Tag Archive for: chicago

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 info@greatlakesartstudio.com or 847-213-0800 to get started!


Creating Modern Urns for Soldier Field Using Old-World Techniques

11 Mar
March 11, 2014

In The Studio


One of our favorite things about the work we do at Great Lakes Art Studio is tackling new and artistic challenges. One of the more recent challenges we’ve faced was creating six, large bronze planters for Chicago’s Soldier Field.

The process began about four years ago when a landscape architect approached us with the task of designing three 3-feet wide bronze planters that would match an existing bronze mural dedicated to the men and women of the armed forces.

Although the planters were supposed to have a simple, smooth round shape, the project was complex because they were so massive and each one needed to be identical.

Before we began, I headed out to Soldier Field to take a look at the bronze mural. Dedicated in November 1925, the mural depicts soldiers and their families in front of the Chicago skyline, cast in beautiful detail in a rich, chocolate-colored bronze. I took photos of the patina of the mural, so I could accurately replicate the same shade on the new planters a few weeks later.

Back in the studio, Richard and I began making a model of the new vessels out of clay. We started by shaping the base on the pottery wheel, and then added more clay to the sides, making it taller as we went. To ensure that the sides were uniform, we built a 5-foot wide wooden platform that spun around, so we could see the model from all directions.

Once we had the clay model finished, we made a sturdier plaster mold, and then a third mold out of sand, which we then used to cast the shape in hot, molten bronze.

Finally, it was time to match the patina of the planters with the original patina on the mural. To change the color of bronze, minerals from the earth such as ferric nitrate or sodium thiosulfate are combined with water, and then sprayed onto the sculpture before using a blow torch to accelerate the oxidation process. The heat creates a chemical reaction with the minerals, causing the metal to change colors.

I love this part of the process because I feel like a painter, using my instincts to create just the right mixture of minerals to create the shades we desire.

Despite all of the new technologies available in the world, when it comes to creating a sculpture out of bronze, we use the same methods that artisans have been using for centuries. Every time I build a sculpture with my hands or create a mold out of sand or wax, I feel as if I’m connect to the ancient Egyptians or ancient Greeks, who did the exact same things thousands of years ago.

In the end, the planters were delivered to the stadium, and now they stand as proud sentinels along the walkway to the memorial. I hope you can check them out the next time you’re at a Bear’s game!


Finished Urns at Solider Field

Finished Urns at Solider Field