Two stolen facade reliefs: a head and a spoonbill

My comeback on this blog!

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 Council wanted to provide these ornaments a final resting place in their garden wall between Frans Loenenhofje and the Lutheran Church in Haarlem.

A stolen spoonbill, pelican and buddha head

-click on the photo for the article-

The seven facade reliefs were removed from the original garden wall and kept separate. But three of those reliefs, of a pelican, a spoonbill and a Buddha head, were stolen from the construction site. Fortunately, the pelican was found again three days later. Apparently there is a market for stolen ornaments.

Stylized

The carvings are quite stylized and I thought for a minute that they were made in the Art Deco-style. But Art Deco only started from the 1920s, so although around 1906 there was already a stylization going on, it was not yet Art Deco.

The emphasis must have been on their decorative function, because I can't imagine what relation a heron and a Buddha head should have to a Lutheran orphanage. Or an Old Men's Home, for that matter. As the article mentions they were carved around 1905 by sculptor Tjipke Visser from Bergen, North-Holland. He made seven of those, a Buddha head, a head of a native American woman, two feline heads, an ibex, and a pelican and spoonbill. The spoonbill and the pelican are placed on opposite sides of an existing memorial in the garden wall of the Lutheran Church. The other reliefs got a place further down the wall.

We currently have a lot of work in progress at the same time. I just couldn't get it all finished on time alone, so I was glad Jelle took on the carving of the head while I was busy making a blue statue from sodalite in the meantime. Some time later I had time to tackle the carving of the spoonbill. We both followed the same procedure, so my approach below was the same for Jelle's sandstone head. I had ordered two blocks of Bentheimer sandstone to the right size, so we could get started right away.

Modeling and copying

Two new reliefs ready on the pallet

I had thought about carving this spoonbill straight out of the block, but that is not the best way to address it if the customer wants an exact copy. I had received a lot of pictures of the old reliefs via email, along with a number of measurements that were carried out on the counterparts that were preserved. This proved essential in the reconstruction: from these measurements and the pictures I was able to model a similar looking spoonbill in clay. Fortunately, there were pictures from three sides, from when the bird was still in its last garden wall. Once the clay model was to my satisfaction, I could start carving a copy in stone. Small details like feathers in the wings I had left out for the time being.

I traced the contours of the spoonbill onto a piece of cardboard, so I could transfer them onto the stone. After I'd carved away the stone outside the contours, I could transcribe the other sizes quite simply with a compass. In such a case, I usually put the two pieces tightly together. That way, I can transfer most of the width measurements one by one, without adjusting my compass. I've once made a video and a blog post about that. Once most measurements were in place and the rough shapes were carved, only the finish carving of the spoonbill needed to be done. The method of working from a clay model first is called the Indirect Carving Method. Read more about this method in this blog post↑.

Slideshow

-Click on a picture for the enlarged view-

The facade reliefs can be seen in the garden of the Lutheran Church, Witte Herenstraat 22 in Haarlem.

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 'The Night’ for St. Eusebius Church Tower


Last phase of the tower

Work on the tower of St. Eusebius's Church is nearing completion. Actually, the sculptres of The Day and The Night are the last two pieces that the builders are urgently waiting for. So I think a deep sigh of relief must have come from the scaffolds of the church when I completed The Night this week. For the tower, and part of the church, need to be free of scaffolding when a commemoration of the Battle of Arnhem is held this autumn, looking back to, 75 years ago. But this sculpture was not the only thing that still needed to be done. I've been carving away for St. John's Cathedral in Den Bosch, for the the Utrecht cathedral, again for Saint John's Cathedral, and the flying buttress figurines for St. Eusebius' Church itself should be ready in time as well.

Day and Night

This corner sculpture is located at about 15 meters up and was originally carved in tuff by Eduard van Kuilenburg. She's part of a pair: there is a guy with a rooster, breaking his shackles and brandishing a mop (or should it represent a flaming torch?), and yes, this woman with a nest of owls too. The Day and The Night. This lascivious young lady is sitting with the left hand in her hair, on one knee, with a stick in her right hand. The purpose of the stick is not clear to me, or perhaps it should represent an extinguished candle. The owls represent nightlife, the rooster and the broken shackles stand for dawn. I suppose he's about to extinguish the torch and is not going to mop the floor, because he 's not carrying a bucket.

Presawing

This relief is the biggest block from this church we received in the yard in recent years: almost 1 cubic metre. Due to time constraints we decided to use the copying saw, but the block was so large that it couldn't even turn around on the turntable of the machine. I had to literally cut a number of corners to make it fit. These were however just those corners that ultimately will be embedded inside the masonry, so you won't see anything of it later on. This presawing is saving me days of measuring work, by enabling me to start carving by eye from quite early on. Plus it saves me a lot of rough carving and sawing with an angle grinder, freeing me from a lot of the hard work. I glued two stainless steel threaded rods M16 into the top of the new block, onto which I can screw a eye bolt for lifting, making the block easy to move. It may come in handy on the scaffolds later on as well for the restoration masons.

Little feet

The block of new Muschelkalk limestone of over 1800 kilos was provided by the Stonemasonry Firm, who also carved the profiles on it. Unfortunately, the stonemason in question was somewhat preactieve, which caused that I was short on material for the lady's toes. Added to that was that the original sculpture was a lady with a unique anatomy. Her knee was pointing straight forward, but her left foot was targeted towards the viewers at home. So I made a virtue of necessity and right away took the opportunity to give her left foot a somewhat more logical position. The right foot also missed a lot of stone, but I was still able to carve it nicely by putting it more back and in a bit flatter position. If you don't place the original right next to it, it will not stand out at all. It was an interesting challenge and I'm really pleased with how it turned out (See the slideshow below for pictures).

Nest of owls, finish

Near her right shoulder is an owl mother with her nest with two young. The chicks look endearing, with their surprised look.

I finished the entire sculpture with a wide tooth chisel, and then smoothened the body of the young lady with a coarse grater, leaving the chisel marks still barely visible, for a lively effect. Her hair and the owl's feathers I accented with the tooth chisel.

Sculpture The Night by Eduard Kuilsburg- new copy in Muschelkalk limestoneSculpture The Night by Eduard Kuilsburg- new copy in Muschelkalk limestone

Headless chicken

The sculpture of The Day was in a lot worse condition than The Night. The rooster and the man were both missing their heads , and the hand with the torch had disappeared as well. So I first needed to reconstruct those parts before I could start presawing. I modeled the neck and head of the rooster with plasticine and the hand was remade pretty quickly too. The tricky part was the position of the original hand, because in the only picture I had, the fingers were in an almost impossible position. But the head was more of a challenge. because this young man had quite a big head. I had glued a piece of hard PIR-foam onto his shoulders and from there I started looking for the right size, position and shape of the head.
I tried to see my progress by comparing my pictures with the original image. In the end Stide decided he would carve this one, so he has has been the one to make the finishing touches to the remodelling. See the gallery below for an impression.

Gallery -click on a thumbnail for the entire picture-

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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and on YouTube↑

Thomas Aquinas (sandstone) for St. John's Cathedral

The statue of Thomas Aquinas

Thomas Aquinas: Here the statue is still in its niche of St John's Cathedral

St. John's cathedral

The major overhaul of St. John's cathedral is steadily continuing. Each year or maybe every two years, I'm not quite sure, one bay of the church is restored: 1 buttress and 1 window facade. This year I already did some work on two finial bases, a …Read the whole article…

Two griffins with a large shield

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Four grotesques in Amsterdam-1

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Reconstructing and copying

Four grotesques in Amsterdam, lion's head 1, weather-beatenFor a building in Amsterdam, I am currently carving four grotesques: ferocious sandstone heads. All four are severely damaged, which was the reason for choosing to replace them. …Read the whole article…

Ten tips-1: techniques

Tips for beginning sculptors in stone-1: technique

When I first wanted to learn to carve in stone I had trouble finding someone who could teach me this thoroughly. That was, of course, in the time before the internet, around 1990. Now, it's become a lot easier; just type in as a keyword that you want to sculpt in stone and you'll find loads of courses and holiday weeks . Unfortunately, not every teacher is equally aware of the technical aspects (there are still a lot of courses for rasping in soapstone) and neither does every aspiring sculptor have an appetite or time or money for a course. The following 'tips for beginning sculptors in stone’ should help you well on the way. …Read the whole article…

Two broken putti and a fallen Artemis

two broken putti and the ankles of Artemis

the two broken putti and the ankles of Artemis

Last month I was offered an interesting challenge: two eighteenth-century putti made of Bentheimer sandstone and terracotta sculpture of Artemis. All three were seriously damaged and to me fell the task to restore them in all their splendour. …Read the whole article…

Two squirrels in red sandstone

Grove kleischets in Plastiline: two squirrels

crude, small sketch in plastiline clay

A close acquaintance of mine recently died after battling for 13 th anniversary this year. One of the last things he did was secretly save money, to be able to give a small sculpture to his wife for her birthday . …Read the whole article…

A brick layer in stone

stratenmaker hammerI started with the next assignment, a stone statue of (and for) a road worker. It's been a busy time, with carving the granite tomb I reported on earlier, the final work on the black granite panipitha and a set of finials and stone masonry in limestone. …Read the whole article…

Four pieces at a time….

the polishing work on the upper side of a panipitha in black granite2 The polishing work on the upper side of a panipitha in black granite1
cutting a block of Rosa Porinho granite with the angle grinder splitting a block of dolomite with wedges
Panipitha

This past week I spent time working on four different projects at once, all of a different nature. First of all, the work on the black, square panipeetha just goes on. I've already shaped the top side and started sculpting the last four sides with the Lotus Motif. …Read the whole article…