Fun

Carving Dragons

Carving Dragons 150 150 Simon O'Rourke
Carving Dragons

It isn’t everyday you hear someone saying they count working with dragons among their job description! But that’s exactly what we get to say when people ask! OK, it isn’t quite as entertaining when we admit it means carving dragons, not training them or something. But still, pretty cool!

Maybe we shouldn’t be too surprised about how often Simon is asked to create a dragon. We’re based in North Wales where recorded legends about dragons date back to the 7th century! They have long been used as a symbol of national identity, and we even have one on our flag!

Y Ddraig Derw, Bethesda

Y Ddraig Derw

Earlier this year Simon carved “Y Ddraig Derw“, or “The Dragon of Bethesda” (above) and we have continued to be overwhelmed by the number of appreciative messages and amazing photos that are coming in from those of you who have stopped by to see it. Y Ddraig Derw was far from our first dragon carving though, and talking dragons for a couple of weeks triggered some fun for us reminiscing about other dragons in the past. As ‘carving dragons’ is definitely our theme for the year, we thought we’d give you a bit of a round up of some of the dragons Simon has made so far. And don’t forget to look out for more!

Prize-winning Hemlock the Dragon on display at Wrexham Museum

Imagine Dragons

Carving dragons represents some great challenges and a lot of fun. Let’s face it, nobody REALLY knows what a dragon looks like! Although we have a pretty set idea, Simon still gets to use a lot of imagination and creativity deciding the scale, proportions, shape and details – more so than when carving an animal we all know such as his owls, horses, labradors, eagles etc where although there is variety, there is still a very definite and specific anatomical structure to be represented.

Ever wanted to BE a dragon? This carve of dragon wings in Japan was intended for just that reason! The ultimate selfie/photo prop!

 

Dragons also mean portraying a contrast between the great size and strength of their bodies, wings and snouts with minute details such as teeth, a tongue, individual scales, and even the texture of those scales.

Welsh dragon carve in process

Receiving their Wings

There’s also the wings to consider. If they are outstretched, there is an engineering challenge to be able to scale them in a way the dragon won’t overbalance. There’s also then the question of how best to attach them securely. Especially if the dragon will be out in the elements and at the mercy of the wind and rain! Alternatively if Simon uses other material instead of wood (as he did with Hemlock), what material best represent the density and texture of the animal whilst also fitting in with the style of carving and colouring and texture the timber will take on?

Carving a dragon image into a storm-damaged tree

Telling Their Story

And then there’s the story. Dragons appear in many contexts from national legends to epic movies like The Hobbit or Harry Potter through to the cute and humorous beasts we find in family stories like Pete’s Dragon and How to Train Your Dragon. Which of these is the finished carve to represent? And how is that done? A glint in an eye? The shape of an open mouth? The angle of the head? So much possibility!

Crouching Dragon from a few years ago

The (Dragon) is in the Details!

Dragons also have so many different details and aspects that are unique to them, that it can be fascinating to incorporate them into something else (like this arch below), and for it still to be distinctly ‘dragon’. Maybe it’s a bench, or an arch, or a box, or a walking stick, but whatever the commission, a dragon will always create a technical and aesthetic challenge, which, like the dragon in flight, we are more than happy to rise to! Indeed, “Watch this space” for more dragons later this year!

Dragon mouth archway

We hope you’ve enjoyed seeing some of our favourite dragon carves from the last few years. Which is your favourite?

As well as accepting commissions, Hemlock the Dragon is available for hire for weddings, parties, events etc. Please email us at [email protected] for information

 

Clatterbridge Lego Hospital

Clatterbridge Lego Hospital 150 150 Simon O'Rourke

What does Clatterbridge Lego Hospital have in common with tree carving?! Why are we talking about Lego at all?!

Well, it’s our privilege and joy both as a company and in our personal lives to be able to give. We love to support and encourage others through giving our time, energy, or finances. Really, it’s a joy and privilege.
In the past Simon has auctioned off various carvings and bespoke carvings for a range of charities. This week we were excited to pop over to England and plant a Lego tree in the Clatterbridge Lego Hospital. It represented our donation to The Big Lego Brick Hospital fundraiser for a new Clatterbridge Cancer Centre. Read on for the full story……!!!

Planting our Lego tree on the model Clatterbridge

 

The Story Behind our Tree!

A chance encounter last year led to us running a  fundraiser for Clatterbridge Hospital from our workshop in North Wales. They are building a new Cancer Centre in Liverpool which will benefit patients from across the region. To help fund it, people can sponsor things like bricks, flower beds, benches and even figures of staff, to help build a model hospital out of Lego. And not just any hospital! The Clatterbridge Lego Hospital is a to-scale copy of the actual hospital which is currently under construction.

With half a million bricks and an army of builders, the Lego hospital itself is something worth checking out! When it’s finished it’ll be just under three metres long and almost two metres high. It’s going to take around 1000 hours to make over the two years. The effort will be worth it though, because it will hopefully raise £500,000 for the Clatterbridge charity by the time it is completed. If you look closely you will find over 100 rooms with chemotherapy clinics, radiotherapy machines, toilet blocks, kitchens, lift shafts, MRI scanners, and more. It even includes 150 hospital beds!
As an artist, and a team that loves creativity and ingenuity, we can’t help but be impressed! Let’s be honest too. Yes, it’s great artistry and engineering, but nobody ever really outgrows their appreciation of all things Lego anyway!

Comparison of the lego construction with the current build as of 17/01/19

 

Our Fundraiser

We held our fundraiser just before Christmas, and invited people for tea, coffee, cake and mince pies. Guests also had the opportunity to wander round the workshop and see works in progress as well as completed pieces, and even got to have their photo taken with a dragon! With donations and the raffle, we raised around £250, which enabled us to buy a tree in the model hospital.

One of our youngest visitors exploring the workshop – photographed with Groot and Hemlock the Dragon

 

Jo, one of our team at the fundraiser where she was able to share about the great care she has received from Clatterbridge staff with some of the other guests

 

Discovering a Personal Connection

Contributing to something which will play such a vital part in the lives of others is always a privilege. This fundraiser took on more meaning for us though, when we realised that one of our team  is often cared for on a Clatterbridge ward! And so, it was an even greater joy to be able to go this week and plant our tree, knowing that we are investing in something that not only benefits and serves the wider community, but directly impacts and helps one of our team

Jo pictured with two of the nurses who have helped look after her recently – thanks to Leanne and Aysha who are not only awesome nurses, but were still willing to take a photo for their patient at the end of a shift!

BIG THANKS!!!

A huge thank you to those who came and visited the workshop and donated to the fundraiser. Every little helps, and whether it be investing to get a facility built, or walking alongside those who will need to use this hospital, it really does ‘take a village’, and we are thankful for ours!

Y Ddraig Derw: An Adventure Worth Telling

Y Ddraig Derw: An Adventure Worth Telling 150 150 Simon O'Rourke

“IT SIMPLY ISN’T AN ADVENTURE WORTH TELLING IF THERE AREN’T ANY DRAGONS
A quick internet search shows nobody really knows who said this any more. Whoever it was, it still holds true that there is something about a dragon story which captures imagination. That’s even more true in Wales, where dragons have been linked with the identity of the nation since the 600AD! And it certainly seems the case with Y Ddraig Derw who has gone viral this week!

Y ddraig derw in Bethesday, North Wales

An Adventure Worth Telling

We already shared that this year has a bit of ‘dragon’ theme for us, and last week saw us working on another dragon sculpture. This time, Simon carved on location in beautiful North Wales, and it has been named ‘Y Ddraig Derw‘ (The Oak Dragon) by locals.
This dragon captured the attention and hearts of people who saw it in person and online, even before it was finished,and we’ve been overwhelmed by the positive messages, and the number of people sharing online. It even appeared in the Daily Post  and BBC!
We’re grateful and humbled, but also delighted so many of you have already been able to enjoy our Dragon of Bethesda.

The Commission

Several years ago, a 200 year old oak split, and half that fell was lying across a rock.  Sometimes in carving, we find the tree and sometimes the tree finds us! In this case it was the latter. This piece of timber was simply begging to be carved! Everything about it was perfect, from the type of tree, the length, positioning and its 30″ diameter. The commission itself came from the owner of the arboretum close to Bangor, Dr Alofs.

 Fallen oak that was to be transformed into Y ddraig derw

 

The Process

Y Ddraig Derw took six days to complete, making the most of the hours of daylight that we had. Simon completed the entire dragon on-site rather than transporting things from the workshop. This meant carrying large pieces up to the site use for the wings and legs. Definitely a good work out!
With wood that large and heavy, the process of incorporating them into the sculpture isn’t easy, but with patience and team work, we got there! The first few days focused on the head and then the shape and movement in the body, with the last two focused on texture and details. For those who would like to see more of the process, we uploaded video like this one during the week on our Facebook page.

The Finished Dragon

The finished sculpture is about 25′ long, and overlooks the road. With its craning head and open mouth, it looks like a guard dragon, roaring over those who would seek to enter its territory! Although it is on private land, there are a few public footpaths nearby for viewing, and it is visible from the southbound A5 between the first and second exits.

Simon O'Rourke pictured with Y ddraig derw in Bethesda, North Wales

Simon at work!

Visiting the Dragon

Although Y Ddraig Derw is visible from the road, it’s a tricky spot to stop for photos. We’d love for you to see him in person, but encourage you all to do it safely please! For exact location and tips for parking, please visit THIS POST on our Facebook page (it’s public, so you don’t need Facebook to see it).

Thank you once again for all the kind words and encouragement, and for sharing your photos. It’s always great to hear from you, and to see you enjoying our pieces. We’d love it if you could tag us in your posts so we can see them too! Use #simonorourke and #dragonofbethesda for this dragon.

Y ddraig derw by night.

PS: For those of you who can’t get to this dragon, why not have our dragons come to you?
Hemlock the Dragon is available for hire for shows, weddings, parties etc, and is always a big hit!

 

Photos of Y Ddraig Derw at night are taken by local photographer Derfel Owen and used with permission

Happy New Year

Happy New Year 150 150 Simon O'Rourke
Happy New Year!

Happy New Year and welcome to 2019 to all our readers!

We enjoyed a lovely Christmas with family, friends, birthday celebrations and some travel. Settling back into the workshop, our work for 2019 began this week with this eagle coming in to land.

What’s On in 2019

As this new year takes flight (see what we did there?!), it has been exciting to meet as a team and look forward to the exciting projects it holds. We look forward to sharing them with you in the weeks to come. Look out for pet portraits, woodland trails (including some story writing!), beautiful gifts and commissions for homes and gardens, competitions, demonstrations, and more.

We are delighted about a pitch that was won this week (to be revealed in the coming weeks) as well as one particular extra-exciting completed project which we will be able to share with you later in the year. As always, we are thankful to all our customers and supporters for making this adventure possible.

Theme for the Year

We also have a bit of a theme to announce. The Chinese calendar may say it’s the Year of the Pig, but here at treecarving.co.uk it’s The Year of the Dragon! We can’t say for sure what that looks like without giving away some pretty big spoilers, but you will definitely spot several dragons as 2019 progresses!

Some New Year Wishes

Returning to our first project of the year, in many traditions and cultures, the eagle represents:

  • Strength
  • Courage
  • Hope
  • Resilience
  • Healing
  • Vision
  • Rising above problems

and the ability to soar to heights that others are unable to reach.

However your new year started, we would like to wish all of our customers and supporters all of those things the eagle represents in this year to come, as well as the confidence and strength of the eagle to reach heights you never thought possible.

Tale of Two Carvings

Tale of Two Carvings 150 150 Simon O'Rourke

If you follow us on social media, you’ll know it’s been a busy week for Simon. And the locations and difference in style definitely mean that this week’s blog is definitely ‘A tale of two carvings’!

A Tale of Two Carvings Part One: Svantevit

The first of our tale of two carvings was complete in Germany. Si and Liz travelled to Putgarten, where Simon was commissioned to create a sculpture of Svantevit, the four headed Slavic god of war, fertility and abundance. This particular representation of the deity is 3 metres tall and made of oak. Although yellow-y now, it will weather into a beautiful silvery grey over the coming weeks, months and years. It has the typical four heads that, according to mythology, represent him being able to see to the four corners of the earth. Simon’s sculpture is also carrying two of the symbols that are an important part of Svantevit stories: his horn and sword.

Putgarten

Putgarten is a wonderful centre of creativity. A recent count estimated there are 70 sculptures on display and/or available to buy! What a great place to find something for your home, or even just to browse for inspiration.

If you would like to know more, visit their website by clicking here – and before you have to dig out that German dictionary from your schooldays, don’t forget google can do the translating for you!

 

 

A Tale of Two carvings Part Two: APF 2018

The second half of the week saw us return to APF 2018; the UKs largest forestry, woodland, arboricultural, fencing and biofuel exhibtion. This year there were over 320 exhibitors and 22000 visitors over the three days. it’s fair to say that number created a buzz far beyond the noise of the chainsaws!

As regulars at this event, it was great to reconnect with old friends, as well as having the privilege of being a demonstrator and competitor.

 

During the speed carving demonstrations, Simon created a wolf. Cheering him on was another of his creations. Meet Squishy!

Later, 25 of the top wood carvers in Europe competed against each other in the A W Jenkinson & Tilhill Forestry European Chainsaw Carving Championship, where each had to produce a sculpture from a 1 tonne piece of timber.

Simon used this as an opportunity to complete a project he’d been visualising for a while. He chose to create this beautiful representation of a female face. He made use of long smooth lines for her smooth skin tone, and contrasting areas of more intense texture and detail to create lips, eyes and hair. She didn’t place in this year’s competition, but we’ve had lots of lovely compliments about her. It was also wonderful to realise something after thinking about it for so long.

For anybody interested, two of the pieces mentioned in this post are available for sale. The lady is available after Futurescapes exhibition. Squishy is also available for purchase. If you are interested in either these pieces contact us on [email protected] or via our contact page.

The Power of Vanquis!!

The Power of Vanquis!! 150 150 Simon O'Rourke

We were asked earlier this year to create a carving of a Game of Thrones style character emerging from a log. It transpired that it was needed to film a commercial for a credit card! I was so busy I had to enlist the help of Paul from Ossum Tree Carving, my apprentice, to help me.

Having delivered it to the back of beyond, somewhere in Betws Y Coed, the following day this advert was filmed!

 

 

‘Spirit of Ecstasy’

‘Spirit of Ecstasy’ 150 150 Simon O'Rourke

The Spirit Of Ecstasy….

This was Simon’s most challenging piece to date yet… ‘The Spirit Of Ecstasy’, the Rolls Royce figurine found on the bonnet of some Rolls Royce cars.

The project took 6 days and was created for a private garden in Oxted near London.

Simon found the project incredibly technically difficult, but was really pleased with how the Sculpture finally turned out.

 

 

Forest Fawr trail installed!

Forest Fawr trail installed! 150 150 Simon O'Rourke

Today saw the wild beasts of Cardiff, finally installed into their final resting place in Forest Fawr after many months of hard work and planning by all involved.

The trail was focussed around animals that populated the forest in the past.

Here’s a few pictures of the animals we made for the trail, including Wolf, Lynx, Red Deer, and Pine Marten.

 

Exciting start to 2018!

Exciting start to 2018! 150 150 Simon O'Rourke

A very happy new year to you all!

We hope that your January so far has been really brilliant and not blue at all.

Ours has been crazy cool, with lots of commissions, meetings, networking and travel, but the most exciting thing was having the Stihl GB team come to film Simon with their fab marketing team and film crew, HROC!

Here’s a couple of snaps from the day a couple of weeks ago and there will be some fantastic video footage being released in early March, so watch this space!

Looking back…

Looking back… 150 150 Simon O'Rourke

It’s been 13 years since the moment I decided to sculpt for a living, and here’s the sculpture that triggered it!

“Sleeping Girl”, was my very first competition entry, at the inaugural English Open Chainsaw Competition.

It placed 3rd, and gave me the confidence boost to create a business from what I had begun to love as a pastime.

It’s been a rollercoaster of an adventure and I’m blessed to be able to make a living from doing something that I love!