Archive of the Category 'Mosaic Arts Blog'

CMS Student Candice Klopfenstein tell us about her Journey into Mosaic Art for herself and others.

June 24, 2019
CMS Certification Student and Artist
Candice Klopfenstein

I recently had the opportunity to lead a mosaic workshop in California for people who had lost their homes to a forest fire.  When I first heard about the devastating fire that had destroyed the homes of people I knew, I grieved with them.  But a hope-filled idea began to form. What if creating a space for them to make a mosaic from things they recovered could be a part in their healing journey?

Over the years, as I’ve seen the benefit of connecting with God in my brokenness and pain, and as a result have experienced lasting peace and freedom, I’ve become passionate about seeing others receive this same healing and peace in their lives.  To have an opportunity to offer this experience through mosaic was profound for me, and it led me to realize that places in my life have come full circle.

I found mosaic art during a time when I wasn’t looking for it, and in many ways, I feel like mosaic found me. For years I hadn’t thought about my buried dream of being an artist.  When I came to the Chicago Mosaic School, I thought I was just seeking the technical help I needed to make a project for my home. When finished, I would just move on to the next thing I was busy with.  But along the way of completing this project – a table top for our kitchen – I fell in love with the beauty and expressiveness of the medium. I also felt so supported and encouraged by the staff and other artists at the school. I kept coming back for more opportunities to learn and be a part of the community.  

Reclaimed Beauty. 2018. Stone, Shell, Smalti.
Candice Klopfenstein

This journey into the mosaic art world didn’t come without challenges – it revealed insecurities and self-doubt. But being aware of these gave me the opportunity to explore them with God, to let him speak his truth to me, to learn that pursuing this dream was something he created me to do, and he loved experiencing it with me.   This helped me connect with a part of me that wasn’t fully alive and hadn’t yet found a voice.

More recently, the idea of offering a mosaic workshop to those who were dealing with profound loss was another opportunity for me to face more fears and uncertainty.  It was also one more chance for me to see the beauty of the mosaic community I’ve been surrounded by.  I was lent tools and offered technical advice for leading the class, materials were generously donated, several people spoke life-giving words into me – that I was ready for this opportunity, that I would lead well and that it would encourage those who came.  I tangibly felt God speaking to me through the love and encouragement I received from these friends and fellow artists.

Sample work from participants in Candice’s Workshop.

Each family arrived that afternoon with a box of charred items that they had recovered from their homes. There were moments when you could feel a sense of profound loss in the room, but as they started exploring their pieces and planning their design, a sense of peace and expectancy settled in the room. 

By the end of the workshop, each family had made beautiful, unique mosaics.  Recently, a few of them shared with me that they found healing in the process and left with an increase in hope.  One person felt each mosaic expressed what God was doing in their individual lives.  Another shared she feels joy every day when she sees her mosaic.  It has been so beautiful to me to see that this experience brought a measure of hope and healing to those who were a part of the workshop.

As I think about the time in California, and leading future mosaic workshops with others who are hurting, I feel hope and expectation.  I’ve learned from past experiences that these opportunities will challenge me, but will also free me, and further launch me into becoming who I’m created to be.  At the same time, they will give others a chance to find peace and freedom in whatever challenges they are facing.  This experience of personally healing, growing and helping others find deeper life and peace is more than I’ve ever dreamed of.

Written by Candice Klopfenstein, June 2019.

Wet Carved Concrete with Elder Jones

October 19, 2017


For about 5 years, The Chicago Mosaic School has been honored to have award-winning artist Elder G Jones come through our doors to teach his workshop, Wet Carved Concrete. Seen on HGTV and in such publications as Southern Living Magazine and the San Francisco Exclaimer, Jones is internationally recognized for being an expert in cement carving.

When I (the non-artist, but art enthusiast) think of sculpting concrete, it doesn’t seem possible. Do you pour it into a mold? Do you build it up like clay? Is it like when you were little and played with wet sand to make a giant drip pile? Surprisingly enough, it’s none of those. It turns out that the sand and cement mixture that is used sits in a form until it is stiff, and then as the material is hardening, you are able to slice, scrape and carve your piece into its desired shape.

It’s a subtractive process approach to sculpture, much like the work of Rodin or Michelangelo, who famously said, “Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.” Our students were given the opportunity to reveal their sculpture from that sand and cement mixture.

This workshop has drawn students with little-to-no experience (the workshop has no pre-requisites), to our more advanced students who have taken a variety of classes at the school. Student Elisabeth Bartky says that what drew her to this workshop was her “discovered passion of carving” that she found in her Clay in Mosaics workshop (taught by CMS Founder and Executive Director Karen Ami).

According to Barky, Wet Carved Concrete with Elder Jones brought a different element to the practice of carving in which you need to practice “The Three Fs”: fearlessness, flexibility, and to be fast. But in addition to enjoying the added challenges of carving with concrete, working with Jones was definitely a highlight for students. He “is a great instructor with a fun personality, eager to share his knowledge and experiences.”

This workshop happened to overlap with The Edgewater Festival for the Arts, a public event in our new neighborhood. Many passers-by were able to come in and observe this workshop, which drew the question “I thought you were a mosaic school – what does carving have to do with mosaics?” Not only can your 40lb completed project later be mosaicked, but at CMS we delve into the art world in a larger way. From figure drawing to clay classes, you are able to hone in on your other artistic skills and bring it back to mosaics – or not!

Visiting Artist Profile: Maestro Verdiano Marzi

June 1, 2017

Maestro Verdiano Marzi in his Paris studio

Just this week, CMS saw the conclusion of visiting artist Verdiano Marzi’s eighth consecutive annual residency. Marzi, or the Maestro, as he’s commonly referred to around Chicago Mosaic School, is one of our most key visiting instructors. This year’s visit, like many before it, has been a whirlwind of activity. In the past five weeks, Maestro Marzi has conducted two intensive workshops, one weekly class, taught a workshop, lectured, and shown in a major exhibition at the Society of American Mosaic Artists (SAMA) 2017 conference in Detroit. On top of all of this, he has dedicated countless hours in the studio, offering a unique window into a master practice and offering indispensible guidance to faculty, staff, and students alike.

When asked what makes Marzi’s class so unique, CMS director Karen Ami struggled to find the words. “It’s just life-changing. It’s hard to describe, but when you meet him, you understand.” Many students agree and compete for coveted seats in his classes and workshops. But what makes this master artist so impactful is not just his thoughtful and empathetic teaching style, his striking personal work, or impressive resume, which includes the Ravenna School, the École Nationale Supérieure de Beaux-Arts, and the Louvre. It is also the holistic way in which he approaches the practice of mosaic making, employing process elements from a range of fine art disciplines while staying true to the technical heritage of the medium.

Marzi was born near Ravenna, Italy, a landmark city for ancient and Byzantine style mosaics. As a child, he struggled with academic subjects in school, and often made gifts of artwork to the other children in exchange for their help with schoolwork. Seeing his struggle, Marzi’s father went to his teacher to see if there was some other avenue for Verdiano to take to pursue his talents. At the age of eleven, Marzi was enrolled on a scholarship at the Istituto Statale d’Arte per il Mosaico, a mosaic and fine art school founded by Italian Futurist Gino Severini. When he entered the school, he was one of only eight students, taking classes in art and design, history, mathematics, and the sciences, with a special focus on ancient mosaics and techniques.

He left the Istituto as a fifteen-year-old to take a professional apprenticeship with a prominent Ravenna mosaic studio. For five years he travelled back and forth to southern Italy with the studio, executing restorations of ancient mosaics, copies, and commissions. Then a young man, Marzi began to feel constrained by the lack of creative freedom offered by his work in Ravenna. When his mentor discouraged him from pursuing a relationship with his now wife, Beatrice, Marzi took the initiative to leave the studio and follow Beatrice to her native country of France.

At twenty-three, Marzi began a new life in Paris, where he attended the École Nationale Supérieure de Beaux-Arts and was able to cultivate a personal art practice for the first time. Under the tutelage of Sorbonne Professor Riccardo Licata in his Paris-based mosaic studio, Marzi began to explore much more modern aesthetics and imagery. Unlike many of his French peers, he was able to bring a strong foundation in ancient mosaic technique to his study of contemporary art, and build on that knowledge to create a new, dynamic path.

In class at this year’s first session of Modern Expressions with Verdiano Marzi.

In the subsequent forty years, Verdiano Marzi has been able to build a prolific personal practice while supporting himself through teaching. He has taught internationally throughout Europe, and in France has worked through the Louvre pedagogical programs doing outreach with prisoners and at-risk youth.

“Every time I teach, it’s a totally new experience, even if I’m working with students I’ve seen over and over again… Some artists continue to develop variations of the same theme over and over throughout their lives. Similarly, each encounter with a student is like the first time- a totally unique exchange.”**

Marzi began teaching with The Chicago Mosaic School after meeting Karen Ami at the 2010 SAMA conference in Chicago. At the time, Karen was acting president of the organization, and had extended a special invitation to Marzi to present at the conference and teach a workshop at CMS. Since then, their relationship has grown to a deep friendship and mentorship. In recent years, he has taught a class called “Modern Expressions,” where he focuses on helping students to develop their technical skills and aesthetic judgment in order to create expressive personal works. His enthusiasm is only growing, with intentions for developing his curriculum in the coming years.

“Winged Victory” by Verdiano Marzi, 2015. Glass, Stone and Gold. This sculptural mosaic was included in the Marzi’s 2015 solo exhibition, Dal Sogno all’ Opus Veritas, hosted by Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago’s Magnificent Mile. This sculpture was purchased by the church and is now part of their permanent collection. It was dedicated this May.

Marzi is, in his own words, “just like any other artist… I’m inspired by the details of my own personal life and relationships,” but his personal work is far more wide reaching. He often tackles broad human themes, such as suffering and hope in crises and the links between historic events and the sociopolitical issues that face us today. This summer, Marzi will be traveling to Tokyo for the dedication of a mosaic artwork that examines the aftermath of the 2011 Tsunami, calling for both mourning of the human toll and joy in the memory of the individual lives affected. He will also be creating work this year to mark the hundredth anniversary of the Russian revolution, remaining cognizant of a century of consequences and the founding issues that are still relevant today.

With a strict religious upbringing, Marzi also works frequently with Judeo-Christian imagery, particularly angels and icons. These works ruminate on role of saints and angels as messengers, not just in religious scripture but also within the iconography of popular culture. As he reflects on current events, Marzi says that the timeless motifs of angels and icons are a conceptual medium through which western culture meditates on our own humanity, our place in the world, and relationships to each other and the metaphysical. With regards to literal interpretations of his choices of imagery, the Maestro encourages a less dogmatic approach: “man is the master of his own spirit.”

Verdiano Marzi’s incredible dedication to his art and his role as a teacher has been a transformative influence on our organization. While our classrooms feel just a little emptier when he leaves, we take inspiration from his incredible spirit and commitment to excellence in mosaics. This is the kind of motivation that propels us to pursue our mission every day of the year, but nonetheless, we always look forward to the return of the Maestro.

**All quotes from Maestro Marzi are paraphrased translations from French.

July-December 2017 CMS Catalog

Its HERE! Download the CMS 2017 Schedule

Check out the incredible opportunities for learning at The Chicago Mosaic School July-December 2017:)

CMS is beginning a new era- how you can help!

March 2, 2017

After a great deal of hard work and planning, our move to Edgewater is finally underway! The boxes are packed, and the halls of 1806 W. Cuyler Ave are slowly emptying. Although the sight of our longtime home in North Center is bittersweet without all of the materials and artwork that we know and love, our staff, faculty and dedicated team of volunteers are all smiles.

We have nothing but fond memories of our space, but one of the challenges of being off street level is the lack of visibility. Despite our renown within the art world and the world of fine art mosaics, we’ve always been a bit of a well-kept secret of the Chicago art scene. Our community has grown steadily and stayed steadfastly and enthusiastically by our side over the past twelve years, from a group of private students led by our founder Karen in a brave new venture to a body of hundreds every year.

As we take the next step, we are planning for big things to come. Not only is our new home on W. Granville Ave on street level, with spring and summer classes to be conducted in an airy new storefront space, but according to our local alderman’s office, the weekly foot traffic is well over 15,000. This represents an enormous increase in visibility for CMS, which we hope will contribute to our long term plans for growth, and allow us to welcome many new additions to our creative community. 

On our agenda for this transition, we are not just updating our location but are also seeking to improve our overall operations so that we can focus on the future. We are hoping to do more of everything- more programming, more events, more curriculum content, more members, more outreach- but doing more requires more from us and more from the tools we use to do our work. As a non-profit, we rely so much on the generosity of our community, our partners in education, and contributors from all over. We have formulated a priority list of needs that we are reaching out for help in obtaining. Sometimes the simplest of tools can have the biggest effect in creating a more dynamic, efficient, and functional environment so that we can put more time and care into the part we love best: teaching. 

If you are interested in contributing to our transition and our growth in this new era of CMS history, we ask you to consider making a gift of one of the following items. All inquiries on how to support or make a tax-deductible donation to  CMS now or in the future can be directed toward our staff at You can also visit our donations page at CMS is a 501-c3 Not-for-Profit organization.

Of course, we extend a massive embrace of thanks to everyone who has helped us grow to where we are now. Without the support of our students, members, contributing artists, faculty, volunteers, and donors, our one-of-a-kind school would still only be an ambitious idea. We invite every member of our community, from our oldest friends to passing visitors, to feel welcome in our halls and classrooms, wherever the are located. We can’t wait to get started in our new home and see where the future takes us!

Update About our Upcoming Move!

February 6, 2017

Edgewater here we come!



Visiting Artist Profile: Carolina Zanelli

February 2, 2017

It was a chance encounter on a train that brought Carolina Zanelli to the world of mosaics. Carolina, a native of Udine, Italy, was just finishing her studies in cello performance and classics when she met a woman in passing on a train who was a student at the Scuola Mosaicisti del Friuli – School of Mosaicists of Friuli, just north of Venice. Carolina found herself intrigued and surprised that she had never heard of this school just across from her Grandmother’s home in Spilimbergo. By 1995 she had graduated with a diploma as Maestra mosaicista.

The Scuola Mosacisti del Fruili in Spilimbergo is just one of several mosaic schools throughout Italy, but with one large difference. Unlike schools in Ravenna and Rome that focus primarily on teaching antique techniques with the intention of preparing the next generation for conservation and restoration work, Fruili takes a more modern approach, teaching their own direct and indirect methods. Their speciality in portraiture is one that Carolina brings to the Chicago Mosaic school in her Modern Mosaic Portraiture workshop.

Carolina’s mosaic career has spanned a range of practices and subjects, traveling internationally to teach and study, creating commissions as well as her own creative work, and working for a time at Mosaïque Surface in Montréal, Canada, and Mayer in Munich, Germany. The Chicago Mosaic School’s mission is to shift from the “craft” oriented perception of mosaics toward a more elevated view that includes mosaic among other fine art mediums such as painting, sculpture, and printmaking. When asked how she feels about that goal when compared to doing more traditional decorative styles and completing commissions, “I like it all,” she says.

However, in her own work Carolina favors the contemporary, opting to play with the constraints of the medium and challenge viewers and herself by reimagining glass and stone as something more ethereal: leggerezza, lightness.

Lately this has included affixing mosaic tile to flexible, transparent silicone sheeting. She also achieves this effect by creating elongated tesserae that evoke flowing movement. “I like to work with different colors, to play around and make something I like,” she says, rather than relying on figuration or representational images. Her Fragments series features organically-shaped mosaic panels that can be hung in any orientation or configuration together or alone. “It’s meant to be playful.”

Though she cites no specific aesthetic influences or deliberate references, Carolina’s work often alludes to meditations on place, choice, and identity. She has made works resembling traditional medieval labyrinths, but uses the familiar forms as a venue to experiment with subtle explorations of color and pattern. According to her website, “Labyrinth represents my own life: How many times have I chosen one way rather than another? Why turn right instead of left, or vice-versa? How did I get to where I am? Can I go back? Where would I be if I had chosen just ONE different path?” Ruminating on the passage of time and the pathways of our lives while manipulating the formal elements of material and design certainly feels like the natural pursuit for someone who found their calling by way of a chance encounter.

As she moves forward, Carolina continues to teach in Spilimbergo and internationally. Much like Karen Ami, founding director of the Chicago Mosaic School, she feels impelled toward building a better presence for mosaics in the contemporary art market and the critical arena. Recalling an exhibition in Paris where she showed her work, she says “there were gallerists there, but they didn’t know what to do with it. ‘Did you paint this?’ they asked- they didn’t really know what it was!” With her art, she endeavors to break away from the question “what is this for?” and implications of functionality linking mosaic to its architectural and decorative pigeonhole and instead let the mosaic medium act as a vehicle for sheer visual expression and artistic process, whether it be decorative, didactic, or esoteric.

Carolina Zanelli has been a visiting artist at the Chicago Mosaic School since 2006. Most recently she taught two workshops, Color Theory and Modern Mosaic Portraiture.

Toyoharu Kii: A Quiet Force

January 17, 2017


Meet Toyoharu Kii~ Japan’s  Mosaic Maestro.


Toyoharu Kii’s work is like a fingerprint; the work that comes from his hands is unique and clearly is like no one else’s. Within a mosaic, one can see the sensitivity of the artists touch and hear the volume of his voice. This is true for Kii’s delicately detailed textured marble compositions. He has been instrumental in the rise of interest in mosaics among Japanese artists and is at the forefront of a new tradition in contemporary mosaic in Japan.

When Kii was 16 years old he decided to formally study art at Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music. He was a student of oil painting and murals and in his second year of art school he was introduced to mosaics in a short course. This inspired Kii to study in Florence, Italy on a scholarship from the Italian government after his graduation. When he returned to Japan he opened a studio called Mosaic Atelier ING.

“Now,” Kii says, “painting for me is important only to make clear my image for mosaic, butI am not so much interested in painting itself.” Painting is, indeed a part of the approach to mosaics that sets Toyoharu Kii’s work apart from other contemporary mosaic artists. He creates traditional ink paintings on rice paper, many of them, as sketches for future works.

His process is one that he has developed through a disciplined practice over many years. He has found quietness in the white marble and in the interstices between the tesserae. “I hope to enrich the expression of mosaic and elaborate the technique. In Japan, the people consider mosaic ‘a childish play’ and a very simple technique. In my mosaic, the tesserae have various shapes and are composed in different ways in order to obtain specific character of tesserae,” says Kii. “ Please take a look at the tesserae closely when you see my mosaic.”

In Kii’s work, each tesserae has a voice, as does every space in between the chiseled pieces of marble. The whiteness gives Kii’s mosaic subtle variances in color and shadow. In a medium where the material can make the compositions feel rigid, and Kii has found inspiring ways to free it from those traditional boundaries. His work has both fluidity and undulation; the hardness of the marble and the shadows and textures help to express some of the themes in nature that Kii values. There is a ritual of mediation for both the artist, in the creation, and for the viewer in the slow discovery of the work.

Toyoharu Kii had a well-received solo exhibition at Pagoda Red Gallery, in Chicago this last summer, his first such exhibition in the United States. He has exhibited at The Art Museum of Ravenna (MAR), the Chapelle St. Eman in Chartres, France and at The Mosaique Contemporaine in Paray-le-Monial, France. Toyoharu Kii will have a one-man show in November 2016 in Hachinohe City, in northern Japan and where he lived as a young boy.

For the last several years, Kii has been a Visiting Artist at The Chicago Mosaic School where he has encouraged students to explore his process of mosaic making while discovering the beauty of every tesserae. He will be returning to CMS in the summer of 2017 to inspire a new handful of students and to hold a new exhibition in Chicago.

This article was written by Karen Ami for SAMA’s Fall 2016 Groutline Journal. Ami is Founder and Executive Director of The Chicago Mosaic School. Kii will be returning as a Visiting Artist at CMS for a 5th year to teach his workshop “Monochromatic“.

2017 CMS Catalog LIVE online!

December 16, 2016

The Chicago Mosaic School offers an expansive and well rounded program for anyone interested in Mosaic Arts. This year we welcome world renowned artists and some of the finest classes and workshops offered anywhere. This year join us in our new state-of the art facility and see how our educational community can inspire your artistic life.

View/Download PDF Catalog »

For our Friends at home and around the world:

November 9, 2016


November 9th, 2016

To all of our friends from around the world:

Today, the idea of community and mosaics has never been more important. The Chicago Mosaic School is a place for love and respect where we can work together, from different cultures and ideologies, to create a better vision for the world. A mosaic is something of beauty created from unique and varied elements- exactly like the world we live in. Together- in tolerance and love we can make this world a better place.
-Karen Ami, Founder and Executive Director

NEW! Color Theory with Carolina Zanelli- January 2017

November 6, 2016

CMS offers all students a wonderful approach to color theory in this NEW 2-day workshop taught by Visiting Artist Carolina Zanelli. This course is focused on color theory as applied to mosaic. Mixes of color, color graduation, palette and brightness will be explored with a hands on approach and exercises designed to gain greater ease in applying color in your work. Ms. Zanelli is a 1994 graduate of the Scuola Mosaicisti del Friuli in Spilimbergo, Italy. Enroll now !



New Blogpost: “The Poop” on Artist’s Statements

September 8, 2016


Ah…..the obligatory and sometimes stressful task of writing a statement about your artwork. It’s good to be straightforward, because, at the end of the day, the work should speak for itself. Yet curators and the public like to hear what your intention is in your work and, perhaps your process. Less is more and the more one tries to impress with pretend art talk (artspeak, y’all), the more the Bullshit Meter goes off. That is why there are several artist statement generator websites, because there is a formula for creating art blather for the masses.

As Iris Jaffe said in her recent article about Anti-Artist statements: “To begin with, visual artists are visual people: we communicate visually. Descriptive writing requires much more specificity than visual communication. If we had a preference or talent for expressing ourselves through text, we would just write essays in the first place — right?”

After 30 years of creating work, curating exhibitions, participating in critiques and writing about art I think I would understand what some of these statements mean…. but I have no damn idea what these people are trying to say. I am huge fan of humor, and I think these statements are initially hilarious and entertaining. But they are dead-serious, which makes me crack up even more at the irony of it all. Too bad we artists can’t let the work just speak for itself.

So here are my top five worst artist statements (so far). I am taking these out of context to protect the ‘anonymity’ of the writers (I won’t be writing about the – ‘art’ -on this post). So if you can understand artspeak, blather, or gobbledegook, please assist me to translate and comprehend this kind of “writing” here:


1)”These images represent the juxtaposition of the timeless and majestic elegance of nature’s sensory-surpassing miracles with the entangled and growing tensions of our time in culturally reconnecting with the shift away from the human condition of love. In developing my visual perspective, I’ve discerned the fleeting significance from the invariable through emphasizing the growing collective disdain for the socially underdeveloped that has come to define our generation and crystallized over the last decade. Through highlighting this generational discontent in honing its cultural responsibility of deconstructing traditional understanding of social roles against the unrefined purity of the emotionally captivating cycles of nature, my work serves as a middle ground to visually level and gauge the social progress of man by means of extremities occurring in class stratification. In giving careful attention to the mediating filters that propagates socially-constructed irreverence, I aim to address the necessity of breaking down the symbolic paradigms of understanding to revisit the overlooked empathy for humanity and its greater accountability to each other.”

2) “I’m fascinated by the construct of strata in any context. For example- geologically, as a visible record of the continuous deposition of natural and human-generated matter; sociologically as an arbitrary categorization system affording both separation and unification of humans; and psychologically has a chronological composition of our experiences. In all these contexts the juxtapositions of and transitions between disparate elements result in descendants and harmony, muddy vagueness, and sharp clarity. Each layer shifts, settles, and adjusts to make room for the knees and elbows of the next; the pigment or character of one stratum irrevocably colors it’s neighbors; a disturbance in one level beans or fishers outward through multiple others. It’s an infinitely additive process what we at present perceived as the top the surface the current thing is inevitably absorbed, buried, reclaimed by, and in the process serves to inform whatever comes next.”

3) “Comprising layer upon layer of stacked virgin cork coated in pure black pigment, the squatting sculpture dominates its setting. The work is impossible to understand in a single perspective and the spectator is forced to negotiate its sides and edges, unable to access its top. Its natural undulations and inconsistencies echo the raw, worked, sculptural surfaces of Martin’s pigments. The form of Behemoth, and its physical presence in the gallery space, echo the theatrical preoccupations of Minimalist sculpture but the ancient and organic nature of the material conversely alludes to an inherent human narrative that belies these conceptual concerns.”

4) “My work embodies the questions beneath identity and crisis; origin and ownership of cultural signifiers become unsettling and dubious terrain. The work describes the beauty and survival capabilities of the human imagination which outlives assaulted cultures, transplantation, exile and shifts in philosophical paradigms.”

5) “Be that in the battles of the self or the overwhelming and confusing chaos that is our modern times, I seek to find the essence of what it means to be human today; be that the fragility or the resilience of the human animal in the face of endless and impossible questions of life itself.”

And for some real entertainment- here is ArtBollocks Theatre presenting theatrical readings of actual artists statements. Good times! 🙂

By Karen Ami ©2015 Reprinted from ArtAmibaBlog.

Karen Ami is the Founder and Executive Director of The Chicago Mosaic School. She has maintained an art practice for over three decades and has written her share of bad artists statements.

Opening Reception for “Savage Curiosities”



Exhibition from September 2nd – October 28th 2016. Karen Ami (USA) & Pamela Irving (Australia)

Savage Curiosities is a presentation of works by Karen Ami (Chicago, USA) and Pamela Irving (Melbourne, Australia). Their raw, primal imagery is manifested in mosaics, drawings and prints. Ami and Irvings’ process of working together (while on separate continents) reflects a shared admiration of Primitivism, non-western artifacts and early 20th century artworks.

Karen Ami utilizes handmade, inscribed broken ceramic pieces in her narratives. Her use of textured and incised ceramic slabs are imbued with words and hackneyed marks. Pamela Irving is a storyteller who uses playful and slightly menacing imagery to deliver her narratives. Both use pieces of metal, broken china, glass and miscellaneous objects that capture the raw essence that is present within the non-western art and artifacts that they admire. Pamela Irving and Karen Ami’s respective works can be found in public and private collections around the world. This exhibition is an exuberant presentation of their shared aesthetic.

The Gallery of Contemporary Mosaics, Chicago is dedicated to exhibiting and promoting excellence in contemporary Mosaic Arts. The gallery showcases the finest in mosaic art from around the world, ranging from emerging artists to modern masters. Open year round, GoCM is located within The Chicago Mosaic School, the first not-for-profit mosaic art school outside of Europe.

EXHIBITION DATES: September 2nd- October 28th, 2016
ARTISTS RECEPTION (free and open to the public) September 9th, 6-9pm
LOCATION: GoCM, 1806 West Cuyler Avenue, 2nd floor, Chicago, Illinois USA 773.975.8966

SAVAGE CURIOSITIES: Artist Gallery Talk 9/2

August 27, 2016

Please join us for a lively discussion about the new exhibition and works of artists Karen Ami and Pamela Irving on September 6th, 2016 at 7pm.

Savage Curiosities Artist Talk

Exciting changes for CMS

August 14, 2016

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Pat Thompson, CMS Founder Karen Ami, Alderman Harry Osterman and Rae Ann and Bob Cecrle on Granville.

The Chicago Mosaic School is excited to announce we will be moving to a new, highly-visible location in Chicago’s historic Edgewater neighborhood, an expanding vibrant arts community. After 11 years of ongoing growth, the school is in need of a larger facility to accommodate our expanded course offerings and programming. In Spring 2017, we will relocate to a new 9,500 square feet facility that will include The Gallery of Contemporary Mosaics (GoCM), larger classrooms, lecture space, 11 dedicated artist studios, resource room, kiln room, and mosaic-related retail. In addition to the amenities inside the school, our new Granville location provides easy access to public transportation, Chicago’s lakefront, and many nearby businesses, restaurants, and shopping.

All of this combines to help The Chicago Mosaic School fulfill its more-than-a-decade long mission of preserving and promoting classical and contemporary mosaics through its course offerings, school programs, community partnerships and teacher training programs–all with an emphasis on sustainability using proper methods and materials.

Big thanks to building owners Rae Ann and Bob Cecrle, Alderman Harry Osterman of the 48th Ward, Architect Patrick Thompson of Maske Dieckmann and Thompson and Nate Gautsche of CRER. We are incredibly grateful to all of you and to the wonderful support we have received from our staff, faculty, board of directors and students from both near and far. Check our Facebook page and CMS blog for updates on our exciting relocation!


Toyoharu Kii in Chicago 2016

May 31, 2016

Kii-PagodaRed-openingWe are excited to welcome artist Toyoharu Kii back to Chicago! This year Pagoda Red Gallery, Chicago is exhibition Kii’s first American Solo exhibition, opening June 3rd, 2016. The exhibition runs through July 21st, 2016. Kii will be in Chicago for the artists reception and will be at The Chicago Mosaic School to teach his “Monochromatic” Workshop for a 4th consecutive year.

St Benedicts Mosaic for Agora Week

April 25, 2016

img_3908Chicago’s St. Benedict’s School has been working on their beautiful Agora week project at The Chicago Mosaic School. Check out the progress on their blog here:  St Ben’s Mosaic

Inaugural Certifiable Exhibit at the GoCM: Gallery of Contemporary Mosaics

April 24, 2016

Inaugural Certifiable Exhibit at the GoCM: Gallery of Contemporary Mosaics

OpeninGoCMBy Patricia (Pat) King

As one of the most well-and-truly-certifiable of the Certificate students at the Chicago Mosaic School, I was naturally asked to post a blog entry on the inaugural Certifiable exhibit at the GoCM: Gallery of Contemporary Mosaics. So here goes.

The opening on April 15th, 2016, was wonderful. The Gallery shone with the light of more than 20 mosaics each exuding its own special emotional vibe. I was very impressed, as were many in attendance, by the breadth of style and the beauty of the pieces. I was both humbled and inspired by the combined talent of my fellow Certificate students and very happy to be a part of this great program. I also met other students, a real plus of attending the opening.

Though many of the pieces were small in size, they were big in emotional impact from the whimsical to the serene. [Note that, by order of my superiors at the CMS, I cannot include pictures of everyone’s piece(s) or I would. They are all great and it has been a challenge deciding on which few to include here. On the bright side, this will force you to go see the exhibit yourselves – and you really must!]

Wasentha Young

Wasentha Young

So, back to where I was, a few that come to mind are Wasentha Young’s “Half Awake,” a piece that makes me smile just to think about it. It is whimsical, sweet and well done. Its small size, about 6” square, also adds to the tenderness of this piece.

Another work on display is Dean Madsen’s piece entitled “Yellow River Serenade” that exudes serenity, one of two works he has on exhibit. Its largely monochromatic warm color scheme and flowing lines lend it to quiet contemplation. His use of a rectangular base wider than it is tall also promotes its peaceful quality.

Etty Hasak’s piece entitled “The Brown Line” has got to be a favorite of all students at the Chicago Mosaic School as it depicts that train famously passing by the workshop windows daily and at great frequency (not to mention volume). She captures its motion and speed well with the slate moving off to the left and horizontal lines of movement. It was a pleasure witnessing its creation during our Texture Workshop together. She also has two more wonderful pieces on exhibit.Etty Hasak


David Chidgey

David Chidgey

Lastly, and only because I cannot list them all, is a piece that further exemplifies the breadth of styles represented in the exhibit. It is a piece entitled “Gazelle” by David Chidgey and is one of three pieces he has on exhibit. You can really see the graceful leap of the gazelle when you look at this piece. It was done by David during Toyoharu Kii’s Monochromatic workshop and is a LOT better than the one I did, that is for sure.

Hopefully these few examples of works on display give you a glimpse into the treasures in this exhibit and inspire you to go see them for yourselves. I, myself, will be back before the exhibit closes on June 24th and look forward to a second chance to see them in person.

In closing, I entitled this piece the “inaugural” Certifiable exhibit because my vote is for there to be one annually because the students in the Certificate Program of the Chicago Mosaic School currently rock and will only continue to produce more and better mosaics as they progress in their programs. Well done all participants and thanks to the Chicago Mosaic School and its wonderful folks for putting on this show! Were it not for your excellent instruction, none of this would be possible.

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