If I'd commission a coat of arms in stone… what should I bear in mind?

Copy of old family crest, sandstone.

I often get asked what it costs to have a coat of arms carved in stone. However, I noticed that there is often still a lot of confusion for many customers. Why is it so expensive, why there are different price ranges for the same crest, and in what are you different from others? What is the surplus value to have a family crest carved by a sculptor, as opposed to passing it through a sand-blasting machine, milling it or by having a stonemason carve it?

A stone coat of arms is a form of relief carving

crest stone with coat of arms, coat of arms embossed in stone

A round coat of arms, sandstone, 2013

On this blog you can find many kinds of reliefs I've made in stone in recent years , plus some family crests, which actually fall under reliefs as well. A relief differs from a 3D sculpture in that it bridges the gap between a drawing and a complete sculpture. A drawing takes place in the flat surface, and can, just as a photograph can, display all kinds of thing that aren't possible in a sculpture: a cloud, lighting, a reflection, a flying bird…

A spatial sculpture is tangible, has a certain dimension, and especially can been seen and touched from all sides. A good piece of sculpture therefore preferably has something interesting to offer on all sides. A relief is situated halfway between these two: it could depict clouds, but a reflection becomes a bit more difficult, and lighting is even trickier, but on the other hand it is tangible, and can sometimes almost be viewed in the round…. but not always!

A high relief seen from the side. (Photo by Ser Amantio Nicolao, Wikimedia Commons)

bas-relief with Tree of Life

A bas-relief is carved much flatter (Photo by Philippe Chavin – Own work, CC BY 2.5, Wikimedia Commons)

The difference between high relief and bas-relief

sandstone coat of armsA distinction is often made between high relief and bas-relief. The first is almost as if a complete spatial sculpture is placed against a flat background, and the second is more of a flat depiction that is carved shallowly out of the material. Actually, the distinction between these two terms are not very important to know, except that a relief can be worked out very flat, or very spatial. Personally, I find a relief with a lot of differences in depth of carving the most interesting, but of course that type will also be more expensive, because it takes a little bit more material and a lot more work.

A coat of arms in stone made by a sculptor

That spatial thinking comes natural to a sculptor. As a sculptor, I always look for the expression and movement in the picture, and I try to bring some tension and liveliness to it. That's why I often tend to choose for the more voluminous shapes. I could also work out the picture a bit more shallow and then all lines are neatly carved, but it lacks the movement in the mantling and the rounded shapes of the helmet and shield.

a coat of arms, shallowly carved in stone, as a basreliëf

A flat coat of arms carved in bas-relief

Therefore, the costs will be higher

small coa of arms in Udelfanger sandstone completed

So when I compare the two images above, the difference is clear to see. One takes a few days to make, and the other takes a few weeks. That piece of stone will not be much more expensive, that stays about the same. So it will be just what you want: if you want a simple flat image, then that will have a certain price. If you'd prefer a more voluminous looking carving, then that would have a different price tag to it.

A clear view of my approach to carving a family crest in stone can be found in most blog posts on this topic, but perhaps the next link is clearest in this case: A sandstone coat of arms with deep relief ↑.

More coats of arms in stone

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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The flying buttress with the seven sins-2: Carving!

Copying flying buttress statue Rage. Photo during the carving of the detailsPerhaps you remember when I received the next series of flying buttress figurines in my yard? In a post from 9 March 2019 on this blog, you can read how they arrived in our yard in pieces. Jelle then spent a long time gathering all the loose parts and bonding them into recognizable sculptures again. These were the seven sculptures from flying buttress no. 24, on the subject of The Seven Sins. The first sculptures are finished now.

I haven't even done that much work on this arc myself, mainly because I was busy with other projects: Thomas Aquinas, large crockets for The Utrecht Dom Cathedral, and family crests (I've been busy with the next one already, in Belgian bluestone).

Naughty ladies for Jelle

Jelle Steendam busy carving a copy of the flying buttress statuette of Gluttony Jelle Steendam with Gluttony

Stide has also been busy with other projects, so Jelle was the one who had the most momentum. He had presawn a number of sculptures and subsequently been carving away on Vanity and Gluttony. He is now working on Greed. I've only made Rage so far, and Stide is now working on Lust.

Flying Buttress Figurine Vanity, copy by Jelle Steendam

Vanity is very pleased with her own beauty

Vanity is a lady with long hair and a mirror, Gluttony is a fat lady stuffing something in her mouth, and Lust is a naked lady with toads to her chest. I'll keep it short about these sculptures here, the gentlemen can explain that on their own websites.

The Anger

copying flying buttress statue RageCarving a copy of flying buttresses figurine RageOne of the seven deadly sins is the rage, or anger. This was the statue that I got to carve myself. It represents a man pulling a knife and with a face distorted from rage and hair pulled back, frightening everyone else.

expression study of flying buttress figurine The Rage

The original image had sharp teeth, but the eyes were closed, so that the expression was a bit half-hearted. So I took some pictures to find out how the eyes are in such a face.

Latin terminology

carving flying buttress statue Rage (close-up)

Each of these seven vices has a latin term to it, and Ithought it would be nice to carve that word in the side of the profile for each of the sculptures. This would be Ira, the Latin word for rage, Gluttony becomes Gula, Vanity would be Superbia and Lust becomes Luxuria . Then there are Avaritia (greed/avarice), Acedia (laziness/sloth) and Invidia (envy/slander). And each virtue has its own term as well, but those will be coming up much later on, because after this, we first get to carve the Musicians and the Apostles from flying buttress no. 14 and 16.

Crates full of debris: old photos wanted!

crates with flying buttress figurines that are yet to be copied.

some of the crates with the old flying buttress figurines

a crate with a flying buttress figurine in ruins

if you have any old photos, that would help me a lot in their reconstruction

We had a few weeks of good weather, so I took the opportunity to measure up all of the remaining flying buttress sculptures, so we'd -in due course- be able to order the new stone in advance. But I didn't find all the figurines in good condition in their crates! There were a few crates among them with only a thick layer of debris at the bottom. I have no doubt that if necessary we could also reconstruct these sculptures properly, but seven of these figurines will not return to the church. People are thinking hard about a modern interpretation to fill the holes they leave behind.

weathered tuff sculptures in storage in the sculptor's yard

a small part of the old sculptures in the yard

But for the rest of them, we'll have to restore everything and let our creativity fill in the missing parts. If anyone has any old pictures of the flying buttresses on which the sculptures still shine in full regalia, I can use those very well. My email address can be found on the contact page.

Almost 60 finished, some 38 more to go?

weathered figurines of the musicians in storage

a few of the seven musicians and seven apostles from buttresses 14 and 16

We're coming along nicely, carving all those new figurines: with these three we've landed at 56 , and number 57 and 58 are already in progress. It is hard to imagine that we've made so many already and it still is fun to do! I must admit that the Foolish Maidens and especially the Crippled were not as interesting, but these are definitely worth it because they are so expressive and clearly tell a story. And then you have to remember that we also did a lot of work for the tower of St. Eusebius's Church. Especially Stide spent months of carving in the workshop in Arnhem and made a lot of corbels in new stone.

lijst met alle luchtbogen en hun thema's

-click on the image for a larger view-

There are still a lot of figurines to go, but not all of the sculptures can be saved. We do not know how many we'll still get to carve exactly, but for the curious among us, here's a list of all the flying buttress numbers and the themes for each arch (sorry, it's in Dutch only!).

to the next article about these flying buttress figurines→

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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What will save the Notre Dame? (2)

-read part 1 of this article here-

A very short time frame (2)

So President Macron has announced that the cathedral should be rebuilt in five years. He has appointed a French general to run the whole operation and there has also been announced that there will be a competition for a new spire. I guess it will become something made of steel and glass, with a modern slightly pyramid-like shape… oh wait, where have I seen something like that before?

All very remarkable. A number of well-informed decisions to be taken are pushed through quickly without discussion or consultation, and deploying the military renders the freedom to bypass a lot of rules. For yes, there will be needed a huge flow of materials (for the roof alone, more than 1300 thick straight oak trees are needed, and wherever would you get these from on such short notice? Fortunately …Read the whole article…

Will the computer become the rescue for the Notre Dame? (1)

A disaster with far-reaching consequences

fire Notre Dame

photo by Wandrille de Préville – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikimedia Commons

After some time, this will be old news already, but for now, this remains fresh in everyone's memory: a huge fire made the roof of Notre Dame in Paris collapse, on 15 april 2019. During the current restoration a fire broke out somewhere around the base of the spire, which, along with the rest of the roof, burned down and partly fell on the scaffold, and partly on the vault beneath. Part of the ceiling collapsed. All technical terms which I will explain later on. It surprised me how much I was shocked by the first television pictures of the burning cathedral. It is again clear that this is not just any French church somewhere , but an iconic place that belongs to the heritage of the world. Yet it is strange that the fire in this building evokes more emotions than a war or a famine on television. It's ultimately only a material object that was made for mankind. Is the human being then not more important?

A very short time frame (1)

Notre Dame before 2019

Notre Dame before 2019. Photo by Daniel Vorndran / DXR, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

The French president announced Macron …Read the whole article…

Boulder and oak-tree and stone

A stone-tree for the group home

Today in Amersfoort, a new group home for people with a mild intellectual disability was inaugurated. I've lately been involved (pro deo) in a number of things in the new home, including the stone-tree and the boulder in the garden. Read here↑ an earlier post about the boulder.

The stone-tree was a special project for me, because it led me to undertake several things that I do not normally do. It's a long story, so let's start at the beginning!

The mad squire in 1661

boulder and oak- pulling the Amersfoort boulder, on an old print

Each Amersfoort resident knows the story of the mad squire and the Amersfoort boulder. Or, at least, he/she should know it. In short it goes like this: …Read the whole article…

Which diamond chainsaw for which job?


My diamond chainsaw

I recently cut up a blue block of sodalite with my diamond chainsaw. Because it's quite an expensive material, I could save quite a large chunk by this method. If I'd made this sculpture in the normal way with the angle grinder, lump hammer and point chisel, I would have had some wheelbarrows full of expensive rubble for the dumpster. So in this case my chainsaw came in handy. But I actually rarely cut up or spalt large stone blocks. I actually bought this saw for removing blocks from historic buildings, or cutting loose heavily anchored statues from their foundation.

The diamond saw I chose in 2015 chose was a Cardi Coccodrillo35. But what types are there actually, what kind of job do you use them for, and which one is the best for which job? …Read the whole article…

The flying buttress of the seven sins

luchtboogbeelden 'De Zeven Zonden' old, arramged in the yard.

We, sculptors

A nice project is coming up soon! As you may know, for a few years now we've been working for St. Eusebius's Church in Arnhem (the Netherlands). Who are we? Well firstly myself of course, Koen van Velzen, restoration sculptor, pleased to meet you. I work together with …Read the whole article…

Year review of 2018

Year review of 2018

It seemed nice to sum up this year of sculpting in some words and pictures. Not in chronological order, because my work sometimes jumps from one thing to another, for often suddenly urgent commissions come in between. I like it that way too, I love things being a bit unpredictable! But only when there's not too much pressure on things.

Finishing flying buttresses 4, 5, 6 and 7

Gallery -click on a photo to see it larger-

Last year I spent a long time making flying buttress figurines for the north side of St. Eusebius's Church in Arnhem. Early January that job was nearly done; I only had to make a Monk, a Bear, a man calling Noah, a Monkey and a Ark with animals this summer. It was the last series of the four flying buttresses themed around Noah's Ark.

Calamities and Repairs

…Read the whole article…

Two griffins with a large shield

griffins with shield castle entrance plastiline maquetteThe next project has taken a very long time to get properly going. More than a year ago I received this request, and only now there is the peace and time to address this well. It is not a simple little project for doing between other things. …Read the whole article…

Crockets and finials for Aachen Cathedral

Two new finials for the Aachen Cathedral in Irish bluestone

For Aachen Cathedral some pinnacles had to be replaced. The old ones were worn and had cracked because of rusting iron and because the layering of the stone was not properly applied. The deposition direction of the stone should preferably be processed horizontal, otherwise there is a risk that a long vertical slice breaks off. In this case, they applied it vertically.

The material for these pinnacles is Irish bluestone. It is …Read the whole article…