Behind the Texture

with Mave Alft

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How did you get into decorative arts and was it a career you saw for yourself early on?
I have always been interested in color and design. Little did I know that my artistic interests would take a new direction while studying textiles, business and fashion merchandising at Stout State University. While attending the University, I met my future husband who’s family had founded Alft Decorators in 1946. I joined the family and their painting & decorating full service contracting company and the rest is history! Early on in my career, I was taught by my father-in-law and husband… “hands on”, working in every facet of the family decorating business.

Mostly self taught in decorative painting, I began stenciling in 1972. At that time I was managing a retail paint store, home decor and stencil shop which I did for the next 20 years. Also, during this time, I was working as a decorative painter, as well as teaching stenciling and faux finishing classes. In 2001, the company downsized to a partnership consisting of me and my husband. Our new partnership began specializing in decorative paint and plaster work.

When I’m not on a finishing job, you can find me in the classroom teaching my trade. I love the networking of teaching and enjoy sharing my own learning experiences and meeting artists that share my love of decorative painting. In my classes, I encourage creativity, innovation and feedback. I teach what I have learned, and hope my tips, tricks and lessons learned the hard way on the job site will help my students avoid the issues I have had as I have taught myself decorative artistry.

In addition to finishing work, I have been a member of IDAL since the 80’s and have taught finishing classes at the “Faux Retreat”, “Camp Faux”, IDAL conferences & IDAL chapter groups…I served as a Master Class instructor & dealer for two separate Italian plaster companies which allowed me to teach & travel across the United States. I spent a short time as Creative Director for a design firm that specialized in creating faux finished panels and canvases for the high-end RV industry.

In 2020, I happily joined The Plaster Center in Minneapolis as Creative Director….now offering group and private classes, technical support, recipes & much more! In 2019, Mave’s Decorative Market was born to offer product & supplies, tech support, finishes & inspiration to the decorative industry.

How would you describe your artistic style?
The first word that comes to mind is textural! I gravitate to textures, whether in fabric, plaster or natural elements. When I asked friends this question, the response was: innovative, multi-dimensional, loose, experimental, diverse, challenging. I guess I agree, and find their answers very complimentary! I love a finishing challenge, new products and concepts in our industry, and strive for innovation in wall and ceiling finishes and use my somewhat obsessive “eye” to customize projects and create unique room designs.

What are your interests outside of the decorative arts?
Besides anything & everything related to the arts, I love gardening, traveling, theater, cooking & entertaining at my own personal “B&B”, and of course spending as much time as possible with my amazing family which includes seven grandchildren!

What are your thoughts on Pantone’s color of the year Pantone 17-3938 Very Peri?
Usually in my conservative midwest community, our color choices are warm earth tones, perhaps because of the coolness of the long winters. Very Peri is refreshing! I am a huge fan of the spectrum of blue colors, and Very Peri, with the richness of the red added, is beautiful. I am a fan of deep colors, so I love the depth of the purple –  deep, but not stark darkness! It would be gorgeous as a pick-me-up for all the neutral colors like white, beige, greige & gray that we’ve been seeing for awhile, and a great accent color for a focal area or beautiful in a special powder or dining room!

What would you say is the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome?
I feel very blessed to have “found” the decorative artist community & industry. Marrying ”into” Alft Decorators, an already established painting & decorating company now into it’s 76th year, allowed me to learn all sides of the industry and develop my skills. It was a natural progression for me to begin decorative artistry as my business fell into place. I would have to say that the biggest obstacle is living in a small rural blue collar community where decorative arts was not recognized as in suburban and metro areas…professional designers are almost noexistent. It was challenging to inform the public and put myself out there for clients to see what was available. Through the years, my reputation developed and this has changed a bit. I feel very fortunate to have been able to work as a finisher, travel, and teach my peers and establish my finishing business throughout the midwest & central Wisconsin area.

What’s something you wish you could tell your younger self?
“Be confident!” I wish I could have gained the wisdom and confidence earlier in life so that I could have been involved in our industry longer! I would tell myself to not be afraid, to be innovative and strong in choices regarding business and working with clients. I feel that as I developed those two strengths, my business became much stronger. I thank my mentors and the opportunities that over the years were presented to me, and try to learn something from every experience, every project, every contact!

See more of Mave’s work here.