A clear cut passion for stained glass

Fritsch+began+creating+stained+glass+artwork+in+high+school.

Photo by Allie Fritsch (@coolafglass on Instagram)

Fritsch began creating stained glass artwork in high school.

Allie Fritsch, a senior in the College of Communication, has discovered her passion. Creator of coolAFglass, a stained-glass business, Fritsch said her love for glass and the pieces that she creates pretty much fell into her lap when she was in high school.

“My high school offered an art class that was stained glass and I ended up taking it because I had taken all of the other art classes,” Fritsch said. “I was the kid that filled my schedule with art classes, so I took it. I fell in love with it.”

After graduating from Dominican High School in Whitefish Bay in 2017, Fritsch stopped doing work with stained glass. She said that the main cause of her break from the craft came from a lack of accessibility to the space and materials needed to work with glass.

“I just stopped because I didn’t have the supplies anymore or the space. Plus I was super busy,” Fritsch said.

But, like most people, the COVID-19 pandemic ended Fritsch’s busy schedule and left her with nothing to do.

“I was stuck in my studio apartment on campus dying of boredom, so I was like ‘I gotta find something to put all this energy into, so I’m gonna get the supplies and start it back up,'” Fritsch said. And this time, she said, it was more for the fun of it.

As Fritsch started to post on her social media accounts featuring the pieces she made during quarantine, she started to receive a lot of praise and questions about her work.

“I kind of realized that I had a business opportunity here and that I could use social media to really expand it, so I said ‘let’s do it,'” Fritsch said.

And that day, Aug. 5, 2020, coolAFglass was officially born.

Now a week away from graduating from Marquette, Fritsch is one of the featured student business owners at the Marquette Market that will take place Thursday, Dec. 9, from 3 to 7 p.m., on the second floor of the Alumni Memorial Union.

“Ever since I found out I was going to be in the market, probably like three to four weeks ago, I’ve been in full production mode,” Fritsch said.

With the company of her trusty cat companion, Tarmac, Fritsch said that she has been working in her studio constantly and into the late hours of the night. She hopes that the 30 pieces that she will have completed by the time the market comes around will interest students and help them complete a bit of their holiday shopping.

“I have a lot of holiday pieces, and a lot of Marquette pieces, and some other fun décor pieces,” Fritsch said. Fritsch hopes that the Marquette Market will be a space for her to put her name out there into the Marquette community.

“I want to do more in-person business, and get used to that a little more because I’ve done all of this e-commerce behind my phone on Instagram,” Fritsch said. “I’m excited to get out there and talk with customers and put my face to the name.”

But even having done most of her sales online up until this point, Fritsch has still managed to find her way to Marquette’s student population. Elizabeth Hardner, a senior in the College of Arts & Sciences, has purchased multiple coolAFglass pieces.

“After following her for a bit, I decided that I wanted some custom pieces for me and for a friend’s birthday,” Hardner said in an Instagram private message. “Allie’s (Fritsch) pieces are so cool, and I love how different all of the pieces are. That made it extra exciting to ask her about custom pieces.”

Fritsch said that having to balance everything in regard to her business with her last semester of college has been incredibly difficult at times, but the love she has for her work has kept her grounded.

“The love and passion for the art form kind of pushes me to keep doing it and I use glass as a kind of escape. It’s a relaxing thing for me to do when I am sick of writing a paper or something,” Fritsch said.

And that love and passion show to the people who are the closest to her. Fritsch’s boyfriend, Evan Knueppel, a senior in the College of Education, said that he has seen Fritsch’s appreciation for the art form in places that he didn’t expect, one being during the fall senior bar crawl.

“We were at a bar, and I thought Allie was next to me, but she wasn’t,” Knueppel said in a text message. “I looked around and found her in the corner staring at the stained glass windows. Our vacations have begun to revolve around stained glass exhibits and stores. It’s everywhere every day.”

All jokes aside, Knueppel said that he sees how hard Fritsch works on her art.

“A huge part of stained glass that people don’t realize is the planning process. When she (Fritsch) is drawing and designing new pieces, she spends a lot of time sketching multiple ideas and fine tuning her final design,” Knueppel said. “It’s cool to see all that work come together.”

“Glass was there for me when I was going through a rough time, so it was just one of those things where I knew it was always there for me,” Fritsch said. “It sounds really cliché to say I did find my passion, but it’s helped me so much and I love it for that. I could never see myself stop doing it.”

You can see more of Allie Fritsch and coolAFglass at the Marquette Market. She can also be found on Instagram @coolafglass.

This story was written by Kim Cook. She can be reached at kimberly.cook@marquette.edu.