Archive for category: Great Lakes Metal Works

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.

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!


Designing a custom restaurant sign

03 Feb
February 3, 2014

Often at Great Lakes Metal Works & Art Studio we create sculptures that designers and artists have already envisioned. Other times, we restore an object that has already been made, while other times, we have the opportunity to make things that are purely our own design.

That was the case with a sign that I recently designed for the Ko Restaurant at the Fairmont Kea Lani Resort in Hawaii.

Ko specializes in contemporary Hawaiian plantation food, bringing elements of island flair to haute cuisine. To capture that essence in their signage, we sketched out ideas for a glass sign that would feature the restaurant’s modern logo in bronze with three-dimensional leaves cascading over the letters, surrounded by a dark green metal frame made to look like sugar cane stalks.

Coordinating with other artisans
Because our design called for various forms of media – glass, plexiglass, lighting and metalwork – we needed to coordinate with other artisans who specialize in those areas to complete the project. We found an artist who was able to create the frosted green background of the sign in plexiglass and etch on the words “Plantation Inspired Cuisine” in a darker, emerald green glass. Then, we found another artist skilled in lighting and electrical wiring to illuminate the sign from behind.

Creating the metalwork
Once we had other artisans working on their parts of the project, we started creating the metalwork for the sign. For the frame, we wanted the sugar cane stalks to have a knobby, naturalistic feel, but we knew that casting them in bronze would be expensive. So to value engineer the project, we decided to create the frame out of forged steel rather than bronze.

To make the frame, we heated up steel rods until they were hot enough to become malleable, then compressed them to make ridges, giving the frame its beautiful sugar cane appearance. Next, we sprayed the steel with chemical compounds and heated it to give it a greenish-brown hue.

The leaves of the sign were hand forged in bronze, then patinaed to a soft, mottled green. On the sign, the undulating leaves are raised off of the glass, giving the sign depth and dimension.

With the metal work, glass work and lighting in place, we assembled the sign and then found a special shipping company to transport the sign to Hawaii with care.

If you are interested in having us create any custom signage for you, please contact us at