The couple’s 550-square-foot Church Hill gift shop is their largest creation yet. The name was inspired by the friendliness of local residents. Evan purchased a 1977 Honda motorcycle (at right) and with some handiwork transformed it into a “Mad Max”-inspired bike by stripping the tank, adding new tires and redoing the fender.
Husband-and-wife duo Evan Cotter and Kristy Santelli Cotter have forged their relationship in the art of making. From Kristy’s jewelry line, Drift / Riot, to the recent opening of their Church Hill gift shop, Dear Neighbor, the couple finds solace and inspiration in the beautiful things they create together. “We love the experience of making things together,” says Evan, an art director at Ledbury.
Married two years, the couple met through a mutual friend. “We just couldn’t get enough of each other and still can’t,” Kristy says. “He is my rock, and I’m his wild card. So cheesy, but true!”
Long before meeting, they forged their own paths in the creative world. Kristy, raised in Georgia and Chicago, attended New York City’s Fashion Institute of Technology, School of Visual Arts and Hunter College. She then worked as a set designer and in fashion PR and, after what she describes as a “quarter-life crisis,” decided to leave New York for Richmond, where her sister lived. She earned her master’s degree in arts education from Virginia Commonwealth University and began teaching art at J.R. Tucker High School.
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WALL HANGINGS: Inspired by a recent ceramics class, Kristy started making brass and leather wall hangings, which are sold at Dear Neighbor.
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ONE-YEAR ANNIVERSARY: For their first wedding anniversary, Kristy gifted Evan a woodworking course at the Visual Arts Center of Richmond, where he crafted a wooden planter that he later gave to Kristy.
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I DO: Kristy wanted their wedding bands to look like ouroboros snakes, an ancient symbol for infinity and rebirth. The rings are designed to complement one another. Evan made Kristy’s rose gold and black diamond engagement ring at a jewelry class at the Visual Arts Center of Richmond. “We took the jewelry class together,” Evan says.
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On his 30th birthday, Evan hiked Mount Kilimanjaro with his mom, and at the village at the base of the peak, he purchased a horn used for transporting water.
Evan grew up in Richmond and studied graphic design at VCU. He worked for a local design firm before starting his own design company, Order Design, with business partner Reid Collier. He and Collier started working at Ledbury about five years ago.
It wasn’t long into their relationship that the Cotters started working together. Kristy began making and selling jewelry during her first summer off from teaching. Evan saw a business opportunity and helped her design a website. From there Drift / Riot grew, with local retailers such as Quirk Gallery and Need Supply Co. selling her wares.
“It’s not always easy to work with your partner,” Kristy says, “but we figured it out and continue to work on it. We’re really best friends, so it’s fun.”
Their latest project is Dear Neighbor, a 550-square-foot shop located behind their Church Hill home. They brought the Jefferson Street storefront to life with details such as 200-year-old salvaged warehouse beams and live-edge wood shelves. A subtle palette of wood, metallics and neutral colors creates a calming and sophisticated shopping space.
The merchandise runs the gamut from greeting cards and dog accessories to tarot cards and handmade items including wares from Richmond makers Bear Ceramics, Maslo Jewelry, Na Nin and, of course, Drift / Riot. “The things that are important to us,” says Kristy, “they aren’t things, but they are projects.”
The couple’s next big project? Renovating their home.