Thomas Aquinas, part 2: sawing

Thomas Aquinas, part 2: sawing. Two large sandstone blocks

1. Two large sandstone blocks of Udelfanger sandstone: 1 for the statue of Thomas Aquinas, 1 for Serge's angel

Two large blocks

The work on the on copy of the statue of Thomas Aquinas has finally started. I had received two large blocks of Udelfanger sandstone some time earlier: one destined to make two angels out of it and one block from which I had to carve the two parts of the statue of St. Thomas from St John's Cathedral in Den Bosch and fit them together. So the first step was to divide both blocks into two with the diamond chainsaw.

Thomas. Aquinas, part 2: sawing.  I halved the block with the diamond chainsaw

2. The block is cut in half with the chainsaw

Thomas Aquinas, part 2: sawing. Presawing the lower body

3. Sawing the lower body

Presawing Thomas

After that I put one block on my copying saw and started presawing Thomas' lower half. The dividing line of the two parts was meant to be near the line of his hood, so that it will be almost invisible. Reminder: in an earlier post I wrote that the old statue was made from a single piece of stone, in which the layers run vertically. Because it's more desirable that the layers run through the statue horizontally (in that case, there's less chance that an entire big slice comes falling down at once, after weathering) it will be different in this copy. But the quarry has no banks in which the stone is higher than 120 cms. Therefore, the head was to be made from a separate piece.

Because of the large color differences between separate blocks of Udelfanger sandstone I was sent a very large block from which I had to cut the two parts. From this I made the body and the head of Thomas.

Thomas Aquinas, part 2: sawing. Upper body presawed.

4. The upper body was cut from the second half

Thomas Aquinas, part 2: sawing. Rough carving the head and body

5. The head and the body are roughly carved

Fitting together of the two parts

Then, the two pre-sawn parts of the head and body had to be made to fit to each other snugly. That wasn't so easy, because the dividing line doesn't run straight. It follows the wavy line of the hood and needs to be higher at the right hand, because otherwise the joint seam would run through the knuckles. These inclined faces need to fit together well. For this, it should first be clear what will be located where, and for that I needed to rough carve the two parts for quite a ways. I carved the upper body and the lower body so that I could see where it all would be going, and I could see where the dividing line was to run. Then I could find the joint surfaces.

Thomas Aquinas, part 2: sawing. Making both planes fit

6. The joint surfaces are being made to fit

Thomas. Aquinas, part 2: sawing. The head and body are bonded.

7. the two parts are bonded together

Joint surface

Because I made this joint line visible on both pieces, I could demarcate the joint surface and carve away the excess stone. By keeping on fitting the pieces together and scribing the excess stone, I could ultimately achieve a tight seam. When the fit was tight enough, I scribed off where I wanted to put the stainless steel pins and drilled four holes. Two holes in each piece, so I could adhere both parts with strong epoxy glue and two thick threaded rods. Also, the joint plane itself was bonded with a suitable breathable mortar. You should actually never make a horizontally extending closed off gluing surface on a statue sitting outside. The stone above such a dense glue layer can't lose its moisture and will start to rot right above the glue seam.

Serge's angel

Copying an angel for St. John's Cathedral

The other block was halved as well. From the one half this angel was presawn for Serge

My colleague Serge had an commission in Udelfanger sandstone as well for St. John's Cathedral in Den Bosch. He was asked to copy this angel. He had previously made one and asked me if I wanted to saw this one as well. So, here goes.

Read more soon about the continuation of this project.

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The flying buttress of the seven sins

luchtboogbeelden 'De Zeven Zonden' old, arramged in the yard.

We, sculptors

A nice project is coming up soon! As you may know, for a few years now we've been working for St. Eusebius's Church in Arnhem (the Netherlands). Who are we? Well firstly myself of course, Koen van Velzen, restoration sculptor, pleased to meet you. I work with my colleagues Stide Vos, who rents the studio next to mine. And in the past year on this project, our newest addition Jelle Steendam has joined us. He works in my shop space, as an independent sculptor, in consultation with me, on various sculptures.

Seven Sins

flying buttress no. 32 of the Eusebius Church is finished and installed

meanwhile, the first flying buttress figurines of the second series are being installed

We have now completed eight flying buttresses, but there are still 7 more with sculptures on this church. That why I recently welcomed the next series of 7 figurines to my yard, for flying buttress no. 24. The theme of this arc is 'The Seven Sins’.

An interesting theme, that immediately evokes various images to me as a sculptor. For how do you imagine Pride, Rage, or Envy? This kind of thing is very interesting if like me you're a storyteller. Most people may not know me that way, but I love stories.

Fortunately, this series also showed an interesting challenge for the original sculptor. Because what we're about to do with it is copying them. No new designs this time. It's true, three of the statues are missing an arm, but otherwise they're very clear in what they portray.

Broken

The Seven Sins: Lust, a broken old statue of impregnated tuffThey came in, packed in wooden crates and wrapped in netting. The reason for this is a difficult issue, and it's not clear to me what exactly went wrong with these figurines, even after quite a number of discussions. In short: The sculptures of the Seven Sins were carved in tuff around 1955. In the 1990s they started to deteriorate, and to preserve them, they were sent for impregnation with acrylic resin, up to the core. Read here↑ more about this process. It's a good process, albeit fairly expensive, but with these sculptures, something has gone completely wrong. In one way or another they started to expand, and they still do. Lots of deep cracks appeared, and suddenly pieces began falling off. To avoid worse all figurines were quickly removed and stored in boxes. And even inside those boxes they continued to expand and break.

Gluing it all up again

luchtboogbeelden 'De Zeven Zonden' are being glued up by Jelle Steendam in the yard of Beeldhouwerij van Velzen

So the first thing Jelle started on, with my help, was unpacking and bonding of these figurines. The pieces are razor sharp but fit reasonably well. After all the unpacking and gluing we had seven well recognizable sculptures in a row. Next step is to reconstruct the missing parts on the basis of old photographs (so if you have any old photos of the Seven Sins, in particular, of Gluttony, Avarice or Vanity, I hope you'll mail them to me!).

I have been looking forward a lot to make something beautiful out of them again!

luchtboogbeelden 'De Zeven Zonden' old, arramged in the yard.

lust-envy-pride-gluttony-rage-avarice-vanity

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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Finials and side crockets, for Eusebius and Dom Church

finials in Muschelkalk for St. Eusebius's ChurchFinials for St. Eusebius's Church

We are working on the completion of three projects: the first half of St. Eusebius's Church in Arnhem (the Netherlands) is almost finished, the last pieces of St. John's cathedral are completed, and the last crockets for the South Chapel of the Utrecht cathedral are packed and ready for shipping as well. The finials in the above picture are destined for the south side of St. Eusebius's Church. These are fairly simple crockets in French Massangis-limestone, with a post-war era design, but they will contour well with their clean lines. There are only a few of those, and it's indent work: damaged finials and crockets are cut out from the surrounding stone and a new one is inserted at that spot. Tuesday 19 February, I was on the scaffolding at the church to carve another few of these crockets on site. Always fun, such a visit to the scaffolds.

My own pieces were not yet inserted into the church walls, on the corbel of "The Night’ that I carved recently, but it was still completely enclosed between the scaffolding planks. Stides heads in Muschelkalk, however, were clearly visible, a joy for the eye.

Jelle and I started the morning there with measuring the next batch of 7 flying buttress figurines. Unfortunately many of them were seriously damaged. I hope they do not need too much work before they can serve as a model for their copies!

Tuffstone side crockets for the Utrecht cathedral

old side crockets ready for transport- a beaten-up collection

The last side crockets for the Utrecht Cathedral are now ready for transport as well here. It was a fun project: 29 side crockets in tuffstone for the South Chapel, on the side of the inner courtyard, the Pandhof. We divided this work between the three of us, Stide and I carved about 6 each, and Serge made the rest.

With my chainsaw I separated the old side crockets from their heavy background parts, so they can be put into storage. But I must say that these old blocks will quickly erode once they're on pallets at ground level. Apparently they can certainly get soaked atop the church, but they'll also dry up again very fast. Here on the ground they'll stay wet for much longer and the old pieces also suffer a lot more from frost.

Scaffolding visit on Valentine's Day

We're hoping to carve a lot more for this church, sometime in the future. So we've recently already been back again to see the first blocks in place, and on Valentine's Day we were able to look down on a boisterous Utrecht in bright sunshine. The terraces were full due to the unprecedented warm February sunshine, and with an elated feeling we were looking out over Utrecht and the Domtoren across the street. So, bring on that church!

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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the Supreme Commander-in-Chief (flying buttress figurine)

flying buttress figurine of Commandor in Chief by George vd Wagt. Copying into limestoneThe next flying buttress figurine is the topmost one of flying buttress no. 33. The statues on this flying buttress were carved in 1954 by George van der Wagt, and depict six crippled, blind and lame persons, after the Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount. At the top sits a male figure with a beard, in a blessing posture.

Mudra

flying buttress figurine of Spureme Commander-in-Chief (with Abhaya Mudra) by George vd Wagt. The copy in limestoneThis blessing posture is often depicted in Christian art, in particular in icons. I do not know if this posture has a specific name in Christian literature. I know it from the oriental yoga; where this hand gesture is called the Abhaya Mudra: meaning, "No fear'-hand gesture. It is meant to take all fear away from the blessed person. In the West, this gesture has a more general meaning of blessing.

Supreme Commander In Chief

The Beatitudes: old flying buttres figurine of Woman With Headache

The Beatitudes: old flying buttres figurine of Woman With Headache

It is not clear to me whom this figure should portray. It's mentioned as 'a prophet’ in the records of the restoration from 1954, but I think it was rather meant to depict God the Father, on his heavenly throne. Perhaps the sculptor meant that the people who suffer are blessed. Van der Wagt was apparently not religious. In a newspaper article from that time he explained that he did not know what the story of the Foolish and Wise Virgins was about. He borrowed a Bible and read the story, 'And that's why now there are women carrying cans of oil all over the church'. So I guess he that he didn't ascribe a higher meaning to this sculpture as much, but made it to complete the series. Perhaps this was also done at the request of the church council, or whoever chose the iconographic themes.

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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Ornamental work for the Utrecht Dom Church and St. John's

A suspended ornament for a canopy of St. John's

Ornamental work in Udelfanger sandstone: suspended ornament for a canopy from St. John's Cathedral

I'll still need to adjust the profiled parts later

It was an interesting last week of the year. I first went to St. John's Cathedral in Den Bosch, where I needed to carve some ornamental parts. It was a ‘suspended ornament’ from a canopy. The old one had weathered down and I was asked to make a new one. But the scaffolders above my head were already busy breaking down the scaffolds, so after taking some measurements I went back to Achterveld again with the workpiece to finish it there. I had actually already done this ornament long before that, but when I got there the first time, I noticed that the flowers I had carved on it so nicely were bigger than on the ornaments around it. So, I've taken it back again, carved the new basic shape in the workshop, then went back again to Den Bosch, and made a start with carving the leaf motif there, then back to Achterveld, and finished it there.. Now I'll still have to install it on site. Sometimes things are bad, and sometimes they're worse. Like this time.

Visitors

Ⓒ Thijs Rooimans for De Telegraaf

Wednesday we would get a studio visit from an eight persons strong committee, in connection to the ornamental work for the Utrecht Dom Cathedral. But we had only just received the stone from which we had to make them. So we immediately started the carving work. We'll be carving 29 side crockets in tuff for a restoration of three facades of the Southern Chapel. This is near the courtyard, the Pandhof. This quadrangle by the way is a very magical place, a must when visiting the inner city of Utrecht. Serge had modeled two maquettes, and Stide and I had each carved an example. The comittee examined the design and details of the original fragments and of the copies. Of course the carved and molded specimens were as required, even though mine was still not quite finished.

In the newspaper

After I'd finished it, I uploaded a picture on Instagram right away, and for good measure, one on Twitter as well. Apparently I had put the right hashtags next to it, for less than an hour later I got a call from a reporter who wanted to write an article in the Utrecht edition of De Telegraaf. At the end of the day the photographer came, and made that beautiful photo above. Click on the picture to the right to read the article. Pity is that it was written so that it looks like the others are employed by me, and they're not. Stide, Serge and I are all independent sculptors who work together. Even new addition Jelle is self-employed. Now that I'm getting more publicity, it doesn't make me everyone else's boss automatically!

On the radio

Later on, we were called by RTV Utrecht. They also wanted to make an item on the radio. Fortunately Stide can talk easily, so I was very happy that he wanted to take that part. He told something about the background of gothic ornamental work and our role in this restoration.

On TV

RTV Utrecht also wanted to shoot something for their TV channel, so today a cameraman came, who shot a few hours of material for what ultimately ended up as half a minute of TV material. View here here on their site: ↑

For us it is amazing that something that we've been doing more than 25 years suddenly is getting so much attention. But that's probably because the cathedral and especially the Utrecht Dom tower is right at the heart of their 'Stadsie' (town). Otherwise I can't explain it. It is also of course a compelling picture, of these dusty men working outside and making beautiful things in the cold, but obviously no world news.

ornamental work for Domkerk Utrecht

Ⓒ Steef Bouwman

Explaining yet again

I found it remarkable that at first for several journalists it wasn't really clear how this restoration process takes place. These of course are things which we never think about anymore! But eventually we could make it clear to them that first the restoration architect makes a plan, then the contractor takes out the parts to be replaced, next, the stonemason precarves the blocks and makes all of the profiled parts, and lastly we come in and finally make the ornamental parts in the places where the stonemason left a block. Then the new block goes to the cathedral, the contractor puts it back in again and points it all neatly. "So these ornaments are really used!?’ But of course, they are being copied and actually used to replace the old parts in their original location: three gothic arches on the Pandhof side of the cathedral. Smack in the centre of Utrecht.

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: A Foolish Maiden


A foolish maiden

flying buttress statue from the Eusebius Church in Arnhem: a Foolish Maiden

the old tufa sculptur

Of the flying buttresses which we are now working on, each have their own theme. There are seven trumpet angels, people who represent the Beatitudes from the Sermon on the Mount, a group of Wise Maidens and this sculpture from the last arc depicts a Foolish Maiden.

Briefly, the story goes like this: …Read the whole article…

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…

Flying buttress figurine: A Wise Maiden

flying buttress statue Wise Maiden

After the 26 flying buttress scupltures from the north side of St. Eusebius's Church I (along with team member Jelle) started carving the 27 sculptures from the South Side. The themes of these four flying buttresses are the Trumpeting angels (that I carved in September 2016 already), the Wise Maidens, the Foolish Maidens and the represent the Beatitudes. So the trumpet angels have already been completed, as are two of the Wise Maidens, the Beatitudes are almost done, on the top block to which the Supreme Commander In Chief is after, so we only have a few of these girls to go. This sculpture was a …Read the whole article…

Finally another update!

Storm before the silence

After my last post on this blog, it has remained silent for far too long here. But not because I haven't done anything! On the contrary, it's been way too busy to report it all.

Gallery -click on a photo to see it larger-

So I've been working on the carving of another coat-of-arms in Bentheimer sandstone. The design was almost the same as the previous one, but this one would would be suspended from a wall. Therefore, it was carried out lighter, without an edge to the relief and with a thinner base of 3 cms thick.

Flying Buttress Figurines

Then I went back to work on …Read the whole article…