For Denise Ahlefeldt, owner of Mod Pots Contemporary Ceramics, her motivation came in the form of pottery that cluttered her home. Creating tableware began as a hobby for her, but soon she was making everything from ceramic plates, cups and bowls to flower pots, Christmas ornaments and patio lanterns.
The only problem was, her husband began to fret about his wife’s hobby overtaking their home. So, she had little choice but to expand her distribution. Ahlefeldt went from selling her pieces at small craft shows to approaching shops to carry her work. Now, she sells about 1,000 pieces a year at stores such as Tix on the Square, the Art Gallery of St. Albert and the Alberta Craft Council.
A graphic designer for more than 15 years, Ahlefeldt sees her ceramics work as an extension of her design work. “I’m using what I know about design and putting that into the pottery, the surface design and the shape of it,” she says. She also uses her knowledge of colour theory to make creative combinations. She leans towards brighter shades, although she also has a fondness of “all things nostalgic,” so some of the Technicolor patterns come from 1950s and 1960s design.
Ahlefeldt splits her time between design and pottery, continuing to do professional design work when she’s not in her basement studio. She pieced together a home studio by acquiring second hand equipment – everything from a potter’s wheel to a kiln – from people in the area, including someone who was selling off an entire pottery studio.
Half of her work is done on a potter’s wheel, while the other half is done by hand. She fires the pieces in a kiln in her garage. “I like working with the three-dimensional material,” she explains. “It’s a good creative outlet for me.”
The muse behind the pattern of one of her most popular ceramic collections is a doily her grandma crocheted years ago. “I found this doily when I was going through her stuff. I love nostalgia and texture. I thought it was a really beautiful piece,” explains Ahlefeldt. She takes that same doily, wraps it around her hand-made cups and vases and presses it into the unbaked clay to create vintage-looking tableware, which belong to the Granny Series. The result is a vintage-looking collection that nicely contrasts with Ahlefeldt’s modern company name.