Strangest year ever
Year review of 2020? Well that was quite the year I guess! The strangest year that I've experienced until now out of the almost 58, but certainly not a bad year. There were many challenges and throughout everything I've grown personally. We sculptors have probably had it much easier than most other people. We enjoyed working outside, have been sitting in the lovely sun, had plenty of space and because we do our own thing, we have actually not noticed much of the measures, except when we had to do some shopping or wanted to go to a museum.
So what do you do when all the nicer things disappear one by one? Work work work. That was one of the most striking things this year. We've had whole wagonloads of stone go through our hands, and there were lots of nice carving jobs among them. As in previous years, we have been working on St. Eusebius's Church, and we've now arrived at flying buttress statue no. 80 at the moment. We only have another 3 to go, because the last 13 sculptures will not be replaced. There will a new work of art instead. I believe that we will also have to do a little bit of work for that. On my blog you can read about the flying buttress statues that I carved myself last year: the Flute Player, Apostle St. Andrew, the Accordionist, St. James the Lesser, St. James the Greater, Temperantia and Caritas from the arc of the Seven Virtues, and Goat nibbling on a crocket. I also carved a copy of the statue Spes, Hope, but we were so busy that I forgot to take pictures of it!
I did report about our work in an article with a video tour (as a studio visit could not take place due to corona) and in an overview of the last three flying buttresses that were completed: the Seven Sins, the Musicians and Six Apostles. Sometime in October I started working on a double-headed eagle for arch no. 17/18. You can recognize it in the background of some photos, but that project is temporarily halted because other things demanded priority. Likewise, Stide will be carving a lady with a cross (Fides of the Seven Virtues) and Jelle still needs to carve a man with a watering can who's watering a crocket, from arch no. 20.
-click on a photo for the corresponding article-
It was an uncomfortable year in another sense too: there were departures. My father and my brother-in-law both died of cancer, but both of them had lived towards the end in such a grand way that we could all find peace with their departure. Especially in my father's case, there was nothing but gratitude. Normally I would go to India again in November, but I haven't had much vacation this year. My beloved Swami Gopala Krishna also left his body this year and even if we could have gone to South India, then everything would have been different anyway.
In August I posted an article about my father's life that I actually wrote in the week of his death, but at the time I didn't have any pictures yet. I discovered that I could have written five more articles about his life, but this blog is not the right place for that. There will be an article about what I learned from him as a sculptor. On 31 October I I installed his sculpture "Surrender’ in the cemetery where he is buried, in Onderdijk.
I am currently working on making his tombstone in dolomite; it will be a lotus flower in relief and some waves. I first had an elaborate design with a graceful lady, but the family opted for a simpler design, and that will work out very nice as well. I hope to get it all installed before 19 January. But it doesn't all go as fast as 30 years ago anymore and I noticed that I also need my time to rest physically after a week of hard work. I had made the part with the waves quite deep at first, but it turned out too restless. After I had made everything 8 cm thinner it looked more like the way I had imagined it. At the moment I'm carving the Lotus flower.
Pope and lantern
A number of projects always overlap the year's end, and this year those were Pope Leo and the granite Japanese Lantern for Clingendaal. There are three articles about the Pope Leo statue on this blog: the outline sawing, the first rough carving work and its completion. This statue of Pope Leo the Great is a copy that I carved in Udelfanger sandstone, for St. John's Cathedral in Den Bosch. I was asked to assemble this new sculpture out of two separate parts, which was quite a difficult job, but in the end I managed just fine. It's actually great when a tough challenge succeeds so well. Because this went so well, my colleague Serge asked me if I could repeat this trick for him on a similar one, an angel for the same cathedral. Only this one wasn't so easy: the first block had a big crack. As a result, I have been able to gain a lot of experience in assembling blocks of Udelfanger sandstone.
The lantern for Clingendael park at Wassenaar I carved out of granite, and in terribly wet weather I installed it in the mud in the park. Nevertheless, it is now completely embedded in the beautiful park, hopefully to be admired again next year.
In the summer we finally had a bit of a quieter time. Time to move on with the large mirrored griffins. I put the foam model aside and Jelle and I worked together to make clay models of the shield and the body of the griffins. We then encased it in plaster casts and cast it in plaster again. Next will be the carving in Obernkirchener sandstone, for which the large blocks have already arrived. It was quite a large and difficult project, from which we learned a lot.
Read more in the extensive report on this project↑.
A green lady
One of the commisions that I haven't published on this blog before, is that last summer for another sculptor I carved a sculpture in Anröchter Grünstein (dolomite) out of a large block of stone. Below is a video of splitting the block, that I could almost reach through with my chainsaw. In the picture, the whole sculpture still needed to be polished to a shine.
Ornamental work for the Latin School
An accident never comes alone, but so it is with workload as well, it seems. Just at the point that I got the feeling that it was becoming an awful lot of work all at once, the urgent project for the Latin School in Nijmegen came in between. But we made it, and in time! All of it was blocks of Baumberger stone with ornaments on three sides, in the style of the Dutch renaissance.
Finials and side crockets, for the Utrecht Dom Tower
This year we also got a lot of ornament work done for the Dom Tower. Big, bigger, biggest was the motto. A very large finial of 80 cm wide kept Jelle and me each busy for over three weeks, and then pallets full of large crockets and tailpieces were dropped off, for the upper eaves of the stair tower, at about 90 to 100 meters up.
There are a total of seven of these window frames, each with about ten of these large crockets, so no worries about enough work for the time being. And that's only a small part of the ornamental work on the Dom Tower in Utrecht. An article about this project will follow.
St. Lambert's Church, Veghel
There is one project that I haven't actually shared so far, but that I've already done a lot of work for in the past year. Two neo-Gothic façade claddings will be reconstructed next year at the Lambertus Church in Veghel. Among other things, there will be ten reliefs with scenes from the life of Jesus, two statues of saints and all kinds of ornaments, capitals and pinnacles on it. Jelle and I have already modeled a number of maquettes and carved several capitals for this, made test pieces and I have been staring for hours at vague old photos to see what it might have looked like. For St. Paul I already made a small model in plastiline, that I am going to enlarge in foam. The stone has already been sitting in the yard for a while. Jelle and I are going to do this together, and Jelle will take on St. Peter. There will certainly be a new blog article about this next year.
Fortunately, there was still time for all kinds of small work in between, this year. And so I've been singing Shivabhajans while carving a Shivalingam in black Swedish granite, I've carved two small family crests in a granite headstone, I was asked to repair the Little Drummer with a new drumstick at St. John's Cathedral and I carved a pine cone for an eighteenth-century garden vase and was able to find a few more spare hours to continue working on my red porphyry statue of Pan with the pan flute. I also did a small part of the work on the ornaments of the South Portal of St. Eusebius's Church, but because of the work load, colleague Serge took the lion's share of that part. Finally, in Badhoevedorp, Jelle and I have been working on the repair and reinstalment of the figurines of the Four Seasons.
-click on a photo for the corresponding article-
Four fishes (dolphins) for a hotel
Then there were the four fish propped up for a façade of a hotel in Amsterdam, that were seriously damaged in a fire. These kinds of ornaments are usually called dolphins however, although today we have a different perception about these creatures. These fish usually sit mouth down and tail up, sometimes spewing water from their mouths.
I am now carving a copy of this in new sandstone; an very elaborate piece of high quality. This is quite a difficult thing for me too, which needs to be exactly similar because its brother is just a few meters away. By coping it point by point I'll gradually arrive at an accurate copy. The chisel traces are still clearly visible on the original, so I'll have to emulate that in the copy. I'll write a full article on this project later on as well.
It all got a bit tight under the shelter with all the half-finished projects and the sawing machine and pallets with finished work. So there is a big change going on: the roof, that I installed in 2017 together with my son Joram, gets an extension of 4 metres, and the concrete slabs on which it will sit have already been installed too. The old concrete floor was so uneven that it was almost impossible to drive on with a pallet jack. The new truss is already made, now the waiting is for the roof plates and the extension of the hoistway.
I also bought a new compressor this year, with an air dryer, because in wet and cold weather it was getting harder to work with air tools and whenever it was freezing, the air hammers and pressure regulators would immediately freeze up. And a nice heavy new air hammer, with a little more kabam in it. I am all set for the new year. Bring it on!
(This annual report only tells you what I myself have been up to this year. But I've cooperated a lot with Jelle Steendam, Stide Vos and Serge van Druten, with whom I share the larger projects. I work a lot with Jelle in particular; he has found a permanent place under the shelter. So have a look at his website!as well ↑)