October 07, 2022

Jon and Muriel Richards, Chapel of the crosses

pictures: screenprints from the video in the documentation

Jon Richards, an importer of watches from Bristol, once retired went to live with his wife Muriel Richards in Mappleborough Green, a village of some 540 inhabitants in the county of Warwickshire in the West Midlands region of England. 

Warwickshire is known as the county with William Shakespeare's hometown Stratford-upon-Avon. In the circle of lovers of follies in England it is also known for its hand-built and decorated Chapel of the Crosses, located in the community of Mappleborough Green.

Creating a chapel

It all started around 2006. Jon Richards wanted to surprise his wife with a chapel in the backyard and said he was going to build a barn there to have a somewhat more spacious workshop.

It became a structure with a surface area of 8 by 12 feet (2.4 by 3.7 meters), measurements that would allow him to construct the building without first getting a planning permission.

When after some time of construction a Gothic window appeared on a side wall, Jon's wife Muriel realized that the new building wasn't workshop, but something else. Learning that it had to be a chapel, she was very enthusiastic and started to actively help with the further construction and furnishing.

Some details of the chapel

Outside the chapel is a stone baptismal font, as depicted above, taken from a garden in Leominster in Hertfordshire. This font was too large to fit into the interior.

The Gothic frames for the stained glass windows came from a yard in the Midlands and the glass windows were custom made by a friend who was a glazier.

The couple rescued full-length pews from a church in Hertfordshire in southern England and shortened them to fit two people per pew, allowing a total of 12 people to sit in the chapel (and a smaller number to stand).

Above picture depicts the chapel's centerpiece, a bronze sculpture of Jesus on the cross, 3,5 feet (around 1 meter) large, which came from a scrap yard in Bristol. 

The altar had to be modified to fit and the stained glass windows had to be specially cut.

Jon considered installing an organ, but decided against it because it would take up too much space. Instead, there are speakers playing hymns from a CD player.

The tapestry below, depicting the Last Supper, was found on a market in Spain.

Other aspects

The name Chapel of the Crosses refers to the three crosses Jon Richards places on a neighboring hill to mark the Holy Week around Eastern. The center cross is taken along in a Good Friday procession that passes through the fields of the community. 

The chapel's architecture is replicated from the local church in Mappleborough Green.
The vicar of the ecclesiastical region under which Mappleborough Green belongs is sympathetic to the chapel Jon and Muriel have created. The building is not officially consecrated as a church, but church services are held in which the vicar participates.

Jon and Muriel are also occasionally approached with the question whether a marriage can be solemnized in the chapel, but for this they don't have a permit.

A holiday accomodation on the premises

From 2010 the couple also runs a self catering holiday accommodation called Haye Pastures Farm. Guests staying in the cottages have free access to the chapel, which is open daily for this purpose. The experiences shared by holiday guests on relevant internet sites are in general all very positive. 

* Article on the website Folly Fancier
* Article (April 2011) on website BBC News
* Article (February 2015) on the website Premier Christian News
* Article (November 2016) on the website Little Things
* Website about the holiday accomodation

* A short video (0'36", YouTube) by Home Build Stories

Jon and Muriel Richards
Chapel of the crosses
5 Haye Lane
B80 7DS Mappleborough Green, Warwickshire, region West Midlands, England, UK
visits only on appointment

September 30, 2022

François Werlen, Jardin de sculptures / Sculpture garden

images are screenprints from the video below, 
re-use licensed under Creative Commons

The image above shows wooden animal sculptures as present in a garden in Montauban, a municipality of some 61,000 inhabitants in the Tarn-et-Garonne department in the Occitan region of France.

This garden with its variety of mainly wooden sculptures of animals is a  creation of François Werlen. 

 Life and works

Werlen was born in Montauban in the early 1950s. The information about his life available on the internet focuses mainly on his development as a painter. 

Self-taught, Werlen started painting in 1972, when he was in his early twenties. In reviews his work was classified as art singulier (singular art), a designation mainly used for non-professional artists active in the south of France. His work has also been characterized as halfway between folk art and art brut 

The paintings he created over the past forty years have a poetic appearance and testify to a great love for color. His themes mainly include animals and human characters. As a material to be painted, he not only uses canvas, but also paper, wood and metal.

About his activities as a painter he has said
Ma peinture, c’est de l’expression, ce n’est pas qu’un loisir, c’est aussi un besoin de le faire, même si cela reste un plaisir (My painting is about expression, it's not just a hobby, it's also a need to do it, even if it remains a pleasure.

In recent years, Werlen's work has been exhibited in galleries in and around Montauban.

Werlen's garden with wooden sculptures

In the in general rather short reviews in newspapers of Werlen's exhibitions, there are often brief references to the garden with wooden statues created by the artist, most likely the garden of the house where Werlen lives. The article by Gregory Pamadou, mentioned in the documentation, gives the most information.

The sculptures are made from raw recycled materials, mainly wood, but also iron, materials that are given a second life through Werlen's processing.

As in his paintings, his sculptures mainly depict animals and human characters.

The images of the wooden sculptures show that Werlen starts from the form he finds in the piece of wood he is going to use, evoking the nature of the person or animal by adding other wooden elements and applying colours, eyes or other distinguishing features,

The landscaping of the garden is so lush that the sculptures occupy almost a modest position in the entire entourage, a modesty that seems characteristic of this art environment, because there is no information in the local press about the origin, nature and location of Werlen's sculpture garden.

Fortunately, in 2020 a video was recorded and published.

* Article (December 2014) by Gregory Pamadou about Werlen and his artistic work

* Video (2020, YouTube, 5'40") by Nonoko Home Studio

François Werlen
Sculpture garden
location unknown
Montauban, dept Tarn-et-Garonne, region Occitan, France. 

September 23, 2022

Henk Lamers, Beeldentuin / Garden with figurines

image from Google Streetview

It all started in the early 1990s, when Henk Lamers (1953-2022) bought a decorative ensemble representing Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy, an ensemble he placed in the front yard of his house. 

After that there was no stopping him, he continued to buy other figurines and after some twenty years the garden had the appearance as in the picture above.

this image and the next four from the videos
in the documentation
Life and works

Born in the early 1950s, Lamers after his primary and craft schooling got a job as a house painter. He married and the couple moved into a house in Weurt.

The village of Weurt, with some 2025 inhabitants, is part of the municipality of Beuningen, bordering the western part of Nijmegen, one of the oldest cities in the Netherlands, located along the river Waal. 

After twenty years of house painting, Lamers developed an illness in early 1990, caused by wrong substances that were still in the paint at the time, and he was declared unfit for work.

To have something to do, in 1992 he began decorating the front yard of his house with all kinds of fairytale characters and other figurines, an art environment that grew in size over the years. Currently the display is 35 meters long and a couple of meters high.

Lamers' site is comparable to gardens and houses richly furnished with dolls elsewhere in Europe, such as Lubomir Votava in the Czech Republic, Margarita Travkina in Russia and Francis Barale, in France.

Among the hundred or so characters that decorate the front yard are a peacock, a crocodile, a stork, a flamingo, an orange sheep, a kangaroo with glasses, a pig also with glasses and a frog with a football on its head...... 

As for famous personalities, apart from Laurel & Hardy also Elvis Presley, Pinocchio, Puss in Boots and Snow White can be seen, And of course there are gnomes, as pictured below.

Given Lamers' profession, it goes without saying that the figurines are well painted. They form a colorful whole, and are selected to make viewers happy.

Lamers passed away in August 2022. His wife has indicated that the collection will continue to exist.

* Article (August 2020) in Michiel van Hunenstijn's weblog 
* Article (April 2022) on website RN7
Article (August 2022) in regional newspaper, reporting Lamers' death

* Video (undated, YouTube, 1'08") by Omroep Gelderland

* Video (undated, YouTube, 1'24") by RN7

Henk Lamers
Garden with figurines
corner of Pastoor van der Marckstraat and Dijkstraat
village of Weurt, part of municipality of Beuningen, province Gelderland, Netherlands
can be seen from the street

September 16, 2022

Eldfinn Austigard, Treskulpturer i en skog / Wooden sculptures in a forest

this picture and the next two from Facebook, Skabelonen

The image above shows a covered area next to a bakery. There are tables and benches for visitors to the bakery, but also walls decorated with carvings, depicting all kinds of characters and decorative items.

Welcome to the small village of Årdal, part of the municipality of Hjelmeland in southern Norway. Lovers of art environments will find a lot to see in terms of wooden sculptures, created by Eldfinn Austigard. 

These sculptures are not only located around Austigard's house, in his workshop, in the covered area or flanking the entrance, but also a few kilometers away in a forest with some 50 wooden characters installed along a walking path of 1.5 km.

In above left image Eldfinn Austigard, standing in front of his bakery shop Skabelonen which he started around 2017. shows a loaf of bread he baked himself. The character carved in wood above right shows a sign with the text Bakstehuset, Opnar kl 15 (The bakery opens at 3 pm).  

Austigard  does his bakery work as a hobby, going to work on Thursday and selling the homemade bread on Friday. 

the entrance to Austigard's bakery, workshop. house
and some other houses as on Streetview (2019)

Life and works

In his younger years Eldfinn Austigard probably wouldn't have thought that he would become a hobby baker later in life and that he would make a large variety of wooden sculptures as a non-professional.

He was born in 1953 in Årdal and after his primary education he attended secondary education in Stavanger. 

He started his working life assisting his father, who owned the local bus company and he succeeded his father when he retired in 1977. A few years later the bus company was taken over by another company. 

Eldfinn and Gunhild, to whom he was now married, then bought a petrol station and a workshop from the bus company which they operated until 2007.

this picture and the next ones, scenes of the adventure forest,
 from Facebook, Eventyrskogen

Austigard was now in his mid-fifties, and the part-time job as a cultural mediator he could get with the Hejelmeland municipality, undoubtedly suited the social and creative activities he had undertaken in the previous years.

In 2005, for example, he received the culture prize from Hjelmeland for his efforts in a local sports team, but also for his activities in the social and cultural field. He was apparently already active as a maker of wooden sculptures in previous years.

For his wife Gunhild the termination of the work at the gas station was also pleasant, because now she could devote more time to her activities as an amateur painter.

In 2009 Austigard became head of culture at the municipality of Hjelmeland.

Wooden sculptures in Eventyrskogen

Many years before the opening of Eventyrskogen (Adventure forest), the municipality of Hjemeland had already planned to create such a tourist attraction and for that purpose Eldfinn Austigard was already creating a collection of wooden sculptures.

As part of a national project aimed at developing a National Tourist Route, which was also planned to pass through Hjelmeland, the municipality started negotiations with the owner of a wooded area (Bønardalen) to locate the fairytale park there.

But initially the negotiations with the landowner were unsuccessful. They came to a halt in 2010.

After some time negotiations were resumed and the municipality concluded an agreement with the land owners, which also included the construction of parking spaces and toilet facilities.

The park was officially opened in April 2013 and by the end of that month some 6000 people had already visited it.

Along a circular path in the spruce forest stand the dozens of wooden figures from various fairy tales and legends created by Austigard. The trip among the trees in the mysterious forest takes about an hour and is suitable for the whole family.

Eldfinn Austigard has not only produced the wooden sculptures for the forest area, in his spare time he also contributes in other ways, such as in the construction and maintenance of the paths and all kinds of management arrangements.

The adventure forest has become a success, it is very popular with families with children and easy to reach for young and old.

In October 2021 Eldfinn Austigard received the Rogaland Public Health Award 2021

Norway uses a broad definition of public health and so the recipient of the award should have contributed to social support and to well-being and quality of life of the population.
Considerations of awarding the prize to Austigard included that he has made a contribution to public health beyond his function, that he is the "father" of Eventyrskogen, that he encourages people to do outdoor activities and creates social encounters and activities across generations, all things that promote public health.

Facebook page of Eventyrskogen i Årdal
* Google Streetview with a variety of photos of Eventyrskogen
* Website of Tripadvisor with an entry about Eventyrskogen, with a variety of photos
* Website Sandelsand with an introduction to Eventyrskogen
Facebook page of Skabelonen (=the bakery)
* Article on weblog Jonebloggen with the story of the bakery and some biographic info

* A short video 2021, 0'35". Vimeo) by Appex

Another video (1'48", YouTube, undated) by Hilde Cecilie Kjørmo

Eldfinn Austigard
* Gallery/bakery
   Ryfylkevegen 5359 
* Eventyrskogen
   Location: see streetview 
Village of Årdal, part of the municipality of Hjelmeland, Rogeland county, Norway 
visitors welcome at Eventyrskogen, see Tripadvisor for opening hours

September 09, 2022

Anonymous, Sochy v českém lese / Sculptures in a Czech forest

pictures courtesy of Justina Orlovska from her 
website Step off he beaten track

On her website Step off the beaten track Czech researcher Justina Orlovska publishes the discoveries she makes about abandoned, unusual and undiscovered buildings, which she encounters when traveling through the Czech Republic and other Eastern European countries.

While doing her research she also encounters art environments with a character that fits in with her research design. From the point of view of the field of art environments, it is of great significance that such art environments can also be mentioned in the inventory undertaken by this blog.

In the following text an art environment is presented, which was first published in January 2022 on Justina Orlovska's website in an article entitled Weird Sculptures in the Forest. A Visit of the Outsider's House (Czech Republic). 

Mainly through numerous photos this article reports about a small hut in a forest somewhere in the Czech Republic, that was built by an anonymous homeless person, who has lived here for 20 years. 

Over the years, the hut has been surrounded by numerous sculptures, made by the hut's resident, whose name is (rightly) not mentioned.

In her text accompanying the photos of the site, Justina says that it doesn't happen too often to see such an extraordinary place. And indeed, among the now around 580 art environments listed in this blog, not one is situated near a forest hut where the maker lives.

The site has a number of creations that depict people who wear long coats, which indicates that the maker has used an internal structure like a kind of mannequin over which the long coat gives shape to the figure. 

Mostly equipped with a rifle or other shooting weapon, these persons, set up near the hut, could be a kind of guardsmen, Their heads are almost always provided with a headgear, glasses or other items.

What is most striking about the figures is the array of attributes with which they are decked out, not only weapons, but also ornaments, belts, chains, sometimes a gas mask....

In addition to the combative types, as set up near the hut, there are other more lovely creations, such as the little man pictured below.

Inside the hut the walls are decorated with small-scale creations, these mainly of a decorative nature, in the form of puppets in colorful bouquets, as below, or other decorations

This art environment includes a variety of sculptures, often each with its own specific decorations. 
Take a look at Justina Orlovska's website to see the various outfits

* Article (January 2022) on website Step off the beaten track\

Sculptures in a Czech Forest 
Czech Republic
location will not be published

September 02, 2022

Robert Goudergues, Miniatures en bois du patrimoine cantalien / Wooden miniatures of Cantal's heritage

this picture: screenprint from the video in the documentation

There are non-professionals who create miniature structures with the intention that all those creations represent a community, usually a village, such as Pierre Bouvarel (Ron des Fades) or Henri Galtier (Occitan Village). Their creations are of course set up in an outdoor area.

There are also non-professional artists who create miniatures from a specific, personal point of view, such as Willem van Genk, who made an extensive collection of buses, fascinated as he was in (nodes of) transport, or Gerald Dalton who, because of his great interest in palaces, castles and stately homes, especially made miniatures in that genre. Such creations are mostly set up indoors.

this pictures and the next four courtesy
of Sophie Lepetit 
from her weblog
Life and works

Robert Goudergues (1937-2017) belongs to the second category. His creative work is driven by the inner need to pay tribute to the architectural heritage of the French department Cantal, his native area.

He was born in the small community of Lacapelle-del-Fraisse, about 25 km south of Aurillac, where he would move when he was 17 years old. He first had a job with a trading firm, and in the 1970s he joined a company that made supplies for shoemakers.

This company ceased to exist five years before the date Goudergues would have formally retired, so he was out of work in the mid 1990s at age 57. For Goudergues this was the time to start making wooden miniatures.

Working in the garage belonging to his home, he has been making wooden miniatures of buildings in his native region for around twenty years. 

Technically speaking, he worked on a scale of 1:15 or 1:19, carefully considering the appearance in reality of the buildings he replicated. To get a realistic miniature he also studied images of his subject.

In general Goudergues made stand-alone creations, and each miniature took about four to five months of work. The four meter long miniature of the row of traditional houses along the Jordanne River in Aurillac, an ensemble he also made, took him a year and a half (image at the top of this article)

Goudergues used all kinds of wood from discarded objects, such as pieces of chestnut wood or the bottoms of crates. He also found special ways of modelling, for example the red tiles and the ridges of some buildings he made from elderberries cut in half.

All together he made some 40 miniatures of castles, churches, famous buildings and all kinds of houses, but also smaller items such as fountains.

Robert Goudergues and the Musée de Veinazès

Located in Lacapelle-del-Fraisse, the native village of Goudergues, the Musée de Veinazès is a private project, undertaken on the initiative of Raymond Coste, an inhabitant of the village. 

Opened on June 27, 2003, the museum focused in its early years on the technical development of regional agriculture between 1880 and 1970 (including a display of all kinds of tractors), and it showed  a number of craft workshops, also from the region like a clog-maker's business (around 1930) and a carpenter's workshop (around 1922), all fully in operation after restoration. 

In later years, when Raymond's son Bernard Coste took charge, the museum also began to focus on regional contemporary folk art. For example, after the death of Rene Delrieu in 2008, part of his art environment was included in the museum.

From 2010-2012 the museum had a temporary exhibition of Goudergues' miniatures.

Also because the space in Goudergues house was too tight to accommodate all his creations, he and his wife Lucienne decided to donate the collection to the museum and in 2013 some 40 miniatures became part of the museum's permanent collection. To this end, a space was added to the museum.

The museum shows how initiatives at a regional level can make an important contribution to the preservation of artworks and art environments by non-professionals

Robert Goudergues passed away on March 2, 2017 and if the museum hadn't been there, his creations could have been lost.

Website of the Museum
* Weblog (April 2014) of Sophie Lepetit with a series of photos
Article (May 2013) in newspaper La Montagne on the occasion of the opening of a new space in the museum for the collection of Goudergues
* Booklet in the series Rencontres en Veinazès (Encounters in Veinazès) published by the museum: Robert Goudergues, l'Architecte des chutes de bois (The architect of scrap wood) (available at the museum)

* Video (undated, 3'15", YouTube) by Un Moment Avec with a presentation of the museum (shots of Goudergues' miniatures start at 2'05") 

Robert Goudergues
Wooden miniatures of Cantal's heritage
miniatures in the collection of Musée du Veinazès,
12 rue des Fourmillères, 15120 Lacapelle-del-Fraisse, dept Cantal, region Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes
can be seen in the Museum (see it's website for opening hours) 

August 26, 2022

Jacky Aymon, Procession de totems sculptés / Procession of carved totems

photos from Facebook

Created by Jacky Aymon, a retired carpenter-cabinetmaker, the above collection of wooden sculptures, is located in Valencisse, a community of some 2300 inhabitants, about 10 km east of the city of Blois along the river Loire in France.

In earlier years, the sculpted totem poles formed an arrangement of thunyas, kind of conifers that, as can be seen from the image, can provide a beautiful, closed fence.

Gradually, however, the greenery was lost and only the bare trunks, remained, almost in line, as if forming a procession or parade.

For Jacky Aymon, the owner of the fenced area, the row of tree stumps offered the opportunity to draw attention to a municipal decision he did not agree with.

A series of municipal mergers

The decision in question concerned the merger of the independent municipalities of Molineuf and Orchaise, which was taken in the course of 2015 and resulted in the origin of the municipality of Valencisse on 1 January 2016. 

To publicly show that he did not agree with the merger of these two villages, Jack Aymon in 2016, with a chainsaw and a grinder transformed the tree stumps into totems. 

On a panel he explained his view on the merger.

He says there that he understands that these mergers fit the spirit of the times, but that he wonders if they have any benefit. However, that the decision was taken without any consultation of the residents. disturbed him the most. As he says in the panel: Où le bât blesse, c'est ce que cette entente s'est faite en catimini (Where the shoe pinches is that this agreement was made on the sly).

Incidentally, Aymon also mentions that on January 1, 2017, the former municipality of Chambon-sur-Cisse also merged into Valencisse and that the relevant decision was taken after consultation with the residents.

The ensemble of totems includes about twenty figures, each with its own facial expression, but all almost identical in posture, except for the totem at the front of the procession, that carries a staff and points the direction.

On the panel Amyon also says that in order to understand everything properly, one must know that Molineuf in past times was called Saint Secondin, because of a beautiful 12th century church Saint Secondin des Vignes, located somewhat outside Molineuf in the middle of vineyards.

This church has a warm place in the hearts of Molineuf's inhabitants. 

The first photo in this article shows that the foreman of the procession of totems is leading the way  As Amyon's panel notes, the church is the target to which the group moves.  

Allégrement (cheerfully), as Aymon says.

St Secondin church (Tripadvisor)

* Entry on the Facebook page of Artension, with a series of pictures

Jacky Amyon
Procession of carved totems
Valenaisse, dept Loir-et-Cher, region Centre-Val de Loire, France
decorated totems can be seen from the road