Year review of 2020

Strangest year ever

flying buttresses with the ApostlesYear 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.

Production

The old flying buttress statue The Hope made of tuff stone

The old sculpture of Spes, Hope

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 a 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!

face of JamesI 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-

flying buttress figurine of Flutist 1

Flute Player

side view Saint Andrew

St. Andrew

new flying buttress figurine accordionist

Accordionist

copy of flying buttress statue of James the Lesser in Muschelkalk limestone

James the Lesser

copy of sculpture of Apostle James the Greater

James the Greater

flying buttress statue Temperantia for the Eusebiuskerk in Arnhem

Temperantia

Caritas

Flying buttress figurine Goat nibbling on a crocket completed 1

Goat

three flying buttresses

Farewells

Sculptors Jan and Koen van Velzen rowingIt 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 Annual Review 2020doesn'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.

Annual Review 2020

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.

Griffin

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↑.

frame for griffin

griffin shield in clay 3

modeling of the shield

blocks of sandstone for a mirrored griffin blocks of sandstone for a mirrored griffin

A green lady

Annual Review 2020 seated woman dolomite

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

ornaments in Baumberger stone for the Latin School in NijmegenAn 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

detailing new finials for Utrecht's Dom TowerThis 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.

Annual Review 2020 large crocket for Dom Tower in portland stoneThere 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

year review 2020 St. PaulThere 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.

Small tasks

polishing the lingam

the sanding and 'sweetening’ of the lingam

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-

fine sanding the Shivalingam

coats of arms in black granite completed

Granite coats of arms

repairing the drumstick of the Little Drummer Boy on the flying buttresses of St. John's Cathedral in Den Bosch

Flying buttress figurine Saint John

restoration garden vase lid

Pine cone for a garden vase

Annual Review 2020 garden statue Pan with pan flute- WIP

Pan

ornaments south portal Eusebius Church, in Baumberger stone

South Portal

figurine Spring Four Seasons reinstalled

Spring

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 originally, 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.

Expansion

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.

Stelcon slabs have been laid

Heavier equipment

air hammer FK 702.5I 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 ↑)

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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Sculpture 'Surrender’ installed

Surrender, a symbolic moment

Installing sculpture SurrenderA few days before All Souls' Day 2020 I went to my place of birth for a special moment. I was about to install my father's sculpture 'Surrender’ in the cemetery behind the church.

My father, Jan van Velzen, had made this sculpture in 2011 when he, was nearly 80 years old. It represents a young woman releasing a butterfly, rising into the air. It depicts the release of a soul on its onward path to the light. At the time, he provided the following explanation about this sculpture:

The thought 'Surrender’ sculpted, represents the inner attitude of surrender to God's plan for us.

The feminine aspect is present in every person as tender beauty, the kneeling posture as dedication to the Creator of all.

The butterfly is a more often used symbol of the Soul, and signifies Transformation.

As surrender is greater than letting go, so true beauty often is fragile silence.

Jan van Velzen, 22 February 2011, Onderdijk

In the right place

Installing sculpture SurrenderActually, there was a whole process before this sculpture ended up here. My father actually intended this as a figurine for the children's graves in this cemetery, but that fell through. After his death, I made a proposal to my mother and brothers and sisters for a funerary monument, but we couldn't figure that out at first, as tastes differ, after all. Then the idea arose to place this statue on his grave, but we soon came to the conclusion that such a grave did not suit his modest nature. It would however be a good idea to donate it to the parish, and that was what happened.

Pedestal

stone arrived for plinth of SurrenderI ordered a column of Anröchter Grünstein (dolomite) for this figurine. My mother felt it had to be placed high up in order to enhance its movement, and I can only say that she was right. I spent half a day doing all the preparations: sanding, drilling holes, removing its old base, drilling and tapping holes in the bronze, gluing pins, making a drilling template, collecting stuff and more. The pedestal stands on two thick stainless steel pins and the statue is also anchored in that way.

To polish or not to polish, that is the question?

This dolomite, or rather Anröchter Grünstein, is quite greyish at first when you sand or polish it. But the longer it sits outside, the more it turns into a beautiful light greenish tint. You can polish it of course, as you can see from my sculpture 'Ferns’, but in this case I just sanded it down to grain 200, so that the soft structure comes into its own, and not predominates over the sculpture itself with a sleek dark green shine.

Quite a weight

Installing sculpture SurrenderThis plinth weighs approximately 250 kilos, but with a little skill and the right equipment you can move it around just like the ancient Egyptians did. Leverage and rollers. Fortunately I had help from the Stroet brothers who also took a flat cart with them, so within half an hour it was all up and done.

The sculpture sits in the center of a green lawn, which itself is also more than a meter above the surroundings. The field is intended as an extra space for any graves. With the plinth of 1 metres 60 in addition, the statue protrudes high above its surroundings and thus the column strengthens the intention of the sculpture and the movement of the woman: releasing the butterfly, the soul that continues on its new voyage of discovery. The sculpture therefore contrasts well with the sky and the dike behind it.

Installing sculpture SurrenderIt was also a special moment for me, because a lot of things came together that day. The statue of my father has such a strong symbolic function for the soul journey and it was almost All Souls' Day and All Saints' Day. It also felt strongly as if the sculpture had been made for that place and the day was perfect: nice weather, not subdued and still, but something of a joyous realization that it is not over after this, just the next step in our journey. Surrender doesn't have to be tough! It's great how everything can come together.

More about his life

Sculptors Jan and Koen van Velzen rowingA while ago I shared a first article about my father's life. I could write five more, I noticed later. But actually that doesn't fit in with the blog and there is so much material that it would become an ever bigger project. That is why we are now in the process of working out and printing his memoirs, in which we hope to include a lot of photos of himself and his work. On this blog I will dedicate one more article to what I learned from him as a sculptor. Meanwhile, I have also started working on his tombstone, because we finally agreed on what it should look like. More on that later.

Gallery

Below you will find a photo series of the installing of the pedestal and the sculpture 'Surrender'. My mother really didn't want to be in the picture, but as she was doing the donation, she has earned that place as far as I'm concerned. Thanks to Gerda Schutte for most of the photos.

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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Flying buttress figurine: Caritas, love

copying the flying buttress statue Caritas for the Eusebius Church in Arnhem

the figurine Caritas during copying

Caritas under pressure

Gloomy clouds gather around Arnhem's Eusebius Church. After years of smooth and energetic restoration, the first restoration budget has come to its end. In a previous message from 2016 I could report that money had finally been released, and although the subsidies have been handled very efficiently, at that time it was already known that it would not be enough to complete the entire project. There is a lot of fuss in the media about it, and immediately there are also people who claim that the entire project would be a bottomless pit, but they talk like a headless chicken.

A top-class restoration

For this budget, the Eusebius Church, at less than one-third of the amount previously estimated, is being thoroughly restored and also adapted to contemporary requirements. The time of mass church attendance is simply behind us, and the church is now mainly used for other purposes. In addition, this is a top-class restoration, which can be seen by everyone who gets the chance to wander through the building and over the scaffolding. Certainly not a bottomless pit, butan examplary project. It would be foolish to stop now, just when we are nearing the finish line and have stayed within budget despite extensions to the original restoration approach. So I look forward with confidence to the next round of investment in this important building.

In the Gelderlander of 6 October 2020 the following article could be read:

Restoration Eusebiuskerk stopped again; shortage of 3 million euros

scaffolding visit Eusebius flying buttresses

The scaffolding around the tower of the Eusebius Church in 2016

ARNHEM – The restoration of the Eusebius Church in Arnhem has been halted again due to lack of money. In 2016 the work has also been stopped once, because there were no subsidies from the various governments.

There is still approximately missing 3 million euros for the completion of the last phase of the large-scale restoration project on this national monument. The hope is that the province of Gelderland will help financially in the short term.

This provincial support had already been counted on, but due to various circumstances it has not yet been granted.

Within the budget

The money is needed for the repairs to the choir part of the building. That is the part on the east side of the church, opposite the 'Duivelshuis' the Devil's House. The total restoration project for the Eusebius Church in 2013 was budgeted at approx 32,5 million euros. The total project remains within budget.

The Provincial Executive of Gelderland recently proposed to the Provincial Council to make a maximum subsidy available of 2,5 million euros to the Eusebius Arnhem Foundation, which is responsible for the preservation and operation of this house of God.

But it is not until November that the Provincial Council will decide whether to agree to this during the discussion of the budget for next year.

-Read the whole article here ↑-

Two more articles: the first about the mystery of the budget deficit ↑ and the second on the period of waiting for more money↑.

The tenor of these two articles is the same: lots of alarm and drama, while there is actually not much going on. An awful lot has been done with the available money and the restoration will also be completed with the same care.

Consequences for the sculptors?

Copy flying buttress figurine de Hoop (Spes)

copying flying buttress statue The Hope at 35 degrees Celsius

Actually, this does and doesn't have consequences for us. On the one hand, we just keep doing our thing and we still squeeze out one flying buttress figurine after another. On the other hand, the budget has also been temporarily suspended for us. Why then do we just continue with those statues, you may ask? This has everything to do with a period of relative calm before a great hustle and bustle.

Lots of work to come

The old flying buttress statue The Hope made of tuff stone

The old flying buttress statue of The Hope, out of tuff stone

I can't say everything about it yet, but in spite of the apparent calm on this blog, Jelle and I in particular have been extremely busy recently. That is the reason that I couldn't keep up with writing blog articles. Indeed, I recently completed a flying buttress sculpture that depicted The Hope, from the series of the Seven Virtues, and I simply forgot to take pictures of it! Well, then it is therefore not possible to write an article about it anymore. But it is not forgotten, I will take pictures of it later at the Eusebius Church, where the figurine is stored.

A very busy autumn and winter

Things will get even crazier in the coming months, because we are currently already working on large finials for the Utrecht Dom Tower, and another major project is coming up in Veghel, I still have to tackle a number of smaller projects, my mother eagerly awaits my father's tombstone, and there are still a great number of ornaments and sculptures coming which I cannot name yet.

Seven Virtues

sculptor Stide Vos with tattered old flying buttress figurine Fides

Stide at the old flying buttress statue of Fides. This statue clearly shows why we cut these copies: they are completely full of cracks.

But around the summer period we had a somewhat quiet time. But we have not been idle! Like with the flying buttress of the Seven Sins that we had last year, there was now the flying buttress next to it, with the Seven Virtues. Jelle and I have almost finished all of them, except the statue of Faith, that Stide is now working on.

We thought it would be smart to tackle the next flying buttress now, because we already knew there was so much work to be done later. However, they were not waiting for that at the Eusebius Church. This flying buttress is actually part of the next restoration phase and they hadn't even started on that yet. Plus that the budget was starting to run out. But with some deliberation we could move forward. If we had postponed it, it would have become much, much busier next spring!

Two griffins

modeling in clay of griffin shield

Modeling the shield for the two griffins

When some space came up this summer, Jelle and I immediately seized the opportunity to finally decisively to continue with the modeling work On the two mirrored griffins, on which I already started in 2017 with a scale model. The work is in no hurry because the castle is not ready yet, but now we have been hard at work. Soon I'll post an extensive report. In any case, we made full-size clay models and cast them in plaster. On Instagram you get to see something of these activities.

Caritas, love

copy of Caritas flying buttress statueOne of the figurines I copied for arch no. 23 is Caritas, the symbol of Love. Quite appropriate for this time in the restoration of the Eusebius Church, Caritas also means Charity and Generosity.

Sculptor Eduard van Kuilenburg has carved Caritas from tuff as a young woman in a thick dress, holding a somewhat listless child in strange proportions on her lap. It has a rather small head and very broad shoulders.

completed Caritas figurineIn the copy I made a few minor adjustments to Caritas, so that the child has a bit more of a child's head. I also made the heart that was on the right side, from a flat object into a rounded shaped, pumped up heart, because luckily I had more mass in the stone at that point. It is characteristic of our approach: we largely stick to the original sculpture, in finish, dimensions and details, but we try to give some points a little more tension, which makes the figurinea bit more expressive. We also carve, just as we did with the Seven Sins, the Latin name of each virtue in the side profile. See more about this in the post about the previous flying buttress statue from this series: Temperantia.

Gallery

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

Follow me on Instagram↑
and Twitter↑
and on YouTube↑