If I'd commission a coat of arms in stone… what should I bear in mind?

Copy of old family crest, sandstone.

I often get asked what it costs to have a coat of arms carved in stone. However, I noticed that there is often still a lot of confusion for many customers. Why is it so expensive, why there are different price ranges for the same crest, and in what are you different from others? What is the surplus value to have a family crest carved by a sculptor, as opposed to passing it through a sand-blasting machine, milling it or by having a stonemason carve it?

A stone coat of arms is a form of relief carving

crest stone with coat of arms, coat of arms embossed in stone

A round coat of arms, sandstone, 2013

On this blog you can find many kinds of reliefs I've made in stone in recent years , plus some family crests, which actually fall under reliefs as well. A relief differs from a 3D sculpture in that it bridges the gap between a drawing and a complete sculpture. A drawing takes place in the flat surface, and can, just as a photograph can, display all kinds of thing that aren't possible in a sculpture: a cloud, lighting, a reflection, a flying bird…

A spatial sculpture is tangible, has a certain dimension, and especially can been seen and touched from all sides. A good piece of sculpture therefore preferably has something interesting to offer on all sides. A relief is situated halfway between these two: it could depict clouds, but a reflection becomes a bit more difficult, and lighting is even trickier, but on the other hand it is tangible, and can sometimes almost be viewed in the round…. but not always!

A high relief seen from the side. (Photo by Ser Amantio Nicolao, Wikimedia Commons)

bas-relief with Tree of Life

A bas-relief is carved much flatter (Photo by Philippe Chavin – Own work, CC BY 2.5, Wikimedia Commons)

The difference between high relief and bas-relief

sandstone coat of armsA distinction is often made between high relief and bas-relief. The first is almost as if a complete spatial sculpture is placed against a flat background, and the second is more of a flat depiction that is carved shallowly out of the material. Actually, the distinction between these two terms are not very important to know, except that a relief can be worked out very flat, or very spatial. Personally, I find a relief with a lot of differences in depth of carving the most interesting, but of course that type will also be more expensive, because it takes a little bit more material and a lot more work.

A coat of arms in stone made by a sculptor

That spatial thinking comes natural to a sculptor. As a sculptor, I always look for the expression and movement in the picture, and I try to bring some tension and liveliness to it. That's why I often tend to choose for the more voluminous shapes. I could also work out the picture a bit more shallow and then all lines are neatly carved, but it lacks the movement in the mantling and the rounded shapes of the helmet and shield.

a coat of arms, shallowly carved in stone, as a basreliëf

A flat coat of arms carved in bas-relief

Therefore, the costs will be higher

small coa of arms in Udelfanger sandstone completed

So when I compare the two images above, the difference is clear to see. One takes a few days to make, and the other takes a few weeks. That piece of stone will not be much more expensive, that stays about the same. So it will be just what you want: if you want a simple flat image, then that will have a certain price. If you'd prefer a more voluminous looking carving, then that would have a different price tag to it.

A clear view of my approach to carving a family crest in stone can be found in most blog posts on this topic, but perhaps the next link is clearest in this case: A sandstone coat of arms with deep relief ↑.

More coats of arms in stone

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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Bluestone family crest completed

bluestone coat of arms with two falcons. Coat of Arms, coat of arms, relief with crest/coat of arms, family crests

The bluestone coat of arms on which I recently shared a post has now been completed. I've carved it out of a piece of Belgian bluestone (arduin) of 41 x 66 x 16 cms. After the last post that I shared about it, I've been busy for a long time with making everything sharper and sanding all the details, in order to remove all false dents. And all the small tips needed to be made sharper, the frame had to be finished and, of course, the text had to be carved and painted.

The relief depth is eight centimeters; it will be put into the wall for ten centimeters . There is a text underneath it: Me Restauravit MMXIX, or 'I've been restored in 2019', and that of course refers to the building in which this coat of arms stone will be installed soon.

Below in a gallery is again a summary of the process of making this coat of arms relief. Click on a picture for the enlarged view.

Beeldhouwerijblog.nl is the blog of Koen van Velzen, sculptor in stone and bronze. Look up my website as well: beeldhouwerijvanvelzen.nl

I'm also on Instagram
and Twitter
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A bluestone coat of arms with two falcons

Bluestone stone coat of arms

I merrily went on to the next commission, another stone coat of arms this time. The previous one was a smaller relief with only the shield. That required a little more attention to the shape of the shield, to make the design a bit more interesting. But this coat of arms is quite extensive in itself because of the helmet, the mantling and the crest. I prefer deeply carved coats of arms, and this is no exception: the total depth of the relief is eight centimeters.

The customer lives in Belgium and has renovated a house that already had a plaque of Belgian bluestone in its façade. Hence, this plaque will have the same size, 41 x 66 cms. It's obviously a fairly elongated size, whereas the actual coat of arms occupies a more or less square space. So this leaves some space for a Latin text underneath the emblem. I'll get to carve that next week.

The rough shape

family crest transferring the drawing on bluestoneI first started with transferring the drawing onto the stone. I never fuss about that: I just stick the print onto the stone and carve the lines into the stone, right through the paper. Hoopla.

From woodcarvers I learned to first jigsaw out the contours. That way, you'll have these parts defined already and you can continue to trust in them. Now doing that in stone, and certainly in Belgian bluestone or arduin as the Flemish say, is a bit harder to do, but it remains a good plan. Using the drill, I could define the shapes and also the depth of the background plane for a number of spots (quick and easy) in one go.

To keep margin for errors, or not?

bluestone coat of arms-drilling the contoursThe rough carving of a relief is quite a bit different than that of a freestanding sculpture. When carving a sculpture, it'll be useful to have some margins in case you'll make a mistake. That is, you'd make sure you don't make anything definitive yet during the rough carving phase, so for example you'll still be able to move the limbs a little in case it is not quite to your liking. In relief carving that would not be convenient. You'd keep searching over and over again where all these frills should go if you wouldn't set any hard borders. By carving the parts straight down at right angles to the background plane from the beginning, the exact location of each component remains defined right up to the end, even if you start shaping its height with a coarse tooth chisel. The margins that you always need as a sculptor lie in the depth in this case. For you could always encounter a bad piece of stone, or you could make a mistake. In relief carving, parts can often be placed a bit deeper without too much damage.

Assigning the volumes

bluestone family crest: defining the volumesI have previously written about it: the next step is determining the heights of the various parts. In this case the helmet will be the most protruding part. I wanted to keep the mantling at the left and right below the level of the helmet, the shield should be covered by the helmet and consequently end up lower as well, and the lowest point are the tips of the mantling and especially the crest.

I just make those decisions by eye. I picked up the grinder and quickly cut down the planes of the mantling to a lower level. Then I once again drew on the lines of the shield , took into account the depiction on the shield, and carved it into the right curve.

Luckily I had made just such a little helmet before, in dolomite stone, and that one was still on the wall. With that piece next to it, it was quite easy to shape the helmet.

Playing

family crest rough carvingOnce I had rough carved all of these parts to their proper height, the best part came. This is why I love carving coats of arms so much. I'm sorry for the customers, but I'm not really into heraldry all that much or coats of arms as such. To me, family sure is important, but I'm not so concerned with ancestors and descendants. Other than gratitude for what they have given and for what beautiful things they'll be going to bring after I'm gone, it actually doesn't go any deeper for me.

bluestone coat of arms detailingBut the cárving of these crest reliefs is what I love to do! And that is because of all the lines and movement in the design. The clear shapes of the helmet and shield, in contrast to the elegant curves of the mantling… for me it's a each time again a play with lines and volumes. That's why I never make a maquette of these things. I just start, and let the lines lead me to the shape. It should of course end up looking somewhat symmetrical, so I usually first carve one side and then do the same thing mirrored on the other side.

Halfway through: finishing

bluestone family crest: halfway carving process

Once all the shapes are just about right, the detailing and finishing of the stone coat of arms starts. That is usually what takes the most time. I tapered the shield a little bit to make it all a bit more playful, and also gave it a good bulge, in order to give it some tension. But everything needs to be crisp in the end, otherwise it will end up as a complete mess and not easy to read. So next week I'll still be working a long time making it all crisp and sharp, and with carving the letters. And the edge still needs to be carved straight.

Read more in the following report ↑

family crest stone halfway  carving process
-below is a time lapse in slides. Click on a photo for the gallery-
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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Small coat-of-arms in Udelfanger sandstone

Small coat-of-arms in a baroque shape

For a customer I made a small coat-of-arms in Udelfanger sandstone. Since this time no mantling and helmet were added, I chose a somewhat more baroque shield shape to make it a lively relief. I also tried to give the shield a nice bulge, to create an interesting shape with curled edges as if it were a scroll.

Finishing

Because of the small size of the crest stone, it took a lot of care to get all the details clear cut. It is designed to stand out by strong shadows. This small stone crest will end up in the top of a facade, so the shadows will be important in order to recognize the picture. To enhance the contrast I therefore 'pointed' the background of the coat of arms, ie I've beaten small pits with hammer and point chisel in the background. The rough surface makes the smooth shield stand out well.

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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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 Kerkbestuur wild …Read the whole article…

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 is not the only thing …Read the whole article…

Video: a coat of arms with deep relief

Finally, the video of the family crest with deep relief that I carved last winter into sandstone is now online.

Find it below! Read about this project here: A sandstone coat of arms with deep relief.

Beeldhouwerijblog.nl is the blog of Koen van Velzen, sculptor in stone and bronze. Look up my website as well: beeldhouwerijvanvelzen.nl

A sandstone coat of arms with deep relief

sandstone coat of arms by sculptor Koen van Velzen

Stone crest

A Bentheimer sandstone coat of arms. Dimensions of the relief 40 x 50 x 18 cms, of which the relief part is carved 10 cms deep. Clearly can be seen that this stone is a natural product, as evidenced by the light brown traces of an iron deposit. This does otherwise not harm the preservation of the stone. This coats of arms relief stone is placed on the inside of a solid garden wall with cappings. …Read the whole article…

A party for ten gable stone reliefs

to the first post about this House Sign↑

Koen van Velzen at the unveiling of the plaque from the Blue Tram street. Ten house signs after designs by cartoonistsBlue, blue, sky-blue

It was a completely blue party, last Thursday in the Blue Tram Street in New Remittance District in Haarlem. I went there, dressed up in my best moody blues, along with my good colleague Serge van Druten, who had also carved two of the ten stones. There was a tiny but excellent band, some blue trim and blue drinks and balloons. It was very unfortunate that Toon van Driel, which started the relief of the Blue Tram street as a cartoon, was unable to come because of an illness. I would have like to talk to him. …Read the whole article…

House Sign Blue Tram Street Haarlem finished!

to the first post about this House Sign↑

Gevelsteen Blue Tramstraat polychromedRómulo Döderlein Win painting the gable stone of the Blue Tram street

The House Sign in Udelfanger sandstone for the Blue Tram Street about which I reported on last time is finished. A little summary: the picture was designed and drawn by cartoonist Toon van Driel, after an initiative by the Foundation for House Signs Association Haerlem. It is one of a series of ten different House Signs by ten artists and ten sculptors. …Read the whole article…