Looking back: the South Chapel of the Utrecht Cathedral

tufa crockets on the south chapel of the Dom cathedral in Utrecht

Tufa crockets for the southern chapel

After a visit to the Utrecht Dom Tower for a quote, I took the time to shoot a few pictures of our recently completed work on the Dom cathedral. To be precise, the 3 facades of the South Chapel on the Pandhof side.

If you'll remember: a few months ago we had carved 29 large tuff stone crockets for the pointed arches of the cathedral in Utrecht. Now Serge and Stide did carve the majority of the flowers, but it was looking all so beautiful that I wanted to give it some attention here on my blog as well.

Replacing

Much more tuff stone has been replaced more than just these 29 tuff lace flowers: all three gables were reconstructed and in the buttresses right next to it quite a few new stone blocks were used, which can be identified by their lighter color. This work was carried out by restoration contractor Nico De Bont from Vught en Slotboom Stonemasons from Winterswijk, with whom we work on four different projects (Arnhem, Den Bosch, Utrecht Cathedral and Utrecht Dom tower). The balustrade, the pointed arches and gargoyles have not been altered in this restoration. Anyway, it all looks beautiful again, and I'm happy and proud to look back on it.

tufa crockets on the south chapel of the Dom cathedral in 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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Finials for St. Eusebius's Church


We're currently carving parts of pinnacles by the cartload. They are all destined for St. Eusebius's Church in Arnhem (the Netherlands). Below are some pictures of work I've made this far. In the picture above you can see a number of blocks ready for transport: successively, an old tuffstone block, a block of red sandstone from my hand, one by Stide and one by Jelle, and finally one by Jelle in Massangis-limestone. It's ornamental work for two complete big finials, and many individual parts for some other pinnacles.

Ornaments

old pinnacle of tuff stone fromSt. Eusebius's Church in Arnhem

the old pinnacle of tuffstone

Actually we don't carve all of the stonemasonry parts ourselves. That was done by the stonemasons from Slotboom Stonemasons in Winterswijk, the Netherlands. We only do the ornamental parts. Many of the old ornaments have crumbled and were carved a bit shallow and plump at the time. A great opportunity to make something nice out of it again. I also found a couple of weird forms of crockets (Gothic leaf motifs) on a number of blocks. Since this work was to be inserted into existing work as a repair, I just copied this strange design as it was, so that it does not contrast later on with the other elements of that pinnacle.

Colourful ensemble

The two finials that are to be replaced completely are composed of five different types of stone: white Massangis-limestone, brown Udelfanger sandstone, Red Eifel Sandstone, red Bentheimer sandstone and yellow-brown Weiberner tuff stone. This was similarly used in the 1920s in a previous restoration and for their durablity also used for these pinnacles. It will provide a vivid image of contrasting stone types.

Massangis

This is the first time I'm working in Massangis limestone. It's quite a tricky stone: for a limestone, its quite touch and rather difficult to keep the edges crisp. In the restoration of the Utrecht Dom Tower we will probably be going to carve a lot of ornaments in Massangis, so it looks like we're already practicing for that!

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

old finial block tufa

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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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Ornaments for Utrecht's Domkerk and St John's Cathedral 2

Finial

As you may perhaps remember: I last year I carved ornaments a few times and even made some stonemasonry work for St. John's Cathedral in 's-Hertogenbosch.

The blog posts can be found under the following headings: Stonemasonry work and ornaments for St. John's Cathedral, Finally another update! en Ornamental work for the Utrecht Dom Church and St. John's.

I recently got a new batch of ornamental work in the yard again, including another identical finial block for the same buttress finial of St. John's Cathedral. The first block I carved in its entirety myself, including the stonemasonry parts. The second block was precarved by stonemason Mike Slotboom from Slotboom Steenhouwers in Winterswijk and the ornamental work was done by my colleague Serge. The third block was carved by three young stonemasons from Slotboom Stonemasons, who have all done their terrific best, and I carved the ornaments again: the crockets.

pallet with ornamental work in the yard of the sculptor's workshop

Together with my colleagues

sculotor's workshop with many projectsFor larger projects, I work with my colleagues Stide Vos and Serge van Druten. We were all trained as restoration sculptors at our former employer's Beeldhouwerij Mooy in Amersfoort. There, we worked together for about 15 years, so we know each other really well and get along famously.

Self-employed in the sculptor's workshop

We've continued all three as independent restoration sculptors, but keep in contact regularly, because it is such an incredibly small world. For this branch, the carving of ornaments and statues in new stone for mainly churches and castles, there are now still three restoration sculptors working fulltime. To my knowledge. It has always been a small group and that's never been a lot larger; there are times when all the work seems to come all at once and times when we really do not have enough work to keep all of us going. That's why we do other work as well, such as autonomous sculptures, reliefs, bronze statues, house signs, repairs, burial monuments, work for other sculptors and much more.

Jelle starting on a flying buttress figurine

Recently, Jelle Steendam has come to work in the beeldhouwerij to help alleviate the pressure and increase his knowledge at the same time. So that makes four in the Netherlands. There are of course many other sculptors in stone and I also know a few other restoration sculptors, but I rarely encounter these within my own genre.

Dom Cathedral in Utrecht

overview West Facade of South Chapel of Dom church Utrecht

Wherever the numbers are the side crockets are to be replaced

At this time we're mainly working together on sculptural- and ornamental work for the Utrecht Cathedral and the Eusebius Church in Arnhem. Serge and Stide in particular have made many tuffstone side crockets for the Dom cathedral already, but in between all of the other work I also managed to carve a few flowers in tuff myself. On the right is a picture of the three Gothic pointed arch facades, with a triangular frame above it. Along that frame, 12 crocket flowers are mounted, and with two and a half façade that makes 30 crocket flowers in all. One doesn't count, so we'll need to make 29. This is just a fraction of what you can find on this beautiful church.

Gallery -click on the thumbnail for the whole picture-

Snow

It was cold in the sculptor's workshop, but it's beautiful, and we can dress to the occasion. As long as we can warm up again during breaks we'll be fine.

 

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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Corbel for the Eusebius Tower: a bird-like beast?

Bird beast: a copy of a tufa stone corbel by John Grosman in new Muschelkalk limestone for the Eusebius Tower in Arnhem
One of the last of the 10 corbels for the South- and North side of the tower of the Eusebius Church at 23 meters high was this winged bird-like beast. It sits somewhat cramped in its corner and there spreads its claws and wings. This piece was originally …Read the whole article…

Corbel: a cat with wings

copy of Corbel for Eusebius Tower: cat with wings after a tufa original, new in muschelkalk limestone
copy of Corbel for Eusebius Tower: cat with wings after a tufa original, new in muschelkalk limestoneThis next corbel for the Eusebius Tower is destined for the north side at 22 meters height, and is part of a group chimeras or a kind of winged cats.
The cat with wings on the corbel holding …Read the whole article…

Corbel: 1 lady with two doves

Copy of Corbel in new Muschelkalksteen of 1 lady with two doves

Lady with two doves

As you can read in the most recent posts on this blog, these past few weeks I've been busy carving corbels for the Eusebius Tower. This tower of the Eusebius Church in Arnhem has been covered in scaffolds for several years already, to …Read the whole article…