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MHAF Featured Artist | Ali El-Amine Finds Meaningful Work as an Appliqué Artist


Ali is a 22-year-old man who was diagnosed with global delayed development due to a complicated pregnancy and delivery. When Ali was close to graduating high school and “aging out” of the school system, his family was stressed about what came next. The reality was, except for menial jobs, there were no supports in place for young adults with special needs. Although Ali was eager to join the workforce and become a producing member of society, his special needs prevented him from doing that. It was simply too hard for him to land a meaningful job in a market that does not cater to people with special needs.

applique art

Things began to take a turn for the better when Ali was 19 years old. He asked his mother, Rana, about what profession he would pursue after high school, and with many aspiring artists in the family, Ali’s mom suggested that he try working on an art project she was starting. The rest was history after that. In working on this project, Ali’s mother discovered that her son had a unique artistic talent of selecting colors, designs, and appliqué for clothing, home, and dining accessories.

Ali soon began working with a graphic designer to create and sell appliqué art. His appliqués come in different shapes, colors, and material. Ali sorts them, then when the artistic idea is initiated, he matches the design, color, shape to the item (clothes, porcelain, fabric, glass, furniture etc.) to generate the final product. You can view some of Ali’s designs below.

Ali’s creativity was so stunning and appreciated by friends and family, his family decided to share it with the world. They created an online store using Weebly, a commercial site that hosts similar small businesses. Click here to view Ali and Rana’s website at Sharing Ali’s work also became a source of encouragement to other parents caring for children with special needs, to help them search for their kid’s hidden talents. Rana says, “We are firm believers that these young men and women have special skills that need to be discovered and cultivated.” 

Ali’s products have been shared across their community in Maryland, Virginia, and DC and across the globe. When asked to describe this project’s greatest success, Rana said, “Seeing Ali’s products being shared, displayed in exhibitions, sold and appreciated by lots of people and art lovers, and seeing that with his disabilities he could create these products, is by far the greatest achievement for this venture.” 

Rana’s goal is to grow this initiative enough to expand and support more adults with special needs. She says, “Our goal is to make Ali’s dream a society-accepted reality. His store is a source of inspiration, motivation, and self-confidence. The sense of ownership and productivity is rewarding and a dream for any young adult. Through it he can reach out to the community using arts as a way of expression and communication.”

When asked what advice Rana would give other parents who are guiding their children through the “aging out” process, she said, “Few jobs on the market cater to these young adults. Parents should be the ones to get to know their kids and see what they like and identify their strengths and capabilities. We all have a hidden talent, and individuals with special needs are no different, but their gift comes wrapped in challenges and struggles. Parents should be creative, patient, and think outside the box.” Watch the video below to see Ali creating his beautiful appliqué art. It’s a fascinating process!



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