Three flying buttresses finished- a retrospect

flying buttresses with the apostles and musiciansMy colleague Jelle Steendam recently forwarded a number of photos. In the meantime we'd already completed quite a number of flying buttress figurines again, and usually we would be going to St. Eusebius's Church in Arnhem (the Netherlands) again to match up the carved pieces on site for a good connection. That work is also called according here, but as this time Stide and Jelle had carved the top two flying buttress statues, they were the ones who needed to adjust the flying buttresses to the church. We had already left some leeway because we knew it wasn't going to fit perfectly, but this time it was quite a lot of work. Yet Jelle still managed to find time to take some nice pictures.

Seven sins

flying buttress with the seven sinsThe sculptures of The Seven Sins had been installed some time earlier. But there was not much to be adjusted, so I didn't need to drop by for this. That's why I was happy with Jelle's photos of these flying buttresses, so I can finally see how they look. It's become a very lively, and expressive set! From bottom to top we can see Lust (copy carved by Stide), Avarice (copy by Jelle), the Anger (copy carved by me), Vanity (Jelle), Envy (Stide), Gluttony (Jelle) and Idleness (Koen). They are sitting nicely and varied on the arch and each one has its own attribute, such as the toads at Lust's chest, the money pouch of Avarice, the Knife of Anger, the mirror of Vanity, the snake at the ear of the gossiping Envy and the workhorse of the lazy Idleness.

Six Apostles

flying buttress with the ApostlesThe six Apostles also each had their own attribute: from bottom to top we can see St. Peter with the key (copy by Stide), St. Andrew with St. Andrew's cross (copied by me), St. Paul with a sword (Jelle), St. Thomas with staff and set square (Jelle), St. James the Lesser with a club (Koen) and St. James the Greater with sword and scallop (Koen). At the top, the Divine Lamb holds the cross (copy made by Jelle). You can read more about the theme of these flying buttresses in this blog article↑.

Six musicians

adjusting the fit of the sculpture of Lamb of God from the arch with the apostlesThe last arch visited this day, was the group of musicians from arch no. 16.

From bottom to top we can see the trumpet player (Stide), the flutist (Koen), the lute player (Jelle), the woman with the lyre (Jelle), the violinist (Jelle), the man with the accordion (Koen) and the man listening, with his hand to his ear. Stide had carved this last statue and so he was the one to adjust the connection to the church itself. Read more about these flying buttresses under this link↑.

It should be all over the newspapers

newspaper article in TrouwIn the same period an article appeared in a daily newspaper Trouw about this restoration (click on the image to read it online). The article points out how more and more ecclesiastical buildings are losing their religious function in this day and age and that ever more often a suitable destination needs to be found for them. That also makes it difficult to find sponsors for a very expensive restoration. People no longer have an affinity with the old position and power of the church in society.

Yet people often do still feel connected to the iconic buildings themselves. And the sculptures on them then become the ambassadors of the building. The playful flying buttress sculptures by Van Kuilenburg in particular are the elements that touch the visitors and invite them to get acquainted. In this way, we still have an important function for the city, as sculptors!

Not all the money goes to the sculptors….

Now it appears in the newspaper article as if this restoration costs 32 million euros because there are so many sculptures on the church. That the sculptors use up the lion's share of this restoration. I have to disappoint you, unfortunately that is not the case. There are 96 flying buttress figurines. Make it easy for math and say there are 100 figurines, and add another 100 for the tower. 200 in total. If we would use up say 20 million out of the total restoration sum, that would be 100.000 euros per sculpture? You'll understand that this is not true. That would be very easy money for a few weeks of work.

No, we only use up a fraction of this amount. There are still many other items that are much more expensive, such as windows, roof, floor, and scaffolding. Fortunately, the sculptures are the most prominent part of the church, so in that aspect, we are certainly worth millions.

Update 29-8-2020 : added some finishing touches

Last Tuesday, Jelle and I went back for a day to do some extra accordion work on the underlying profiles. That also gave me the opportunity to take another series of photos of these three arches myself. I added them to the gallery. is the blog of Koen van Velzen, sculptor in stone and bronze. Look up my website as well:

Follow me on Instagram↑
and Twitter↑
and on YouTube↑

Gratefulness is the fruit of all the seeking-1

Jan van Velzen, 1 month before his death

In memory of my father Jan van Velzen

sculptor Jan van Velzen in 1992On Sunday 19 January 2020, at 1:14 a.m. , my father Jan van Velzen. passed away. He was also a sculptor, an artist, but above all someone who practiced the art of life. This is evident from his sayings, of which the title of this blog post was one that I had never heard of him before. He made this statement in the last days before his death, a period in which he looked back on his life, full of gratitude and love.

Jan van Velzen was by no means a woolly kind of person. He had been a small scale farmer and flower bulb grower and worked hard all his life.

A poor hamlet

Onderdijk, lower path with canal

old photo of the village OnderdijkOnderdijk in 1931 was a poor West Frisian linear settlement village in North Holland. It lay on either side of a high dike and many houses had their own bridge over the canal to the foot of the dike. His father, also called Jan van Velzen, was like most of the villagers a market gardener or small plot farmer, who sailed with a barge to his piece of land across the lake to grow onions, cabbage, carrots, red beets, tulips and potatoes. After the harvest, the boat also carried their produce to the sailing auction in Medemblik.

Longing for beauty

Mother Cornelia van Velzen-de Vries with Jan van Velzen, 2 th anniversary this yearJan was the second child, a rather quiet, sensitive boy who only started walking when he was two. He was horrified by the drab hopelessness of the hard work and the humdrum grind with which all the brilliance and beauty was brought back to 'just do normal and go on'.. He had an intense desire for beauty and talked about the delight he could feel when he heard beautiful music in the church. His father was a warm-hearted man with a lot of wisdom. On his deathbed, Jan told how he still could see his father on Sunday mornings, in his shirt, throwing the shaving water into the ditch with a swing, singing loudly and with a swarm of children around him.

Early creativity

Jan van Velzen, probably 4 th anniversary this yearAs a child, Jan was already busy with creative expressions. Sculpting clay dolls or making boats by folding and bending large tin cans to form whole battleships. But whereas I had enjoyed the creative time in kindergarten, he had experienced that same daily grind at the custody school.

Apparently the "teacher’ had the view that the children just should be kept quiet, because they had to sit still and weave mats, otherwise they had to go into the spider cupboard. To him, weaving mats was one of the symbols of "this is how it should be done and that is how it goes". Awful, because all creativity was suppressed.

Jannish constructions

Jan actually didn't feel like becoming a market gardener at all, but his father fell ill and the eldest sons, though still in their teens, had to take over the work. He would much rather have apprenticed to the blacksmith, because he was much more interested in making things from iron with your hands and welding . The blacksmith was regarded with awe by the little boys. His younger brother's legendary answer to the question of what he wanted to become later was "Fat blacksmith Kees Slaman!’

Jan lived near Slaman's smithy

It was hard work in the heavy sea clay around Onderdijk and everything was done by hand: digging to sow, digging to harvest and digging two spades deep to prepare the land. Jan hated hopelessness, so his creativity was expressed in all kinds of "Jannish constructions": inventions meant to make everything just that little bit easier. He was therefore one of the first to bring the floor of the barge to the very top, so that you could drive in the wheelbarrow instead of laboriously lifting everything in and out.

Flippus the Dreamer

His solutions were not always appreciated. "Jannish constructions’ was not really an appreciative term, and because he sometimes had his thoughts elsewhere, he was also called Flippus the Dreamer at home. He had a somewhat philosophical streak and also spent time observing his surroundings. Looking back, it is also understandable why he was born in that place: for him it was a way to go all the way from heaviness to light, and he was able to bring his light to a time and environment that was mainly focused on survival.

Injury time

At the age of 20 his number came up for military service. But the hard work had already had its consequences: he needed surgery to his knees and had to recover in the military hospital. To his horror, the therapy consisted of weaving mats! But in the classroom next to it, modeling lessons were given. At his request he was transferred and there his talent was soon discovered by his instructor. This man even arranged an introduction for him at the art academy in Tilburg.

I had always understood that it never was followed up because Jan was needed at home and because his mother always said: "Fiddlers and pipers don't go to heaven". But that was not really the biggest deterrent. Last year he told me that he was very shocked by the unkempt figures with long hair and feral beards walking around, and that he had felt very uncomfortable and out of place. But his teacher was very disappointed that he missed out on this opportunity. "Stupid cauliflower shrub!’ the man had called him, probably out of frustration that so much talent was being lost.

Business partner

marriage of Alida Vink with Jan van VelzenJan van Velzen is building a tulip flower cutting machine Jan married Alida when he was thirty, a girl from that same village of Onderdijk, in which he recognized something of playfulness and beauty, and of being free from all the conventions of the village. He started his own business, but times had changed. The number of small scale farming businesses declined rapidly and many self-employed people had to work at a factory in the Zaanstreek, going there every day in a van. Jan was looking for solutions with a number of like-minded people and decided to expand considerably with his two brothers. They had also already focused entirely on flowerbulb cultivation for a number of years. He used his creativity in this work as well: he built his own machines for cutting the tulip flowers and for washing the bulbs, and adapted many machines to make them work better.

-Read here ↑ an earlier article about sculptures by Jan van Velzen-

-to be continued- is the blog of Koen van Velzen, sculptor in stone and bronze. Look up my website as well:

Follow me on Instagram↑
and Twitter↑
and on YouTube↑

Flying buttress figurine: Goat nibbling on a crocket

Flying buttress figurine Goat nibbling on a crocket completed 2

 old flying buttress figurine Goat nibbling on a crocket

old statue out of tuffstone

rough carving of Flying buttress figurine Goat nibbling on a crocket

pre-sawn new goat


A goat will eat ANYTHING

halfway carving Flying buttress statue Goat nibbling on a crocket

Just, as I explained earlier this week, we continued with flying buttress figurines of arcs no. 17, 18, 19, 20 and 23. At the top arch 17/18, arc no. 19 and arc no. 20 replacement flying buttress figurines will be installed., but not below them, because in those places some already existing stone ornaments will remain, the so-called side crockets.

Stonemasonry work

These end pieces each have a flat backdrop in addition to the bottom profile, plus a horizontal lintel at the top. But with the installation it turned out that all of the new pieces don't quite fit exactly to the old work. To give the contractor more room to maneuver, I only indicated the top profile of this goat with a marker and left a block that is actually too big.. There is also an extra layer of stone for adjustment space on top. This way the mason can place the block more easily as he'll still have some margin. The consequence though is that I'll have to go there again one day to adjust this part on the spot.


Flying buttress figurine Goat nibbling on a crocket completed 1Flying buttress figurine Goat nibbling on a crocket3

to the next post about flying buttress sculptures → is the blog of Koen van Velzen, sculptor in stone and bronze. Look up my website as well:

Follow me on Instagram↑
and Twitter↑
and on YouTube↑