Natalia AliAhmad is a Detroit glass artist graduating from the College for
Creative Studies and receiving a B.F.A. in Crafts and Material Studies. Being a part of the Muslim community is a big influence on her work. Her goal is to introduce glass in an uncommon environment while exploring Muslim culture’s contemporary interpretation and cultural juxtaposition through stained glass. This is accomplished through the traditional stained glass techniques of lead and zinc cane, copper foil, and soldering.
"As a child, I always knew I wanted to be an artist. At the age of four, my uncle bought me my first art kit containing oil pastels, colored pencils, and crayons. It was all over, at a young age I knew this was something I want to continue for the rest of my life. Throughout grade school I dedicated myself to the arts, learning new styles and mediums. In high school, I mostly focused on visual arts, working with watercolor printmaking, and charcoal drawings. At this time I didn’t really think much of craft. Until my senior year when a friend of mine suggested we take a glass blowing class at the College for Creatives Studies in Detroit, Michigan. The thought of working with hot glass scared me, but I was willing to try something new with a friend. Once it was time to enroll in the course, I found out my friend never even signed up, and I was going in completely blind not knowing what to expect.
Before starting the course, I was in the Academic Research Program(ARP) where students decide a topic to research for their entire senior year. I choose to study the art of glass blowing and the glass artist Josh Simpsons researching his paperweight. During this glass course, I dedicated my time to making paperweights and a few other objects. Once the course was complete, I decided to strive away from visual arts, finding a new love of the craft. In my last semester of high school, I enrolled in a Design Craft Media class where I learned to boutique fabric, and make mosaic and stained glass.
I was excited to be working with glass again even though it wasn’t soft glass. I created a small panel with curves that weren’t possible to create with sheet glass. I still remember my teacher telling me I couldn’t make this pattern because of inner curves. You cannot cut inwards with sheet glass, because the glass will end up breaking to the point where it’s unusable. I saw this as a challenge, and I spent hours cold working and turned it in with a big smile on my face proving my teacher wrong. I loved the fact and I could manipulate glass outside the hot shop.
Growing up in a Lebanese-American household practicing Islam, I came to realize that the number one priority is family and community. It becomes a normal routine, to visit my family every week and to express the culture and heritage. It’s part of my own identity, experiencing traditions, holidays, a different language, and the food that I have been accustomed to all my life. As an artist, I want to bring the two things I value most in this world, stained glass and the Islamic community together. When researching connections between the two, I was saddened to find out that Islam and stained glass had very little interaction."