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.

griffins with shield castle entrance plastiline maquette

Castle

Griffins with Shield ancient castle entrance

Old photograph of original griffin

This client is working on the restoration of an ancient castle. There were formerly two large griffins at the entrance, each bearing a large shield with the coat of arms of the Count and of his wife. The castle needs to be thoroughly restored, Moreover, its main entrance was so severely damaged that only a few pictures remain of how it used to be. The client asked me to reconstruct these two guardians, so he can restore the entire entryway to its former glory.

Not stone

griffins with broken legs and head

This clearly shows that the original was hollow

On a few old photos can be seen how the damaged griffins are missing legs and heads. Because of this, it's clear to see that the old statues were hollow, so they probably were casts. Given the age of the entrance, dating from around 1880, I expect it wasn't cast in concrete, and probably not ordinary ceramics either, because the material was quite thick. I'd sooner think of a material like Coade Stone or the like.

Coade stone is a composite of 10% grog, 5-10% crushed flint, 5-10% fine quartz sand, 10% ground glass and 60-70% ball clay from Dorset and Devon. This was then fired for 4 days at 1110 degrees Celsius.
Coade stone is very resistant to weathering and can, after casting in plaster molds, still be extensively reworked by hand before firing. There is also an interesting video about this material available on YouTube ↑, including the history of the remarkable woman who stood at the cradle of this material, and its rediscovery.

Commission

griffins with shield entry old castle

Close-up of original left shield

After much research of grainy old photos and making sketches I first made a little clay maquette in plastiline. Then I was about to magnify this in hard foam. From this, the customer would create rubber molds and then make two mirrored casts in, probably in some kind of artificial stone.

I'd been carving the foam models for some time when I found that my little clay model gave me too little reference. Because I need to make clear four separate front legs and two different shields, and that should all carefully fit together. That's why I retraced my steps and made a larger clay maquette in plastiline clay. The first model was about 30 cms tall, and in this one, just the griffin itself is 62 cms. Plastiline is a modeling clay that never hardens and never dries out. It allows me to continue to work and change things without worrying about cracks or fissures. Modeling wax would allow that as well, of course, but in that material detailing is much more difficult and the lighting is hopeless. There is also professional industrial modeling mass, but for the size I want to make, I would need to spend a few thousand euros on clay, so that's not an option.

What next??

Once this larger clay maquette is largely to my liking, I'll make the griffin body out of hard PIR foam with two hind legs and the head, two left front legs, two wings, two right front legs and a tail. There will also be a shieldin which will fit two different center pieces bearing the coats of arms in relief. Once these parts are cast, they need to fit exactly together and form two mirrored griffins. Altogether a challenging job!

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

Flying Buttress Figurines: four times Noah's Ark

Theo van Reijns theme of Noah's Ark

There are 96 flying buttress figurines on St. Eusebius's Church in Arnhem (the Netherlands), distributed over 14 flying buttresses. Four of these are filled with animal figures on the theme of Noah's Ark, designed by the Haarlem sculptor Theo van Reijn (and for the most part carved by his artisan sculptor Eduard van Kuilenburg). He awarded each of these …Read the whole article…

Side crockets: Gothic ornaments for the Utrecht Cathedral

Reconstruction of gothic ornaments

weathered old crockets in Ettringer tuff at the cathedral in Utrecht

weathered old crocket in Ettringer tuffstone

The Cathedral in Utrecht is partly covered in scaffolding at the moment. Specifically a large part of its stonework is being overhauled, and part of this project are 16 large tuffstone crockets, or Gothic leaf shapes adorning the frames of the lancet windows. After several centuries of copying there was not much left of their original shape. That was reason enough …Read the whole article…

A monkey in a wig (flying buttress figurine)

flying buttress figurine Monkey, Copying from tuffstone into Muschelkalk

copying the Monkey

The old Monkey from tuffstone

One of the nicest flying buttress figurines from the series 'Noah's Ark’ by Theo van Reijn was now ready to be copied: a Monkey. The creature has an endearing belly, skinny legs and a Big Smile on its snout. And a wig.

That my sawing machine after all of the welding- and tinkering can now cut so accurately is also clearly visible in the pre-cut block. It saves quite a bit …Read the whole article…

A Razorbill without a head (flying buttress figurine)

Presawing in the snow

Van Velzen sculptor overlooks snowy fields this winterThe next flying buttress figurine for St. Eusebius's Church in Arnhem is ready. I've been busy presawing all the blocks that I had lying around for flying buttress 4 and 5 (read here more), before maybe a real frost period got in the way. Because my saw sits outside, I cannot use it during frost, because then …Read the whole article…

Noah fleeing the rising waters (flying buttress figurine)

Old tuff flying buttress figurine. Noah fleeing the water that is rising up around the arkIn the nearly endless series of flying buttress figurines for St. Eusebius's Church in Arnhem, I again arrived at carving one of the topmost pieces, on which always Noah's Ark is depicted. On this one, this time the ark is shown with swirling waves around it, and Noah climbed into the boat before everything …Read the whole article…

Flying buttress: dog, lion, naked woman, fat man and bird

Sorry, proper translation later this week! These past few weeks I've continued carving for flying buttress 6 and 7 of St. Eusebius's Church in Arnhem.

A short video from the church as the crow flies, with the flying buttresses. As a bonus, a short performance by my colleague Stide Fox copying a corbel.

Flying buttress 6 and 7

flying buttress figurines from flying buttress no. 6 and 7 of St. Eusebius's Church in Arnhem

A photograph that I was sent by Slotboom Stonemasons. The Sad Badger in the foreground was carved by Stide.

It was a motley collection I received at my yard: the Noah and his ark I described earlier, a dog, a naked lady with big feet and a broken neck plus a bird, a very happy lion with his paw in a strange position, a fat man drinking from a large pot, and a bird which we suspected could be a Capercaillie. …Read the whole article…

An interesting gable stone

A plaque in the making for the Blue Tram street in Haarlem

Last week I started on a very interesting challenge: the carving of a new gable stone relief. The project deserves some explanation, because it includes a lot more than just this one relief. …Read the whole article…

Noah and his ark: from tuff to limestone

…to the first post about this project↑

Noah new in MuschelkalkAfter the previous series of flying buttress statues for the Eusebius Church in Arnhem (read here more) it has been quiet at my studio for a long time -with regards to the work on the Eusebius church at least. Funding had been allocated for its restoration, but before it's finally on the bank account of the church, apparently a lot of water first needs to pass under the bridge. But now that all suffering is over with, I can speed along with the work on a series of flying buttresses on the north side of the church. …Read the whole article…

Noah's Ark, up in the air

flying buttress figurines with theme Noah's Ark-1

flying buttress figurines with theme Noah's Ark-new blocks ofMuschelkalk limestone

new blocks of Muschelkalk limestone

Yesterday I received a new batch of stone again: seven new blocks of Muschelkalk limestone and seven old flying buttress figurines from St. Eusebius's Church in Arnhem (the Netherlands). This series has Noah's Ark as its theme. …Read the whole article…