I was first introduced to the world of flameworking by my good friend, Bob Heise (aka Minnesota Bob) in 1998. There weren't but a handful of flameworkers in our city at the time, so being given that opportunity at such a burgeoning point will be something that I'll always be thankful for. Though, with that said, at times I do wish I had chosen a career in something a little less temperamental. You see, glassblowing can be a really frustrating medium. There are countless hours lost to broken glass, and one could say that you have to be a bit of a masochist to be in the profession. However, there’s obviously something addictive about it, because even after years of sweat and exasperation, I still go back for more each day. I love getting lost in the creative process, and striving for that next great piece. The thrill never gets old of thwarting the glass’ desire to fall apart, and it’s always a victory when a piece comes together. There is nothing better than the excitement you feel going to work the next day and opening the kiln to see how yesterday's creation looks. It's like christmas everyday.....except when the pieces are broken...then it's shear heartache.
In 2005 I was presented with the opportunity to go to Venice, Italy and apprentice under the renowned master flame worker, Cesare Toffolo. I learned to use jacks and diamond shears in the flame. This is something that Toffolo pioneered, the use of tools normally reserved for the hot shop, but in the flame. He helped integrate a bit of the old with the new. I absorbed as much as I could of the centuries-old techniques that make Venetian glass what it is. Working in Italy had a huge impact on me and my work. I'll always strive to match the perfection of form and thinness of glass that the Venetians achieve with such apparent ease.
Recently, I've delved into more sculptural creations in glass. I sculpt hollow animals and figures and string them up as balloons. It's pushed my understanding of what I can accomplish outside of symmetrical vessels, not to mention a nice reprieve from making functional work.
A graduate from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design in 2000 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Sculpture/ Furniture Design, Ahalt currently lives in Minneapolis where he is a self-employed flame worker specializing in custom glassware, vases, sculpture, lighting, prototyping, and commissioned work. Ahalt has taught numerous glass-blowing workshops nationally and his work was highlighted in the 2011 March/April issue of American Craft Magazine.