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.
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)
Martha Crandall – Principal
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)
Ahmed Galal Ibrahim – Principal
Ahmed has a Bachelors degree in Mural Arts from Helwen University in Cairo, Egypt. He worked as part of the Sabry Mansour artist team designing and installing 4 large mosaic murals at the Ahram Canadian Univesity in Cairo, as well as a project in Helwan University on the Festivals building. Ahmed’s work has been exhibited nationally and overseas. He brings a great enthusiasm in his approach to classes at CMS and we are happy to have him as part of our faculty.
Intro to Mosaics Intensive Weekend (Rotates with other principal faculty)
Rebecca Baruc – Core
Rebecca is a graduate of Skidmore College with a Bachelor in American Studies and Studio Art. She has studied traditional and contemporary art practices at The Art Student’s League and The Glasgow School of Art, and has taken on-site art history courses in Rome, Florence, London, and San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. Becca is a CMS Certification student and we are very happy to have her as a part of our team!
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.
Andryea Natkin – Core
Andryea received her BFA from the School of the Art Institute Chicago. She found her way to mosaics after an extended artistic hiatus from her love of drawing, ceramics printmaking and other creative pursuits. Her mosaic work has been included in several prestigious national and international juried exhibitions and art publications. In addition to being a great addition to the CMS faculty, Andryea owns and operates Tiny Pieces – Mosaic Tools & Supplies, the city’s only complete source for the mosaic artist located at The Chicago Mosaic School.
Lydia Shepard – Core
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.
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.
Oona D’mello – Art Administrative Director
Oona is a practicing artist and an art professional. Her practice encompasses ‘gestural abstract’ painting and she has showcased her work in the US, Italy, China and India. Her work can be viewed at oonadmello.com
In her second avatar, she works with art organizations to articulate and leverage their vision and design their operations. Oona is currently engaged with The Chicago Mosaic School (CMS) as their Art Administrative Director, where her work includes building visibility, enhancing operational & administrative efficiency and cultivating a shared vision for the School. The Gallery of Contemporary Mosaics is an offshoot of CMS, where she focuses on strategic planning and a developmental foundation. The Gallery represented the first contemporary mosaic exhibit at SOFA- sculpture objects functional art and design, an international urban art exposition in the US, in Chicago Nov. 2017
Oona’s work at The Chicago Mosaic School includes facilitating artistic professional development, community outreach / engagement, enabling the grant writing program, establishing operational systems and leading an organizational strength-based change initiative with CMS’ Faculty, Staff and Board of Directors.
Oona is inspired by leveraging creativity in the service of self and others, along with expanding the influence of art as a channel of abundance and well-being. She believes that art and artists can be made accessible by re-constructing the definition of what they do and the intent of self-expression itself. She has been involved in various Chicago Public Schools and community-based public art and educational projects.
She has also served on the board of the Wilson Bridge Mosaic and was Board President for the Open Wall Gallery for the 47th Alderman Ward in the city of Chicago.
Oona holds two Bachelor Degrees, the first being in Psychology from Mumbai University, and the second in Fine Arts from the School of The Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC). Additionally, in service of the development of art organizations, she holds a Master’s of Science in Positive Organizational Development & Change from Case Western Reserve University, Ohio.
In India, Oona founded a not-for-profit called Art for Self-Reliance (ASR) that collaborated with the International Justice Mission – an organization working with girls rescued from human trafficking in Mumbai, India. ASR designed programs within the aftercare system to guide healing through sustainable skills and opportunities in art and fabrication, enabling individual empowerment.
In the future, in addition to deepening her artistic practice, Oona’s attention is on creating frameworks that support artists and help art organizations create structures of efficiency, and innovation at the level of the individual, organization and community through learning art entrepreneurship.
Lucy Senner – Office Administrator
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. She comes to the Chicago Mosaic School from Madison, WI.
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 thirthy 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)
Elder G. Jones
Elder G. Jones is an award-winning artist who carves cement into sculpture, fountains, and public art projects. This Tennessee native, with an education in biology, art and healing, is the nation’s foremost expert in cement carving with over 20 years experience. His work has received national attention on HGTV, Southern Living Magazine, San Francisco Examiner and in two books by Sherri Warner Hunter. He is represented in many fine art galleries including La Mesa Gallery on prestigious Canyon Road in Santa Fe, New Mexico.