Finding an apartment to rent in Santa Fe is hard enough. But finding studio, storefront or gallery space to rent as an artist? That's even tougher, says custom furniture designer Jonathan Boyd, who sees lack of affordable space as one of the greatest obstacles to artists and creative entrepreneurs who want to establish themselves in Santa Fe as home base.

But to Boyd, whose background is actually in real estate, the ideal solution isn't just new development. Boyd sees creative potential in empty spaces and under-utilized buildings all over the city. His nonprofit, Vital Spaces, maximizes the use of these some of these spaces by temporarily adapting them to become studios and showrooms.

Boyd's own studio is in a building on Hickox street that started as a gas station in the '50s and was later an automotive shop before he converted it into creative space. It serves as a kind of prototype for flexible multi-use spaces he'd like to see everywhere.

Boyd began by renting space in the building to ceramicist Kimmy Rohrs. The latest evolution of the concept is a storefront in the northeast corner of the building that faces out towards the street. Curated by both artists, the new shop, Boyd and Allister Home, is full of treasures created by makers from across the country and the world, including Mudslide Pottery and others local to Santa Fe.

The concept for the store rests at the intersection of utility and beauty. Items for sale include candles cast in geometric inspired shapes, planters that look carved from stone but are actually feather light porcelain, expertly woven towels and baskets.

The aesthetic—refined and modern yet still soft, somehow—makes the space feel like a store you might stumble on in a much larger city but that is a fresh offering for Santa Fe.

"We focus on supporting small production shops and makers around the country and around the world but on whose work reflects this really clean aesthetic that we share," says Boyd.

These objects by other artists create a context for their own work to be displayed in its ideal setting, says Rohrs.

Kimmy Rohr’s ceramics studio is at the back of the new store. Boyd’s studio is also in the building.
Kimmy Rohr’s ceramics studio is at the back of the new store. Boyd’s studio is also in the building. | Leah Cantor

Both artists have their own work for sale, such as hand-carved candlesticks and lamp bases made by Boyd, and Rohrs' signature stoneware and porcelain blend cups and vases. And that's what really makes the store interesting—anyone who comes in has the opportunity to engage directly with the artists, who both spend most of their time in their studios on the other side of a door or drawn curtain.

Doing this in his own building has allowed Boyd to explore what kinds of mixed-uses can work best in small spaces.

The model of mixed-use artist space is becoming  more popular in Santa Fe, with new developments such as the Siler Yard Arts+Creativity Center  being designed specifically for that purpose on land donated by the city.

But the idea of Vital Spaces is to  work with landlords to make buildings available to artists for a variety of uses during the in-between time when it would otherwise stand empty, while a building is undergoing redevelopment or while it is on the market but has not yet found long-term tenants or buyers.

So far, the organization occupies buildings on Otero Street and St. Michael's Drive, and have set their sights even further afield to spaces on the Southside and perhaps even on the Midtown campus.

"I feel like the biggest obstacle to getting your foot in the door is having an affordable workspace to be able to explore your own work," says Boyd. "Affordable space can bring new ideas and cross pollination to this city."

The store will celebrates its opening party this weekend.

Things We Love Opening Party:
4-7 pm Sunday Dec. 8. Free.
Boyd and Allister Home, 1200 Hickox St., 995-9720