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: 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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