When Sandra and Roger Harrington moved to New Mexico from the Big Island of Hawaii 20 years ago, they were looking to fulfill a mutual dream. While both had been artists throughout their lives, they had never had the chance to do it as their sole profession.
Sandra, a native of Raleigh, North Carolina, grew up in an artistic household with her father teaching design at North Carolina State University. She started her journey as an artist in 1987, learning ceramics at UNC Greensboro while pursuing a graduate’s degree in childhood counseling. There she met Roger Harrington, originally from the rural Chemung Valley of Upstate New York. An artist since his youth, Roger had served in the Navy during the Vietnam War, traveling extensively, before attending Elmira College where he earned his bachelor’s in Studio Art.
The two fell in love and were married in 1992. They honeymooned in Hawaii; “And when he saw it of course, he said ‘We’ve got to live here,’ ” said Sandra. Moving right away to the Big Island, the couple kept their day jobs while continuing to pursue their art. And while they loved their life in Hawaii, “I was at the school [as a counselor] for eight years and just finally said, you know what, I think I want to give the pottery a shot.”
With the cost of living so high in Hawaii, including importing all the clay for pots, Roger and Sandra decided to make the leap back to the Mainland, touring ten different states before deciding on New Mexico because “the vibe felt really good.” After experiencing a Taos Fiesta weekend, they made the move in 2002, initially opening their own gallery. “It lasted 14 months,” said Sandra, “because we couldn’t swing the overhead in the winter. We had 25 other artists we were representing. It was really fun, but we just didn’t have a clue what we were doing.”
Roger went to work with Taos Schools and Sandra at the defunct Taos Bakery while they planned their next move. They moved to Questa in 2008 and in 2009, Sandra opened a little pottery shop by the old video rental store in Questa while working part time for UNM Taos as an early childhood consultant and marketing pottery at shows around the state. Roger retired from the Taos school district in 2010 and the couple opened ArtQuesta in its present location. In 2014 “finally, I quit my job… at the age of 55, I became a fulltime potter!”
Finally living the dream after so much struggle, the Harringtons have filled ArtQuesta with the sort of work that comes from a lifetime of dedication to one’s art. Sandra’s pottery is deeply influenced by her teacher at UNC Greensboro, Setsuya Kotani and his Japanese style that emphasizes spontaneity, embracing the subtle imperfections and irregularities of the process. Her painting and glaze work is also influenced by the Japanese sumi-e style, though decidedly idiosyncratic. At the same time, she’s also rooted in the American Arts and Crafts Movement, which emphasizes the practicality of objects. To that end, all of her work is intended for home use, not just looking amazing.
Roger’s paintings take their cues from the Abstract Expressionist school and from his boyhood in one of the most isolated (and still natural) places in the East, living without running water or electricity until 11 years old. Influenced by contemporaries like Wolf Kahn, Joop Sanders, Gandy Brodie and Alexander Minewski, he creates a range of work, from the abstract to the impressionistic, sometimes blending the two into mesmerizing psychedelic landscapes that must be seen. His love of nature is always apparent with many of his pieces depicting the breathtaking scenery of Questa and the Enchanted Circle. He’s also an expert jeweler, working in a range of styles and materials. Most pieces are made with silver and non precious metals and are as affordable as they are beautiful.
ArtQuesta has a range of pottery items for $40 and less for the Christmas season and paintings priced for gifting. So many, they can’t even hang them all! Visit them at 2322 #9 NM HWY 522 Questa or shop online at artquesta.com. Phone Sandra at (575) 224-0182, or Roger at (575) 613-2433.