Hamzeh Natsheh is a master glass-blower who heads his family business, Hebron Glass, along with his son, Hamdi. Residing in the Palestinian city of Hebron, the largest on the West Bank, the Natsheh family make a range of translucent glass products with waves of colors reminiscent of the sea, sky, and desert. Natsheh traces his family’s history of glass-blowing to the first half of the 19th century, but the craft has roots in the area dating back to 122-330 CE.
Hebron Glass produces functional glassware dishes, bowls, pitchers, and vases, as well as jewelry and beads. Hamzeh, who is over age 70, still does the work of blowing glass himself, though he relies on his family members for assistance, including his sons who are carrying on the family tradition. Glass is heated to 1,000 degrees Celsius until it is viscous and suitable for blowing by mouth through a meter-long steel pipe. Men doing the blowing and shaping, and women add decoration. Because the cost of colored glass is high, the Natshehs use recycled soda bottles as their base raw material, and add color judiciously. This practice is not only good for the environment, but it ensures their wares remain at an accessible price point. All of the objects produced by Hebron Glass contain stylistic elements which are unique to Palestinian tradition.
The Natsheh family has passed down the skills of the glass making trade for generations. Glass-blowing is a highly specialized, technical and daring artform requiring years of apprenticeship before one can achieve the status of master. According to Hamzeh, it takes at least five years to learn to make glass. Though the techniques used may be thousands of years old, Hebron Glass produces items of distinctively timeless beauty.