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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Flying buttress figurine: Saint James the Greater

copy of sculpture of Apostle James the Greater

The last Apostle

copy of sculpture of Apostle James the GreaterAnother part of the Eusebiuskerk has been completed by us: we have now finished carving all the flying buttress figurines of arc no. 14 and 16, the ones with the musicians and six apostles, for St. Eusebius's Church in Arnhem, the Netherlands. The last figurine in this series was Apostle James the Greater, and I tied it to a pallet last Monday, ready for transport.

James the Greater is known to most people for his place of pilgrimage Santiago de Compostela. He is depicted on St. Eusebius's Church with a hat, a shell and a sword. To me, it was a very nice sculpture to work on, because of all the attributes and structures in it. A coarse beard, a thin hat and sword, big hands, a fur coat, a big nose and a hollow shell.

James as a Pilgrim

Acopy of sculpture of Apostle James while ago I carved his colleague St. James the Lesser in new limestone. Why the shell, hat and sword with the Greater? From what I've read about it, around the year 44 James was beheaded by order of Herod Agrippa in Jerusalem. Around the year 800 legends arose about James, that he would have preached the gospel in the Iberian Peninsula, and that his body was brought to Galicia after his death, where it was buried by his disciples in the place that would later be called Santiago de Compostela. His grave was discovered at some point in the 9th century. In the Middle Ages, there was a lot of money to be made from the miraculous healing power of the relics of saints, so that started a great flow of pilgrims, which continues to this day. James himself is therefore usually depicted as a pilgrim, with hat, staff and shell.

flying buttress no. 16 St. Eusebius's Church, 6 apostles

the old statues from flying buttress no. 16 before disassembly

Only six out of twelve

Only six of the twelve apostles are depicted on the flying buttresses of St. Eusebius's Church. At the time it had been intended to give all twelve apostles a spot on the flying buttresses, but the work was completed at some point, and the last four arches were already decorated: large flower shapes (crockets), dating still from around 1920 and an earlier restoration. These statues date from the 1950s and were made during the restoration of the bombed church. Inside the church the statue of apostle John can still be found, James' younger brother, with a poison cup in hand. It was never installed on the church.

The sculptor's progress

old flying buttress statue of James in tuff, by Eduard van KuilenburgSculptor Eduard van Kuilenburg had taken his own path with this group of sculptures. His work had become less figurative, heavier, maybe become coarser, but had gained in expression. The apostles sit on the arch like massive humps, hardly liberated from the shape of the tuff blocks from which they were made. In some areas you can still clearly see how the sculptor worked: he traced a side view onto the stone and began to carve right away. We noticed it well during the copying process: we had to remove much less material than in, for example, the Seven Sins. The sculptures were still quite close to the surface of the original block.

face of JamesThe heads of the apostles are equally massive: big noses, rough beards and angular faces. But they do give a very strong atmosphere. The expression of an artist who has grown in his work. There were, as I mentioned earlier, complaints from the church council that these statues were too large and massive for the flying buttresses on which they sit. But now that we are working on it, I would almost say that it is rather the fault of the church that it is too small, than that the statues should be too big. Yes alright, they are heavy and coarse, but they are just right in their own way, and they have been worked on with care. That also makes it fun for us to work on the copies.

Deliberate structures

flying buttress figurinesThat is very different from when we were carving the invalids a while ago, by George van der Wagt, on the south side of the church. In some of those figurines we still found the machine cut surface of the original stone, and it looked like they were made with some indifference, as if the sculptor had said: 'There you go, another one finished. Next!'. Ugly things without attention to their finish.

Rough-carved is not the same as indifferent. Sometimes a coarse structure has a function for a certain image, and Van Kuilenburg knew that. The pointed chisel for the mantle, the claw chisel for hair, the grater and flat chisel for other parts. Van der Wagt seems to have made everything with just 1 chisel, a flat chisel of 25 mm or 1 inch wide.

What next?

Broken flying buttress statue Fortitudo Seven Virtues, man with lionWe don't have to worry about work for the time being. We recently got confirmation for the last 10 flying buttress figurines, namely the Seven Virtues and three blocks that will be placed at the top of the four arches with the crockets: a man with a watering can near a flower, a goat eating a flower, and a two-headed eagle. They are in bad shape, some are missing many parts and all are broken.

Next I have to make a gravestone for my father, which I have been designing in between all other jobs, and I still have some private assignments. We also have the prospect of all kinds of other work, about which I cannot say too much at the moment. And finally, we are not afraid of a quieter period, because then we finally get to make our own work. I have all kinds of ideas for that, and it would be nice to work them out. Facade reliefs with the four cardinal directions, the four Seasons, the four or the five elements, I also have ideas for entire entrances… bring it on!

on to the next flying buttress figurine→

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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Video: visit to the Sculptor's Workshop

Koen, Jelle, customer and Stide at flying buttress statues carved by Jelle during visit to the sculptor's workshop

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.

Schoolmaster

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.

Image thinkers

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.

St. 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 St. James the Greater, 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

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