October 15, 2021 MAKER SERIES
Maker Series – Alexis Tellefsen
By Autumn Jordan
What is your name + what do you make?
My name is Alexis Tellefsen and I make functional ceramics.
How was Tellefsen Atelier conceived?
I like to think that Tellefsen Atelier has always been a part of me. I’ve always been a maker, ever since I was a kid, so in a lot of ways a creative career was always inevitable. The transition from college (where I fell in love with clay) to a tiny home studio (where I began my professional practice) to where I am now (happily producing more pots that I ever imagined) has been a natural, swift progression.
When did you start practicing ceramics, and how has it evolved?
I began working with clay in 2010 while I was in college at SUNY New Paltz where I got my BFA in Ceramics. In school I was taught a wide breath of techniques and processes, really encouraged to explore. My thesis was ceramic jewelry made from paper thin sheets of clay that I cut and etched with a laser printer. Today I am a production potter, designing functional ceramics that I replicate in batches on the wheel.
What does a day in the studio look like for you?
Last spring I transitioned my whole life to operate on an “overnight” schedule so a day at the studio usually begins around 5pm for me. I like to write my to-do lists the night before so I can grab a coffee on my way in and get right to work. Usually I tidy for a bit, put away dishes and start touching base with each of my big tasks. I work best when my responsibilities for the day are varied so I can bounce around. A chunk of quiet time on the computer, a break to mix glaze, weighing out clay to be thrown, unload a kiln, on and on. My favorite task is throwing which I usually save until about 11pm or midnight. I’ll throw until I’m done working for the day, around 3 or 4 am. Then I make my list for the next day, carry over all the things I’ve procrastinated, and head home.
Do you have any routines or rituals in the studio?
My entire practice is made up of many tiny routines. Each step of the ceramic process is like a brief ritual, repeated over and over. That's what makes it so meditative. As for general structure, I'm in the process of establishing some loose weekly routines now that I have helpers coming into the studio. I need to be on task for them but for myself, it’s a free for all.
Who’s work are you reaching for during your coffee break?
I love a big mug with a generous handle so I often find myself reaching for my tie dyed mug by Lara of Cecilia East/West. It seems to be perpetually in use or in the sink. Another favorite is my “Dave mug” made by Dave Kaufmann, one of my studio pals from college. I have a small collection of mugs from Dave both at home and at the studio. He makes some of the nicest handles I’ve ever met. Some other faves are my illustrated flower mugs by Erina Pearl, my shino Luvhaus mug, and my checkered nerikomi mug by Ivy Weinglass. It’s so hard to pick a favorite. I have a lot of mugs.
What inspires you and your work? How do your ideas of home weave their way into your studio?
I’ve always been inspired by my own home. When I’m designing a new item for TA I think a lot about the objects I want to have in my own life and how they pair with my other favorite materials around my house like wood surfaces, soft blankets, and old rugs. The main qualifications I have for my work are that the pieces must be nice to touch and hold, they must look nice standing alone and in good company on a cluttered shelf, and they must be useful.
What does “home” mean to you?
Home is safety. Comfort. Laughter. My partner. Our cats. It’s everything, really.
How has your own work influenced your home?
Color! Suddenly I’m a color person after years of neutrals. I expanded my glaze palette to include a total of 10 really vibrant, saturated colors this spring and my home is experiencing a similar blossoming - a blue couch, an olive green door, colorful prints and pillows. It’s energizing.
When you’re not in the studio how do you like to spend your time?
I love a quiet morning at home with Andrew that slowly bleeds into a quiet evening and a drawn out late night. Taking the time to cook a nice meal is a rare and treasured way to spend extra time. If I had the afternoon out and about I would take a long drive to a flea market somewhere with a hot cup of coffee. But really, the answer is always “anything at home”.
Where can we find your work?
You can find my work at tellefsenatelier.com where I do seasonal drops and preorders, as well as in a generous handful of stores across the country listed on my stockist page.
Photography + Video by Autumn Jordan