Archive for category: ARI Restoration

Beauty for Ashes: How We Create Life-Honoring Art and Sculpture for Memorials and Funerals.

10 Mar
March 10, 2015

Throughout the years, we have been commissioned to create various sculptures in memory of a family member or friend, as well as restore existing works dedicated to a certain person or cause. Many times, a sculpture is preferred to a plaque for its encouraging aesthetics.

A Chicago couple dedicated this fountain at the Lincoln Park Zoo in memory of their son. Evanston-based artist George Suyeoka created the sculpture and our craftsmen at Great Lakes Metal Works cast it into bronze. What’s inspiring about this dedication is it shows that anything can intentionally honor someone and a memorial doesn’t have to be uninteresting or dreary.



Another example is this relief, cast by Great Lakes Metal Works, which memorializes a team of reporters that were killed during the Bosnian War in the mid 1990s.



Evanston-based artist and co-owner of Great Lakes Metal Works Donna Zarbin-Byrne created this sculpture for a synagogue in the form of a three-dimensional illuminated manuscript. The piece features the various stages of growth of the pomegranate, which is religiously significant and is also an artistic theme of the congregation.  Inscriptions are added to the leaves of the sculpture to honor a life event of a congregational member or in memory of a loved one.




This three-ton, 18-foot tall sculpture of the Christ figure, called the Divine Mercy Statue, was a gift to the Rwandan population by the Catholic Church as a dedication to healing, peace and hope. Originally, it stood next to Chicago’s Kennedy Expressway at the St. Stanislaus Kostka Parish. After 40 years of Rwandan turmoil and genocide, the Church gifted the statue as a permanent symbol that God is present even in the midst of sorrow. The statue required intense restoration prior to moving, including re-fabricating damaged metal, fixing stress cracks and restoring much of the patina work.



A final example of the life-honoring work we do can be found at the Jewish Christian section of a Chicago cemetery, where this Hebrew sculpture stands. It is fabricated out of bronze and copper.


In the same way that art uplifts the spirit and brings joy to the viewer, it has a way of esteeming the memory of a loved one and honoring their life in a beautiful manner. To discuss a memorial sculpture or idea, call us at 773.517.6733 or email us at We look forward to collaborating with you.

Keeping the “Art” in Artisan Restoration International

30 Oct
October 30, 2014

As artists ourselves, we at Artisan Restoration International understand the unique needs of restoring artful pieces. From sculpture to furniture to railings, we closely inspect each element and determine the best way to repair or rejuvenate while maintaining the artistic integrity of the piece. We’d like to showcase some of our recent restoration projects that required not just the basic know-how, but the touch of an artist.

Wooden French Doors. A total of 288 sets of these 16-foot tall French doors run throughout the Fairmont Kea Lani in Maui, HI. Weathered by sun, sand, and the salt mist from the ocean, these doors were beginning to deteriorate. For most of the doors the restoration process was limited to refinishing the panels, but this process involved sanding off the old varnish, chemically treating the wood, then painting on a new varnish.

before kea lani

The varnish on some sections had already eroded and water had seeped into the wood, causing it to rot. Our team evaluated the damage and determined the need for replacement. Instead of replacing entire panels, our team determined that it would be more cost effective to only replace the sections of the panels that were damaged beyond the surface. After taking careful measurements, our team removed the rotten sections and replaced them with new wood. The new wood had a drastically different color and grain than the original. In order to make the replaced sections seamlessly blend into the original panel, our team used an artist technique called wood graining to replicate the color and grain of the original. Once the new sections were matched to the original, the wood surface was sealed with varnish.

kea lani after

Japanese Wood-Gatherer Statue. The owner of this antique sculpture came to us and described how the sculpture was missing the bundle of sticks that it originally carried on its back. This presented a unique challenge because in most projects involving detached pieces both pieces are present.

Japanese Sculpture_before2 1

Our team set out to work by researching bronze statues from the same time period. Through extensive research, we developed a design that imitated the aesthetics of the time period and the materials of the statue.  Once the client approved the design, our team fabricated each twig in the bundle. After fabrication was complete the twigs were arranged and then secured together. Extra care was taken to make sure the twigs were secure since such delicate pieces can be tricky and slip out of arrangement. After the backpack unit was completed, it was secured to the original statue.

Scan 1

Mosaic Repair. A condo association contacted us with this interesting project. A water pipe had burst in the wall behind the mosaic. The pipe needed to be fixed but the members of the association wanted to preserve the mosaic. Our team devised a way to preserve the mosaic by using a jigsaw to follow the lines of the tiles and cut out a section large enough for the plumber to access the pipe behind the wall.


After the pipe was repaired, our team replaced the water damaged section of the wall and remounted the mosaic. Using a color matching technique, our team used matching grout to re-integrate the removed section back into the original piece. Now, the mural actually has a removable panel for easy access to the plumbing, all without interfering with the overall ascetics.


Do you have any restoration projects that could use an artist’s touch to bring it back to life? Email us at or call us at 847-213-0800.

Happy Thursday!

Spring Cleaning: Restoring Outdoor Furniture

30 Apr
April 30, 2014


Spring is here and its time to unpack your outdoor furniture from storage and return them to your yard or patio. The sense of excitement seeing your outdoor furniture for the first time in months is like running into an old friend. However, this sense of excitement can often be dampened when you start noticing the details. You can’t help but think, was that there when I put it away in the fall?

It’s to be expected; after all, outdoor furniture faces particularly harsh conditions facing the elements year after year. So we have to ask, are your well-loved outdoor metal pieces not looking their best? Now is a great time to refurbish your outdoor furniture and Artisan Restoration International is here to help.


We offer a wide range of restoration services to rejuvenate worn-out outdoor metal pieces.

Basic Repairs. In addition to sun and rain, your outdoor furniture faces a myriad of psychical stress. Pieces that rock, swivel, or recline are at particular risk for breaking/damage. It is important to ensure your furniture is safe to use. We offer repairs such as re-attaching chair legs and securing loose joints by re-welding them. So no matter how hard kids play on them, or how many linebacker-figured relatives sit on them again and again, your outdoor furniture will be sure to last.


A fresh coat of paint. It’s amazing how a change of color can affect the atmosphere of a space. We offer a broad spectrum of patinas, powder coats, and paints. When it comes to paint, metal furniture traditionally has a rather limited range of color options (black, white, brown) but you’d be amazed at what adding pastel tones or a bold saturated primary color can do to punch up your outdoor living space.

For metal materials patinas and powder coating are available. A new patina not only brings new color, but also helps protect from weathering or corrosion. Here are some of the patina samples we’ve used recently


Powder coating comes in a broad range of colors, provides protection, and lasts for up to ten years.

Refurbishing outdoor furniture is great way to turn generic pieces into something uniquely yours. Contact us today at or 847-213-0800 to get started on restoring your outdoor furniture!

Creating New Outdoor Features

29 Apr
April 29, 2014


We at Great Lakes Metal Works & Art Studio firmly believe that your yard is a seasonal living room. And just like any other room of your house, you want to make it your own. To ensure you get the most out of your outdoor space, its a great idea to incorporate features that help your enjoy your space to the fullest. Even with the infinite resource of online shopping, sometimes you can’t find quite what you’re looking for. Or maybe you’re not quite sure what you’re looking for, but you know what you’ve seen in stores or online just isn’t it.


Whether your garden’s issue is security, privacy, noise, comfort, safety or aesthetics, we offer practical, beautiful solutions with custom fences, garden gates, outdoor furniture, stair railings, and sculpture. Even  if you’re unsure of exactly what you want, we at Great Lakes Metal Works want to help you create your unique feature. We will use our expertise and experience to guide you through the entire process.

How It Works. For the first consultation we encourage you tobring in pictures of what you know you do or don’t like. This can include anything from color, shape, material, texture or elements of other designs.

Our designers will work with you to create a structurally sound design that incorporates the design elements you love and leaves out the ones you don’t.

Once the design is complete, our team will value engineer the proposal for the fabrication process. This may include using a cost-friendly material then adding a finish to give it a high-end look without the high-end price tag.

We offer annual maintenance packages to ensure that your custom design looks great year after year.

Garden Gates. Garden gates can offer security, privacy, and beauty for your outdoor space.


Fences. We design fences of all shapes and sizes, from tall, simple, traditional fences to small, ornate garden bed fences.


Arbors. For spaces with few or no trees, arbors are a wonderful way to add vertical visual interest.


Sculpture. Like hanging a stunning picture on a wall, a garden sculpture grounds the space and provides a central focus point.


Outdoor Furniture. Outdoor furniture makes your space inviting and comfortable.


Have we inspired you to update your garden? Contact us at or 847-213-0800 to get started!