Koen, Jelle, customer and Stide near flying buttress sculptures carved by Jelle
We're going viral
Last month I would have had visit to the Sculptor's Workshop again: customers of St. Eusebius's Church who had bought one of the old flying buttress sculptures, could come over and have a look at the place where they are being copied into new stone. But a spanner was thrown in the works. At the moment everything is about that darn coronavirus and I too seem to be unable to avoid having things cancelled. I received a cancellation and a request to make a video of our work, so that the buyers/viewers can still get an impression.
Now it is different when I'm telling something all by myself than when people ask questions. Most of the work has become so obvious to me that I don't realize that parts of the work process are not yet clear to others. The best interaction is of course if you can answer questions directly, and often one question leads to another. And explaining things gives a different nuance than if you'd tell stories and quote anecdotes.
But the Chinese already said it: a picture paints a thousand words. So here goes my replacement tour of the sculptor's workshop, with performances by colleagues Stide and Jelle. So the whole story revolves around flying buttress figurines that we're currently replacing, and these are some of the last of arc no. 14 and 16, with the musicians and apostles. Learning to film and edit was an interesting challenge, so I'm probably going to do that more often. I have plenty of plans, now to find some free time for it.
James the Lesser
The flying buttress sculpture I am working on in this video is now finished. Read in this post↑ more about the statue of James the Lesser. You will find the accordionist in this post↑. I have also started on the last flying buttress statue for now, that of James the Upper, about which more later.
Beeldhouwerijblog.nl is the blog of Koen van Velzen, sculptor in stone and bronze. Look up my website as well: beeldhouwerijvanvelzen.nl
The next flying buttress figurine of St. Eusebius's Church in Arnhem was one from the series of apostles of arc no. 16. It represents a heavily built man with a club. This could either be Judas Thaddeus, or James the Lesser. He was called the Lesser because he became an apostle later than James the Greater. The other James was, along with his brother the apostle and evangelist John, a son of Zebedee, a fisherman. They were inspecting their nets when Jesus arrived and asked them to become fishers of men.
Brother of the Lord
But James the Lesser was called "brother of the Lord". Then how is that possible? Well, according to the Medieval stories, that everyone knew in those days, the carpenter Joseph had been married before and he had a number of children from that marriage, but his wife had died. He was a widower when the young girl Mary (Miriam) came to live under his protection. She took care of the children, and especially James was very fond of her because he was very young when he lost his mother. Maria was about 14 years old when she came out from the temple protection to live with Joseph . Her father and mother, Joachim and Anna, had miraculously been gifted child in their advanced age and therefore entrusted her to God as a temple maiden. So she was brought up very pure and trained in high spiritual knowledge.
When she was 16 years old, she suddenly turned out to be pregnant and Joseph wanted to distance herself from her, but the angel confided to him that she was carrying a great miracle. He decided to marry her. Mary became the mother of Jesus, and James grew up with him. He was at least seven years older, but was among his most faithful disciples.
The club that the apostle James carries with him shows a different way of thinking that was common in the Middle Ages. Emphasis was placed on the suffering and martyrdom of Jesus and of his apostles and saints, therefore, the club with which he was put to death was given a prominent place in the depictions of James. Now this is not a Medieval statue at all, but made in 1956 by Eduard van Kuilenburg. In the Dutch language book on the sculpture of the Eusebius Church Elisabeth den Hartog and Ronald Glaudemans write that the themes for the sculpture were presented by Arnhem city archivist Mr Schaap. That could explain why Van Kuilenburg gave the saints such traditional attributes.
Traditionally, James the Lesser was sometimes depicted with a fuller's stick instead, a heavy piece of wood that was used to felt wool, because he was supposedly been beaten to death with it. So who else could have become the patron saint of all wool felters other than James? Those inimitable twists of thoughts of those Medieval people though…
Today we would be more interested in the life and works of such an apostle than in his martyrdom. The lurid details and emphasis on martyrdom for the Church are definitely from another time.
Japanese Garden of Park Clingendael. Photo by Takeaway – own work, CC BY-SA 4.0
You'll probably know them: the granite lanterns adorning Japanese gardens. I didn't know this, but even in the Netherlands, we have wonderful Japanese-styled gardens. Actually you can't really call them Japanese Gardens, because the criteria for these are apparently very strict. Rule no. 1 is as I believe that it should be located in Japan, and that just won't fit inside The Netherlands. Anyway, in The Hague, specifically in the grounds of Clingendael Estate in Wassenaar, there is also a Japanese garden. A very beautiful one, that was created around 1915 and only opens for 8 weeks per year. To save the moss.
Copying in Bavarian granite
Around the time of the construction of the garden, its owner imported a number of granite lanterns for her garden. Among them was also one …Read the whole article… →
In the original statue, the layers were used vertically, but for the copy it's desired that the layers run through the statue horizontally. Since there are no blocks of Udelfanger sandstone available that are tall enough, it has to be made out of two pieces. Where would you put the seam? A first proposal was …Read the whole article… →
2019 was a great year! I've had all sorts of things in progress, among which a lot of ornaments for the Utrecht Cathedral and the Eusebius Church in Arnhem. Time for an annual review of 2019.
Not everything I've done this year has been published on my blog. For instance, I carved a few things for other sculptors. One was a large sculpture in blue sodalite, of a stylized lady. I copy-sawed the plaster maquette into the new stone and then carved and polished it. This material is difficult to work in, but it has an overwhelming color. I'm sure once installed in the right place, it will make a big impression. Through all those vivid colors it becomes hard to see its shapes in my photo, but upright and under good lighting conditions (not under my roof with subdued light) it will be easier to recognize the shapes. Since it was made for another sculptor, I made no mention on this blog at the time. I did though in a blog post show how I cut the block to size with a chainsaw.
The painting in of the details in the crack
One of those projects for another sculptor was a small job that I did last week for Gerard Overeem in granite: the carving of a crack in a Monument to the Holocaust. The crack represents the suffering caused by the persecution of the Jews that has left its traces. Read here↑ the corresponding newspaper article. In an earlier newspaper article more information about the monument. It is to be unveiled on 27 January 2020 in Barneveld.
The copy of the statue of Thomas Aquinas was a project that almost took this entire year. In November 2018 I received the original sculpture in my yard and started with its reconstruction, in March 2019 I cut the block of Udelfanger sandstone to size and I started presawing. I also started enthusiastically on the rough carving of the two parts and fitting the pieces exactly together, but suddenly all kinds of commissions came and interfered before in October 2019 finally I was able to finish the statue.
Pope Leo the Great
After I had shipped this statue, I could skip ahead to the next statue for St. John's Cathedral in 's-Hertogenbosch: Pope Leo the Great. At the time of writing this, the work on this statue is halted as well because of a trip to India, the above holocaust memorial and a commission for carving a Japanese Lantern. But I was able to presaw the two parts of the statue entirely, so I can expeditiously start carving them in the new year. This statue also stands on the north side of St John's Cathedral in Den Bosch, The Netherlands, that is, to the left from the statue of Thomas I mentioned above.
A Japanese lantern
It may seem that I took a long time carving these two statues, but that's nothing compared to the last piece I worked on this year. For the Japanese Garden of Clingendael Estate in The Hague I made a quote in May 2017 already, and only now I get to carve it. I was asked to carve a reconstructed copy of a weathered Japanese lantern out of Bavarian granite. I'm already well on the way, but I still need to carve a lobed base and then sort out the details with the client. A blog post will follow soon!
A marble birdbath
Sometimes you get out-of-the-ordinary commissions. A client had modeled a bird bath in the shape of a duck as a boy and now he wanted it in his garden in marble. Of course that's possible. Unfortunately his clay model had disappeared, so I first had to reconstruct it. Alongside is a picture from halfway through the carving process.
Pan in porphyry… again?
At the end of October I was able to find two days for working on my sculpture of Pan in Red Porphyry. As you can read in my last post about it I had just started with rough carving when I had to put it aside. That was almost two years ago (March 2018).
But I had to put the sculpture aside again quickly this time as well because I had to take on other projects first, such as Pope Leo. Yet I was able to roughly carve the hooves, the face, the hands and the flute. So far, I've been working it for only five days altogether. I hope I can find more time in the coming year and be able to finish the sculpture.
The Eusebius Church contains various sculptural parts. The quality varies from very finely carved to fairly primitive, and dates from the construction time to present day. Somewhere in a side transept of the church, at the very top, missing a small cup of men ↑ in a row of 9 rather primitive homemade heads. Three of those were from the construction period of the church, and three of them dated from the 1960s. I was asked to carve a new head for the empty spot. It only had to look just as primitive as the others. That proved to be quite tricky! Someone told me that you'd best ask for a mason or a beginner to carve it, they might hit upon the right atmosphere. So I just made it into a little man with a page haircut.
More for St. Eusebius's church: Two huge finials
By far the majority of the work of this year was spent on carving ornamental work for two large finials and surrounding ornamental work on the northern transept of the Eusebius Church. Stide, Jelle, and I, partly with support by Serge, had months of work to carve all that.
We carved ornaments in two types of red sandstone for this north aisle, in Udelfanger sandstone and in Massangis limestone. It was so much work that I was in for a joke at the end.
Carving ornaments for the Utrecht Dom Cathedral twice
Admittedly, it was but a small pilot project, and the main work on the Utrecht Dom Tower has yet to arrive. But at a time when the scaffolding around the tower was still not up, Jelle and I scrambled up all 465 steps of the Dom Tower with all our tools on two days, and carved a few test ornaments at the very top, so that the approach of the next part can be determined. Fortunately it was beautiful weather and we had a magnificent view.
But it was not all ornamental carving work, I also had some sculptures in progress. For the west facade of the tower of St. Eusebius's Church I carved the large corbel with the sculpture of The Night out of limestone: a naked lady with a nest of owls beside her. To accelerate the process, I cut it and its counterpart, The Day, on my presawing machine machine. It only just fitted: I had to cut away some corners, otherwise this lady couldn't even turn around inside the machine.
Flying Buttress Figurines: Seven Sins
It was made in last year and the year before especially with carving flying buttress figurines. That was a bit less this year, because the ornaments demanded all of our attention. We only had one flying buttress to go, with the Seven Sins depicted on it. Jelle made the Vanity, the Gluttony and the Greed, Stide got Envy and Lust, and I made the last two.
The Anger was a flying buttress statue of a man with a contorted face pulling a knife. He looked rather primitive, in his bearskin. As the only man among all the women, he actually had not much to complain, but he was clearly not happy with it.
The Idleness on the other hand, ie the Sloth, didn't mind so much. She sat back a little, caressing her workhorse, in her provocative dress, and seemed more concerned with her own laziness.
For the same building I helped making a work of art for its residents: for each resident I made a stainless steel tree leaf with their own rock on it, which were all made into one big tree. It was a lot of work to cut everything out, bending the leaves, welding and glueing them, especially since I'm not equipped too well for metalworking. It was a lot of fun to make. Painter Sandra Nanning turned the staircase into a three-story encompassing tree.
A spoonbill from Haarlem
Not all sculpture to be replaced has suffered from weathering. Sometimes sculpture disappears because of renovations and later on, residents want it back again on their building, and sometimes something is stolen. Such was the case with a buddha's head, a pelican and a spoonbill in Haarlem. Fortunately, the pelican was found again. I made a copy of the spoonbill after first reconstructing it, and Jelle accounted for the buddha head.
A lot of work for my colleagues
As you might have understood, I work regularly with my colleagues Serge van Druten, Stide Vos and Jelle Steendam. They, like me, all three have their own independent businesses. Only Jelle works in my shop; Stide has his own workshop next to me and Serge 20 kilometers away. I like having my colleagues around and being able to share larger contracts.
But I am the only one with his own presawing machine. That means that I regularly get the request to presaw something for the others too. Jelle also can properly handle the machine, so he'll be sawing for me sometimes and mainly for himself. But Jelle and I have also often enough presawn sculptures for Stide and Serge. I also usually keep track of the big picture, the tenders and the distribution of all joint projects, such as Eusebius Church and the Utrecht Cathedral.
Jelle mainly operates under my supervision, but he also takes on his own work (have a look at his website). So I regularly pass on things to him that are too much for me to take on. Sometimes he would take a little longer than I would do, That's because I do this work, of course, for a longer time. Unfortunately we have no specific training for restoration sculpture in Netherlands, so the work itself is his training. This year for example Jelle restored some garden ornaments.
New year: musicians and apostles
What's coming up next year? The most important work coming up is all of the ornamental work that we are going to get from the restoration of the Dom Tower in Utrecht. Balustrade finials, gargoyles and various other ornaments.
Next, we will be getting work from flying buttress no. 14 and 16 of St. Eusebius's Church in Arnhem. Flying buttress no. 14 consists of a group of 7 musicians and no. 16 contains a number of apostles. These are the last sculptures that sculptor Eduard van Kuilenburg made for the church, and in these we can see a transition to a somewhat more angular style. There were at the time of completion (around 1956) already alarmed questions from the church council about the "overcrowded flying buttresses’ that this led to, even though the block size was no larger than that of the previously created sculpture groups around the choir. Especially the apostles have massive fists and lumpy heads. We're looking forward to copying them into new stone (if you want to know why these figuries are replaced: read this article about the Ettringer tuff ↑ of which they were made).
Boxes full of debris and more sculpture to go
So that adds up to fourteen sculptures for flying buttresses nos. 14 and 16, for which we expect to get the new stone blocks in early January. We have been reserving a spot for those. But there are still 12 boxes more in our storage and a group of loose sculptures outside in the yard, which will all have to be copied one day.
Some of these other sculptures are heavily weathered because they started to shatter after the impregnation process and fell to pieces, and they're lying as a layer of debris at the bottom of the boxes. It will still be an interesting project to reconstruct them. If that happens at all, because people are currently considering an alternative way to fill the empty spaces. We sent in our estimate already anyway :).
And then of course there were all kinds of scaffolding visits, visits for quotes and small jobs in between that never get reported: so you might say, it was a busy year. I look forward to the coming year!
I wish you all a very good, educational and creative New Year. Thank you all for following this blog!
Beeldhouwerijblog.nl is the blog of Koen van Velzen, sculptor in stone and bronze. Look up my website as well: beeldhouwerijvanvelzen.nl
The next flying buttress figurine from arc 24 of St. Eusebius's Church in Arnhem wasn't entirely clear to me. We've seen all seven sins pass by, except Sloth, sometimes called idleness, laziness or inertia, so this one had to be it.
I just don't know how the sculptor had originally intended this. I also thought at first that this one was Pride, or Hubris, a lady with voluptuous bosom that sits high on horseback. Or should it be one …Read the whole article… →
And my colleagues Stide Vos, Serge van Druten and Jelle Steendam were also contributing to this project. I have not seen how these finials are installed now, but I am confident that …Read the whole article… →
(Sorry folks, the interview was in Dutch) On Sunday 11 August 2019 I was interviewed for radio show Bureau Kijkindevegte in response to the following question from a listener: How would a sculptor correct mistakes made during carving in stone? A short interview about …Read the whole article… →
I've recently had many different projects in progress and have just not gotten round to post any messages about them on this blog. But, fortunately we still have the pictures, as the businessman said when he saw his million dollar yacht sinking. This project has been an interesting challenge in between all the ornamental work. The job on hand was about two facade reliefs of a spoonbill and buddha head from Haarlem.
The original stone ornaments came from the façade of the Lutheran Orphan's and Old Men's Home, which was built in 1906. After the demolition of this home, the stones were reused in the garden wall of the Vitae Vesper Elderly Nursing Home that in 2015 was demolished again itself. An apartment building was constructed on this site and the reliefs remained behind, discarded and orphaned. The Lutheran Church Administration wanted to …Read the whole article… →