Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Spring updates

Things have been moving along quite well for us this Spring and 2014 has been a really busy year so far!  Starting in January, we moved across Milwaukee, WI to a brighter and more open studio.  We are mostly settled in, and everything is up and running.  In late February we were in Schaumburg, IL at St. Marcelline Catholic Church installing two wood carvings, one of St. Marcelline and another of St. Joseph. You can see images of these statues below.  On the left is Gianfranco with Fr. Hal Stanger.  Fr. Hal's sense of humor and energy made it a delight to do work with the parish!

Later in April, we delivered a large Corpus to St. Raphael Catholic Church in Oshkosh, WI.  Along with the Corpus we created a "ray background" for the Cross which, along with the lighting, helps create a focal point.  It's always a pleasure to do a project for a church in our home state and this one was no exception.  It was the second time we had worked with the church; our first commission was a wood carving of the Holy Family (below)

Coming up shortly we will be installing mosaic at All Saints Cemetery in Des Plaines, IL & Mt. Carmel Cemetery in Hillside, IL.  Both pieces are going to be part of a shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe.  The original idea was to have a 30 foot granite structure with the depiction of Our Lady of Guadalupe and St. Juan Diego in mosaic, and then our clients decided to add a second "miniature" version which will be 12 feet overall.  You can see a rendering below along with some of the mosaic work in progress.  Photos of the installed pieces to come ASAP!

Thursday, January 2, 2014

What we've been up to lately

It has been quite a while since our last blog post, however we truly have been extremely busy.  Over the past 6 months we have been helping churches, cemeteries, schools, etc. with the creation of artwork.   However, there are 3 particular projects I would like to talk about.

St. Elizabeth Catholic Church - Rockville, MD

In 2006 we created a Tabernacle for St. Elizabeth Catholic Church in Rockville, MD.  Contact was maintained, and then late 2012 a conversation started about creating "The Visitation" in bronze.  Although the subject was always clear, the location for these two statues was not solidified until Gianfranco recommended putting the two under the Church's bell tower.  As you can see, it is a natural.

Madonna Cemetery - Fort Lee, NJ

We were first approached by Fr. Stephen Carey and Mr. Greg Lopez in late 2011.  Fr. Carey presented a clear idea of what they wanted and after delays to start construction of the mausoleum, a plan was put into action.  The proposal called for five 5 x 10 foot mosaics depicting Saints Patrick, Nicholas di Bari, Andrew Kim Taegon, Elizabeth Ann Seton & St. Martin de Porres.

Designs were developed with the intention of a continuation of the styles present in the artwork of the original Church, such as the gothic arches bordering the stained glass windows.   After a few tweaks to the design a final go ahead was given to have the images made in mosaic.  The plan was to use a combination of Venetian glass and marble tiles; the marble being used to replicate the gothic arches found in the old church.

Around this time, another conversation was started regarding a stained glass window depicting the Risen Christ.  However, as a closer look was taken at the surrounding areas the idea was changed to a tapestry.  The tapestry was carefully designed using characteristics of the artwork in the original Church of the Madonna, adjacent to the new construction. Both the mosaics and the tapestry were installed in late October.

Nativity Jesuit Middle School - Milwaukee, WI

It was an honor to do work for Nativity Middle School as we had the opportunity to work really closely with the faculty and students at the school.  We created a large ceramic mural as a background piece for their already existing Stations of the Cross.  We even had a class full of students come in and get to know the processes used in the project, as well as our studio!

We also created a bronze plaque for under their Altar with the signature of Ignatius of Loyola.

The last piece we installed for the middle school is a 5' x 5' ceramic mural depicting the symbol for the Society of Jesuits.  The mural is framed with wood and hung up 25 feet above the entrance to the school's chapel.

Lastly, we have some really big news!

For over 16 years Gianfranco Tassara has lead a team of extremely talented individuals in the creation of artwork in the same building located on the south side of Milwaukee, WI.  It is our delight to announce that we are moving to a new location west of Downtown Milwaukee.

Please be sure to update your records:

Inspired Artisans, LTD.
505 N 22nd. St.
Milwaukee, WI 53233
p (414) 672-9478
f (414) 672-9479

Although the old studio will be missed, we are extremely eager to bring in the new year in our new location!  Please feel free to contact us if you would like to take a tour of the new space!

Friday, July 19, 2013

More Sculptures for the Mother of the Divine Word Shrine in Cedarburg

Working in the business of liturgical artwork, we are often approached by clients hoping to commission artwork that will inspire the faithful across generations - we share that desire, hoping our artwork will serve the faithful of future generations as well.  However, when we were recently approached by Jim Kacmarcik, a parishioner of St. Francis Borgia, about creating artwork for the Mother of the Divine Word Shrine located on the parish's grounds, we were really excited.  As the son of the original project donors we had served twelve years earlier, with this project we would literally be able to serve a future generation through our artwork.

Back in 2000 when we created the original shrine artwork, we had been approached by, Msgr. T. George Gajdos, then pastor of St. Francis Borgia, about a possible commission. Thomas and Josephine Kacmarcik had approached Msgr. Gajdos, desiring to sponsor the creation of a Marian shrine at the parish and they eventually commissioned a series of cast resin sculptures that would adorn the Shrine for the next decade.  The pieces included a full-round depiction of the Blessed Mother, reliefs of angels and reliefs of Saints Matthew the Evangelist, Thomas the Apostle, Joseph and Catherine.

 Original Artwork at the Shrine from 2000

Hoping to continue his parent's legacy at the church, Jim Kacmarcik contacted us last September about several different proposals for additional artwork to the expanded shrine. He ultimately chose to commission six new reliefs in the style of those already present in the shrine.  The project was formally approved by the Kacmarcik family and the parish's pastor  Fr. Thomas Eichenberger by the beginning of the year, and over the next few months a series of deep discussions took place between our studio, the Kacmarcik family and Fr. Eichenberger to determine subjects for the statues that would be relevant to today's faithful.  The final list ultimately included well known selections, as well as those more recently recognized, including Saints Michael the Archangel, Peter, Juan Diego, Pio of Pietrelcina and Kateri Tekakwitha and Servant of God Dorothy Day.

Servant of God Dorothy Day (left) and St. Juan Diego (right)

 St. Kateri Tekakwitha (left) and St. Michael the Archangel (right)

 St. Peter (left) and St. Pio of Pietrelcina
As the subject of each relief was chosen, a series of sketches and then a full scale clay model was developed for each saint. Once approved, a mold was then created from each clay model and the final reliefs cast in resin and bronze powders using a technique known as 'cold casting'. The completed reliefs were installed at the shrine on July 11, 2013.

We sincerely thank the Kacmarcik family, as well as Fr. Eichenberger and the rest of the St. Francis Borgia parish, for their continued trust in Inspired Artisans. We are proud to have had the opportunity to serve another generation of the Kacmarcik family through the creation of liturgical art.

If you have any questions or your faith community has a need for liturgical artwork, feel free to contact us at any time.  Or please visit our website at

Friday, May 24, 2013

Tabernacles: Combining the Old and New

When it comes to creating beautiful custom artwork, we always take great pride in our ability to take our client’s ideas and create something new.  However, there are also many instances when we are also approached by parishes hoping to incorporate a heritage element into a piece they are commissioning – adding a whole another dimension to the project.

Incorporating a heritage element always makes a commission more challenging, because not only do we have to meet logistical needs of the current project, but we also have to take into account the aesthetic challenges the older piece may present.  Construction techniques, materials and artistic styles have varied quite a bit over the decades, so in many cases an older piece isn’t an easy ‘match’ to the style of a new construction or renovation.

Tabernacles are one liturgical fitment in particular that we often have requests to incorporate an existing piece into a new design.  However, this is not a surprising request when one considers the significance of the celebration of the Eucharist in the life of a parish.  So what better to celebrate the history of the parish than finding a way to incorporate an older, ‘well loved’ tabernacle into the new design plans.

Having approached this design challenge several times in the past, there are two routes we typically follow to try to blend the two styles of the old and new.  The first and easiest route is to just enclose the existing tabernacle entirely in a newly created exoskeleton, so it is only visible when it is in active use.  This is a popular solution when the older piece is very simple or not the most eye-pleasing, because it allows the greatest stylistic freedom and ensures that the new tabernacle will fit well with the contemporary space.  By using the old tabernacle as the internal enclosure, the heritage piece is still an integral part of the tabernacle’s role in the parish, but circumvents any aesthetic shortcomings that the tabernacle may possess.

St. Joseph Catholic Church
Fort Atkinson, WI
New tabernacle enclosure and doors - existing tabernacle serves as case.

Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church
Lubbock, TX
New tabernacle face plate and doors - existing tabernacle serves as case.

Catholic Church of the Holy Apostles
McHenry, IL
New Altar of Reservation with enclosed area for existing tabernacle.

St. Mary Catholic Church
Mount Vernon, IL
New tabernacle enclosure with existing tabernacle contained within.

The second design approach involves creating a new exoskeleton for the existing tabernacle, but still allowing the older tabernacle to still remain visible.  This is option some parishes choose when there are important design elements on the existing tabernacle that they hope to carry into the new space, such as a relief on the doors.  While a bit more challenging at the offset, it is often possible to create a happy union between the old and new by introducing new materials or design elements that compliment what is already present.  While the new exterior is being created, the elements of the heritage tabernacle that will remain visible are also often restored, often revealing a beautiful piece that was just hidden behind years of use.  Thus, by visibly including important elements of the older tabernacle into the new, it also possible to ensure an important element in the spiritual life of parish remains in the community.

St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic Church
Waterford, WI
New tabernacle enclosure featuring existing tabernacle doors and case.

St. Phillip of Jesus Catholic Church
San Antonio, TX
New tabernacle enclosure featuring existing tabernacle doors and case.

If you have any questions or your faith community has a need for liturgical artwork, feel free to contact us at any time.  Or please visit our website at

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Adventures on the East Coast

All of us at the studio are wondering how it’s already March, but with how busy last month was, it’s not surprising how quickly the month went by.  While we can rarely say that we’re ‘unbusy’, during February it seems we took ‘busy’ to a whole new level as we prepared for a massive delivery trip on the East Coast.  Over the years we’ve learned that logistics for a delivery can be a tricky business even when it for only one project, but when you’re planning a trip to make six deliveries, a whole new level preparation is required.

While the most obvious preparation for our trip was making sure all of the artwork to be delivered was completed on time and boxed for our departure, what turned out to be an even bigger challenge was figuring out how to fit everything into the truck.  When we rented our 26 foot truck, we figured it would be a tight fit, but it took several days and a computer generated model of the truck and its contents to determine exactly how each piece being shipped had be to placed.  Despite the extra planning required, the trip went very smoothly and we were happy to deliver each commission.

The first stop on the trip was Connecticut, where we visited St. Lawrence Cemetery in West Haven to deliver and install four massive reliefs.  These reliefs were created as replicas of the original ceramic reliefs had hung in the cemetery for over 40 years, but after decades of being battered by the harsh East Coast weather, they had deteriorated to the point that they were falling off the walls piece by piece.  After some investigation, we determined that it would be most advantageous to recreate the existing designs in sturdier, more weather resistant material – our signature exterior fiberglass with bronze finish.  The completed reliefs are a close resemblance to the originals, and since we paid special attention to securely attaching them to the wall, these new pieces should hopefully bring peace to those who visit the cemetery for many decades more.

The Deposition
Original ceramic relief (left) and new fiberglass relief (left)

Christ the King
Original ceramic relief (left) and new fiberglass relief (left) 

Immaculate Conception
Original ceramic relief (left) and new fiberglass relief (left) 

Our Lady of All Nations
Original ceramic relief (left) and new fiberglass relief (left)

Another very important stop we made in Connecticut was to St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church in Newtown.  Following the atrocities that occurred in their community, deeply affecting many families of St. Rose parish, our studio felt it was necessary to do whatever we could to help.  In our gallery we had a nearly life-size relief of Christ surrounded by children that had been waiting for a home, and following the tragedy, we could think of no better home than St. Rose.  Our team gifted the relief to the church and delivered it free of charge, hoping that this small gesture can help bring some peace to those who have lost so much.

The remainder of our deliveries took us across state lines into New York.  We had quite the adventure navigating the streets of New York City with our large truck, but despite a few mishaps trying to navigate around the low bridge of Brooklyn, we were able to make our two stops successfully.  The first, and largest delivery, was for Resurrection Cemetery in Staten Island.  After working for over a year, we had finally completed the series of twelve life-size fiberglass reliefs of saints, a Risen Christ and cross and chapel fitments for the cemetery’s newly constructed mausoleum.
From left to right:
St. Anne, St. Anthony of Padua, Blessed Mother

From left to right:
St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, St. Francis, Blessed John Paul II

From left to right:
St. Joseph, St. Michael Archangel, St. Mother Cabrini

From left to right:
St. Padre Pio, Sacred Heart of Christ, St. Therese

Risen Christ
Chapel Fitments

The second stop just outside the city was at St. James Catholic Church in Setauket.  Here we delivered a white fiberglass Pieta sculpture for their cemetery, where they had just installed a Christ on the Waters sculpture in the same finish from us last year.  It was exciting to be able to serve them again so soon and we hope they love their new sculpture as much as the first.

The final stops on our whirlwind journey out east were in upstate New York.  To Riverside Cemetery in Rochester, we delivered an exterior fiberglass sculpture of a boy releasing a dove to be displayed on top of their columbarium, and to St. Mary Catholic Church in Swormville, we delivered an 8’ sculpture of the Ascension of Christ.  After a long week and the truck now emptied, it was nice to at last look forward to nothing but the drive home.

Boy Releasing Dove

Ascension of Christ concept rendering

 If you have any questions or your faith community has a need for liturgical artwork, feel free to contact us at any time.  Or please visit our website at