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 my colleague Stide Vos, who rents the studio next to mine. And in the past year on this project, our newest addition Jelle Steendam has joined us. He works in my shop space, as an independent sculptor, in consultation with me, on various sculptures.
We have now completed eight flying buttresses, but there are still 7 more with sculptures on this church. That why I recently welcomed the next series of 7 figurines to my yard, for flying buttress no. 24. The theme of this arc is 'The Seven Sins’.
An interesting theme, that immediately evokes various images to me as a sculptor. For how do you imagine Pride, Rage, or Envy? This kind of thing is very interesting if like me you're a storyteller. Most people may not know me that way, but I love stories.
Fortunately, this series also showed an interesting challenge for the original sculptor. Because what we're about to do with it is copying them. No new designs this time. It's true, three of the statues are missing an arm, but otherwise they're very clear in what they portray.
They came in, packed in wooden crates and wrapped in netting. The reason for this is a difficult issue, and it's not clear to me what exactly went wrong with these figurines, even after quite a number of discussions. In short: The sculptures of the Seven Sins were carved in tuff around 1955. In the 1990s they started to deteriorate, and to preserve them, they were sent for impregnation with acrylic resin, up to the core. Read here↑ more about this process. It's a good process, albeit fairly expensive, but with these sculptures, something has gone completely wrong. In one way or another they started to expand, and they still do. Lots of deep cracks appeared, and suddenly pieces began falling off. To avoid worse all figurines were quickly removed and stored in boxes. And even inside those boxes they continued to expand and break.
Gluing it all up again
So the first thing Jelle started on, with my help, was unpacking and bonding of these figurines. The pieces are razor sharp but fit reasonably well. After all the unpacking and gluing we had seven well recognizable sculptures in a row. Next step is to reconstruct the missing parts on the basis of old photographs (so if you have any old photos of the Seven Sins, in particular, of Gluttony, Avarice or Vanity, I hope you'll mail them to me!).
I have been looking forward a lot to make something beautiful out of them again!