Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Neo Palladian, Baroque & Neo Classical Craftsmanship

Neo Palladian, Baroque & Neo Classical Craftsmanship      

Over a 32 year career  master stonemason Stephen Critchley has worked on all types of architectural and design projects, but having been brought up in an area which has such a wealth of Neo Palladian and Neo Classical architecture, as well as the finest collection of Baroque architecture outside Rome, his particular interest became the period between the 1620′s – 1830′s. Added to this he was trained by a City of London company whose origins date back to 1690′s Aldgate and he happened to start his career at a time when many of these wonderful buildings were being restored and conserved for the first time for many decades.
This is a detail of a coat of arms I carved in a Baroque style.
This is a detail of a coat of arms Stephen carved in a Baroque style.
This period, so rich in all the arts that flourished in England after Charles I’s trip to Spain in 1623 and architecturally given a boost by the destruction caused by the Great Fire of London in 1666 was the one Stephen chose to follow were ever possible. To learn as much about this field as he could Stephen travelled extensively searching out the few remaining masters of these styles in his early years, soaking up ever piece of knowledge. Skills ranging from choosing the best marble and limestone from quarries in Italy, France and Spain , geometric and visual techniques and classic hand tool skills peculiar to the highly decorated Baroque.
He has had the good fortune to have trained on and later produced work for many of the jewels of English architecture from this period and Stephen is now recognised as one of the top craftsmen working on the period from English Palladianism through Baroque to Neo Classicism in the field of architectural sculpture and stone masonry.
His experience in this field is unrivalled having over the years worked on and produced work for all for the following projects, as well as many others.
Architect / Designer
Queen’s House, Greenwich
Inigo Jones
York Watergate, Thames Embankment
Sir Balthasar Gerbier
St Paul’s church, Covent Garden
Inigo Jones
St Edmund, King and Martyr
Sir Christopher Wren
St Peter upon Cornhill
Sir Christopher Wren
Heythrop Foley
Stoneleigh balustrade
Heythrop Park, Oxfordshire
Thomas Archer
Royal Naval Hospital, Greenwich
Sir Christopher Wren & Nicholas Hawksmoor
St Mary Woolnoth
Nicholas Hawksmoor
St Martin in The fields
James Gibbs
Painswick House, Gloucestershire
Southam Manor, Gloucestershire
St. Luke’s church, London
John James & Nicholas Hawksmoor
Woburn Abbey, Bedfordshire
Henry Flitcroft & Henry Holland
Woburn Abbey South Stable Block
Henry Flitcroft
Stoneleigh Abbey Conservatory
Russell Square, London, WC1
Dulwich Picture Gallery
Sir John Soane
Tobacco Dock, London, E1
Charlesworthy Bridge, Stoneleigh
John Rennie
Wheatley Park School, Oxfordshire
Somerset House, London, WC2
Sir William Chambers
Chambers Bridge, Woburn Abbey
Sir William Chambers
Years of working so closely with such high quality design and craftsmanship has lead to Stephen gaining a deep understanding of the design of this period and he is now one of very few craftsmen worldwide who still works with the techniques and visual proportions used at the time, many of which, closely linked in the Baroque with the explosion of baroque music through harmonic proportion.
Heythro House by Thomas Archer
Heythrop House by  Thomas Archer
On top of still working with the heritage left to us from this age, a great deal of Stephens work involves producing new carved stone and marble ornament, fire surrounds, statuary, funtains and heraldic carving in the style of and to the same standards as the original master craftsmen. He still hand carves each piece using the same tools and techniques used in the 16th and 17th Century. He believes hand carving is not a gimmick, but the best way to produce one off pieces of the highest quality when using natural materials to produce Bas, Mezzo and Alto relief as well as pieces in the round.
Over the last few years he has found an appreciation from a whole new range of clients. Where he used to supply mainly those with period properties, he now receives many commissions from people, for even the most highly decorated pieces to be set as a juxtaposition to modern design.
LARGE BOLECTION       WESTONBIRT Neo classic inlaid fire surroundNeo Classic fire surround
A selection of Stephen’s fire surrounds
As well as keeping this part of his craft alive himself Stephen also takes on 1 apprentice every 2 years to pass on his skills which were on the  edge of disappearing only 30 years ago. These places are highly sought after, the training he gives is an extensive 5 year course as he believes in training the master crafts people of the future.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Our Unique Selling Points

Recently while putting together a quotation for a client in the USA jointly with a London designer I was asked, what were my USP's. After asking isn't that something you plug into a laptop I was told it stood for Unique Selling Point and was necessary for the package being put together because obviously our USP's become a large part of those of the whole team including the designers.
We are a specialist high quality company and here are our
10 main Unique Selling Points.
1/ Bespoke service - We make all our pieces to exactly the size the client requires, as everything is made to order and does not come off the shelf, this bespoke service does not add time to the project.
2/ Hand carved in UK - Everything we supply is hand produced in the UK in either our Cotswold or East Anglian workshop. We do not use cheap labour or anything made in sweat shops.
Laurel cushion
Laurel cushions
Pictures above show the Laurel cushions being worked for the fire surround at the foot of this blog.
3/ Materials - We use only the best quality materials, never using lower quality to drive up our profits. We use limestone and sandstone from the UK and France; Slate from Wales and England and marble from Italy, France and Greece. The materials we use are those used by the likes of Michelangelo and Henry Moore and in the building of St. Paul's Cathedral; The Parthenon; The Doges Palace, Venice; The Palace Versailles and many others. Due to the continuity of the quarries we use we know the quality of the material and exactly how they will perform.
derdyshire fossil bed
4/ Ocular rectification - Where enough information is given by the client we use ocular rectification when designing our fire surrounds etc. This allows for the direction natural light falls on the piece, from what direction it is mainly approached when and the size of the room it is to be fitted in etc. These are the same techniques used when producing the classic antique fire surrounds we now so admire.
floral swag
5/ Design & drawing service - We can help with the design and proportions of your piece providing drawings for the clients approval before work commences.
 victorian corbel
6/ Training - Myself and my team are all fully trained, I myself was trained by a city of London company over 32 years ago and was lucky to have a connected training meaning my apprentice master started his training in 1946, his master 1920's, his in 1890's and so on. This is the sort of training teaches the tricks and techniques found in a practical craft  not often found in books.
7/Training the next generation - Most companies do not put any thing back into training the next generation of stone masons. There are companies the employ 100 + and have no apprentices, we are a small skilled team of craftspeople and take a new apprentice at least every 2 years, which means we always have 2 or 3, this is a full apprenticeship and although the recognised training today is for much less we have our apprentices for 5 year as we aim to produce the master craftspeople of the future.
8/ Experience- Myself and my team have a vast experience in our field. Between us we have produced work for: The Palace of Westminster; Woburn Abbey; Stoneleigh Abbey; Somerset House; Buckingham Palace; Windsor Castle; Raglan Castle; Queen's House; Greenwich; St. Paul's Covent Garden; St. Martin's in the Field; Great Palm House, Kew; Heythrop House; Gloucester Cathedral; The British Museum; Dulwich Picture Gallery; Victoria & Albert museum; Chamber's Bridge; Wheatly Park; Charlesworthy Bridge; The Circle of Lebanon, Highgate and many Government and public buildings.
And for: The Aga Khan, The Sultan of Brunei, The Duke of Bedford, 2nd Baron Dickinson of Painswick, Lord and Lady Bamford, George Michael, Roger Dawtrey, and many others corporate and private clients.
heythrop house
9/ Web cam service - We offer a web cam service to allow the client to discuss their project with the craftsman whilst on the bench in real time. Also with all fire surrounds we provide a 3 minute film on a memory card of your actual fire surround being worked.
10/ Reproduction – We can exactly copy a fire surround or ornament of your choice whether it be an antique or contemporary piece, we are able to work from a photograph or a sketch .
Bespoke fire surround