Featured Artist: Lisa Dienst-Thomas

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Lisa Dienst-Thomas has been designing, handcrafting and selling art jewelry for over 20 years. Metal is her first love particularly sterling silver and copper. Her favorite tool is my jewelers saw; sawing requires great focus and never fails to bring her into her Zen state. She is inspired by architecture, nature, textures and color. She adds color to my metal using fused glass, enamel, conventional gems and found objects. She enjoys exploring unconventional ways to utilize conventional gems.  “I love unusual materials and new techniques. I endeavor to create statement pieces that are sometimes industrial, often quirky but always unique,” she says.

Project Fusion Commission Range: $800-$5,000

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Interested in commissioning Lisa Dienst-Thomas? Contact her:

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Featured Artist: Steve Sherrell

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The greater Chicago art scene has been Steve Sherrell’s turf for many years. After studying at the School of the Art Institute with Ray Yoshida, he began exhibiting on a regular basis at many of the city’s great galleries, nationally and internationally. As examples, he has shown work at The Art Institute of Chicago, The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, has been featured on Italian television and reviewed in Art in America magazine. He has been a working artist for more that 40 years but his work retains a freshness of vision, and a youthful spirit. He currently is the gallery coordinator at Water Street Studios.

Project Fusion commision range: $800-$5,000

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Interested in commissioning Steve Sherrell? Contact him:

Featured Artist: Mark Russell

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Mark Russell has been creating landscape and nature paintings for more than 20 years. He has exhibited his work in group shows, in galleries and museums across the country. He has won numerous awards and is an Illinois Arts Council Grant recipient. His paintings are included in private and corporate collections. Previously, Mark was an award-winning designer focusing on packaging graphics. He holds degrees from DePaul University and The American Academy of Art in Chicago.

Mark’s oil paintings and monotype prints focus on landscape and nature. Surface provides inspiration: the texture of a rock, the edges of a cloud, the reflections and movement in water, the veil of light on a hazy day. He builds layer upon layer to the surface of his paintings, through a process of scraping, rubbing, adding and subtracting. As in nature, some moves are bold while others are more subtle, like the trickle of a stream on a mountainside or the constant motion of waves on a rocky beach. Each painting starts with a plan and, at times, can veer off path to reveal a surprise.
Project Fusion commision rates: $750-$3,200

Interested in commissioning Mark Russell? Contact him:

Featured artist: Naomi Zagt

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These vibrant paintings were born from print work Naomi Zagt started while training at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee to be an artist, 15 years ago. She was reminded of the prints and decided to reinvent them as a backdrop for inspiring nature themes. Her philosophy is creativity never dies; it stays inside you and can be awakened by being aware of the beauty around you. The meditative feeling of nature infuses the color and design elements throughout the work. All of the paintings use a multistep process starting with the monotype print. Monotype technique is drawing with ink on plexiglass, running it through a press and the print is embedded in paper. The repeated images of unusual flowers, twisting stems and luscious fruit literally breathe new life into the work. She paints the images from nature using many layers of acrylic paint to bring out subtle color and brilliant contrasts. Her process takes time but she loves the journey and beautiful juxtaposition of monotype printing and painting.

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Project Fusion commission range: $250 to $2,000

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Interested in commissioning Naomi Zagt? Contact her:

Featured Artist: Dana Collins

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Dana Collins has exhibited her paintings, drawings, and sculpture in over four dozen solo and juried group exhibitions in New York, Florida and throughout New England and the Midwest. Her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree was from Washington University, and she received her Master of Fine Arts Degree in Painting from Pratt Institute in New York. She also studied as an undergraduate at Yale University and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.

Her numerous awards include the Sisselman Award from the Berkshire Museum in Massachusetts and the Sculptor’s Guild Competition in New York.

Her Heart Series involves images of progressions and growth. The heart has come to represent a force within us all, something that tries to learn and grow. She says, “These small, deeply textured and embellished works explore the idea of an in-dwelling spirit, most personal and human. Also, most vulnerable and precious.  They are the colors of the earth, usually.”

Project Fusion Commission range:  $350 – $4,000

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Interested in commissioning Dana Collins? Contact her:

Featured artist: Kathy McDonald

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After a long hiatus from the ceramics Kathy McDonald enjoyed working with as a child, she rediscovered her passion for the media, prompting her to return to school to obtain both a BFA and MFA in ceramics. She works in clay with other media to create highly detailed figurative works.  

Her color palette and finishes are reminiscent of vintage circuses; lively, patterned, detailed, yet washed out, aged, perhaps slightly sad. She favors curious, odd or bizarre elements to create a response.  Fussily costumed, cute, inviting, engaging elements draw one in to then witness the possibly unsettling.  Just uncomfortable enough… .

Project Fusion commison range: Beginning at $500

Interested in commissioning Kathy McDonald? Contact her:

Artist profile: CJ Niehaus

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CJ Niehaus has been creating in clay for almost 30 years as a functional and sculptural artist. Often the styles intertwine with the surfaces conveying stories that are personal and universal at the same time. With an emphasis in her functional work on moments of community, family and ritual, CJ embellishes with folklore, the sharing of meals and intimate events. Wall installations involve the vessel to connote the relationship of human to environment while the “pod” forms play off nature to express personal growth and evolution.

CJ has exhibited work across the country, with two galleries currently carrying her work full time. This April, CJ is the Featured Artist at Lillstreet in Chicago and is the recipient of the LEAP Emerging Artist Award at the Society for Contemporary Craft in Pittsburgh for the 2017 year. With showings at Northern Clay, Baltimore Clayworks and The Clay Studio in Philadelphia, she has been gaining exposure and is currently adjunct professor at McHenry Community College teaching ceramics and an instructor at The Fine Line Creative Arts Center in St. Charles. CJ also offers workshops at colleges and art centers around the country.

Project Fusion commision range: $300-$5000

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Interested in commissioning CJ Niehaus? Contact her: