A suspended ornament for a canopy of St. John's
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.
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.
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 the video and accompanying article 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.
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.