An angel and a Shivalingam

fine sanding the Shivalingam

It's not all about carving (flying buttress)sculptures in the Sculptor's Workshop. Last week I copy-sawed an angel and made a Shivalingam.

Shivalingam

polishing the lingam

the sanding and sweetening’ of the lingam

A customer told me he would like to own a Shivalingam. Not because he has a special religious connection with it, but he just liked the shape, he said. Now he still had a piece of Black Swedish granite lying around, from which it could be made. He himself drew the outline on a piece of drawing board. I traced this contour onto a piece of plywood, which allowed me to cut this shape out of the granite with my copying saw.

Fortunately I did not have to polish the lingam, but after the copysawing I spent more than a day of sanding the stone. He wanted it to be finely sanded up to grit 200. The most difficult thing is to get all false dents out of the oval shape, so that a nice smooth shape is created. You can feel it best with your eyes closed. During the work I sang all the Shivabhajans that came to mind, a beautiful meditation.

What is a Shivalingam?

A Shivalingam is an egg-shaped stone, a symbol for God in his unformed state of being. The male principle of Being-Awareness-Bliss (Sat-Chit-Ananda), resting in itself, all-encompassing but unformed. Often this egg-shaped stone is placed in a yoni or panipitha (water seat), a kind of foundation that is a symbol of the feminine principle (Shakti). The Shiva- aspect is Being, Shakti is Becoming. Shakti stands for the expression in all-that-is, the entire creation. So the same energy is Shiva when it is unformed, and the moment it decides to unfolds itself into full creation, you get the feminine creation energy, the Shakti. These are two aspects of the same energy. During rituals, Shiva is worshiped by pouring water and milk over it.

Read here↑ a number of posts about the lingams and panipithas I made earlier.

An angel in two attempts

The block is cut in half and is upside down for gluing

Then there was the sandstone angel I was going to copysaw for my colleague Serge. It is a commission from St. John's Cathedral, similar to my statues of Thomas Aquinas and Pope Leo the Great. He will make a fine copy of this pre-sawn angel again . Last time, Jelle sawed a similar angel, read here↑ more.

However, it was a chore with a few snags. A few months ago I received a large block of Udelfanger sandstone for this angel. I immediately thought I saw something that wasn't right, and sure enough: the block was more than 10 centimeters too small!

After some deliberation it was decided to attach the bottom 15 centimeters of the statue separately. The reasons are the same as I explained earlier with Thomas Aquinas and Pope Leo: preferably they have the layering (the layers in the block of stone) run horizontally through the statue, instead of vertically, because otherwise whole slices can suddenly fall off. In contrast, you could argue that the thin wings might have been better made from vertical layers, because for that part that position is actually more favorable. It remains a struggle to find the best solution.

Cracked!

crack in sandstone block

the crack runs right through the entire block

at the top left and top right a large crack is visible in the block

at the top left- and right a large crack is visible in the block

So I had recieved a block of stone that was way too big, but not tall enough. I cut it lengthwise with my concrete chainsaw in two pieces, and made a separate base from the lower part of the spare. I glued it to the bigger piece and started copy-sawing. But it soon turned out that the small black line I had found was a big crack, that ran through the block, from top to bottom. Oops! I put the block aside and made some phonecalls, and a week later I received a better block.

Second try

the block of stone is cut in half with the chainsaw and glued. The plywood contour templates are there for the sizes

the second block of stone is cut in half with the chainsaw and glued. The plywood
contour templates are next to it for the sizes

I cut up this block lengthwise with the chainsaw as well. Then I hoisted it upside down onto the copy-sawing machine, where I cut a nice flat surface. The spare part also underwent this treatment, and I cut a slice of about 20 cms from it. I was asked to glue these two pieces together. But if you have been reading along for a while, you'll know that I can't just put a thick layer of epoxy glue between them. You'd get a waterproof layer that will cause all kinds of problems.

I put both pieces upside down. After I made the surfaces to be glued as flat as possible, I prepared a special mortar in the right colour. I applied this thin mixture on the surface and lowered the smaller block onto it. For just a little while I was able to move that block, until the parts suddenly sucked tight .

clay bowls with poured epoxy

drilled holes with stainless steel pins and poured epoxy

It worked, a minimal, permeable connection was made. After the weekend, the mortar had cured and I drilled two deep holes with the diamond drill. In these, two stainless steel rods were glued with epoxy. A day later, everything had set and I was able to turn the block and start copy-sawing the sculpture.

Careful

step 1 and 2 of the pre-sawing process. an angel in Udelfanger sandstone

roughly presawn (at the top) and medium fine (at the bottom)

It was not for nothing that this angel was to be replaced: it was heavily weathered and Serge had filled in all the missing parts with modeling material. That stuff is easy to remove afterwards, because it never hardens. But as far as I am concerned it is very difficult to work like this. I had to hoist and move the statue a few times, so I had to be very careful not to distort anything. And it's extra difficult during copy-sawing, because I could easily push through the surface of the clay with the feeler disc. I prefer plaster or hard mortar for repairs, because then I have to be much less careful. Fortunately, I managed to do it with a lot of patience.

You can see in the photos of the end result that I was very careful especially at the nose.

copy-sawed angel on the sawing machine

pre-sawn angel

If I'd pushed through the clay there, this would have also happened on the cutting side, in the stone. One saw cut that ends up a little too deep, would create a lot of problems. In that case, the whole head will have to be adjusted, and be made further back. So rather a fraction too much material than too little in that place! And it turned out that the glue seam was almost invisible, you really need to know where it is, to spot it. It might end up a bit more visible in the sanded end result, but even then it will barely be visible.

copy-sawed angel on the sawing machine

pre-sawn angel

copy-sawed angel from Udelfanger sandstone
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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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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and on YouTube↑

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…

Statue of Pope Leo the Great, completed

sanding the chasuble The statue of Pope Leo the Great, carved out of two parts of Udelfanger sandstone, is completed. I made this copy for the restoration of St John's Cathedral in Den Bosch, The Netherlands. You can read the two previous articles on this subject on my blog under the following links: here↑ the article on the presawing work and here↑ the second article, on the fitting together of the two parts, and why this is made out of two pieces of stone. …Read the whole article…

Statue of Pope Leo the Great, part two

located in the joint face are two stainless steel pins of 20 mm. Statue of Pope Leo the Great

1 Statue in two parts

the top- and lower part of the statue of Pope Leo the Great are presawnWork on the statue of Pope Leo the Great proceeds much more smoothly than I expected. When I explained to the committee and to my colleagues about my plan for carving of the statue out of two parts, most of them thought it was quite a bold approach. Because the statue needs to be carved from two parts, as I explained before in the previous article and the article on the similar statue of Thomas Aquinas.

In the original statue, the layers were used vertically, but for the copy it's desired that the layers run through the statue horizontally. Since there are no blocks of Udelfanger sandstone available that are tall enough, it has to be made out of two pieces. Where would you put the seam? A first proposal was …Read the whole article…

Presawing Pope Leo the Great

Pope Leo the Great upper body

Another saint's statue

stained glass window of Pope Gregory

Pope Gregory looked suspiciously like Pope Leo

stained glass window with inscription Gregor . Magn.

But the name of this pope is at the bottom of the window: Gregorius Magnificus

As you might remember I copied the statue of Thomas Aquinas for St. John's Cathedral earlier this year. That statue has now been installed and I could move right on to the next one: Pope Leo the Great. It's a one hundred year old statue of a bearded man with a tiara, a book and a Byzantine cross. At first I thought it represented …Read the whole article…