250th blog post
2019 was a great year! I've had all sorts of things in progress, among which a lot of ornaments for the Utrecht Cathedral and the Eusebius Church in Arnhem. Time for an annual review of 2019.
Not everything I've done this year has been published on my blog. For instance, I carved a few things for other sculptors. One was a large sculpture in blue sodalite, of a stylized lady. I copy-sawed the plaster maquette into the new stone and then carved and polished it. This material is difficult to work in, but it has an overwhelming color. I'm sure once installed in the right place, it will make a big impression. Through all those vivid colors it becomes hard to see its shapes in my photo, but upright and under good lighting conditions (not under my roof with subdued light) it will be easier to recognize the shapes. Since it was made for another sculptor, I made no mention on this blog at the time. I did though in a blog post show how I cut the block to size with a chainsaw.
One of those projects for another sculptor was a small job that I did last week for Gerard Overeem in granite: the carving of a crack in a Monument to the Holocaust. The crack represents the suffering caused by the persecution of the Jews that has left its traces. Read here↑ the corresponding newspaper article. In an earlier newspaper article more information about the monument. It is to be unveiled on 27 January 2020 in Barneveld.
The copy of the statue of Thomas Aquinas was a project that almost took this entire year. In November 2018 I received the original sculpture in my yard and started with its reconstruction, in March 2019 I cut the block of Udelfanger sandstone to size and I started presawing. I also started enthusiastically on the rough carving of the two parts and fitting the pieces exactly together, but suddenly all kinds of commissions came and interfered before in October 2019 finally I was able to finish the statue.
Pope Leo the Great
After I had shipped this statue, I could skip ahead to the next statue for St. John's Cathedral in 's-Hertogenbosch: Pope Leo the Great. At the time of writing this, the work on this statue is halted as well because of a trip to India, the above holocaust memorial and a commission for carving a Japanese Lantern. But I was able to presaw the two parts of the statue entirely, so I can expeditiously start carving them in the new year. This statue also stands on the north side of St John's Cathedral in Den Bosch, The Netherlands, that is, to the left from the statue of Thomas I mentioned above.
A Japanese lantern
It may seem that I took a long time carving these two statues, but that's nothing compared to the last piece I worked on this year. For the Japanese Garden of Clingendael Estate in The Hague I made a quote in May 2017 already, and only now I get to carve it. I was asked to carve a reconstructed copy of a weathered Japanese lantern out of Bavarian granite. I'm already well on the way, but I still need to carve a lobed base and then sort out the details with the client. A blog post will follow soon!
A marble birdbath
Sometimes you get out-of-the-ordinary commissions. A client had modeled a bird bath in the shape of a duck as a boy and now he wanted it in his garden in marble. Of course that's possible. Unfortunately his clay model had disappeared, so I first had to reconstruct it. Alongside is a picture from halfway through the carving process.
Pan in porphyry… again?
At the end of October I was able to find two days for working on my sculpture of Pan in Red Porphyry. As you can read in my last post about it I had just started with rough carving when I had to put it aside. That was almost two years ago (March 2018).
But I had to put the sculpture aside again quickly this time as well because I had to take on other projects first, such as Pope Leo. Yet I was able to roughly carve the hooves, the face, the hands and the flute. I hope I can find more time in the coming year and be able to finish the sculpture.
The Eusebius Church contains various sculptural parts. The quality varies from very finely carved to fairly primitive, and dates from the construction time to present day. Somewhere in a side transept of the church, at the very top, a little man's head ↑ was missing out of a row of 9 rather primitively carved heads. Three of those were from the construction period of the church, and three of them dated from the 1960s. I was asked to carve a new head for the empty spot. It only had to look just as primitive as the others. That proved to be quite tricky! Someone told me that you'd best ask for a mason or a beginner to carve it, they might hit upon the right atmosphere. So I just made it into a little man with a page haircut.
More for St. Eusebius's church: Two huge finials
By far the majority of the work of this year was spent on carving ornamental work for two large finials and surrounding ornamental work on the northern transept of the Eusebius Church. Stide, Jelle, and I, partly with support by Serge, had months of work to carve all that.
We carved ornaments in two types of red sandstone for this north aisle, in Udelfanger sandstone and in Massangis limestone. It was so much work that I was in for a joke at the end.
Carving ornaments for the Utrecht Dom Cathedral twice
But Eusebius Church was not the only church which we made ornaments for. Having ended the previous year with 29 tufa side crockets for the south chapel of the Dom Cathedral in Utrecht, we got more big crockets this summer, in Volvic Basaltlava this time. These twenty large crockets we have been sharing between the four of us (Serge, Stide, Jelle and I) and despite delays we were able to complete them just in time.
Carving ornaments on the Utrecht Dom tower
Admittedly, it was but a small pilot project, and the main work on the Utrecht Dom Tower has yet to arrive. But at a time when the scaffolding around the tower was still not up, Jelle and I scrambled up all 465 steps of the Dom Tower with all our tools on two days, and carved a few test ornaments at the very top, so that the approach of the next part can be determined. Fortunately it was beautiful weather and we had a magnificent view.
Coat of arms in Udelfanger sandstone
For the front façade of a farm in the east of the country I made this small relief with a family crest in October, in Udelfanger sandstone. In order to keep it lively, I chose a baroque shield shape, so it really stands out on the façade.
Coat of arms in bluestone
The coat of arms that I finished later in that same month of October was much larger: 41 x 66 cms. It will be inserted in a restored parsonage, on the outside, somewhere in Belgium. I had a lot of fun shaping the flowing undulations of the mantling and the tiny details of the helmet.
Sculpture of The Night
But it was not all ornamental carving work, I also had some sculptures in progress. For the west facade of the tower of St. Eusebius's Church I carved the large corbel with the sculpture of The Night out of limestone: a naked lady with a nest of owls beside her. To accelerate the process, I cut it and its counterpart, The Day, on my presawing machine machine. It only just fitted: I had to cut away some corners, otherwise this lady couldn't even turn around inside the machine.
Flying Buttress Figurines: Seven Sins
It was made in last year and the year before especially with carving flying buttress figurines. That was a bit less this year, because the ornaments demanded all of our attention. We only had one flying buttress to go, with the Seven Sins depicted on it. Jelle made the Vanity, the Gluttony and the Greed, Stide got Envy and Lust, and I made the last two.
The Anger was a flying buttress statue of a man with a contorted face pulling a knife. He looked rather primitive, in his bearskin. As the only man among all the women, he actually had not much to complain, but he was clearly not happy with it.
The Idleness on the other hand, ie the Sloth, didn't mind so much. She sat back a little, caressing her workhorse, in her provocative dress, and seemed more concerned with her own laziness.
A boulder with house numbers
For a building in Amersfoort I carved a large boulder of red granite into a house number. Maybe I will be gilding the numerals one day for clarity.
A tree with rocks
For the same building I helped making a work of art for its residents: for each resident I made a stainless steel tree leaf with their own rock on it, which were all made into one big tree. It was a lot of work to cut everything out, bending the leaves, welding and glueing them, especially since I'm not equipped too well for metalworking. It was a lot of fun to make. Painter Sandra Nanning turned the staircase into a three-story encompassing tree.
A spoonbill from Haarlem
Not all sculpture to be replaced has suffered from weathering. Sometimes sculpture disappears because of renovations and later on, residents want it back again on their building, and sometimes something is stolen. Such was the case with a buddha's head, a pelican and a spoonbill in Haarlem. Fortunately, the pelican was found again. I made a copy of the spoonbill after first reconstructing it, and Jelle accounted for the buddha head.
A lot of work for my colleagues
As you might have understood, I work regularly with my colleagues Serge van Druten, Stide Vos and Jelle Steendam. They, like me, all three have their own independent businesses. Only Jelle works in my shop; Stide has his own workshop next to me and Serge 20 kilometers away. I like having my colleagues around and being able to share larger contracts.
But I am the only one with his own presawing machine. That means that I regularly get the request to presaw something for the others too. Jelle also can properly handle the machine, so he'll be sawing for me sometimes and mainly for himself. But Jelle and I have also often enough presawn sculptures for Stide and Serge. I also usually keep track of the big picture, the tenders and the distribution of all joint projects, such as Eusebius Church and the Utrecht Cathedral.
Jelle mainly operates under my supervision, but he also takes on his own work (have a look at his website). So I regularly pass on things to him that are too much for me to take on. Sometimes he would take a little longer than I would do, That's because I do this work, of course, for a longer time. Unfortunately we have no specific training for restoration sculpture in Netherlands, so the work itself is his training. This year for example Jelle restored some garden ornaments.
New year: musicians and apostles
What's coming up next year? The most important work coming up is all of the ornamental work that we are going to get from the restoration of the Dom Tower in Utrecht. Balustrade finials, gargoyles and various other ornaments.
Next, we will be getting work from flying buttress no. 14 and 16 of St. Eusebius's Church in Arnhem. Flying buttress no. 14 consists of a group of 7 musicians and no. 16 contains a number of apostles. These are the last sculptures that sculptor Eduard van Kuilenburg made for the church, and in these we can see a transition to a somewhat more angular style. There were at the time of completion (around 1956) already alarmed questions from the church council about the "overcrowded flying buttresses’ that this led to, even though the block size was no larger than that of the previously created sculpture groups around the choir. Especially the apostles have massive fists and lumpy heads. We're looking forward to copying them into new stone (if you want to know why these figuries are replaced: read this article about the Ettringer tuff ↑ of which they were made).
Boxes full of debris and more sculpture to go
So that adds up to fourteen sculptures for flying buttresses nos. 14 and 16, for which we expect to get the new stone blocks in early January. We have been reserving a spot for those. But there are still 12 boxes more in our storage and a group of loose sculptures outside in the yard, which will all have to be copied one day.
Some of these other sculptures are heavily weathered because they started to shatter after the impregnation process and fell to pieces, and they're lying as a layer of debris at the bottom of the boxes. It will still be an interesting project to reconstruct them. If that happens at all, because people are currently considering an alternative way to fill the empty spaces. We sent in our estimate already anyway :).
All other blog posts from the past year
- I didn't post everything in this year review 2019 that I wrote about this year. For instance, I shared two blog posts about the upcoming restoration of Notre Dame de Paris, about how the computer can play a role and on the approach and details of the restoration. You will have to wait a little longer for part three. It seems like I've been busy with other things.
- There was also a post about concrete chainsaws: Which diamond saw is best suited for the job?
- Because of my photogenic looks I've been on the radio to answer a listeners question at the Bureau Kijkindevegte program, about how a sculptor fixes an error.
- Another background story was about my work as a sculptor of coats of arms. Why is a coat of arms made by a sculptor so different ?
- And then of course there were all kinds of scaffolding visits, visits for quotes and small jobs in between that never get reported: so you might say, it was a busy year. I look forward to the coming year!
I wish you all a very good, educational and creative New Year. Thank you all for following this blog!