens with this glaze when cooled very slowly. When we turn off the kiln, which has a lot of insulation around it, we let it just chill. For like two days. And when the pottery cools very slowly like this, all these crystals form. It crystallizes, like glass, in the glaze. Because glaze is suspended glass. So the slower it cools, the more glassiness you get.
Glaze is suspended glass.
KR: I know, isn’t that crazy? It’s all these different ingredients, different ratios. Think about lightening. When lightning hits sand, it makes a glass form [called fulgurite]. There are a lot of things in sand or dirt that attribute to this. So, if lightning strikes dirt out in West Texas, which has a lot of bentonite, glass form will happen. Bentonite is an ingredient that I use. Which is also kitty litter. Haha, fun facts.
Fulgurite Glass Forms | ©Adrar Mauritanien
What can you say about the juxtaposition between elegance and the roughness of life?
I’ve always loved contrast like that. I think of myself as thin, feminine. And, I can’t get away from that. Which, I love that. But I’ve always embraced the tomboyishness. Growing up with my dad, we would take things apart and we would work on cars. And I’ve clung to that since I was a child, since he started teaching me how to take things apart during my most formative years. It just became who I was. So, when Aaron and I started getting together and, you know, something broke on my car he was like, well why don’t we just make the repair ourselves?
It started with a belt, it was an easy job, and Aaron was like, let’s just do it. And I was like—wait, what do you mean, don’t we have to take that to a professional? But instead we did it! We did the job and I learned, oh this was really easy. But I was still somewhat under the impression of, but what if it’s broken, someone professional didn’t do it, what if we didn’t do it as good as they would? But I quickly realized when you do something yourself, you will probably do it much better.
Right, like having trust in your own hands.
KR: Yes. Exactly. That’s been proven to me. We took my car to a place in Austin years ago for a big job that I was very afraid of, and they fucked it up! And we had to redo it ourselves! It was horrible. And that’s what I’ve developed, is trust in my own hands in as far as my own pottery, my own business, my own car work, anything really. If you want the job done right, you should do it yourself.
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