Faculty & Staff
Karen Ami – Executive Director – Principal
MFA, School of the Art Institute of Chicago, BFA, The Boston Museum School, Independent study, Italy ( Scuolo Mosaici Orsoni, Venice), Ecuador, Costa Rica, Nevis, Mexico, and Ireland. Karen Ami is the Founder and Executive Director of CMS, President Emeritus- The Society of American Mosaic Artists and has curated numerous local and national arts exhibitions. Ms. Ami has exhibited in over 24 countries, and in 2013 exhibited in France, Italy, and Turkey.
She is passionate about sharing her knowledge and respect for mosaic art and continues to be an ambassador for the school and the art form. In addition to leading the school in its mission, Karen continues to be an active member of the faculty, working directly with students to share over 20 years of insight, and instructing in her own personal methods and techniques.
Take a class with Karen:
Sue Giannotti – Certification Director – Principal
Sue Giannotti is a graduate of Washington University in St. Louis, MO and has been affiliated with CMS since the school opened in 2005. She is the Director of the CMS Certification Program and is one of the most sought-after mosaic art instructors in the United States. She is the founder of Mosaic Opus Studio, in St. Louis, Missouri, where she creates public, private, and liturgical commissions as well as her own fine art work. Sue’s mosaics have been shown both in both national and international exhibitions. She was a juror of the Pictor Immaginarius Exhibition in Nazzano, Italy, and her work resides in businesses, institutions, and residences in the US, Italy, and France.
As a teacher and artist, her passion is honoring and sharing the ancient words and time-tested techniques of the mosaic medium in a modern artistic voice.
Martha Crandall – Faculty Chair
Martha received her BFA from Rhode Island School of Design. And is the director of Studio B Mosaic Design. Martha has been included in many local gallery exhibitions and her work was included in “Beneath The Surface” National Juried Exhibition in 2006, in Chicago. Her work can be seen around the Chicago area: a water feature at the Weisman Park Playlot in Lakeview, the entryway at Steep Theatre in Edgewater, New Life Covenant Church in Humboldt Park, and the Blind Rehab Center at the VA Hospital in Hines, IL. She is one of the initial faculty members of CMS with a specialty in Glass on Glass mosaics.
Intro to Mosaics Intensive Weekend (rotates with other principal faculty)
One-day Smalti (rotates with other principal faculty)
Hammer & Hardie (rotates with other principal faculty)
Casey Van Loon – Principal
Casey Van Loon is a mosaic and glass artist who creates works of various sizes, from large windows or wall hangings to intricate mosaic jewelry. As an instructor at The Chicago Mosaic School since 2012, Casey teaches a range of courses for all levels, including the After School Matters Program. Previously working as a stained glass artist for over 20 years her work includes numerous historical and original projects including the restoration of the Tiffany Dome at the Chicago Cultural Center, St. Patrick’s Cathedral [New York], and the world’s largest exterior glass mosaic at Tousaint Village [San Diego]. Van Loon’s original work has been featured in numerous galleries nationwide, most recently and the Gallery of Contemporary Mosaics in Chicago and the Museum of Biblical Arts [Dallas].
Intro to Mosaics Intensive Weekend (rotates with other principal faculty)
One Day Smalti Intensive (rotates with other principal faculty)
Hammer & Hardie (rotates with other principal faculty)
Sue Coombs – Principal
Sue Coombs has been associated with the Chicago Mosaic School since 2006, as a student as well as an educator. Sue’s interest in glass and mosaic art began in 1980 as a custom stained glass artist. Her mosaic work has been included in national and local exhibitions, Ms. Coombs work has been featured in several international arts publications. Sue’s passion for leading students to find their own voice expressed in mosaic, has enhanced her own work as an artist. While working with After School Matters, Sue guided teens to design and fabricate several largescale mosaics in and around the Chicago area.
Hammer & Hardie Workshop (rotates with other principal faculty)
Lydia Shepard – Principal
Lydia is a graduate of the University of Vermont with a Bachelor of Arts in English and Studio Arts. Since moving to Chicago six years ago, she has been active in the arts in a variety of ways, including as a contributing writer for an online arts publication, curating and preparating for art galleries, large-scale public art, community outreach, and fundraising for nonprofit arts organizations. Since being introduced to mosaic arts, she has studied in Ravenna, Italy, and is currently a CMS Certification student. Her knowledge and skills in mosaics are constantly evolving, and she is so excited to be part of a community full of other incredibly talented artists.
View some of Lydia’s work at www.lydiashepard.com.
Etty Hasak – Core
Born in Tel Aviv, Israel, Etty completed her army service in the Israeli Defense Force and shortly after enrolled in the College of the Arts in Ramat Hasharon, Israel, graduating in 1986. Following graduation, Etty went on to manage an Art gallery for two years while also working in picture framing.
In 1989 Etty moved with her family to Los Angeles where she worked and then managed a frame store that specialized in high end custom made gold leafed frames. She continued to build her career in picture framing here in Chicago and opened a framing/ art studio business in Israel in 1995. It was in 1998 when she took her first clay class, which would become a huge part of her artist practice.
Etty was first introduced to mosaic arts in 2006. Falling in love with this medium, her work evolved as she gained more knowledge and experience merging ceramics and mosaic studies– resulting in numerous commissioned works throughout Chicago. Since finding the Chicago Mosaic School, Etty has participated in numerous shows and exhibitions in GOCM, the Museum of Biblical Art in Dallas, San Francisco, and most recently, the Society of American Mosaic Artists (SAMA).
Etty’s work can be found at ettyhasak.com.
Take a Class with Etty:
Clay In Mosaics: Tiles & Elements- Eight Week Course
Clay In Mosaics: Tiles & Elements- Weekend Intensive Workshop
Bethany Arts Center Mosaic I Intensive Workshop (New York Partner)
Catherine Kang – Core
Catherine has been associated with the Chicago Mosaic School since 2012 when she fell in love with the art and science of mosaics. Since then she has taken every opportunity to continue studying and learning this art form while also maintaining her identity as a scientist and a mom. Catherine has worked in education with children and adults in many capacities and is excited to combine her passion for teaching with her love of mosaics as part of the CMS team.
Ashley Samson – Core
Ashley is a long-time community member who has supported CMS in a number of roles, including as an instructor and administrative assistant. Currently she works as an art therapist and continues to teach the Groupon Mosaic Basics Workshop.
Cody Abbott – Core
Cody has been teaching with CMS since 2007 and specializes in mosaic jewelry. Currently he teaches the Groupon Mosaic Basics Workshop in rotation with other core faculty.
Laura Marie Sanchez – Core
Laura Marie is a long-time student, volunteer, and friend of CMS. Her work has been recently featured in the Gallery of Contemporary Mosaics 2017 exhibition “Cuyler’s Last Stand.” She currently acts as an open studio monitor for CMS and teaches the Groupon Mosaic Basics Workshop in rotation with other core faculty.
Cara Sevec– Teaching Artist
Cara hails from Bloomfield Hills, MI and is going to be a senior at Loyola this fall to continue pursuing a B.A. in Ceramics & Sculpture and a B.S. in Psychology. She likes exploring different mediums including woodworking on the lathe, plaster and resin molds, clay, and now mosaics.
Cara also enjoys a wide variety of music, play guitar and other instruments. In the future, Cara hopes to teach either psychology or art and help others through art therapy. She’s very pleased and fortunate to be working alongside great artists and teachers at The Chicago Mosaic School.
Jelisa Davis–Teaching Artist
Jelisa Davis is a Chicago-born artist who expresses the often avoided but inescapable powers of the subconscious in her work. Davis received a BFA from Chicago State University, where she studied studio art and unearthed her love for painting. She grew a great fascination with surrealism and minimalism which inspired her own visual style of painting. In her work, she likes to depict specific social situations that provoke anxiety and explore common insecurities of being negatively evaluated on everyday performances. Davis’s work has been exhibited at Savage Smyth, KID’N US in 2018. 33 Contemporary Gallery of the Zhou B Art Center and Sanctuary Cafe in 2017 and Phantom Gallery in 2016. Her work was also featured in Arts and Cultural Strategies online magazine in 2016 and 2017.
Davis was a teaching artist for public art organization, Green Star Movement, where she collaborated with artists to create beautiful mosaic murals in various communities and public spaces around Chicago. Later, she became an instructor for various art programs for After School Matters, which developed her love for teaching. Davis desires to pursue further education in art education and art therapy.
You can follow Jelisa on Instagram at JelisaDavisArtStudio.
Jessica Johnson- Teaching Artist
Jessica is a recent graduate from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, attaining her Bachelors of Fine Arts with a focus in ceramics. Her work explores protective sculptural forms combined with research on medieval structures and decorations.
Her mosaic work is currently experimenting with the surface treatment of the vessel, as well as portraying mystical forms. She is also interested in knitting, plant care, music, and functional pottery. She has instructed multiple mediums of art and is very excited to be a part of the Chicago Mosaic School!
You can view some of her work here: https://www.j-j.work/
Tiffany Gong– Teaching Artist
Tiffany is a Chicago-based artist whose work primarily focuses on healing and presence through documentary photography and observational drawing. She’s interested in the aspects that make shared spaces feel safe and the role that they have in creating social fluency for communities at large.
Learning what it means to be an artist within a community, Tiffany is currently establishing roots in her own neighborhood through visual storytelling and building cross-cultural relationships. As an art instructor at the Chicago Mosaic School, she is excited to share her time and passion for art with the community in Edgewater.
Tiffany graduated from Wheaton College with a BA in Fine Arts and she hopes to continue her studies in Architecture in the near future.
Some of her work can be viewed at tiffanysgong.com.
Kavya Tiwari– Teaching Artist
Kavya Tiwari is a fine artist, and ex-scientist from Chicago. She works primarily in printmaking, drawing, and installation. Her art is inspired by her Indian background, Eastern and Western mythology, and Americana nature. She loves large-scale drawings and small-scale animals.
You can view more of Kavya’s work on her website or follow her on Instagram.
Lucy Senner – Administrative Arts Director
Lucy graduated from Lawrence University in 2011 with a B.A. in Art History. Since graduating, she has worked in various administrative roles while volunteering in the arts in her spare time. While her focus is not on studio practice, Lucy has long been passionate about the arts and has a deep drive toward administration and support for art organizations, with a specialization in social media marketing and analytics.
Haydée Souffrant – Administrative Arts Assistant
Haydée is a Chicago-based Haitian American writer and artist whose work weaves cultural memory through storytelling and creative writing. As an arts administrator, Haydee’s work through arts programming, restorative justice and creative arts workshops has connected cross-cultural communities together to create spaces of empathy and social justice.
Haydée’s literary work has been featured in numerous online literary and print publications at Oberlin College, Hair Trigger Issue 41, Sixty Inches from Center while her performance work featured at The Whitney Biennale under the Dance Diaspora Collective, Links Hall @ Constellation, Threewalls at Navy Pier and other venues in and around Chicagoland.
A graduate of Oberlin College with a BA in African American Studies and English, Haydee is currently an MFA Creative Writing candidate at Columbia College Chicago, and excited to join The Chicago Mosaic School team. Some of her work can be viewed at hrsouffrant.com
Sarah Lewis- Weekend Receptionist & Volunteer Coordinator
Sarah graduated in 2016 from Kendall College of Art and Design in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She received her B.S. in Art History and minored in studio arts focusing in ceramics.
Sarah moved to Chicago in 2017 to join the diverse artist community here. She strives to combine her love of art historical practices with contemporary art creation.
You can see more of Sarah’s work on Instagram at sl.craft
The Chicago Mosaic School has set the standard of excellence by bringing some of the best contemporary mosaic artists in the world to the school. These include Israeli artist Ilana Shafir, British artists Maggy Howarth, Gary Drostle and Martin Cheek, Australian artists Helen Bodycomb,Dominick Johns and Pamela Irving, Italian artists Verdiano Marzi, Carolina Zanelli, Enzo Aiello, Matteo Randi, Canadian Artist Sophie Drouin and nationally known artists Bill Buckingham, Shug Jones, Lynne Chinn, Sue Giannotti, Yulia Hannensen, Elizabeth Raybee, Sonia King, Lynn Moor, and Sherri Warner Hunter.
Verdiano Marzi became a master mosaicist after studying at the Academy of Fine Arts in his hometown of Ravenna, the cradle of Byzantine Paleochristian mosaics (4th – 5th century AD). Master Renato Signorini had a workshop in Ravenna, and Marzi soon joined as a young professional mosaic artist. On arriving in France in 1973, he enrolled at the École des Beaux-Arts de Paris as a student of the mosaicist Riccardo Licata. He then joined forces with Licata and Giovanna Galli to found the Anaxagoras Group. Besides creating mosaics and showing them at his own exhibitions and with other artists, Verdiano Marzi is also a dedicated teacher. He worked for thirty years at the municipal mosaic workshop of Bagnolet where he lives, and created a mosaic workshop at the Musée du Louvre in 1994 where he worked for twenty years. Marzi’s creative projects include large-scale public mosaics. His first solo exhibition was at the Venice Biennale in 1986 (he was there again at the San Marino Pavilion in 2011). The Arian Baptistery in Ravenna (Unesco Heritage) was a special venue for his mosaic portraits during RavennaMosaico 2013. The Retrospective 1965-2014 of his works took place at the Museum of the Accademy of Fine Arts in Saint-Petersburg, Russia
Take a class with Maestro Verdiano
Born in Udine, Carolina earned her diploma in Master Mosaics at the Mosaic School of Friuli in 1995. She has been a teacher of mosaic at the school in Spilembergo for short courses for over six years. She currently alternates teaching mosaic in the studio laboratory, but also in state and private schools, centers for the disabled, prisons. She has created mosaics in Palestine (Bethlehem International Centre), the Netherlands (Savantis) California (California College of the Arts, Oakland), Chicago, South Africa (Spier Academy), Kenya (Nairobi), France (Grasse).
Pamela Irving is from Melbourne, Australia. Pamela has a Bachelor of Education (Art/Craft) and Master of Arts, from the University of Melbourne. Irving has exhibited widely throughout Australia as well as in Hong Kong, Russia, Japan and the USA. Her works are held in public and private collections in Australia, USA, HK, Russia, China and Japan . Collections include Museum Victoria, Bars Collection Russia, Art Bank, Ravenna Museum, Regional Gallery collections throughout Australia, Municipal Collections and Luna Park, Melbourne.
Irving is Vice President of the Mosaic Association of Australia + New Zealand. Pamela has been a visiting artist at the Chicago Mosaic School for a number of years. Her most recent exhibition was with Karen Ami titled “Savage Curiosities”. In June-July 2017 the City of Whitehorse, Melbourne, are holding a very large solo exhibition of Pamela’s work titled “Irreverent Tales”. Works will span from 1984 -2016.
Toyoharu Kii graduated from the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music in 1977 and finished the Master’s program of the same university in 1980. He continued his studies in Florence, Italy, with a grant from the Italian government. In 1982, Kii returned to Japan and opened Mosaic Atelier ING, through which he has realized over fifty mural mosaics. He is currently a part-time lecturer at Joshibi University of Art and Design and Musashino Art University. His work has been featured in exhibitions worldwide, most recently in exhibitions in the US, Ravenna, Italy, and Turkey.
We are very proud that Scottish artist Dugald MacInnes is a Visiting Artist and mentor to The Chicago Mosaic School. MacInnes has a diploma from the Glasgow School of Art and a degree in geology from The Open University. MacIness has also studied field archaeology at The University of Glasgow. He is currently directing a major field survey in Scotland and is editor/co-editor of twenty-eight archaeological papers. His artwork has been exhibited in the United States, England, France, and Italy and has gained awards both domestically and internationally. This year he is a guest speaker and exhibitor at the international mosaic conferences (AIMC) Vienna, and in Chartres, France, as well as an invited tutor and visiting artist at The Chicago Mosaic School. Recent exhibitions include Tesserae 2014, Udine, Italy, Ravenna, and simultaneous exhibitions at Gatehouse of Fleet, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland. Dugald MacInnes will be returning to CMS in 2015 for a series of workshops and lectures.
Take a class with Dugald
Gary was born in Woolwich in South East London and studied fine art at Camberwell, St Martins and Middlesex Polytechnic. He also studied in Italy at the Cararra School of Marble Sculpture. He is the proprietor of Drostle Mosaics in UK, and presently serving as President of the British Association of Modern Mosaics. His award winning mosaics can be seen around Britain as well as the United States. His “Feather” mural was part of a CMS Workshop in 2007 and is permanently installed at the Drummond Public School here in Chicago. (2008)