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.

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 James the Upper, 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

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Flying buttress figurine: James the Lesser

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

Two Jameses

The next flying buttress figurine of St. Eusebius's Church in Arnhem was one from the series of apostles of arc no. 16. It represents a heavily built man with a club. This could either be Judas Thaddeus, or James the Lesser. He was called the Lesser because he became an apostle later than James the Greater. The other James was, along with his brother the apostle and evangelist John, a son of Zebedee, a fisherman. They were inspecting their nets when Jesus arrived and asked them to become fishers of men.

Brother of the Lord

copy of flying buttress statue of James the Lesser in Muschelkalk limestoneBut James the Lesser was called "brother of the Lord". Then how is that possible? Well, according to the Medieval stories, that everyone knew in those days, the carpenter Joseph had been married before and he had a number of children from that marriage, but his wife had died. He was a widower when the young girl Mary (Miriam) came to live under his protection. She took care of the children, and especially James was very fond of her because he was very young when he lost his mother. Maria was about 14 years old when she came out from the temple protection to live with Joseph . Her father and mother, Joachim and Anna, had miraculously been gifted child in their advanced age and therefore entrusted her to God as a temple maiden. So she was brought up very pure and trained in high spiritual knowledge.

When she was 16 years old, she suddenly turned out to be pregnant and Joseph wanted to distance herself from her, but the angel confided to him that she was carrying a great miracle. He decided to marry her. Mary became the mother of Jesus, and James grew up with him. He was at least seven years older, but was among his most faithful disciples.

Club

copy of flying buttress statue of James the Lesser in Muschelkalk limestoneThe club that the apostle James carries with him shows a different way of thinking that was common in the Middle Ages. Emphasis was placed on the suffering and martyrdom of Jesus and of his apostles and saints, therefore, the club with which he was put to death was given a prominent place in the depictions of James. Now this is not a Medieval statue at all, but made in 1956 by Eduard van Kuilenburg. In the Dutch language book on the sculpture of the Eusebius Church Elisabeth den Hartog and Ronald Glaudemans write that the themes for the sculpture were presented by Arnhem city archivist Mr Schaap. That could explain why Van Kuilenburg gave the saints such traditional attributes.

Traditionally, James the Lesser was sometimes depicted with a fuller's stick instead, a heavy piece of wood that was used to felt wool, because he was supposedly been beaten to death with it. So who else could have become the patron saint of all wool felters other than James? Those inimitable twists of thoughts of those Medieval people though…

Today we would be more interested in the life and works of such an apostle than in his martyrdom. The lurid details and emphasis on martyrdom for the Church are definitely from another time.

 

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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Flying buttress figurine: An accordionist

Accordionist new, Muschelkalk limestoneSecurely bolted down

Amelodeon, black and white drawingn fact it was actually not an accordionist. More like a man with a melodeon, that small thing that they use in sailor's choirs. But at last it had arrived! I 'd been waiting for it for a long time, because it was stuck. To the new Focus Filmtheater. When I first asked for it, the replies were not good: the figurine (that I still was to copy) was temporarily borrowed out to the theater, but apparently it was attached so very rigidly that it was impossible to ever get it loose again. The roof would have to come off, or I would have to recieve the sculpture with the Film theater attached, you get the point.

After much consultation, calling and meeting the sculpture turned out to be a bit easier to disassemble and it came my way.

Presawing

old flying buttress sculpture on pre-sawing machineWhen I got it in, the long pieces of threaded rod were still attached. That was actually a bit of a bother, because I had to make an entire construction for it to properly anchor the statue on my presawing machine. But a challenge from time to time is fun, so with some inventiveness we were able to come up with a good solution. It wasn't all that complicated from that point on: presawing the sculpture, copying it and sharpening up the details.

Rough

new flying buttress figurine accordionistThe two flying buttresses that we are currently tackling have been carved (around 1956) quite roughly by Eduard van Kuilenburg. Add to this the fact that this accordionist spent more than sixty years on top of the church and you'll understand that it has all become a bit vague. The challenge in this sculpture is therefore not so much in the technical difficulty. The statue of Pope Leo the Great was a much more difficult job. When carving this group of sculptures, the main issue is with the details and finish.

These statues don't have many details, and the parts that were there were carved very simple. The finish is coarse. Therefore, the most interesting part is carving things like the face, the hands and feet in such a way that these show a bit more, but still clearly match the style of the rest of the sculpture. And as for the finish: by playing with different surfaces such as bush hammered, pointed, toothed or flat chisel marks, lively surfaces can be created that enhance the design.

Giving it hands and feet

new flying buttress figurine accordionistThe accordionist's hands were not equal on the left and right. The right hand did have somewhat like fingers, but on the left he only had a lump with a few stripes. However, the sculptor had chosen a nice position of the fingers, which indicates the playing on the keys. The feet were never really detailed, and after that it all weathered down further. The position of the hands and feet has remained the same in the new copy, but I've made more obvious fingers and toes on it. They're still huge lumps, though. The accordionist's face was slightly turned to the right, and he had a nice crooked smile, as if he was completely absorbed in a difficult piece of music. It was almost impossible to see anymore, so I recreated it a little more clearly in the new copy. The eyes of these figurines all have only upper eyelids and a hole underneath. However, it works very well in terms of shading, so I left it that way.

Crooked

It is striking that almost all heads that Van Kuilenburg carved are so strongly asymmetrical. Foreheads that run in an odd angle, a cheekbone two centimeters deeper than the other, eyes that are in a completely different plane. More and more often I wonder if he might have had trouble seeing depth, or that he only had sight in 1 eye. This sculptor's life was very tragic and he only got 39 years old. Maybe someday more about his life will be published, but it is not up to me to do that here. In any case, we try to make those crooked heads a bit more plausible without detracting too much from the character of the original sculpture. If you'd copy it exactly like this you'd get a sculpture that is even worse than the original, because you can't transfer some of its directness into the copy. Therefore, in order to maintain this fluency, we don't copy it with a pointing machine, but we work partly in the same way as Van Kuilenburg: shaping directly into the stone.

ornaments south portal Eusebius Church, in Baumberger stone

South Portal

ornaments south portal Eusebius Church, in Baumberger stoneA partial assignment that came in between all of this was the ornamental work for the South Portal of St. Eusebius's Church. We suspect that this too was originally carved in the 1950s. But it is known that Baumberger stone doesn't last that long and washes out quite quickly into a shapeless mass. Because a number of parts were already missing and chipped, a lot of natural stone has been replaced. We did some of those ornaments, our colleague Serge did the largest part at our request.

3D-scan

Finally, someone came by this week with a scanner and laptop: Emiel Frederiks from Nidim. He recorded the copy of the accordionist into a 3D model, from which one day maybe small versions will be printed. We'll see.

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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Between the flying buttresses of St. John's Cathedral

broken drumstick of the Little Drummer Boy

The Little Drummer with broken drumstick

Gothic churches with flying buttresses

If you've read any of my previous articles on this blog, then you may have seen that in the recent years I made quite some copies of flying buttress figurines for St. Eusebius's Church in Arnhem. Now there are only a few churches in the world that have sculptures on top of their flying buttresses. Actually that wasn't even so originally with St. Eusebius's Church. Firstly, before 1921 this church had no flying buttresses around its choir at all, and secondly, it was only during that restoration that the first flying buttress statues were installed. After World War II eventually 96 flying buttress figurines were placed there (which we are all copying at the moment).

Gargoyles and ornaments and flying butresses of St. John's Cathedral in Den Bosch

St. John's Cathedral in Den Bosch is richly decorated. The northwest facades were replaced in the 70s and 80s in the somewhat gray German basalt lava. The statues and gargoyles were made of Udelfanger sandstone, and date from the 19th century.

The flying buttresses of St. John's

This was all inspired by the flying buttresses of St. John's Cathedral in 's-Hertogenbosch, where already since the Middle Ages 96 figurines have been sitting on top of the flying buttresses. …Read the whole article…

Flying buttress figurine: Apostle Andrew last week

flying buttress figurine of Apostle Andreas, newly copied in Muschelkalk limestone

Setback

We're coming along nicely with carving the musicians from flying buttress no. 14, but we were faced with some adversity. The block for the trumpeter showed some significant cracks and had to be re-ordered. That's all part of the warranty by the quarry, but still annoying, because they will not reimburse transportation. Fortunately, I 'm not bothered too much by that myself, as it's all in the hands of Slotboom Stonemasons as they're the ones orderering the stone. We also missed the picture of from Accordeonist ↑, which had mistakenly been glued to the new movie theater. But meanwhile it has now been pried loose and has finally arrived in our yard. I immediately started with pre-cutting with the saw machine and the first carving right away. We were also soon to receive …Read the whole article…

Flying buttress figurine: A Flute Player

flying buttress figurine of Flutist 1flying buttress figurine of Flutist 2A guided tour

Last week I completed another flying buttress figurine, a fluter player from the sieries of Musicians from flying buttress no. 14 this time. I had already presawn this sculpture a long time ago, but since I had recently completed a number of projects I could now get on with this one. Around the same time a group of visitors came to the sculotor's yard. These people had bought an old flying buttress figurine from this series, and we gave a tour and explained about our work, as shown below in a short video and pictures. …Read the whole article…

Flying buttress figurine: The Idleness

-to the first post about of this flying buttress- ↑

first stage of rough carving The Idleness

Acedia

The next flying buttress figurine from arc 24 of St. Eusebius's Church in Arnhem wasn't entirely clear to me. We've seen all seven sins pass by, except Sloth, sometimes called idleness, laziness or inertia, so this one had to be it.

Idleness

next stage in carving flying buttress figurine The IdlenessI just don't know how the sculptor had originally intended this. I also thought at first that this one was Pride, or Hubris, a lady with voluptuous bosom that sits high on horseback. Or should it be one …Read the whole article…

The flying buttress with the seven sins-2: carving!

Copying flying buttress statue Rage. Photo during the carving of the detailsAs you may perhaps remember: on 9 March 2019 I posted a blogpost about our next series of flying buttress figurines to be carved for St. Eusebius' church, which arrived in pieces in our yard. These images were impregnated with acrylic resin, but something went wrong and they burst out …Read the whole article…

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 together with …Read the whole article…

Year review of 2018

Year review of 2018

It seemed nice to sum up this year of sculpting in some words and pictures. Not in chronological order, because my work sometimes jumps from one thing to another, for often suddenly urgent commissions come in between. I like it that way too, I love things being a bit unpredictable! But only when there's not too much pressure on things.

Finishing flying buttresses 4, 5, 6 and 7

Gallery -click on a photo to see it larger-

Last year I spent a long time making flying buttress figurines for the north side of St. Eusebius's Church in Arnhem. Early January that job was nearly done; I only had to make a Monk, a Bear, a man calling Noah, a Monkey and a Ark with animals out of limestone. It was the last series of the four flying buttresses themed around Noah's Ark.

Calamities and Repairs

Amid heavy snowfall and storms, work went on as usual. I accounted for a severe frost period and just continued sawing. A part of the barn didn't feel the same way about it, and collapsed under the weight of a thick layer of wet snow. A few weeks later I narrowly escaped from a disaster, when in a torrential storm a sheet of asbestos was blown from the roof and landed right next to my finished flying buttress sculptures.

Part of my repair work consists of patching up damaged statues. For instance I had to repair a Faun with a Pan Flute and a statue of Thomas Aquinas in my shop this year.

Injury and recovery

Something I've not reported on this blog is that I've been incapacitated for quite some time by injuries earlier this year. I hear you think it would surely have come about because of my job. I do have quite the productivity and it is rather physical work. And at times there can be some pressure to finish it all in time. But it wasn't anything like that. First it was an accident when I cut open my thumb deep on a party tent that threatened to blow away. Just three stitches and two weeks later I was back at work again.

But it was not long before I was back home for some weeks. This time I had overstrained both my arms during removals (at temperatures around minus eight degrees Celsius). At least I now know how to recover from two tennis elbow quickly: not with all kinds of therapies, but by massaging the muscles in your forearm deeply for several times a day. This way, you'll relieve the tension from of the muscle and it will no longer pull so hard on your funny bone, let's put it this way. Learned on YouTube and experimentally tested myself.

Own work: Pan in porphyry

block of porphyry for plaster image of Pan

plaster sculpture of Pan with block of porphyry

After all these flying buttress figurines, I started enthusiastically on my own project: a Pan in porphyry. I had presawn it machine and had just begun carving it, but in spite of all the good intentions, I had to put it aside because of other urent projects.

Ornamental works: Aachen, Utrecht, Den Bosch

For all kinds of ornaments had arrived in the yard, which were to be made first. So this year I made finials and crockets for Aachen Cathedral, for the Cathedral of Utrecht, again for the Utrecht Dom, and for St John's Cathedral in Den Bosch, The Netherlands. Some of them in collaboration with my colleagues. There was stonemasonry work to do. There is newspaper article was written about it and a video was made.

Family Crests and griffins

Then there were two sandstone family crests which I made in between other stuff, one with an edge and one without edge, and I have been modelling away on a set of mirrored griffins. I hope to finish them next year.

Jelle, Jeffrey and Roel

Annual Review 2018

Wise Virgin with a Dove, copied by Jelle

With so much work it was not surprising that I could not keep up with it all by myself. Hence my collaboration with my colleagues and Serge and Stide. Even then, we were not able to finish it all in time. Also, I had long thought about someone to pass the craft on to, someone who wanted to become a restoration sculptor. But how do you get someone who fits the bill? Fortunately Jelle came to visit. Exactly at the right time. He has now been working with me for more than six months, to the satisfaction of both of us and doing excellent work!

Annual Review 2018

Jeffrey helps presawing

Then this summer I've had help from Jeffrey a few times, who came to help out with presawing on the machine, while at the same time my nephew Roel came by to begin to learn carving letters in stone.

Annual Review 2018

Roel learning to carve letters

 

More flying buttress figurines

After the first set of 26 flying buttress figurines from the north side of the Eusebius Church, we now had to make the 27 from the Southside. But fortunately from flying buttress no. 32 I had already made seven angels in the beginning, plus a girl from buttress no. 36, and Stide had done one as well. Still we've been quite busy with the other 18, and we've not yet finished. Fortunately Jelle has now made a number of them as well. Anyway, on this blog you can read about Blind Man, Woman with Clubfoot, Wise Maiden with Cross, Foolish Maiden with Oil Can and the Supreme Commander In Chief.

Corbels for the Tower

Since in March 2019 the Eusebius Church tower is scheduled to be completed, those sculptures had absolute priority. I've presawn some of the corbels and carved a set of them for the North- and south side of the tower, such as a Woman with Tulips, a Man with Bird, a Man with Ears of Corn, a Woman with two Doves, a Cat with Wings and a Bird beast. Sawing work was mostly done on the corbels from the west side of the tower (12 heads and 5 large corbels), but those were all carved by Stide. Time to once again visit to the scaffolds more to go…

-Read here the annual overview 2019 ↑-

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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