July 01, 2020

Sergey Bondarenko, Муsей "Kop'ya Krevskogo Zamka" / Museum "Replica of Krevo Castle"

this picture (2018) and the next five
courtesy of Sergey Bondarenko

For many years, nothing indicated that Sergey Bondarenko, who in his young years liked to make paintings and drawings and later made small wooden, metal or ceramic creations he sold on markets, would become the creator of a life-size singular architecture, a 1:10 scale replica of a centuries-old castle. 

But then, in 2016 the inhabitants of the village of Chukhni in Belarus saw this happen.

October 2019

Life and works

Born in Arkhangelsk, in the far north of Russia, Bondarenko after his primary education entered military service, lived for a while in St. Petersburg and then in Svetlogorsk, where he met his future wife Marina. In 1986, the couple moved to Smorgon in Belarus, where Sergey worked for five years as a designer of posters, banners and the like at a tractor factory, while Marina had an administrative position at that factory.

In the early 1990s the couple started selling selfmade artistic products, such as clay figurines and  pendants with stones and amulets, at markets and festivals in Lithuania and Poland, and even in Moscow.

 May 2020

After their two daughters had left home, the couple wanted to leave the city and in 2013 they moved to the village of Chukhni, a few kilometers from Krevo, north-west of Minsk. Due to its history and centuries old castle, now a ruin, this village attracts tourists who might be potential buyers of artful creations.

Once established in the village, Bondarenko came up with an idea that would largely determine his further life. He decided to make a life-size replica 1:10 of Krevo Castle near Chukhni as it was in former times. The project is a combination of a tribute to the past, the pleasure of creating a special creation and making money to live on.

Creating a replica

It took the necessary consultation with the local authorities, but Bondarenko got the permit to realize the intended construction (incidentally not on the spot he had in mind, because the authorities preferred the area around his house).

The construction had to become a building with towers and ramparts surrounding an inner court with an area of approximately 80 square meters.

summer 2019

Work started in 2016, the first tower was completed in the summer, the second in the autumn of that year. The largest tower is 5 meters high 

The outer walls of the towers and of the ramparts have been made of concrete to which homemade small brick particles of clay are attached, as can be seen in above picture. Using a mold Bondarenko makes these stones of clay which he takes in a nearby quarry.

In the courtyard cast metal knights with a height of 20 centimeters will appear, probably in the capacity of a complete army. An example of those characters can be seen in the third photo from above.

picture made in 2020

The grounds surrounding the castle are enclosed with an iron fence containing horseshoes. The decorative creations also include shield-shaped decorations, as shown in the photo above.

There is a plan to construct a circular labyrinth on the grounds round the house. Its design is already available.

an aerial view of the castle under construction
 June 2020

* Website of Museum Replica of Krevo Castle, (pictures, information about opening hours, etc.)
* Article (November 2017) on the website of newspaper Belarus Today
* Article (August 2018) on the website of newspaper Zviazda 
* Article (December 2019) on the website of newspaper News Tut, with a map and information about the actual development of the village of Chukhny
* Article (June 2020) on the website of newspaper Realt Onliner, with a variety of recent pictures of the site
* Account of the site on YouTube
* Video by TV Belarus24 (August 2018, YouTube, 26'12")

* Video by Sergey Bondarenko on Facebook (0'40", June 2018), a view of the site from the street

Sergey Bondarenko
Museum "Replica of Krevo Castle"  
House nr 43
Chukhni, Belarus
visitors welcome / artful items for sale

June 24, 2020

Antonín Lehečka, Železné království/Iron Kingdom

 this picture (2015) and the next five by Miloš Lehečka
licensed under Wikimedia Commons

The picture above shows the entrance of a forge (Kovár means blacksmith) in the small village of Hradiště in the south-west of the Czech Republic. The local blacksmith transformed the area around house and workshop into an art environment that mainly included miniature iron creations, a site consequently often referred to as Iron Kingdom.

Life and works

Antonín Lehečka (1903-1978). the blacksmith in question, was born in Vienna.

After his primary education, he worked for twelve years on a collective farm, where he learned professional craftsmanship from experienced blacksmiths.

Then, in the 1930s, Lehečka settled as a blacksmith in Hradiště, mainly oriented towards supporting farms, first with shoeing the hooves of horses, later with maintenance and repair of agricultural implements.

At some moment in his professional life as a blacksmith, he decided to use the remains of the material he incorporated in his work as a basis for items to decorate the space around house and workshop.

The internet has only limited information about Lehečka's life and work, so there are no data about the year in which the construction of this art environment started. It is possible that in addition to the busy job he had as a blacksmith, as early as the 1930s and 1940s he already made items,  this in connection with the assumption that - as usually in the field of art environments - the majority of his work was realized at a later age, in the 1950s and 60s.

Lehečka's creative production has a distinct, recognizable character, especially as regards the castle-like structures with their slender, pointed towers, often provided with circular platforms with battlements.

The structures formed from steel plate, often arranged in coherent configurations and situated on supporting metal, wooden or stone elements, are graced by gnomes and other (fairy) characters.

In addition, there are self-contained items, such as houses, but also high-rising metal uprights with a specific presentation at the top. An example is the kinetic creation of a wheel with blades driven by a character in black clothes, as can be seen in action in the beginning of the video (see documentation).

Another example is the pole on the left in the picture above  This is a reminder of a historic event in 1945 when at the end of the second world war Russian and American soldiers met in Hradiště.

The inscription on the shield says: "Here, on May 9, 1945, an American soldier met a Russian soldier and shook his hand "

Antonín Lehečka died in 1978.

After his death, his son Miloš took on the task of taking care of the maintenance of the site, that contains some fifty distinct creations, which -as the photos and the video show- are still in good condition nowadays. Because Milos now is getting older it becomes increasingly difficult to continue the maintenance.

* As mentioned earlier, the internet has only limited information about Lehečka's life and work. The main source is an article on the municipal website of Hradiště, which in addition to the text, has a series of photographs provided by the family.
* Video by Pavel Konečný (2020, 7'00", Facebook)

Antonín Lehečka
Iron Kingdom
33544 Hradiště, region Pilsen, Czech Republic
can be seen from the road

June 14, 2020

Kyösti Iitti, Enkelipuisto/Angel Park

the entrance of the park
pictures (May 2019) courtesy of Raija Kallioinen

Located in the wooded area around Riihikoski, a small hamlet in the south west of Finland, there is an art environment with a variety of metal sculptures:  Kyösti Iitti's Angel Park. 

Kyösti Iitti 

Life and works

Born June 8, 1948, Kyösti Iitti after his primary education first had a job as a woodworker and later got a training at a shipyard in Turku, some 40 km south-east of Riihikoski, where he then worked for about ten years as a welder and sheet metal worker.

Because of problems he had with asthma he had to find another job, and so in 1988 he became a massage therapist, a job he had until 2007. In that year, in his late fifties, he had to retire early due to problems with his back.

Once retired, he and his wife settled permanently on the grounds in the woods, where the couple had a summer cottage and where later his art environment would develop.

Adam and Eve with the snake 
tempting them to eat the "forbidden fruit."

Iitti began making iron sculptures in 1985.

His first metal creation was a postman on a bicycle loaded not just with mailbags, but also with a mobile letterbox, a sculpture that was installed at the premises of the summer cottage. 

Other sculptures followed, and in 1988 the collection as it had been formed until then was opened to the public. Incidentally, Iitti was reluctant to publicize the site and there are also no signposts pointing to its location.

In the early 1990s Iitti transformed part of the area around the house into a half-acre lake, which became a distinct image-defining element of the site.

The sculptures are partly arranged around this lake, and partly in the adjacent 5 ha forest. Currently (2020) the collection includes some fifty sculptures.

Iitti makes his sculptures from recycled material, using shiny sheet steel, iron chains or other metal objects.

Just a many other creators of art environments, he does not work on the basis of pre-made sketches, but he is guided by the shape and characteristics of the material he has available.

The site is named after an angel that dominates the entrance gate of the park. This angel pays homage to a brother of Iitti who died at a young age

Iitti's sculptures often make a robust impression and they are usually man-height, and in some cases even more extensive.

There are various depictions of animals, such as the deer named Oskar, the bear with the name Karhu made of welded chains, an eagle, a large fish consisting of an iron tail attached to a large piece of stone excavated during the making of the lake ....

There are sculptures of humans, a weightlifter, a skeletal type, a carnival figure, a long-haired beauty on a rock..... There are  ornamental elements, the lake  includes a three-master.....it is a burst of creativity in iron and stainless steel.

And then there also is a marked life-size structure made of fifteen boilers, cut open and welded together, covering a stage where (music) performances take place.

Another eye-catching life-size item of this art environment is the UFO-like structure rising up on  iron supports, overlooking the lake.

This structure, purchased by Iitti in the early 1990s, is named Futuro House. It was conceived in 1968 by Finnish architect Matti Suuronen as as a quick to assemble and disassemble housing made of polyester plastic reinforced with fiberglass. A number of these Futuro Houses have been sold, but the concept as such has not been widely accepted.

* Weblog of the park (2010-2017), with a variety of pictures
* Facebook (unofficial page)
* Article (January 2017) on website Etlehti
* Article (in German) Der Engelpark von Pöytyä on website Mietoinen Finnland
* Video (June 2016, YouTube, 1'52") by Maaseudun Tulevaisus

* Video (September 2018, YouTube, 22'44") by Coyotefilmfi

Kyösti Iitti
Enkelipuisto (Angel Park)
Kaitoonmäentie 200
21870 Riihikoski, Pöytyä, region Southwest Finland, Finland
can be visited on appointment

May 31, 2020

Anatoly Komlev, Дом украшен крышками для бутылок/House decorated with bottle caps

this picture and the next two
from regional journal E1.ru

Shurala is a small community of some 450 inhabitants in the Sverdlovsk region in Russia, some 90 km north of Yekaterinburg and as the crow flies about 20 km from the village of Kunara, where Russia's most famous art environment is located, the decorated house of the blacksmith Sergey Kirillov.

The community of Shurala is not only known for the monumental church building in the center of the village, built in the early 1900s, a structure with five domes and a church tower. But the village also surprises visitors with no less than two houses with a colorfully decorated exterior, one created by Vladimir Serebryakov, the other by Anatoly Komlev, whose creation is reviewed in this post.

Life and work

Anatoly Stepanovich Komlev, born in 1949, became an employee of the Russian railways. In the late 1990s as a station worker he was transferred to O.p. 419, a stop near the community of Shurala on the rail link between Yekaterinburg and Anatol'skaya.

Aided by a neighbor, in a year's time he built his own home on the premises of the train stop.

At the suggestion of the neighbor's wife, Vera Zinovieva, in 2001 Komlev started decorating the house with colorful bottle caps. according to drawings for embroidery Vera had sketched on a wall.

It became a project that would keep Komlev active for about fifteen years. 

Almost all walls of the house and outbuildings have been decorated with often man-sized  colorful decorations made of bottle caps. There are various images of flowers, but also of a rooster, a dog, a lake with ducks....

Around 2016, when Komlev was in his late sixties, he decided to terminate the project.

* Article (September 2015) in regional journal E1.ru, with more pictures

Anatoly Komlev
House decorated with bottle caps
at the premises of train stop O.p. 419
near Shurala, Sverdlovsk region, Russia
can be seen from the street

Vladimir Serebryakov, Дом украшен крышками для бутылок/House decorated with bottle caps

Serebryakov in the process of decorating the facade of his house (2017)
 pictures are screenprints from the video in the documentation

Shurala is a small community of some 450 inhabitants in the Sverdlovsk region in Russia, some 90 km north of Yekaterinburg and as the crow flies about 20 km from the village of Kunara, where Russia's most famous art environment is located, the decorated house of the blacksmith Sergey Kirillov.

The community of Shurala is not only known for the monumental church building in the center of the village, built in the early 1900s, a structure with five domes and a church tower. But the village also surprises visitors with no less than two houses with a colorfully decorated exterior, one made by Anatoly Komlev and another by Vladimir Serebryakov, whose creation is reviewed in this post.

Life and works

Born in 1959 Vladimir Nikolayevich Serebryakov in 2012, so when he was in his early fifties, began decorating the exterior of his house.

He had no training as an artist and he was not really involved in art either. The idea of decorating the house came spontaneously when he saw pictures of embroidery in a magazine of his daughter and thought that he could make something similar, using colored bottle caps.

The picture above shows that the colored bottle caps are attached to the wooden base with a nail.

Actually, these nails are the only material that comes at a cost. The caps are in principle available for free, but large numbers are required, about a thousand pieces per square meter of wall. 

Fortunately family members help collect them.

In an initial phase of the project, Serebryakov added creations which refer to Russian fairytale characters, as in above picture.

Then Serebryakow began working the fence next to the house. 

The picture above shows three of the around five somewhat more complex creations he added to the fence, a mysterious oriental princess on the left, an assembly of flowers in the middle and two swans on the right.

an image on the fence in detail

Later Serebryakov began decorating the front of the house, starting with the top part.

The first picture in this post shows how far decorating the front side had progressed in 2017.

The upper part is already finished. It includes a decorated roof molding.

And the triangular space below the molding has a scene with two large fish (dolphins?), an island with a palm tree and a cabin and two sailing boats on the water.

The picture below gives an impression of the decorated facade, with at the bottom images of two colorful waterfowl in a wetland environment

Around the end of 2018, Serebryakov considered his creative activity as complete.

* Article (September 2015) in regional journal E1.ru, with a variety of pictures
* Website Uraloved has an article (2015) about Shurala village with two pictures of the site
* Video (July 2017, YouTube) by Настоящее Время, the part about the decorated house
starts at 8.27

Vladimir Serebryakov
House decorated with bottle caps
st. Sovetskaya 51
Shurala, Sverdlovsk region, Russia
can be seen from the street
the site is located along the same street as the Temple,
but more to the south

May 21, 2020

Nico Molenaar, Sigarenbandjeshuisje/Cigarbands House

a scene of Venice
this picture and the next three (2013) 
courtesy of Leslie Gardner (Flickr)

The above image of a gondola in Venice, which was created by adding the medallions of cigar bands to a panel, once was part of the attic of a house in the old center of the Dutch village of Volendam. In the 1950s the site became known as the Cigarband House.

 Life and works

This rather specific art environment was created by Nicolaas Molenaar (1894-1964). He was the middle child in a Volendam family and had three brothers and three sisters.

Growing up in a Catholic environment, after his primary education Nicolaas went to a monastery, where he stayed for many years until he left it in the early 1940s.

Martini Tower in the City of Groningen, Netherlands

Molenaar returned to live in Volendam and in June 1944 he married Grietje Tuyp (1896-1981), who was also a former monastic (she had joined the monastery after her fiance drowned while fishing at sea). Their marriage remained childless.

The couple lived in a house in the old center of the village, a neighborhood with narrow streets and rather haphazardly situated authentic houses, which is why it is also referred to as Doolhof  (Labyrinth).

Statue of Liberty, New York

To provide for income, Molenaar sold eels from home. 

As a hobby he collected cigar bands and in 1947 he came up with the idea to make decorations with these bands and to display these in the attic. Once started with this project, it became an activity that never left him and on which he worked with unbridled commitment. 

Molenaar cut off the ends of the cigar bands and glued the medallions on boards, arranging these into the representation he had in mind and in a pencil sketch already had prepared on the panel.

After a while the collection had grown to such an extent that it became known in the village and people wanted to come and see it. Molenaar thought that was fine, and the arrangement became that people were allowed to take a look in the attic if they also bought a portion of eel

The project was well received by the inhabitants of Volendam. In any case, this applied to the Volendam children, because in order to get enough material, Molenaar gave a few cents to a child who brought a box full of cigar bands.

map of the northern part of the Netherlands,
the white square (added by the editor of this post) 
indicates the location of Volendam

One of the decorations in the Cigarbands House is above map of the northern part of the Netherlands. It shows the large inlet of the North Sea on which Volendam is located.

In 1932 the Afsluitdijk was completed, an enclosure dam 32 km long and 90 meters wide (the not so easy to identify yellow line in above map). This had major consequences for Volendam, that traditionally had a lot of saltwater fishing. Postwar developments have also resulted in only a limited number of boats currently remaining from Volendam's once sizable fishing fleet.

Manneken Pis in Brussels and a scene of Venice
this picture and the next three (2009) 
courtesy of Allison (Flickr)

Molenaar's collection includes numerous images of historical buildings.

There are images of internationally known structures such as Saint Peter's Basilica in Rome, the Tower of Pisa, the Big Ben in London, the Cathedral in Cologne, the Statue of Liberty in New York.

But he also depicted Dutch buildings such as windmills, the Water Tower in Sneek, the Martini tower in Groningen, the St Vincentius Church in Volendam and the Basilica of Saint Servatius in Maastricht.

Molenaar also looked into completely different themes, such as all Volendam football players who in 1959 for the first time promoted to the premier league, all provincial arms of the Netherlands, the Dutch royal family with (the current king) Willem Alexander as a baby on the arm of his father prince Claus, maps of the Netherlands, and Manneken Pis in Brussels.

There are also images as above and below with black outlined scenes, for which the ends of the cigar bands were used.

After Nico Molenaar died on May 13, 1964, the entire collection, meanwhile including some 7 million cigarbands, was taken over by a neighbour, Jan Sombroek, who installed the collection in his own house.

In the 1960s in Volendam the arrival of international tourists started to increase and Sombroek and his wife Jannig Karregat have done a lot to transform the collection into a tourist attraction.

They added informative panels decorated with cigarbands to the collection, and also ship models and items like the decorated table tops, vases, (gin) jars and plates, covered with cigarbands, as in below picture.

In December 1993, the Volendams Museum bought the collection.

To accommodate it, a wing has been added to the museum building. On May 11, 1994 the first pile was driven by Nico's brother Jaap Molenaar (1903-1995), who at the time was 90 years old.

Volunteers carefully refurbished the panels as necessary and on May 5, 1995 the new museum hall was officially opened.

In 2017 the museum submitted an application to register Cigarbands House in the Guiness book of records. In this context also a promotional film was made (see documentation)

* Website of the Volendams Museum
* Article (April 2019) on weblog I Becoming Dutch
* Article (June 2017) in regional journal Groot Waterland
* More pictures of the creations on Flickr, by Leslie Gardner and by Allisson
* Video on Instagram showing the decorated panels as exposed in the Volendams Museum
* Video Cigarbands Mosaic made in the 1950s by Nelleke de Wit (YouTube, undated, 1'24") showing Nico Molenaar at work

* Video (2013, YouTube, 3'31") by madeleinepa3cuz, showing the setup of the panels with cigarbands in the Volendams Museum

* Video of a film (2017) made by the Volendams Museum to promote Molenaar's creation as the world's only cigarband house

Nico Molenaar 
Cigarbands House
formerly situated in the attic of a private houses along
Dril, corner Oude Draaipad, Volendam, Netherlands
decorations currently exposed in
Volendams Museum
Zeestraat 41, 1131 ZD Volendam, Netherlands

former location of the Cigarband House

May 17, 2020

Margaret Seaman, Knitted and crocheted miniature scenes

a part of the Great Yarmouth seafront set of miniature scenes
this picture and the next three from the website BBC News

At first glance it is not so visible, but a closer look reveals that all parts of the above miniature scene  -the sky, the sun, the sea, the beach, the pier and the person on it, the beach chairs, the air mattress and the boat- are knitted or crocheted.

This scene is part of a four meter long set of miniature scenes, depicting the recreational facilities along the seafront promenade in Great Yarmouth, England, first exposed in February 2019.

Life an works

This set was created by Margaret Seaman when she was in her late eighties.

Born in April 1929, she married in the 1960s and worked with her husband Fred in his business supplying children's rides and amusements to tourist venues and attractions.

another part of the Great Yarmouth set 

After her husband died in February 2013, Mrs Seaman -who was now 82- went to live with her daughter Patricia Wilson in Great Yarmouth.

Following her daughter's advice she joined a knitting club, run by a local social center, that by selling the knitting also collects money for charity.

It might have been fifty years since Mrs Seaman last used knitting needles, but it soon turned out that knitting for her wasn't just a pastime, but rather a creative challenge. And then a creative challenge that was colored by the wish to raise money for charity.

That turned out to be a realistic enterprise when in late 2014 Mrs Seaman made a replica of her husband's koi pond in the garden of her former home and she by displaying this replica in various places managed to collect about £ 12.000.

one more part of the Great Yarmouth set  

The Great Yarmouth seaside set

The koi pond was still a relatively small project compared to a subsequent project that Mrs Seaman undertook. This became a replica of Great Yarmouth's Golden Mile (also Marine Parade), as it was in the 1970s, a beach side promenade with sea views and all kinds of entertainment and facilities for food and drink.

The replica would become 4 meters long. It includes a variety of scenes, some of which are shown in the images above. Where the koi pond project already took four months of work, the Great Yarmouth project has taken a year of work, and then it has to be noted that Mrs. Seaman is not afraid to spend twelve to fifteen hours a day on her hobby.

Characteristic of Mrs Seaman's work is that she tries to depict the buildings and other items as realistically and faithfully as possible. To this end, she consults photos in magazines and other publications.

the Great Yarmouth set displayed on four tables 
in Mrs Seaman's home 

The set was displayed at a craft exhibition in February 2019 in the Forum in Norwich, a community building with a variety of facilities for the public, such as a library, a tourist information center, facilities for (art) exhibitions, amateur theatrical performances, and so on. The exhibition yielded £ 13,000 for charity.

As the picture above shows, before it was exhibited in the Forum, the set could also be visited in Mrs Seaman's home. 

The Sandringham house project

In July 2019 Mrs Seaman started a new project, a replica of the Sandringham House. Located in the village of the same name, 60 km north west of Norwich. this estate is the favored holiday home of Queen Elizabeth II.

miniature replica of Sandringham House
picture from website JustGiving

The miniature version of this ages old royal estate that Mrs. Seaman worked on for six months,
 is 3 meters long and 2 meters wide.

In this replica Mrs Seaman once more ensures that the dimensions and color scheme of the building correspond as much as possible to reality.

The miniature scene also partly includes the landscaping that surrounds the property, with lawns, trees and a lake, all together a variety of miniature items, all added in knitted or crocheted form. 

this picture and the next one by Forum

The photo above shows in some detail how a tree with green leaves takes shape in a miniature wool version.

And the picture below shows Queen Elizabeth II and her husband Prince Philip as they appear in the miniature version of their country house (Mrs. Seaman was assisted by a friend in the making of the depictions of persons).

The miniature version of Sandringham House has been exposed at the Forum in Norwich from February 8-23, 2020. It closed just one month before in the United Kingdom on March 23, 2020 the lockdown due to the Corona virus was effected.

The "Knittingale" Hospital

In the United Kingdom the coronavirus pandemic has sparked some specific private actions to raise money for the hospitals of the National Health Service.

Mrs. Seaman is participating by creating a new miniature scene, this time a model of what is called the Knittingale Hospital.

picture by ITV News Anglia

The photo shows a very early version of this miniature. It will include four wards and an x-ray department, but also a coffee corner and who knows what other items are being invented while working. The collected money, also welcome via website JustGiving, will be donated to three hospitals in the region.

The final creation will be presented in the Forum when it is reopened.

* Article (January 2015) in regional journal Great Yarmouth Mercury about the knitted pond
* Article (February 2019) on the website of BBC News about the Great Yarmouth set
* Article (January 2020) in regional journal Eastern Daily Press about the Sandringham House project
* Article (May 2020) on the website of ITV Report about raising money for the National Health Service.
* Video by ITV News (YouTube, February 2019, 1'39") with Margaret Seaman knitting the seaside of Great Yarmouth

* Video by Forum Norwich (YouTube, January 2020, 4'50") with Margaret Seaman knitting "Sandringham"

* Video by ITV News (YouTube, May 13, 2020, 2'28"), with Margaret Seaman knitting the "Knittingale Hospital")

Margaret Seaman
Knitted and crocheted miniature scenes
Great Yarmouth, county Norfolk, region East of England, England, UK
home address is private
miniature scenes can be seen on expositions