The originals had rotted away over the decades, and when the Statehouse was being rebuilt, the columns also needed to be remade. Man, this sandstone is a pain in the butt to carve. If I never do it again it will be too soon. BUT- it looks great, and it’s accurate to the original.
And heck yes, I am proud to have been the source of the replacements. You know anybody else coulda done that?
It is an honor to have my work on the statehouse grounds.
Jack Oliver had a big hand on this job. Nicely done, Jack.
This column in Goodale Park in Columbus, Ohio, originally installed in 1899, has deteriorated badly. I have been commissioned by a Centennial Preservation Group to re-carve the heads. My proposal is to rebuild the missing parts with clay and then to re-carve new sandstone blocks to match the clay.
The gate and column were a gift in 1899 to the City’s first park. The original meanings of the column animals have been lost to time, although we do know that the eight human heads on the gate represent the eight stages of Man. The carving is masterful, and does not resemble any other carving in the Columbus area, that I know of. We know nothing of the original artist.
The tooling on the buff sandstone has survived remarkably well, and demonstrates the level of the craftsmanship brought to this column. The heads are about 9′ off the ground- too high to touch. The wear is likely from acid rain and the burning of coal for so many decades.
The cap came off easily, and we set it aside. After we had picked the section with the heads and put it on my truck, we put the cap back for safekeeping while the restoration is done in my studio.
Playing with big lifts and heavy things is always exciting. Although no one can really see it, the scalloped top is textured with one continuous spiral line from top to bottom.
This is the only original photo the historical committee could give me. Detail must be inferred. It is agreed the animal on the left is probably a panther, and that the one on the right is a lion. The ram, not show here, is extent enough to know it is a ram, but the fourth head was badly deteriorated and no known photo exists.
The ears, the eyes, a bit of the for head, and a grainy photo are all there is to go on, but that’s enough to conclude it was a stylized panther.
Part of an eye, droopy ears, and a bit of forehead seem to indicate the subject was a dog. No known photographs exist.
The ram is pretty much intact, and a hint at the style that may have been used for the other heads, although it does seem very different.
The lion head featured a bit of an ear, some mane, and pits indicating the height of the eyes. The source photo and the extent remains indicate this was a lion. Here I have started on the lion, and on the left is an early version of the panther.
Using an oil-based clay that gets softer with heat (I use an old Sunbeam electric skillet), I rebuilt the heads in full scale in my shop. This is an early stage of the panther. The lion is on the right, the dog on the left. The sandstone blocks are 16 1/2″ tall.
I was able to get a good start by making the right begin to mirror the left. At this stage I had to commit to something, and felt that the only defensible choice was a dog.
The red sandstone is the original carver’s work. I have tried throughout to do what I could to work in his style more than my own. I’ve learned during this process several pointers from the past.
The lion, nearly complete. I will add textural details in the sandstone when I recarve them.
The dog is as animated as I could get him, given the restraints.
I gave the panther a sneer, as the eyes sort of implied that, as did the source photo. He struck me as a tease, a mischief maker.
The Homeowner and I began a long relationship with this Turret. He didn’t like the architect’s plans, and asked me to redesign the exterior using stone. I did, and from the sills below the windows to the finial, he accepted my design, including the copper roof (done by others). I worked with the architect to make sure it would be done up to snuff, and here it is, twenty years later, and it is still in good shape. I will be visiting the clients this spring to take updated shots and will add them to this post when I do.
The clients were asked to come up with quotes for each of the lintel panels, and to provide an image to go along with each quote. The result is as it was intended to be- very personal.
When we were installing the sills and lintels it became apparent that the turret was not actually round. A great deal of energy and time was spent carefully back-cutting the pieces to fit the situation. Cussing ensued. Much.
I am really looking forward to visiting these clients again. We’ve got a couple decades of work and life to share.
The keystone on the right was made by me and my crew, including Jack and Dave Oliver. We reproduced in granite the original keystone that had been chopped off the building to make way for the new owners’ sign sometime long ago, before respect for a granite keystone in New York had been protected.
Jack spent many weeks with these two keystones. We had a mold taken from one of the extent originals, made a plaster cast, and used the Renaissance measuring device, the maccianetti di punto, to accurately reproduce the original design, exactly the right size.
The dots on the unfinished side indicate where the high points have been located. After the main shape has been found, the detail work can begin.
The use of the maccianetti di punto requires a permanent frame that the carver has to work around, which can be inconvenient. Great thought has to be put into the frame on a long-term project, because if there is a mistake made in the planning, it will be re-experience countless times.
Almost finished. I am sure that Jack was happy to be outdoors again. That was a long, cold winter.
I traveled to Manhattan to oversee the installation, and had the crew build this frame for me. The keystone were suspended by the bolts that clamped into the scrolls. The bottom is a tray of ball bearings. I had the crew build a very stable scaffold, and we rolled the keystones onto the pre-mounted pins and epoxied them into place. The entire frame was suspended over the bearing pad on bolts, so we could have extremely accurate control of the placement.
This crest features Gaelic lettering spelling “O’Brian”. The crest is capped by a mermaid. I wonder if it represents the homeowner’s immigration to Bermuda?
We had a blast for three weeks installing and fabricating these arches. Bermuda is a wonderful place to visit. We worked very hard, but were treated very well, and the experience in general was a career highlight.
I added several blank blocks to the container knowing that there were arches that were not yet built and couldn’t be templated, so we carved the curved arches onsite.
The finished product, mortared in, looks great and will last very well in the Bermuda climate.
The grass is difficult to maintain in Bermuda. The contractor was very concerned that we do all we could to protect it. While the pieces were curing, they were held in place and adjusted using screws and wood.
The home was a beautiful one. We arrived shortly after the hurricane that struck the island several years ago, so the beaches were still pretty torn up. There was a big sailboat in a tree I could see from the hotel window.
This piece has turned out to be the culmination of my architectural design career thus far. It still stands, and I am glad for that. I designed everything here, inside and out. I hope I get another challenge like this someday.
Such a beautiful entry! I am grateful to have been part of it. And it still stands, and I am still in contact with the client!
Designed and installed by me and the great Jack Oliver. You think hanging a ceiling like this is easy?
A little detail of what went into making this. Pun intended.
In the dark of night the corners are completed…
I hear from the client occasionally… all is well with the work. How cool is that?
Craftspeople working together can do such amazing things….
The original 1923 entry was removed to meet the requirements of the ADA act, and when the building’s owners wanted to sell it, it was required by law that they bring it up to standard, as it is a National Historic Landmark. Myself and fellow Guild member Nick Fairplay were given the job of reproducing the original. We were given two photographs to work from, both taken in 1923. This is 41st and Broadway, across the street from Grand Central Station.
I carved the capitals and the cornice, and Nick carved the pilasters.
This is one of the cornice pieces. In order to accommodate the ADA the spacing of the doorways had to change. I suggested we use the motif of the grotesque to extend the pattern, and it was approved. Do you see one? I have two grotesques in New York. How Cool is that?
The original capital is shown in this 1923 photo. I got very reacquainted with my magnifying glass and photoshop. I worked with two consultants on site; an architect from Cetra Ruddy, New York, Ray, and a consultant to the National Landmarks Foundation, Liz. We used photos and drawings and did our best to recreate the original, given the material we had to work with. In the end, the Landmark’s Committes summation of our efforts was one sentence; “We think the stone work looks rather excellent.”
The work was installed December 29-31, 2011. It had to be done before 2012. Talk about stress. It was installed at night only. The entire scaffold and rigging had to be redone each night.
This photo was taken during the installation and sent to me by the lead mason, Mario. We are still friends.
Another photo taken during the installation (I wasn’t there for the installation). The joints are not yet mortared. The marble was also done by mario and his team.
I think we measured up nicely. Proud to have some of my best work in the heart of New York City. Nice job, everybody!
Mrs. Dart with the two lions she commissioned as a birthday present for her husband. She said that as they were moving in to their new house (built in the Twenties) he had said something like “if it had a couple lions on the pillars it would be perfect”, so fo years she looked but couldn’t find the right lions, so she decided to find a carver and get them custom made. It was a fun collaboration; she had ideas of content, and gave me a free hand with the composition.
For the lion representing herself, she wanted to be accompanied by roses, butterflies, and a vase; for him, a shield, a tudor rose, a “D”, a frog, and a stinkbug. I made 1/4 scale clay models, and after a couple small revisions, approval was given.
Using a calculator and a variety of measuring tools I enlarged and reproduced the models into stone. The dots on the model represent a point I located and enlarged.
I descended 4″ at a time, using a grinder to knock back the excess. This enabled me to use the original block face as a “true” to measure from. The block size is the same size as the wood pad the clay model is made on.
In this way I was able to get very close to a finish without hesitation. Knowing where one is going makes getting there a lot quicker.
The first one is finished.
I use a single chisel during the rough in phase, a 1/4″ chisel, so I can keep track of the level of refinement I have taken the surface.
Henry hangs out with me, impervious to the dust.
The lion is ready to go.
They will never be this close together again. The stink bug is hiding behind the shield, wary of the frog sneaking up. They get acquainted and size each other up. They have a big job ahead.
Beautiful morning for a delivery. I had checked in to a hotel the night before- eight hour drive to the site- and had an hour to enjoy some coffee before meeting the lift on site. Driving things like this is always an adventure, and always nerve rattling.
Although the operator was a terrific driver, nothing beats a good old pulley to really put it exactly where you want it. Good bye, lions- may you serve them well. Thanks for letting me be part of it!