Our very last flying buttress figurine!

Flying buttress figurine Fides, the Faith. Arch with the Seven Virtues, Eusebius Church Arnhem

The Faith

The very last

Four flying buttresses on the north side

Well honestly I hope it's not the very last ever, but we are finished and done at the Eusebius Church in Arnhem. After having copied 83 flying buttress figurines the job's over, unfortunately.

There were actually still 13 more to go, but those sculptures are to be replaced by a modern work of art by Arno Coenen. New decorations, inspired by the existing flying buttress images. The old figurines apparently were too weathered to save.

So we recently completed the last three figurines: Jelle made man with a watering can, I got to carve the two-headed eagle and Stide would be the one to finish the last statue from arc no. 23 out of new limestone, The Faith. One of the Seven Virtues. But because Stide is currently very busy with other things, he didn't get around to it anymore and I got to finish this one. It depicts a woman with a wavy hairstyle and a cross in her hand.

Overview and retrospect

Sculpture The Night by Eduard van Kuilenburg- new copy in Muschelkalk limestone

Corbel Stone of The Night

What sculptures have we been carving for the Eusebius Church over the past seven years now? Actually too much to mention. If you click on the following link you can find all the sculptures I got to carve for the Eusebius Church, including the over 50 flying buttress figurines I got my hands on. But Stide has also copied all kinds of sculptures from its tower for years and carved eight flying buttress statues, and since 2018 Jelle has also been closely involved and has, among other things, copied 24 flying buttress statues and made ornaments on pinnacles.

A bit of an acquired taste

The Arch with Six Apostles

It was a beautiful assignment. At first I wrinkled my nose a bit at the sculptures of the Eusebius Church. It all stemmed from after the war and was very expressively carved in a coarse tuffstone. But I needed to get to know it a bit before the appreciation came. I was used to the particularly detailed sculptures from earlier periods, such as those I saw from, for example, St John's Cathedral in Den Bosch, The Netherlands, or from the castles of Twickel and Cannenburgh. But this directly carved work has conquered a place in my heart, especially after we copied the Seven Sins and the Apostles in later years.

Educational project

flying buttresses with the apostles and musicians

Apostles and musicians

We immediately dived into carving other sculptural and ornamental work again, that's just how it goes, but i will miss these flying buttress figurines. Of course it has also guaranteed us a stable income for years. But most importantly, we enjoyed working on it so much, and it also taught me a lot about composition and storytelling. Because that's one thing that these flying buttress figurines evoke: we've often had conversations about what moved the original sculptor to represent a theme in a certain way, about the composition of the entire group of sculptures together, about attributes and themes and how we would have tackled this ourselves if we had been asked that question.

Gallery: Fides, The Faith

-click on a picture to open the gallery-

flying buttresses with the seven sins

Gallery: (nearly) All flying buttress statues I made for the Eusebius Church

-click on a picture to open the gallery-

Beeldhouwerijblog.nl is the blog of Koen van Velzen, sculptor in stone and bronze. Look up my website as well: beeldhouwerijvanvelzen.nl

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A flying buttress figurine with two pedantic heads

Two-Headed Eagle Completes

Too many other priority projects

We haven't made flying buttress figurines for the Eusebius Church for three quarters of a year now, because a number of other projects came in between, such as the finials and large crockets for the Utrecht Dom Tower, the figurines of the 4 seasons from Badhoevedorp, the 10 blocks from the Latin School in Nijmegen, the roasted dolphins of the Art'otel in Amsterdam, the Kalasams, once again a whole batch of large crockets for the Dom tower, and especially a lot of ornamental, relief- and sculpture carvings for the reconstruction of two facade claddings for the church of Veghel, about which more later, after the unveiling.

Headless chicken

double-headed eagle before disassembly

before disassembly, around 2006

But once that was completed I could enjoy carving another flying buttress statue, a two-headed eagle this time. This figurine had also suffered quite a bit from the impregnation process gone awry and the weather conditions. As a result, it ended up going through life headless. Two old photos showed that the heads were not really very expressive, and if someone doesn't agree with it they should come over and tell me so, but I took the opportunity to make some nice and pedantic new heads in foam and plaster. I imagined those two heads arguing with each other all the time and being very conceited to boot. Taking into account the block size from which they had to be carved afterwards, I also made sure that they each looked in a different direction. I also made them look a bit more like eagle heads, because I couldn't make much out of that old photo.

Foam and plaster

old weathered eagle of tuff

a few years after dismantling

As said, the necks of this two-headed eagle were so thoroughly broken off that even a beginning could not be found anymore. So I drilled a few holes for a support frame and made two foam necks and heads, which I later covered with a layer of plaster. I left it all pretty coarse, because I would only really start to shape it when carving the stone. This also fits better with the approach of the original sculptor, who preferred to carve the flying buttress figurines in direct carving style at the time.

Following our tried and tested method, I then sawed a copy into new stone with my contour saw, after which the carving could begin. More about the operation of this machine can be found in this article and video, and in all articles about the copy saw machine.

Plaster reconstruction of the heads of the double-headed eagle

the plaster reconstruction between the finials of the Dom Tower

The Two-Headed Eagle

Two-Headed Eagle CompletesThe two-headed eagle is an ancient motif, that can be found in many cultures. Often it has to do with references to an empire. Van Kuilenburg apparently had an affinity with Germany in his youth during the war, where the symbol was widely used, but also in the centuries before that, the Reichsadler was already a widely used symbol.

Bald bird gets feathers

Two-headed eagle during carving process

We've now copied have a whole series of figurines by Eduard van Kuilenburg into new stone. For the vast majority of these, we have closely followed the original figurines. But with a sculpture like this, much of which is missing, it was more important for me to make an interesting image that fits in with the atmosphere of his other work, than obsessively trying to reconstruct what is no longer clear. Because I have already found feathers on some of his earlier birds, and because it soon turned out that I would otherwise be left with a large uninteresting surface at the front, I chose to apply a new plumage here. double-headed eagle completed

The heads of the double-headed eagle have also become quite stubborn, as I envisioned. Initially, the left head (for the viewers at home on the right) was a lot bigger than the right one, and I had to carve away quite a bit of it before a kind of uniformity came in. Of course something like this affects the position of the head, which makes this neck look a little more stretched, which came in handy for me.

Finishing

profile of the eagle

I still have to adjust the profiles on the spot

I carved the plumage of the two-headed eagle with a a tooth chisel for structure, creating a lively effect.

The head and beak were carved less expressive because otherwise the design would suffer. This two-headed eagle stands on the spot where two flying buttresses sprout from the church, which probably also led to this design. I have tried to follow the dimensions of the old connections between the arches and the church as accurately as possible with a pointing machine and templates, but as the past few years have taught me, nothing ever fits exactly on such an old church. Nothing is square or plumb. That is why I left extra mass on all parts that have to connect to existing work, that after placement will be adjusted on the spot. This chicken had very expressive legs, and when these get a little more space later, after carving away the excess stone, I can shape them a bit clearer as well.

All in all a very nice flying buttress statue to make!

Gallery

-click on a photo to view them in a larger size-

on to the next flying buttress figurine→

Beeldhouwerijblog.nl is the blog of Koen van Velzen, sculptor in stone and bronze. Look up my website as well: beeldhouwerijvanvelzen.nl

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Saturdays project: two Kalasams in dolomite

one of two kalasams in green dolomite limestone (Anröchter Grünstein)

Strict Confidentiality!

reliefs in basaltic lavaIt has been a while since I shared a project, and that's because our current project is a big one. Not only do we need to make a lot of parts for it, but also a lot of this work is new and exciting. I can say that it concerns the façade reconstructions for the church of Veghel, but the details remain a surprise as it will become a gift to the city/village. We have been busy for more than a year with the preparations, reconstructions and the sculpting itself. Meanwhile the work on installing it all is progressing quickly and we're already working on carving the final parts, but we will keep the icing on the cake a secret for a while. This is also an exciting part for us, of which we very much look forward to the result.

Saturdays project

blocks for the two kalasams in green dolomite limestone (Anröchter Grünstein)

two blocks of dolomite

But in addition to all the hustle and bustle in Veghel, I still saw an opportunity to make good use of my Saturdays and carve two temple finials in the same green dolomite limestone from which the plinth for my father's statuette "Surrender’ was made, as well as his tombstone.

This was a venture that required some planning as it was going to be very thin and yet needed to remain strong. How did I do that? I didn't want this ornament to break in half after a few years outdoors, so I decided to glue in a stainless steel threaded rod. I drilled a hole in the middle of the 80cm tall stone with a diamond drill, well aligned, so that I would end up right about in the middle on the other side. It needed to be really sturdy right away, so I chose a threaded end of 20mm thick. This one need to stick out the bottom for 15 cm and at the top for 5 cm, so I thought to seal the stone with clay and pour some epoxy around the threaded rod. But it was still very cold outside and the epoxy would not flow properly.

Retry

gluing pens into the blocks for the two kalasams in green dolomite limestone (Anröchter Grünstein)

gluing the pins

The second attempt was with a much thinner cast epoxy. I poured this in from the other side, via a clay bowl, and this glue did flow all the way through. Success, I thought. But then it turned out in the following week that the epoxy wouldn't harden fully! To my disappointment, I had never read that you need to use this glue above 15 degrees Celsius, and it was only 5º Celsius. The stuff stayed a bit rubbery and although it hardened a bit more in the following month, it never really cured fully. But… actually that is better. These temple ornaments will be placed on the roof and will have to deal with considerable temperature differences. Then it is beneficial if the binding is not too rigid.

Kalasams

Kalasams are ornaments atop a Hindu temple, usually made out of brass but sometimes stone. Traditionally they were used to store rice, so that after a disaster it could always be resown. They are intended to protect the temple. Also see the English Wikipedia. In this case I was asked to make these Kalasams for the temple of Onderdijk. This hall got a new roof, and though first was thought of removing all three chimneys, later on was decided to keep the two little ones as a pedestal for these kalasams. They serve as the crown on top of the temple.

Drawing and sawing

3d sketch

side view and cross section of the two kalasams in green dolomite limestone (Anröchter Grünstein)

side view and cross section

I drew a model on the computer based on photos using Sketchup, from which, after some adjustments, I printed a profile. I used that for a full-size wooden profile template, that I could use on my sculpture sawing machine. With this copying saw I was able to cut out of the stone, just like a vertical lathe, the ornaments in several steps. However, sawing in dolomite is a very slow process, so I was kept busy for a few days sawing each kalasam.

Buffing and sanding

one of two kalasams in green dolomite limestone (Anröchter Grünstein)

first turning work

But just with this sawing work you're far from finished. The result is still not accurate enough and very striped because in fact it consists of lots of saw cuts that run horizontally around the ornament. I have been busy shaping for a few more days, sanding, grating and filing until it was to my liking. And because these are all difficult shapes, I just had to do a lot by hand. I finally sanded the two ornaments down to grain 200, so it wouldn't get too dark and shiny. A little bit matte light green, like a copper roof, seemed nice to me. Over time, this stone will weather to this color on its own.

Finial

crowning for one of two kalasams in green dolomite limestone (Anröchter Grünstein)

the first version of the capstone was much too pointed

As a last part I still had to make two separate cover knobs, which I also cut out with the lathe first. I had a very slender shape in mind, but when I put the parts together it all turned out to be out of proportion. The stem was still too long and the bud was too much Efteling theme park style. After I had adjusted all that, I was happy. I made it so that the button sits like a lid over the stainless steel threaded rod and the stem. It has become quite a slender ensemble, but the reinforcement in it makes it surprisingly strong.

Installing

first of the two Kalasams is installed

first one installed

I had thought beforehand that it would be useful if the two Kalasams each consisted of two parts: the actual ornament and a loose peak. Then I could screw on an eye bolt so that I could hoist the piece in the workshop and it could also be handy on the roof.

That turned out alright. I had prepared it all well and because many hands make light work, they were in their place on the chimneys in no time. With a long lifting strap onto the eye bolt, two men on top and two on the bottom, we could easily hoist them onto the roof. I suspect they weigh around 60 kilos, but it was doable this way. They are 80 x 40 x 40 cms. A little bit of adjusting, attaching the cap and filling the joints and it was done.

 

Gallery

Beeldhouwerijblog.nl is the blog of Koen van Velzen, sculptor in stone and bronze. Look up my website as well: beeldhouwerijvanvelzen.nl

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