Tag Archive for: sculpture

Preview: Public Art Commission for Gardens at San Juan

09 Apr
April 9, 2015

While Great Lakes Metal Works has been in business for 25 years, a fact that we are quite proud of, the owners of the company have been making art for much longer than that.  Prior to moving to Chicago, Richard and Donna lived in San Antonio, which is where Donna and another artist friend and colleague are breaking ground on a public art commission at the Gardens of San Juan, a development of the San Antonio Housing Authority.

A major developer and apartment manager, NRP Group, has partnered with the San Antonio Housing Authority to revitalize the San Juan neighborhood. The development is a mixed-finance, mixed-income community, consisting of multi-family units, public housing, market units and commercial space. Thus, the Gardens of San Juan was established.  The first two phases have already proved the collaboration successful.  Now the team has invited Donna Zarbin-Byrne and Diana Rodriguez Gil to create an installation that will serve as a focal point for the new outdoor area in the neighborhood.

Donna says the drawings in the prospectus suggested that it could be a multi-installation project, but that her and Diana developed the artwork specifically so that participants would move throughout the space both physically and conceptually. The concept for the entire art project is based on the cyclical movement of the community throughout many generations. The history of this neighborhood is expressed through iconic imagery and symbols. Donna and Diana will work with residents to integrate family stories, children’s drawings and artwork into various elements of the project.

Diana and Donna spent many hours hatching the ideas for the various elements of the gardens and we are delighted that one of our own is a part of the team.

The Gardens at San Juan is the final component project to complete and anchor the redevelopment activities. It will be a highly visible gathering place for residents and community members because it promotes connectivity among the many amenities onsite and the surrounding community activities.

San Juan Drawings-111314_Page_1

We will provide an insider’s look behind the scenes as the project unfolds, exploring how materials are chosen, what other vendors the team brings on, and how the community will take part in the creation of the garden.

To learn more about Donna’s scope of work or to contact her directly, visit her personal website at donnazarbinbyrne.com

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 info@greatlakesmetalworks.com. 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 info@greatlakesartstudio.com or call us at 847-213-0800.

Happy Thursday!