A Lotus flower for my father's grave

The symbolism of the lotus flower

For my father's grave I made a design with wavy water and a large lotus flower. The waves represent turbulent life and the lotus flower is a well-known symbol for the spiritually grown person who is firmly rooted in earthly life, but the worries of everyday life are beading from him or her, like water drops roll off a lotus leaf. The flower is directed towards the light, just as the soul strives for unity with the Divine.


I had ordered a few large pieces of stone. In trade it generally called dolomite however, but the actual name is Anröchter Grünstein. It's quarried in the German village of Anröchte, about 60 km from Dortmund in North Rhine-Westphalia. It is actually an ideal stone for sculpting in a few ways: it's not all that hard, all surface treatments come into their own beautifully, from roughly worked to polished, and you can carve in it in great detail. It also turns beautifully light green outside over time.

Much too fat

At first I thought to make the waves quite deep and so I had ordered a slab of stone of 100 x 200 x 20 cm. I had already carved some of the waves but it all got very restless. So I just decided to cut the thickness back to 12 cms, so that I could carve the waves much more subtle and it would radiate much more tranquility. I then sanded these waves and not polished them too much, so that they retained a soft surface that will later oxidize nicely to light green.


Then came the lotus itself. I had found a nice image on the internet. I traced it onto the 16 cm thick standing stone and first removed the contours of it up to 8 cm thickness for the background.

Shaping the petals

Then I could start carving the remaining shape. I shaped the petals with a tooth chisel to make an effect of the veins in the petals. One of the most frequently asked questions I received was whether water will remain standing in it. That would be a beginner's mistake, of course. After so many years in restoration work, carving ornaments in all kinds of stone, that is something I really don't have to think about anymore. Although the leaves are hollowed out, the water from each petal flows neatly downwards.


I outsourced the installation and lettering to a befriended stonemason. Harder Natuursteen BV from Hoogkarspel who have very conscientiously taken care of this part. If I wouldn't have been up to my neck in assignments and deadlines, and if I hadn't been hopelessly out of routine in letter carving, I might have carved the text myself. But now it has been sandblasted and colored very subtly, and I'm glad it looks so nice. I'd rather have it neatly sandblasted than end up with not-quite-up-to-standard hand carved letters.

I also didn't have the equipment to install such a big stone in a cemetery myself. It can of course all be arranged, but these people do this several times a week and have a trailer with a hoist, a flat cart, a movable gantry crane and all the expertise, in short, everything you need to do this smoothly and professionally. I myself could have rented everything and probably would have taken four times as long and had a lot more headaches. You can't always do everything best yourself. I am very grateful that they have completed all this so professionally for us.

Can it be an ounce more?

When ordering the stone, I had taken into account the information provided by the cemetery. A family tomb is 100 x 200 cm and may be up to 100 cms tall. But it has now become apparent that these sizes are considerably larger than the other graves, especially because the neighboring grave has also subsided considerably. That is why this grave stands out so much now. Most graves are 80 wide and 50 high. But anyhow, it has become an attractive ensemble, I think.


-click on a picture for an enlarged version-

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.


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.


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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Gratefulness is the fruit of all the seeking-1

Jan van Velzen, 1 month before his death

In memory of my father Jan van Velzen

sculptor Jan van Velzen in 1992On Sunday 19 January 2020, at 1:14 a.m. , my father Jan van Velzen. passed away. He was also a sculptor, an artist, but above all someone who practiced the art of life. This is evident from his sayings, of which the title of this blog post was one that I had never heard of him before. He made this statement in the last days before his death, a period in which he looked back on his life, full of gratitude and love.

Jan van Velzen was by no means a woolly kind of person. He had been a small scale farmer and flower bulb grower and worked hard all his life.

A poor hamlet

Onderdijk, lower path with canal

old photo of the village OnderdijkOnderdijk in 1931 was a poor West Frisian linear settlement village in North Holland. It lay on either side of a high dike and many houses had their own bridge over the canal to the foot of the dike. His father, also called Jan van Velzen, was like most of the villagers a market gardener or small plot farmer, who sailed with a barge to his piece of land across the lake to grow onions, cabbage, carrots, red beets, tulips and potatoes. After the harvest, the boat also carried their produce to the sailing auction in Medemblik.

Longing for beauty

Mother Cornelia van Velzen-de Vries with Jan van Velzen, 2 th anniversary this yearJan was the second child, a rather quiet, sensitive boy who only started walking when he was two. He was horrified by the drab hopelessness of the hard work and the humdrum grind with which all the brilliance and beauty was brought back to 'just do normal and go on'.. He had an intense desire for beauty and talked about the delight he could feel when he heard beautiful music in the church. His father was a warm-hearted man with a lot of wisdom. On his deathbed, Jan told how he still could see his father on Sunday mornings, in his shirt, throwing the shaving water into the ditch with a swing, singing loudly and with a swarm of children around him.

Early creativity

Jan van Velzen, probably 4 th anniversary this yearAs a child, Jan was already busy with creative expressions. Sculpting clay dolls or making boats by folding and bending large tin cans to form whole battleships. But whereas I had enjoyed the creative time in kindergarten, he had experienced that same daily grind at the custody school.

Apparently the "teacher’ had the view that the children just should be kept quiet, because they had to sit still and weave mats, otherwise they had to go into the spider cupboard. To him, weaving mats was one of the symbols of "this is how it should be done and that is how it goes". Awful, because all creativity was suppressed.

Jannish constructions

Jan actually didn't feel like becoming a market gardener at all, but his father fell ill and the eldest sons, though still in their teens, had to take over the work. He would much rather have apprenticed to the blacksmith, because he was much more interested in making things from iron with your hands and welding . The blacksmith was regarded with awe by the little boys. His younger brother's legendary answer to the question of what he wanted to become later was "Fat blacksmith Kees Slaman!’

Jan lived near Slaman's smithy

It was hard work in the heavy sea clay around Onderdijk and everything was done by hand: digging to sow, digging to harvest and digging two spades deep to prepare the land. Jan hated hopelessness, so his creativity was expressed in all kinds of "Jannish constructions": inventions meant to make everything just that little bit easier. He was therefore one of the first to bring the floor of the barge to the very top, so that you could drive in the wheelbarrow instead of laboriously lifting everything in and out.

Flippus the Dreamer

His solutions were not always appreciated. "Jannish constructions’ was not really an appreciative term, and because he sometimes had his thoughts elsewhere, he was also called Flippus the Dreamer at home. He had a somewhat philosophical streak and also spent time observing his surroundings. Looking back, it is also understandable why he was born in that place: for him it was a way to go all the way from heaviness to light, and he was able to bring his light to a time and environment that was mainly focused on survival.

Injury time

At the age of 20 his number came up for military service. But the hard work had already had its consequences: he needed surgery to his knees and had to recover in the military hospital. To his horror, the therapy consisted of weaving mats! But in the classroom next to it, modeling lessons were given. At his request he was transferred and there his talent was soon discovered by his instructor. This man even arranged an introduction for him at the art academy in Tilburg.

I had always understood that it never was followed up because Jan was needed at home and because his mother always said: "Fiddlers and pipers don't go to heaven". But that was not really the biggest deterrent. Last year he told me that he was very shocked by the unkempt figures with long hair and feral beards walking around, and that he had felt very uncomfortable and out of place. But his teacher was very disappointed that he missed out on this opportunity. "Stupid cauliflower shrub!’ the man had called him, probably out of frustration that so much talent was being lost.

Business partner

marriage of Alida Vink with Jan van VelzenJan van Velzen is building a tulip flower cutting machine Jan married Alida when he was thirty, a girl from that same village of Onderdijk, in which he recognized something of playfulness and beauty, and of being free from all the conventions of the village. He started his own business, but times had changed. The number of small scale farming businesses declined rapidly and many self-employed people had to work at a factory in the Zaanstreek, going there every day in a van. Jan was looking for solutions with a number of like-minded people and decided to expand considerably with his two brothers. They had also already focused entirely on flowerbulb cultivation for a number of years. He used his creativity in this work as well: he built his own machines for cutting the tulip flowers and for washing the bulbs, and adapted many machines to make them work better.

-Read here ↑ an earlier article about sculptures by Jan van Velzen-

-to be continued-

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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