It was a cold wet morning in early March when we drove into the city greyness of the car park.
Passing under the archway to find the orderly beauty of the courtyard was an unexpected delight.
The warm greeting we received from Brothers "P" and "I" helped us to shrug off the weather (which had felt all the colder for the early start we'd made from Liverpool that morning.)
adversely effect weight -bearing areas, creating an undesirable "land slide" effect if the movement is not arrested.
It was evident that the ankles of the corpus were about to slide if not remedied soon.
Preparation, Preparation, Preparation...
It was a warm day in August, just right for outdoor projects when David began the first stages of restoring the courtyard crucifix. First on our "to do list" was to make the whole structure stable again.
Following that, David prepared the corpus and wood of the cross ready to receive preservation treatments. (Good preparation is essential to restoration work, in order to achieve desireable results.)
Restoring the canopy pelmet
We found that the canopy above the crucifix, is made from a combination of metals and wood.
Several of the pendants which form the pelmet, had been replaced, and the fleur de lys painted free hand. They were executed in a way that was a little "out of keeping" with the standard of artwork enjoyed at the Oratory.
David dismantled the pelmet piece by piece, along with the INRI plaque, and further restoration was carried out at our studio.
The Body of Christ - polychroming the Corpus
In recent times many of "us" have lamented the sup-plantation of traditional art skills for something "less meaningful" within our churches.
Extending the life of a religious artwork by way of restoration is important, as it helps to preserve the memory of past traditions, and so carry them into the present. They give us a sense of continuity, and are an important aspect of keeping faith alive.
I approach work like this; I see that God is beauty, and the essence of beauty is to be drawn by it, and to it.
Brothers "I" and "P" chose a mid blue for the underside of the canopy, and requested the addition of a "star ceiling" effect.
David and I worked as a team to get those stars in place, and finally our work came to an end with the re-attachment of the gilded pelmet.
For David and I, one of the blessings of our work, is that we are both never too far from the Blessed Sacrament. We meet some of the most dedicated priests, religious and parishioners. (Peter we must thank, for the much appreciated cup of tea!)
Working at the Birmingham Oratory supplied us with an extra spiritual blessing, that of kneeling at the altar rail to receive holy communion.
We hope before too long we can visit once again, and share that experience with our children.
As we left the courtyard for the last time, the sun shone brightly on the water flowing from the central fountain.
A lovely statue of the Divine Infant, ( El Divinio Nino) came to us for restoration recently. Below are some photos of the results.
The whole body surface was covered in gouged striations caused by amateur cleaning methods. (never use metal scouring pads!)
The usual breaks could be satisfactorily repaired given that it was to be used for display only, however this corpus was intended for "Veneration of the Cross".
It would be subjected to much physical interaction; which meant that it would not be fit for this purpose, and would have to be discarded.
(As a modeller of religious subjects myself) I appreciated the skill and the hours this Victorian artist had put into in producing such a beautiful representation of Our Lord.
I also considered (As a practising Catholic myself) the familiarity of parishioners with this figure.
I could only approximate that given its age, (suggested by the patina used and the quality of modelling) that one way forward in this case, was to replicate by re-casting the corpus. Fr. P agreed and gave his permission.
This took several days to do, and would be beyond budget for this restoration. So one could say that it was done as a " Labour of love!"
(N.B. Copyright for artists can last for the life of an artist plus 50, or even seventy years; so the undertaking was not considered lightly. See DACS website. )
David Refurbished the wood of the cross by removing the broken beading (parts were missing and had been cut away to accommodate the corpus.)
He then routed the edges to add similar interest (which would not trap dust and incense as did the previous configuration.) The wood was revived and the surfaces replenished.
The newly cast corpus was treated with a "Victorian style" patina; the result being one of age, but well preserved!
Last week, Mr. Denis Madden, (a talented photographer) sent me an email with this lovely photo he had taken. It is of his 17 inch Sacred Heart of Jesus statue which I restored for him last year.
Denis told me why his statue is special to him;
"I purchased the statue 55 years ago, on my 16th birthday, at the Catholic Repository shop on Moor Lane in Bolton.
A big thank you to Denis for taking the time to send such a lovely photo of the restored statue. We love it!
In art, the infant Jesus is often portrayed with an "older" face, to indicate that He is "The Word".
This is to indicate to you and I, that Jesus is the wisdom of God the Father - made flesh.
Sometimes this results in a kind of uncomfortable compromise, and I am often asked why it is that the baby "looks like a little old man."
When the latest crib set was brought for restoration, my client complained..." He looks more like one of the three kings!"
So I thought about how I feel about my own bambinos, and made this one as sweet and loveable as I could!
I hope now when he is processed to the crib, he will be handled more tenderly because he looks a bit more, well - cuddly!
Occasionally, someone will bring me a statue known as " the Sacred Heart" because of their love for Jesus, or perhaps it has been handed down to them by a relative.
They don't always know the reason for the heart , so the following quotes, taken from the Autobiography of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque; provide some explanation of why Catholicism sometimes depicts Jesus with a fiery and pierced heart:
Saint Margaret Mary here describes the vision upon which the imagery of the Sacred Heart is based:
On this Statue we found a little label which said " A. STROBE "Artistic Decorator". Inscribed on the base in a fancy scrawl was the date (1930).
I had first thought, that "A. Strobe" was the sculptor, or at least the name of the studio; but the term " Artistic Decorator" suggests the possibility, that this label referred to the person who had poly chromed the statue.
This is our next project - the restoration of a 1930's plaster Pieta. Images below show the repair made to the index finger of Jesus' left hand.
A recent Sacred Heart restoration by Jeanette and David Lewis.
This statue was rescued from an antique shop by two ladies, (may God bless them!) it had been destined for a pub,
Above left I am taking some photos to record decorative features. Gold banding at the neck area was obscuring the alb - so I decided to reduce this.
The original decals had been placed rather rigidly; so on re- painting I re-positioned them slightly.
I also added a silvery- blue element into the damask motif, to give a little lift and add richness to the mantle.
Fr. "L" asked that I make the colour of the mantle " slightly redder" than the original. It took a little while to find the correct colour combination to get just the right shade of red.
The statue was delivered in plenty of time for the upcoming feast of the Sacred Heart on the 12th of June.
A carved wooden statue which had been treated to look like plaster is restored...
Above left is the Sacred Heart statue as it arrived at my studio. Above right, is our completed restoration of the same.
Fr. H and I sat down to coffee and discussed if there were any particular changes which might improve the look of the statue. We both agreed that its expression was a bit severe. That pointed beard was reminiscent of some of the more intense faces I had seen depicted on Mandyllions of the Eastern Church.
This statue of the Sacred Heart had long been a familiar presence at Mr. K's home. When an unruly breeze and a billowing curtain knocked it from the sill, the base and neck were snapped. Rather than discard this much loved piece, an attempt was made by a friend, to repair the head (1) but the glue had never set quite right.. and the base had been made stable with some (2) window putty - well, it is a type of modelling clay of sorts!
Mr. K. decided it was time to have the statue professionally restored; To do this successfully, first the head and the putty base had to be removed, and the areas of break cleaned up before the repairs could be done. (3)
Lewis and Lewis
is a Catholic family run business: specialising in statue restoration, and church interior projects.
Jeanette is a professional sculptor/fine artist and designer; husband David is a traditional upholsterer/technician.
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