Call Us: (847)296-9593
Follow Us:

About Artist

Michael Roche

Born and raised in the Midwest. Michael Roche graduated from Elmira College in New York with a degree in Art Education, winner of the 1976 ECAC Medal Of Merit for Scholarship and Athletic Prowess and later studied at the Ontario College of Art. For over twenty-five years he has worked as a commercial sculptor creating fine art pieces for such notable clients as Warner Brothers, MGM, 7-up, Pillsbury and Enesco. For Michael, creating a successful series involves intense research. His unique sensitivity for detail, accuracy and motif has earned him world-wide recognition.

Award Winning Sculptor

  • The Designer of “Mark Twain” - honorary award given out by the American Pilot Association
  • Commissioned by the American Hockey Coach's Association to design and produce “The Sid Watson Award" given out to the men's college division player of the year. Displayed at the College Hockey Hall of Fame.
  • The designer of the "Old Tom Morris Award " given out by the GCSAA Board of Directors, as a lifetime achievement award in professional golf.
  • Commissioned by the American Hockey Coach’s Association to design and produce "The Laura Hurd Award" given to the women’s college division player of the year. Displayed at the college Hockey Hall of Fame.
  • The first winner of the prestigious "Art of Golf Award" presented by Golf Digest for sculpture in November of 2001.
  • Commissioned by USA Hockey for gifts and awards with the first presentation given at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah.
  • A talent whose work can be found in the Hockey and Basketball Halls of Fame, as well as golf's distinguished St. Andrew's Links Clubhouse and The World Golf Hall of Fame in St. Augustine Florida.
  • A sculptor commissioned by the founding family of basketball to create the Naismith Award for sportsmanship. The first recipient of this award was the athlete of the century, Michael Jordan.
  • The designer of the Al Mooring Leadership award for emergency extrication in the Fire Service.
  • An artist whose work was nominated for the 1990 "Figurine of the Year" by Collector Edition Magazine.
  • The designer of the Fire Chief of the Year Award given out by International Assoc. Of Fire Chiefs.
  • The designer of the Heroism Award given out by Fire House Magazine.
  • Bringing Golf’s “Characters” to Life

    Roche’s take on Morris, entitled “Keeper of the Greens,” features Morris traversing a stone bridge, holding five clubs and dressed in the ornate golf attire of the era.

    The Whole World In His Hands

    Chicago Tribune Article 1995


    Michael Roche rarely leaves home without his red toolbox, filled with 20 sculpting tools and his in-progress work of art. He never knows when he’ll feel like working on his latest creation. “You can sculpt just about anywhere,” said Roche of Des Plaines. “I suppose I could sit in a studio and do all my work, but that would be boring. I like to hang out and sculpt at Lake Opeka in Des Plaines or the ceramic room at Oakton Community College. I sculpt when I’m riding in an airplane, which always results in at least a few questions from the person sitting next to me. Sculpting is something you can do wherever and whenever you feel like it.” Roche, 41, has been doing a lot of sculpting since he completed his first piece back at Maine South High School in Park Ridge. For the last 20 years he has worked as a commercial sculptor for clients such as Warner Brothers, MGM, Pillsbury and Enesco Corp. in Elk Grove Village. And Roche recently created a sports series, all cast in bronze and each limited to 50 pieces, which he’s selling on his own. Roche also works as a firefighter for the Highland Park Fire Department, and he even toted his toolbox with him on his job interview 17 years ago. “Mike was in the waiting room, sculpting a piece of clay while he was waiting for his interview,” said Highland Park Fire Chief Al Schneider. “So we knew about his artistic talents before he even became a fireman. And along with being a great artist, he’s also a great firefighter. He gets very involved in providing service for the community.” Roche’s sports series includes golf legends such as Bobby Jones, Walter Hagen and “Old Tom” Morris; Chicago Bear Hall of Famer Harold “Red” Grange catching a touchdown pass against the Portsmouth Spartans and Ty Cobb of the Detroit Tigers swiping second base against the Chicago White Sox. The pieces are about 12 inches high and sell for $450 to $2,000. Creative Awards in Elk Grove Village is a distributor of Roche’s golfing handiwork. “Michael’s bronze statues have amazing detail, such as Tom Morris’ bushy beard or the expression on the face of Bobby Jones’ caddy,” said Creative Awards’ Don Thompson. “His work is very well received in the golfing community. We recently sold 12 of his `Old Tom’ Morris sculptures for a golf tournament in Utah.” Growing up in Park Ridge, Roche played youth hockey for the Chicago Minor Hawks and was a feisty centerman in the Stan Mikita mold. He went to Elmira College in Elmira, N.Y., on a hockey scholarship and began his sculpting career by combining his two loves: art and hockey. In college, he fashioned a bronze sculpture commemorating the historic 1972 Canada-Soviet Union hockey tournament. He donated the sculpture to the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, where it’s still on display. Roche graduated from Elmira in 1976 with a degree in art education and a medal of merit for his combination of athletic and educational achievement. After a short stint at the Ontario College of Art, he began his career as an artist. Among his early jobs was sculpting a set of sports figures to decorate cakes. “I was happy to get any work I could in those days,” he said. After a year of working full time in art design for a decorative clock company, Roche went into business for himself. But he also realized he needed a steady paycheck and benefits to augment his artwork. That’s when he became a Highland Park firefighter. “With our schedule of 24 hours on and 48 hours off, it works perfectly for someone like me,” he said. “I thought I’d stay with the department for five years, but it turns out I really like it. It’s fun being a member of a team again. Being with the Highland Park Fire Department is like my hockey-playing days, in a way.” When he’s not fighting fires and doing everything else a firefighter does, Roche is sculpting and has completed dozens of art projects in a variety of materials, including bronze, pewter, porcelain, wax, plastics, resins and hard plaster. His work encompasses everything from $2.50 cake decorations to $5,500 bronze statues, in a variety of subject matters. In 1979, Roche sculpted, appropriately, a set of six firefighters that stood 12 inches high for Ann’s Originals, a store in Hillside. In 1980, he completed 12 adventure figures such as lumberjacks and police officers for Enesco. In 1985, there was a series of wax dogs for the Candle Factory, a Northbrook manufacturer of collectibles, and a second firefighter series for Ann’s Originals. The next year Roche did a 12-piece Our American Heritage series, which consisted of Western and mariner figures, for Museum Collections, a now-defunct wholesale distributor of collectibles in Northbrook. Then there was the bronze 1890s steam pumper fire engine Roche created in 1991 that was put together with more than 50 different clay molds. Roche sells those on his own for $5,500. In 1988, Roche began a porcelain Wizard of Oz series for MGM that’s grown to 10 characters: Dorothy, the Scarecrow, the Cowardly Lion, the Tin Man, the Wizard, the Wicked Witch, the Good Witch, the Munchkin Mayor, a Lollipop Kid and a Flying Monkey. More than 70,000 of the pieces have been sold for $50 to $80, depending on the size. Roche’s characters are big hits at the annual Wizard of Oz festival in Chesterton, Ind. This year’s festival is slated for Sept. 16-17, and Roche will unveil his Munchkin Coroner figurine and sign autographs for Wizard of Oz collectors. “People flock here to get his new pieces each year,” said Jean Nelson of Chesterton, owner of the Yellow Brick Road store in Chesterton and organizer of the event. “There’s a lot of Wizard of Oz merchandise out there, but Mike has some of the classiest. He captures the essence of each character, picks up the realism. His Oz characters seem to have a life of their own and don’t just stand there like statues.” Roche, who counts Michelangelo, Norman Rockwell and Frederick Remington among his artistic inspirations, begins every project by collecting as many photographs of a subject as possible. He then begins his sculpture in oil-based clay, which takes about six weeks to complete. The clay figure will eventually become the base from which all molds and future statues are poured. Roche works with a foundry in California to create his bronze sculptures and another in Massachusetts for his pewter sculptures. He said the average time to complete a project is 100 hours. How does Roche choose his subjects? “That depends,” he said. “Sometimes I pick them and sometimes they pick me. I really enjoy sculpting sports art, but in general I enjoy sculpting so much that I enjoy whatever project I’m working on.” Another ongoing project is a bronze sculpture of Wyatt Earp for a limited-edition Western series he’s doing with Arizona author-historian Bob Boze Bell. He recently completed Wild Bill Hickok and Jesse James, and still to come are Doc Holliday, Billy the Kid and Butch Cassidy. Roche also hopes to be chosen to create the bronze Illinois Fallen Firefighter Memorial, which will be on the grounds of the state Capitol in Springfield. It would be the biggest piece Roche has ever sculpted. Mt. Prospect Fire Chief Ed Cavello is helping to coordinate the project, which is in the fundraising stages. “We haven’t chosen the artist yet for the project, but Michael’s got as good a shot as anyone,” he said. “With his experience as a fireman, he could bring a unique perspective to the project.” Once Roche completes a piece, he sells it in a variety of ways. He works with mail-order companies such as British Links Golf Classics in Dallas, sells through art galleries and represents himself at art shows and golf tournaments such as the Western Open at Cog Hill in Lemont. “Sometimes it’s tough, because I’m not making things people need, I make things people want,” he said. “Therefore, I work hard to create something that will make people think they really need to buy it.” It’s a hectic life, between his artistic efforts and firefighting duties. But Roche said he wouldn’t want it any other way. “I’ll do my artwork for the rest of my life, regardless of how much or how little money I make,” he said, as he sculpted Wyatt Earp’s vest. “I enjoy firefighting, too. I’ll probably stick with that until I’m at least 50. Sculpting and firefighting. I’ve got both in my blood.”


    420 E River Rd , 60016
    P: (847) 296-9593

    Made By
  • Marcel Bujnowski