Mrs. Dart with the lions she commissioned as a birthday present for her husband. The home dates to the Twenties, and she recalled her husband commenting when they bought it that all it needed was a couple stone lions out front. She looked for years to find the right ones, and then thought of having them custom made. The lions were truly collaborative; she chose the props and I assembled the compositions.
She wanted the lion representing her to be accompanied by roses, butterflies, and a vase. For his, she wanted a shield with a tudor rose and a “D”, a frog, and a stink bug. I worked up clay models, 1/4 scale, and after a couple small revisions, the models were approved.
Using a variety of measuring tools and a calculator, I enlarged the models into the stone. The dots on the model indicate a point that I located on the model, and transferred to the stone.
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.
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!
Steel impersonating stained glass.
My daughter Amber worked with templates and creativity to design the layout for the canopy. It was fun to have her in the shop.
Although we had the wood burning stove cranking hot, it was still a very cold winter. Fun in the shop with Amber!
The completed design, ready to send to the machine shop for plasma cutting.
The finished product, installed. Mark Lamson of Metaldelphia in Columbus, Ohio, did the plasma cutting; Suburban Steel did the fabrication. A cool addition to downtown Columbus.
This was one of my first commissions after going solo. The homeowner wanted the door a foot wider than Lutyens’ design, so I got to extend the carvings.
This is what it feels like to stand on the landing and ring the doorbell.
Including the steps, this entry is just under tewnty feet tall. It’s impressive enough to even tower over one of the homeowner’s mastiffs.
These stone and bronze entry posts impose exactly as they are intended to- very. Welcome to a significant place, they say.
The bronze lions are inspired by the client’s antique door knockers. You’d think I’d have been sharp enough to have kept a shot of the knockers (not). They look good anyway. Bronze is always a nice change of pace, and handling stones this big is always a pleasurable challenge. Carved four sides from a solid block.
Doing a raised profile on a four-sided form… each flip of the stone gets a little trickier. Note the raised profile, carved on all four sides.
The main block of each post weighs about three thousand pounds; the caps are almost 5′ square and a foot thick. Welcome home!
This pineapple is one of two we made for this entry. This is the only photo I have of the entry. I will have to remember to take my camera next time I visit that town.
These impressive pineapples ring a beautiful swimming pool. The pineapple is a traditional symbol of bounty and welcome.
We did eight of these for this pool. Details like this add the craftsman’s touch to even the most stately of homes.