One-click access to nearly 250 makers through the Online Artists Directory! Explore Now ×

The Queue: Zahra Almajidi

Get to know the people featured in the pages of our magazine as they share what's inspiring them right now.

The Queue: Zahra Almajidi

Get to know the people featured in the pages of our magazine as they share what's inspiring them right now.
Flower prototypes made with a CNC milling machine.

Almajidi made these flower prototypes with a CNC milling machine. Photo by Zahra Almajidi. 


Zahra Almajidi in the studio with a piece of art.

Zahra Almajidi in the studio. Photo by Zahra Almajidi.


Identity and adornment converge in Zahra Almajidi’s kaleidoscopic jewelry.
Zahra Almajidi creates bold, declarative art jewelry that allows the wearer to alter the way they move through cultures and spaces. Almajidi grew up in Detroit surrounded by her mom’s handcrafted clothing, bedding, and upholstery, and found her own path as a craft artist at Wayne State University and Cranbrook Academy of Art, where she earned her MFA in metalsmithing in 2021. In her 2023 solo exhibition reCRAFTED Histories at the Arab American National Museum in Dearborn, Michigan (which resulted from a residency at the same museum), she referenced folk art items from the museum’s permanent collection and her own heritage as a descendent of Iraqi immigrants. She currently teaches metalsmithing at Wayne State in Detroit. In the Detroit edition of The Scene, a new section introduced in the Summer 2023 issue of American Craft that dives deep into craft communities in cities across the country, Almajidi shares some of her favorite Detroit artists and weighs gentrification and opportunity in her rapidly changing hometown.


How do you describe your work or practice in 50 words or less?
My work and practice explore how ornamentation and jewelry allow one to navigate spaces and cultures. By highlighting certain elements of culturally specific objects and obscuring and/or omitting others, I seek to ask questions with the aim of better understanding my cultural positionality.

Tell us about the first piece of jewelry that captivated you. What about it drew you in?
The Wayne State University metals studio had a poster of Masako Onodera’s Eruptions series, and I remember always being drawn to it. The combination of wool and plastic grapes was super fascinating, and it was probably the first time I saw how wonderfully weird and experimental jewelry can be.

In your work, themes such as assimilation, identity, and culture appear in abstracted wearable objects. Why do you emphasize wearability?
As a lot of the work explores identity, culture, and being, it seemed to make sense to make wearable work to represent a literal extension of oneself. One can carry items that support or represent their identity, but they also have the option to take them off or switch them out at any time.

Masako Onodera's Eruption bracelets

Masako Onodera, Eruption bracelets, 2006, wool, plastic grapes, brass, 5.5 x 5.5 x 1.5 in each. Photo by Masako Onodera.

A hand holding multi-colored powder-coated metal charms.

A handful of powder-coated metal charms, including a miniature hamsa. Photo by Zahra Almajidi.

Almajidi’s jeweler’s bench showcasing many tools.

Almajidi’s jeweler’s bench. Her work references folk art and traditional craft, such as decorative ironwork. Photo by Zahra Almajidi.

What are your favorite tools in your tool kit, and how do you use them?
My favorite, most versatile, and most frequently used jewelry-making tools are my jeweler’s saw (for cutting material) and a set of needle files (for cleaning and shaping material). Also, a recently purchased favorite is my powder-coating gun. It’s made powder coating hundreds of things super easy and efficient. 

If you could have work from any contemporary jeweler or metalsmith for your home or studio, whose would it be and why?
I’d love to own anything made by Kim Cridler. Her combination of welded steel and other materials to depict natural forms is both striking and inspiring. I’ve been a huge fan of her work since 2015, and each piece she produces is more stunning than the last.

Which craft artists, exhibitions, or projects do you think the world should know about, and why?
I think more people should know about the Radical Jewelry Makeover project run by Susie Ganch and Kathleen Kennedy. I admire how the project raises awareness about the environmental impacts of the metalsmithing and costume jewelry industry and invites makers to create work (re)using existing materials and jewelry.

Stack of 4 American Craft magazines.

Want to learn more about all of the craft artists you love?

Become an ACC member to receive a complimentary subscription to American Craft magazine and gain complimentary access to our shows, travel deals, and more!

Join today to get your subscription.