Lynford Morton, Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0
Lynford Morton, Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0

8 Times Sculptors Made Typos

Lynford Morton, Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0
Lynford Morton, Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0

The good thing about writing is that errors can be fixed, but that is an option that sculptors do not often have. Poor planning and unexpected oversights on the part of an artist or plaque-maker working with words can lead to public mistakes that are sometimes impossible to fix because they are literally set in stone, bronze, or some other hard material. Here are a few examples of mistakes that were not caught in the design phase and had to be addressed later, after it was already too late.


Pruitt Allen, Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The Stone of Hope memorial for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was designed by the ROMA Design Group and selected by a panel of judges as a part of The Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial Project Foundation competition back in the year 2000. In 2007, Chinese sculptor Lei Yixin was hired to bring the 30-foot-tall memorial to life, and in 2011 it was completed and unveiled on the National Mall in Washington, D.C.. Shortly after, a few people noticed that Dr. King had been misquoted in an inscription on the sculpture.

The inscription read, “I was a drum major for justice, peace, and righteousness.” According to the National Park Service website, the quote was paraphrased from a 1968 sermon at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta. The longer quote read, “If you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice. Say that I was a drum major for peace. I was a drum major for righteousness. And all of the other shallow things will not matter.”

Maya Angelou said that the quote, as it appeared on the sculpture, made King look like “an arrogant twit,” adding that he “was anything but that. He was far too profound a man for that four-letter word to apply ... the ‘if’ clause that is left out is salient. Leaving it out changes the meaning completely.” In 2013, the sculptor was asked to return to remove the quote entirely.


According to Baltimore Heritage, the Edgar Allan Poe statue that sits outside the University of Baltimore School of Law was commissioned in 1911 by the Edgar Allan Poe Memorial Association of Baltimore. Sculptor Moses Jacob Ezekiel made the model for the sculpture three times: The first time it was destroyed in a fire on its way to Berlin, the second time it was destroyed in an earthquake, and shipment of the third was delayed for years because of WWI. When the sculpture finally arrived in Baltimore in 1921, an inscription at the base incorrectly featured the word “dreaming” minus its “i,” and the word “mortal” was pluralized.

Ezekiel had passed away four years before the sculpture arrived, so he could not fix it, but someone did try. In 1930, a tree surgeon named Edmond Fontaine took a chisel and got rid of the “s” in “mortals” without permission. He was arrested and spent the night in jail, but was later let off with a warning. The statue was moved to its current location in 1982, but the base was in bad shape, so it was removed and a plaque with the fixed quote was added.


Lynford Morton, Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0

The National Park Service admits that the myth of there being a typo at the Lincoln Memorial is “partially true,” but one of the engravers definitely made a mistake that millions of visitors have seen. On the north wall of the memorial, the word “FUTURE” in Lincoln’s Second Inaugural Address is misspelled as “EUTURE.” The bottom of the first letter was later filled in to correct the mistake, but it's easy to spot the repair.


In 2014, a sculpture was made in honor of WWII correspondent Ernie Pyle and installed in front of Indiana University's Media School in Pyle’s home state. The kind gesture was somewhat overshadowed by the fact that the sculptor, Tuck Langland, left an "r" out of the word “correspondent,” according to USA Today. The error was fixed in 2015 by Giorgio Gikas, a bronze artist and art conservator from Detroit.


Canadian artist Emily Carr, her dog Billy, and her pet monkey Woo were immortalized in bronze outside of the Empress Hotel in downtown Victoria, British Columbia, Canada in 2010. While onlookers admired the new $400,000 sculpture, others noticed that a nearby plaque contained a mistake. Instead of calling Carr “Victoria’s best known citizen,” the dedication read “best know citizen.” Barbara Paterson, the sculptor responsible for the sculpture but not the plaque, told CBC News she felt badly, as the committee had worked hard to raise funds for the memorial. “They thought they were dotting every 'i' and crossing every ['t']  ... But you know, if that's the only flaw in this whole huge long route, I think we're laughing.”


In 2013, a Norwegian artist blamed English language spellchecking software for the numerous mistakes that found their way onto a WWII memorial in Oslo. The Independent reported that the Pelle Monument was made to honor the country’s resistance fighters, with the names of dozens of saboteurs and others who lost their lives etched into it, but the other sections of the text are where the sculptor had issues. Norwegian words like “fellesskap” and the phrase “Oslo-området” were misspelled, and there were also grammatical errors throughout. “I hope it won’t get too much attention,” the sculptor (and daughter of a resistance fighter) Kirsten Kokkin said. “I worked on the text in America, and didn’t have a Norwegian word program. The text went through at least three people in addition to me. So this was missed, but it can’t be changed in retrospect.”


Premier of Ontario Photography, Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

In 2013, a 12-year-old boy named Joel Englund from Brampton, Ontario was the eagle-eyed fan who noticed that a statue of famed hockey player Wayne Gretzky, sculpted by Texas-based artist Brad Oldham and installed at Canada's Wayne Gretzky Sports Centre, had a few questionable elements. Englund pointed out that not only did Oldham misspell Gretzky’s name as "Gretzsky," but he also erroneously listed him as a player for the Detroit Red Wings.

Other errors on the sculpture included the wrong dates for his Stanley Cup wins, and the engraved names of people who had never played the sport, including Oscar Wilde and Kanye West. According to the Brampton Guardian, Gretzky himself attended the unveiling of the sculpture, but Englund was first to notice the mistakes a month later (for the artist’s part, he insisted that it was never intended to be read).


In 2015, a statue that was erected for the Pan American Games in Toronto to honor First Nations athlete Tom Longboat for his victory at the 1907 Boston Marathon made reference to his discipline, presence, and persistence ... only that last word was misspelled as “persistance.” "I think it would be kind of disrespectful for [the city] to leave it," a passerby told the Toronto Star. "I hope there aren’t any other mistakes on it, but they should change it."

George Barratt-Jones, Vimeo
This Crafty Bicycle Can Knit a Scarf in 5 Minutes
George Barratt-Jones, Vimeo
George Barratt-Jones, Vimeo

Knitting can be a time-consuming, meticulous task, but it doesn’t need to be. At least not if you’re George Barratt-Jones. As The Morning News spotted, the Dutch designer recently created a human-powered automated knitting machine that can make a scarf while you wait for your train to arrive.

The Cyclo-Knitter is essentially a bicycle-powered loom. As you pedal a stationary bike, the spinning front wheel powers a knitting machine placed on top of a wooden tower. The freshly knitted fabric descends from the top of the tower as the machine works, lowering your brand-new scarf.

Cyclo Knitter by George Barratt-Jones from George Barratt-Jones on Vimeo.

“Imagine it’s the midst of winter,” Barratt-Jones, who founded an online skill-sharing platform called Kraftz, writes of the product on Imgur. “You are cold and bored waiting for your train at the station. This pedal powered machine gets you warm by moving, you are making something while you wait, and in the end, you are left with a free scarf!”

Seems like a pretty good use of your commute down-time, right?

If you're a fan of more traditional knitting methods, check out these knitting projects that can put your needles to work, no bicycle required.

[h/t The Morning News]

6 Works of Art That Were Hiding in Plain Sight
An ancient angel mosaic on a wall of the Church of the Nativity
An ancient angel mosaic on a wall of the Church of the Nativity

Earlier this year, an 1820 facsimile of the Declaration of Independence turned up in Texas. Despite once being owned by James Madison, it had been shuffled among the papers of a family who eventually forgot about its provenance and came to consider it "worthless," at least until its recent authentication. As one of only 200 facsimiles created by printer William Stone, it was a rare document, but what made headlines was a curious footnote in the document’s journey: It had been hidden behind wallpaper during the Civil War as protection.

There’s something tantalizing about a precious object concealed by wallpaper or painted over; it suggests treasures might be hiding anywhere—maybe in our own homes. Here are a few stories of art that's been lost, and found, on the same wall, hidden beneath wallpaper, paint, and plaster.


Conservators who began restoring the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem in 2013 after centuries of neglect were prepared to clean its mosaics from years of soot and grime. They weren’t expecting to find new ones.

Using a thermographic camera, one restoration worker noticed a shape in the plaster walls. When the team started chipping off the material, they found the brilliant glow of mother-of-pearl tiles. Soon an 8-foot-tall angel was revealed, dressed in a flowing white robe, its golden wings and halo as luminescent as when they were installed in the Crusades era. It’s believed that the angel was covered up following an 1830s earthquake, perhaps to hide damage. Now the lost seraph (above) has rejoined the procession of radiant mosaic angels who are walking to the nativity along the church’s historic walls.


Mediaeval wall paintings, Llancarfan church, Wales
Chris Samuel, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

During the Reformation, the murals in Catholic churches of the British Isles were often covered with plaster, turning them into more austere Protestant spaces. In covering them so entirely, this art was sometimes inadvertently protected from centuries of decay. In 2010, conservators announced an incredible find in the 800-year-old Church of St Cadoc at Llancarfan in Wales.

Church staff had long been intrigued by a thin red line of paint on the wall. After conservators began the painstaking work of removing 21 layers of limewash, a dramatic painting of St. George slaying a dragon appeared. The discoveries continued with scenes of other popular medieval motifs, such as the Seven Deadly Sins, a royal family, and "Death and the Gallant," in which a rotting corpse with a worm creeping in its rib cage leads an elegantly dressed man to his mortal end. The murals are now on view for all to enjoy.


Paul Gauguin, "Breton Girl Spinning"
Paul Gauguin, Wikimedia // Public Domain

Now at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, French artist Paul Gauguin's 1889 Breton Girl Spinning is an enigmatic fresco of a young girl dancing at a small tree. In one hand, she is spinning wool; in the distance, above the water and shapes of ships, a huge angel with a sword is flying. In part because of this angelic figure, the painting is sometimes called Joan of Arc.

The work was painted right on the plaster dining room wall of La Buvette de la Plage, an inn in Brittany, France. After being forgotten under layers of wallpaper, it and two other murals (one by Gauguin and one by his student Meijer de Haan) were rediscovered in 1924 during some redecorating.


While updating their kitchen around 2007, Lucas Asicona Ramirez and his family in the Guatemalan village of Chajul discovered some old interior design—Maya murals, hidden for centuries beneath the plaster.

The roughly 300-year-old artworks in the colonial-era home featured figures in both Maya and Spanish attire, representing a moment of European arrival. One may be holding a human heart, or possibly a mask used in a dance. Ramirez hopes to turn the room into a museum, but needs more funding. Other households in Chajul also have historic murals in their homes, and some are striving to conserve these memories of their ancestors even while local preservation resources are limited.


The 19th century British artist and writer William Morris is celebrated for his textiles, writing, wallpaper, and other work in the Arts and Crafts movement. The house in Bexleyheath, Kent, that architect Philip Webb designed for him and his wife Jane in 1859 was intended not just as a home, but an incubator for art. The "Red House" became a hub for like-minded artists, and Morris founded “The Firm”—which produced decorative objects such as stained glass and furniture—there in 1861 alongside several other artists. However, the Red House community was short-lived, and financial difficulties forced the family to move out in 1865, never to return.

When the National Trust acquired the house in 2003, they found that the group had left behind some of their artistic experiments. Behind a wardrobe, under layers of paint and wallpaper, the trust made a most extraordinary find: a full wall of almost life-size biblical figures. Researchers believe they were collaboratively painted by Morris, Edward Burne-Jones, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, his wife Elizabeth Siddal, and Ford Madox Brown, all of whom were major artists in the Pre-Raphaelite movement.


Mexican artist David Alfaro Siqueiros had just been expelled from Mexico for his leftist activities when he arrived in Los Angeles in 1932. Local boosters commissioned him to create a mural on the theme of "Tropical America" on the touristy Olvera Street, which was an idealized vision of a Mexican market, but he had no interest in portraying some folkloric fantasy. “For me, 'America Tropical' was a land of natives, of Indians, Creoles, of African-American men, all of them invariably persecuted and harassed by their respective governments,” he said in a 1971 documentary.

His América Tropical: Oprimida y Destrozada por los Imperialismos, or Tropical America: Oppressed and Destroyed by Imperialism, was a moody landscape with gnarled trees clawing at a Maya temple. At the center, an indigenous man is crucified, with an American eagle ominously descending over his head. Innovative techniques such as airbrushing gave the tableau a visceral edge.

The 18-by-82-foot act of subversion was soon whitewashed. Still, many people did not forget it, especially as Siqueiros became recognized as one of the most influential of the early 1900s Mexican muralists. Eight decades after it was painted, the city of Los Angeles, along with the Getty Conservation Institute, began a restoration. The whitewash had protected its details from sun and rain and finally, in 2012, its defiant scene was again revealed to the public. It is now the oldest mural in L.A., and the only one by Siqueiros in its original location.


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