Even for those inclined, learning the process of pottery making takes time. As a graphic designer, Denise Ahlefeldt was always artistic, but wanted to do something more than clicking, dragging and scrolling.
“I wanted to do something with my hands,” she says. “I did some painting, and that kind of stuff, but I was looking for something new.” So, she signed up for a weekly pottery class, and, for five years, it was a fulfilling hobby at which she steadily improved. “But the more I took it, the more I loved it, and I slowly started to build a little studio at home with pieces of equipment from other potters.” Her house started filling up with pottery, and she eventually took her show on the road, selling to small markets until she was approached by the Art Gallery of St. Albert with an offer to sell in its shop. That led to starting Mod Pots, and selling through the Alberta Craft Council and many shops since.
Learning the different types of clay, the glazing and the firing was a “slow build,” but Ahlefeldt’s managed to hone her craft and develop her own mid-century modern style that she describes as having a nostalgic feel. It’s also been influenced by her late grandma’s pottery collection. “When she passed on and I started getting some of the pieces she had purchased, I was like, Wow, she had a pretty cool eye for this stuff.”
While there are still moments of frustration, Ahlefeldt loves sitting down and spinning the wheel, getting into a rhythm and losing track of time making beautiful pieces that people will use. “I make functional ceramics because I enjoy creating pieces that will be used on a daily basis. I hope they’ll be found in the dishwasher or on the kitchen table. These types of everyday pieces are the ones that often become tied to my own memories — recalling a trip where I picked up a particular ceramic piece, or thinking of the friend who gifted me that special mug. This is what I hope for the pots that I make — to become woven into people’s memories.”