Human Form

life size wood carving of a knight on a rearing horse by simon orourke.Sculpture is part of a sculpture trail in Northampton.

Why Commission a Sculpture Trail?

Why Commission a Sculpture Trail? 540 810 Simon O'Rourke

Autumn is the perfect time to get out into nature and visit one of Simon’s woodland sculpture trails. The reds and ambers of the leaves are stunning anyway, but they add a perfect touch of art and drama to his sculptures. If you need convincing, why not take a peek in our blogs about his trails at Meadow Park, Page’s Wood, or Fforest Fawr?
These are all woodland sculpture trails with a wildlife theme. But did you know there are many more applications for a sculpture trail? Read on to find out some reasons why your community, business, or charity could benefit by commissioning a sculpture trail…

 

wooden carved owl sitting on a tree stump. The Owl is from Simon O'Rourke's woodland sculpture trail in Meadow Park.

Ruby the Owl, from Simon’s Meadow Park sculpture trail

Why Commission a Sculpture Trail: Education

A sculpture trail is a great way to educate visitors about the purpose and history of your site. This is one of the reasons Simon and his wife Liz get excited about a woodland sculpture trail commission. They are passionate about nature and the environment, and about educating others. Liz is even a qualified Forest School teacher!
In the case of the woodland sculpture trails, they created characters and poetry for each sculpture which gave snippets of information about the environment and wildlife. Each trail ends with a call to action for the viewer.
Giving information in this way is more likely to engage families with young children. It also makes it more memorable for all ages, which is always a bonus!

picture shows the original sketch for a wooden bench designed by simon o'rourke for the page's wood sculpture trail

One of the original sketches and poetry for Page’s Wood Sculpture Trail

This concept of educational snippets is easily adapted to any business or local area – it’s not just for woodland! Sculptures could reflect events in the life of an individual or a town. Or they could be or based on characters from a specific book or film associated with the place or person. There’s truly no limit!
We’re living in a season where Covid regulations make it harder for people to go inside museums and other attractions to view their educational content, so an outdoor sculpture trail is a great way to bring that content outdoors.
One example of this is where Simon helped create a sculpture trail of knights in Northampton…

 

life size wood carving of a knight on a rearing horse by simon orourke.Sculpture is part of a sculpture trail in Northampton.

One of the knights Simon made as a collaboration with other artists for the Northampton Knight Trail

Why Commission a Sculpture Trail: Tourist Attraction

Another reason to consider commissioning a sculpture trail is that the trail could become a tourist attraction in and of itself. Whilst people have come to see the trail, they will then often visit the rest of the site. If they are in the area they are also likely to visit local shops, restaurants, etc, and therefore stimulate the local economy. If you are a small town with no other especially marketable points, a sculpture trail around the town could be the perfect way to draw people to the area. There is just something about the novelty of a chainsaw-carved sculpture that attracts people! They are drawn to it for selfies or post photos of the sculpture alone. As visitors post these on social media, the attraction gets free publicity. More visitors AND free publicity… sounds like a great deal!!!

Review of the decade 2014 Mungo Park

Portrait of Mungo Park – perfect to sit next to and snap a selfie!

An example of this in action would be Simon’s Dragon of Bethesda. The dragon was a private commission, but it happened to be visible from the road. People began to post photos, and it got so much attention, it made the BBC news! Local newspapers around the country picked up the story, and police even had to ask people not to slow down to get photos! This was a total accident, as it was never intended for public viewing – but it does show the power of art to draw people to a place!

wooden carved dragon with outstretched wings by simon o rourke.

The Dragon of Bethesda became an accidental tourist attraction!

Why Commission a Sculpture Trail: Covid Safe!

We already hinted at this reason to invest in a sculpture trail for your attraction. Right now many attractions are struggling to remain open, as they can’t allow the numbers into the building that are needed to remain solvent. An outdoor sculpture trail in the grounds of a venue are much safer and allow for more visitors. If budget or permanence is an issue, why not take an example from Erddig National Trust?
A few years ago, they commissioned an ‘apple trail’ for their Autumn season. Simon carved smaller apples in the style of Halloween pumpkins. Those apples were then placed around the grounds at Erddig, and visitors could follow the Erddig Apple Trail.
A trail like this can easily be turned into a family activity. Simply create maps or ‘treasure hunt sheets’, and off you go! You could even add a reward at the end as a reminder of their visit or an educational point.

a wooden apple is carved to look like a halloween pumpkin. part of the erddig apple sculpture trail by simon o rourke

One of the apples Simon created for the Erddig Apple Trail

 

Why Commission a Sculpture Trail: Double the Fundraising!

OK, so here we’re actually going to mention a few reasons to commission a sculpture trail for your venue. They have the benefit of being as permanent or temporary as you want. This means you could set up a trail for a specific season, such as an elf trail to lead a Christmas Santa Grotto. Or what about an egg or bunny trail for Easter?
But what to do with the sculptures if you don’t want to repeat the event?
What about an auction for your charity, venue, or association? In the past auctions of Simon’s work have raised anything from hundreds to thousands of pounds for charities. This means a sculpture trail has double the potential – bringing people in for the original event, and fundraising afterward!

Wooden sculpture of Queen of Hearts on her throne by Simon O Rourke. Sculpture is part of a sculpture trail in Scotland

Queen of Hearts from Simons Alice in Wonderland trail

 

Why Commission a Sculpture Trail: For Art’s Sake!

There are several other reasons we could give for a sculpture trail, but we’re going to leave it with this one: art for art’s sake! One of the many lessons we learned from lockdown is the value of the arts. People turned to music, craft, and many other hobbies that serve no utilitarian function. In the early days especially, people found respite in things of beauty around them. Photos on social media showed highlights of permitted outdoor exercise time included discovering a beautiful old building, gate, or statue in their town that they had never noticed. A sculpture trail at your venue may serve no other purpose than adding something beautiful, creative, and inspirational for people to enjoy. And that’s OK. Call us biased, but we think that is reason enough to commission a sculpture trail!

Fforest Fawr Sculpture Trail Lynx by Simon O'Rourke

Fforest Fawr Sculpture Trail Lynx

Choosing a Theme for Your Sculpture Trail

So now you’ve thought about some of the reasons to commission a sculpture trail, what theme will you choose?

The possibilities really are endless. However, some of the most popular sculptures Simon has made include fairies, wizards, and dragons. And even an Ent! These ‘fantasy’ figures will always attract people to your trail. Movies and books like the Narnia series, Harry Potter, and Lord of the Rings capture the imaginations of all generations. That makes them a great theme for a trail.

Another consideration is the historical context of a place. Chester, Bath, or York would be perfect for a trail of Roman Centurions for example. Similarly, a former monastery commissioned a series of monks that sit beautifully in the grounds.

monk by simon o rourke

One of the monks of Monksbridge

You could also think about any local people of prominence. For example, anywhere in Stratford-Upon-Avon would be a great location for some Shakespearian figures.

Finally, what festivals do you hold, and what season is it? Christmas could see an elf, reindeer, or snowman trail. Harvest is perfect for carved pumpkins.

Basically, the only limit is your imagination!

10' wooden fairy sculpture by simon o rourke

A private commission, but a fairy trail of any size could be a fun addition to any woodland space

Commission Your Sculpture Trail

Are you feeling inspired? If you would like to commission a sculpture trail, then contact us via www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/
We’re excited to hear your ideas and how we can help enhance your venues, events, communities, and attractions!

 

chainsaw artist simon o'rourke stands between life size wood sculptures of Bill Shankly and Kenny Dalglish, two of many sporting sculptures made by simon

Sporting Sculptures made by Simon

Sporting Sculptures made by Simon 1536 2048 Simon O'Rourke

by  This week on Twitter we shared a portrait of sporting legend Bill Shankly that Simon made. He was one of four famous Liverpudlians that Simon created live at the Pierhead in 2018. Afterwards, the sculptures were all auctioned off for children’s charity, Variety. It got us thinking about other sports figures Simon has carved in the past and inspired this blog! And so, we hope you enjoy revisiting these sporting sculptures made by Simon over the years…

chainsaw artist simon o'rourke stands between life size wood sculptures of Bill Shankly and Kenny Dalglish, two of many sporting sculptures made by simon

Simon with his portraits of Kenny Dalglish and Bill Shankly

Sporting Sculptures Made by Simon: Queen of the South Footballers

Staying with the football (soccer for our international readers!) theme, our first flashback is to the Queen of the South players from 2019. This sculpture was installed outside the Queen of the South ground in Dumfries and represents three generations of football. Each of the players represents a different era, achievement, and contribution to the club. We think you’ll agree that each one is a fantastic likeness to the person…

photograph of billy houliston in his soccer kit shown alongside a wooden lifesized sculpture of the player made by artist simon o'rourke

Sculpture of Billy Houliston next to one of the photos Simon worked from to create the sculpture

Making the sculpture definitely had its challenges though! Originally, the hope was to create the sculpture out of a single piece of oak. However, as Simon began to work, he discovered a large crack in the timber. He initially thought he could overcome that by turning the piece upside down. BUT! Once he also factored in the Scottish weather, he realised that crack was going to cause problems. Thankfully he found another suitable piece of wood to use and attached that sculpture to the other two. Despite this hiccup, the club, fans, and players were all delighted with the finished sculpture. If you would like to know more about the story behind this sculpture, why not read our blog: Queen of the South Legends Unveiled?

sporting sculptures made by simon o'rourke. Photo shows sculpture of three soccer players standing back to back with onlookers admiring the piece

Stephen Dobbie pictured at the unveiling with his likeness

 

Sporting Sculptures Made by Simon: Vintage Cricketer

Moving on to another classic British sport now, we bring you Simon’s vintage cricketer!
The cricketer has had lots of attention in the past. Whenever we share the photos it’s definitely a popular sculpture! Contrary to what people expect though, it isn’t actually based on anybody in particular.
It was a commission from Hopkins Homes in 2019, and they just wanted ‘a vintage cricketer’. The company was building a housing estate on the former site of Norfolk County Cricket Club and felt the sculpture would be a meaningful addition to one of the green spaces. The site certainly had a lot of history. Five first-class and 13 a-list matches were played there during its time as a cricket ground!
Simon researched what the sport looked like during the 19390s, and created a sculpture of a player recognisable as being from that era.

Cricketer in Situ:

For those who would like to see the cricketer in situ, we recently found a website with photos of varying sporting sculptures – and the cricketer is there!  Visit http://www.offbeat.group.shef.ac.uk/statues/STUK_Anonymous_50.htm to have a peak!

sporting sculptures by simon o'rourke. diptych of his vintage cricketer made in cedar

man wearing protective ear wear carves a face out of cedar using a stihl chainsaw

Sporting Sculptures Made by Simon: Jockey

The next of our sporting sculptures flashbacks is a very different sport. Horse racing!

Simon created this sculpture in 2015. Like the cricketer, it isn’t based on anybody in particular, but one of Simon’s employees thought it looked like Norman Wisdom! What do you think?!

triptych showing different angles a jockey carved in oak, one of many sporting sculptures made by simon o'rourke

 

Sporting Sculptures Made by Simon: ‘Skater Chick’

Did you know skateboarding was going to make its debut in the Olympic Games in Tokyo this year? Even though The Games didn’t happen, we think it means we can definitely include this sculpture of a ‘Skater Chick’ that Simon made in 2010. You can find her in Eirias Skate Park in Colwyn Bay, North Wales. As always, Simon invites us into a moment in a bigger story with this sculpture. We love that she is ‘mid trick’ and that the movement Simon has created throughout the clothes and with his attention to anatomy, really shows the energy, passion, and skill of this fictional skateboarding girl.

wooden life size sculpture of a female skateboarder standing on one hand to perform a trick

sporting sculptures made by simon o'rourke: a wooden sculpture of a female skateboarder performing a trick on one hand

Sporting Sculptures Made by Simon: Timbersports

Did you know Timbersports is a thing? There’s actually a world championship where people from around the globe compete against each other. The athletes compete in the use of axes and saws in manners typical for ‘lumberjacks’. Stihl founded the world championship in 1985 and it grew over the years. It now includes six different disciplines, and collegiate and rookie leagues. As you may expect, this year’s championship was cancelled. However, we look forward to a return in 2021!
Anyway, back to the sculptures!

life-sized wooden sculptures of four timbersports athletes stand in front of a large building

In 2018 the Timberpsports championship was held in Simon’s hometown of Liverpool. Stihl commissioned him to create life-sized sculptures of some of the participating athletes. The sculptures stood in the entrance and greeted spectators as they arrived. So fun!
Once again these sculptures show Simon’s ability to create an accurate likeness and tell a story in his portraits. Jason Wynard definitely seems to approve of his!

sporting sculptures made by simon o'rourke: jason wynard stands next to a life-sized wooden portrait of himself. They are outside a dock building.

 

Commissioning a Sporting Sculpture by Simon

As you can see, sporting sculptures can make a perfect addition to a sports ground or an event. They help tell stories of a place and honour the people who take part. They can connect generations too in the love of a hero, team or sport. And they always make a fine attraction!

Bizarrely for someone who lives in Wales, Simon is yet to create a rugby sculpture. Could you be the first?! Or maybe you’re more of a tennis, swimming or even cheese rolling fanatic?!

Whatever the sport, if you would like to commission a sporting sculpture, we would love to hear from you. As always, although you can reach us on social media, we recommend filling out the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/. We’re looking forward to hearing from you!

moving wood sculpture of a dragon by simon o'rourke

English Open Chainsaw Competition Entries Through the Years

English Open Chainsaw Competition Entries Through the Years 1160 770 Simon O'Rourke

Can you believe it’s already the August bank holiday weekend?! Time is definitely doing funny things! This weekend is a landmark in the Chainsaw Carving calendar, as it’s normally the English Open Chainsaw Competition. The competition is part of the Cheshire Game and Country Fair, and Simon has taken part many times over the last decade or so. Things are obviously a bit different this year, but we thought we’d mark the occasion by revisiting some of his English Open Chainsaw Competition Entries…

scene from english open chainsaw competition 2019

Where it all Began…

Simon first took part in the competition in 2004, and it was a key event in his career. It was his first competition, and he won third place. This helped prompt him to make a career from creating chainsaw-carved wood sculptures. After making that decision, he and his wife Liz set up Tree Carving in 2005… and the rest is history!

The 2004 Sculpture:

Despite being his first competition piece, the first of Simon’s English open chainsaw competition entries not only took third place but also gained national attention. At the end of the competition, artists can choose to auction off their pieces.  During that auction, Simon’s “Sleeping Girl” caught the attention of one of the Sandringham estate managers. Their bid won, and his sculpture was installed at the Queen’s Norfolk estate later that year. Not bad for a first-timer! National news networks picked up the story, which also helped as Simon began his carving career.

Unfortunately there aren’t many photos of this sculpture which proved to be such a landmark in Simon’s career. So, please forgive us the poor resolution of this photo! We promise the photos get better in the rest of the blog! If anyone is visiting the estate and gets a better photo, we would love it if you shared it and tagged us!

english open chainsaw entries by simon o'rourke: 2004 sleeping girl. A sleeping girl is carved onto a horzontal log

 

English Open Chainsaw Competition Entries: 2007

Simon has had a great deal of success at the English Open. In 2007 he created this whimsical fairy sitting on a mushroom. Although Simon’s style has evolved since then, and his sculptures become much more detailed, we can already see his ability to tell a story and create life-like human form sculptures. Judges also admired this piece and he placed first!

wooden sculpture of a fairy sitting on top of a mushroom, with woods in the background. the fairy is one of simon o'rourkes english open chainsaw competition entries from 2007

English Open Chainsaw Competition Entries: 2009

In 2008 and 2009 Simon also won first place with his Neptune sculpture. And once again, he demonstrated his skill at creating stunning human form sculptures.  We can already see much more of the texture that has become part of Simon’s signature style. His facial expression and details perfectly depict this wisened god of the sea, and that physique definitely reflects the power he is said to have.

 

english open chainsaw competition entries by simon o'rourke. Photo shows simon standing with a 10' sculpture of neptune carved onto a treek trunk

 

english open chainsaw competition entries by simon o'rourke. Photo shows simon standing with a 10' sculpture of neptune carved onto a treek trunk

 

English Open Chainsaw Competition Entries: 2010-2013

As Simon’s awards page shows, 2010-2013 were also good years for him at the English Open. He placed in the top two each year that he entered. By now he and Liz were a definite part of the tree carving community – one of the fun aspects of taking part in events and competitions.

The nature of chainsaw carving means many pieces are often on a very large scale. Some of Simon’s largest pieces have been the Marbury Lady and the Giant Hand of Vyrnwy. His 2013 entry wasn’t as large as these, but this giant bust definitely showed he could work on a large scale!

giant wood bust of a female. one of simon o'rourke's english open chainsaw competition entries

English Open Chainsaw Entries: 2014

During some competitions, Simon is able to take the opportunity to work on a commission. He may need to refine it later but is able to complete what he can during the time allocated for the competition. 2014 was one of those times. During the competition, Simon created this sculpture of Brother Francis. How special for a client to be able to say their sculpture is award-winning! The piece ‘only’ placed third, but the client was delighted, and this monk looks amazing installed among the trees, enjoying a moment of quiet contemplation.

life size sculpture of a monk sitting against a tree. Carved by simon o'rourke as one of his english open chainsaw competition entries

 

English Open Chainsaw Competition Entries: 2015

2015 was a winning year for Simon. He took first place with his incredible moving dragon sculpture. The detail is incredible with the scaly texture and attention to detail like the teeth and eyes. The movement was also a real novelty, and took Simon’s skill and creativity to the next level.

moving wood dragon sculpture

Hemlock today!

The sculpture didn’t sell at auction, but that turned out to be a good thing. Simon made some refinements to the sculpture and Hemlock was born! Hemlock has since travelled around the UK and is always a hit wherever she goes. She has helped to raise money for Clatterbridge Hospital and other causes, has taken part at ComicCon, and has even been part of a wedding! It’s true! She makes a great photo opportunity and is regularly treated to a dragon spa at the workshop (ie maintenance and repair!) to make sure she always looks her best at your events.

There is no doubt either that Hemlock played a big part in earning Simon his reputation for carving fantastic dragons. Since then he has gone on to create other incredible award-winning, viral dragon sculptures such as The Dragon of Bethesda, the egg casket from Game of Thrones, the yew dragon tower, and most recently, the fire-breathing dragon for The Dragon Tower that appeared on George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces.

To book Hemlock for your event (anyone thinking about a dragon-pulled Santa sleigh this year?!) email us using the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/, and we’ll be in touch!

moving wood sculpture of a dragon by simon o'rourke

 

English Open Chainsaw Competition Entries: 2019

Moving on to 2019, and the English Open was another great year for Simon. He took part in the ‘combo’ competition. This meant creating two sculptures over the three days, one made with only a chainsaw, and the other using any power tools.

His chainsaw-only sculpture was this beautiful, intricate fairy that took second place. You can see the range of Stihl chainsaws he used in the background!

Fairy carved by Simon O'Rourke at the English open Chainsaw Competition

The ‘full power’ event meant Simon could also use his favourite Manpa angle grinder and Saburrtooth bits. He created this angel who is looking truly serene. She doesn’t look at all like she’s been surrounded by chainsaw noise and sawdust for two days!!! She shows all of Simon’s trademark movement in her clothing, and attention to detail in the face. And, as always, Simon tells a story with this sculpture and invites the viewer into this moment of serenity with her. The judges loved her too, and she took first place.

Angel carved by Simon O'Rourke at the English Open Chainsaw Carving Competition

The angel which took first place in the ‘full power’ event

 

Future Events?

Right now we don’t know when the next event or competition will take place. As you all know, the world and regulations about public events change constantly. Competitions and events are usually a big part of Simon’s summer though. They go beyond an opportunity to carve and are usually a brilliant time to connect with other artists and gain more inspiration, knowledge, and skills. We find some of them actually make for a fantastic day out too for observers, such as Huskycup or the WoodFest.  We’ve definitely missed them this year, although a change is nice too.

However! Simon does still have some space in his calendar later this year for outdoor events, such as ice carving demonstrations at Christmas, or even something ‘autumn-themed’ for your October half term event. Although the large scale events can’t happen, there are still ways to include and enjoy a live demonstration. Email us at [email protected] or use the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/ to ask about ideas and availability.

 

Chainsaw artist Simon O'Rourke putting finishing touches on a 3m sculpture of svantevit, the slavic god of war. Svantevit is one of his many sculptures of myths and legends.

Sculptures of Myths and Legends

Sculptures of Myths and Legends 1365 2048 Simon O'Rourke

Mythology and folk stories have been the subject of several sculptures Simon has made. Each time there is a challenge for Simon. He needs to create something recognisable and something that tells the well-known story. At the same time though, he also wants to bring something fresh or unique. Creating sculptures of myths and legends helps preserve a culture, and aids us in passing down the stories that shaped a nation. It’s a lovely thing to be part of!
In this week’s blog, we invite you to join us as we revisit some of the sculptures of myths and legends that Simon has made…

Close up of St Georg in the St George and the dragon sculpture by Simon O'Rourke. This is one of his many sculptures of myths and legends.

St George and the Dragon

St George and the Dragon is the most recent of Simon’s sculptures of myths and legends. The client had a stump in her garden and contacted Simon to see what he could make of it. Many sculptures of St George show him either doing battle with the dragon or victorious after the fight. The client didn’t want anything too macabre in her garden though – understandably!!! So, in this case, Simon depicts George before the battle. We see him standing in his armour with weapons ready, as the dragon creeps up the stump towards him. If you would like to know more about the choice of St George, or the process of making the sculpture, visit our St George and the Dragon blog.

Sculptures of myths and legends: a portrait of st george and the dragon are carved into a standing tree stump. The sculpture is surrounded by flowering shrubbery. carved by simon o'rourke.

Svantevit

The next of our sculptures of myths and legends takes us to Eastern Europe. Svantevit is the Slavic god of war, fertility, and abundance. It was created for the exhibition at Putgarten, Germany in 2018. With his four heads, he is immediately recognisable to people familiar with Slavic mythology. He is also carrying a horn and sword which are an important part of the stories of Svantevit. Simon makes his mark though with his detail in the faces and texture in the clothing. The drapery in the cape in particular adds some lovely movement to this 3m sculpture.

Chainsaw artist Simon O'Rourke putting finishing touches on a 3m sculpture of svantevit, the slavic god of war. Svantevit is one of his many sculptures of myths and legends.

The Hydra

The Hydra from 2019 is the next of our sculptures of myths and legends Simon has created. Initially, this sculpture was going to be a flock of birds or an animal rising from the ground. When Simon arrived on-site though he found the tree was unsuitable and chose to create the Hydra instead. The devil is definitely in the detail as they say with this one though. Look at all that scaly texture and the individual teeth! Definitely a legendary sculpture!!!

Hydra tree carving sculpture by Simon O'Rourke, one of his sculptures of myths and legends

Close up of the Hydra Heads. A private tree carving commission by Simon O'Rourke

Close up of the heads showing the detail and texture.

Lancelot and Guinevere

From Eastern Europe and Greece, we come much closer to home for the next of Simon’s sculptures of myths and legends: Lancelot and Guinevere.
Simon created this sculpture at an event in 2010, and it beautifully depicts the romance between the two characters. Even if we had never heard the story of Lancelot and Guinevere before, we get a sense of that story through the characters’ pose and facial details. Their eyes alone tell a story! Although not as textured as Simon’s later sculptures, we also love the hints of movement in the clothing which add to the realism.
Simon named this sculpture ‘Forbidden Fruit’. This sense of the romance being taboo or forbidden is enhanced by his choice to show the characters beneath a fruit tree, which hints at the story of Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit in the book of Genesis.

sculptures of myths and legends by simon o'rourke: guinevere kneeling at the feet of lancelot under a tree

Tegid Foel

Our next sculpture is another Welsh legend… Tegid Foel! Also known as ‘The Giant of Penllyn’!
Although the legend of Tegid Foel may be Welsh, he was created many miles away at Chetwynd International Chainsaw Carving Championship in 2012. Tegid Foel is the husband of Ceridwen in Welsh mythology. Funnily, the translation of his name into English would be ‘Tacitus the Bald’! Simon truly captures that description in this sculpture!
Just as Tegid Foel is a giant in Welsh mythology, this sculpture stands around 14′ tall. Simon carved him in separate parts and assembled him using scaffolding and a forklift truck. For anyone interested, Simon has an album documenting the process of creating Tegid Foel on Facebook. Just click HERE to see it. It also has close-up photos of details like the feet, belt, and hands. We definitely think it’s worth a look!


Sculptures of myths and legends: A giant sculpture of tegid foel by simon o'rourke.

Mabinogion Characters

Our last sculptures of myths and legends are also Welsh in origin. The Mabinogion is a compilation of Welsh stories, originally written in Middle Welsh. It’s thought they were compiled in the 12th Century but were passed down orally for years before that.
Back in 2010, Simon created sculptures of several of the characters in the Mabinogion (both human and animal) for a holiday park in Wales. There is something special about living and working in Wales, and being able to help preserve the history and culture of the nation in this way. Just like Tegid Foel, Simon added a full album of the Mabinogion on Facebook which you can visit HERE.
For now, we will just share these few.  The rougher ‘unfinished’ textures blend perfectly with the wooded surroundings. In Autumn they compliment the colours of the Welsh hills and woods, and in summer they contrast beautifully.

Sculptures of myths and legends: a triptych of wooden sculptures of characters from the mabinogion by simon o'rourke

Why Create Sculptures of Myths and Legends?

As we said, a sculpture of a local myth or legend helps us preserve culture. In generations past, we might have spent time telling local stories to one another or reading them for ourselves. The world has expanded massively though. Although this opens up new experiences and learning for us, which is fantastic, it is sometimes at the cost of losing something of our own history. Commissioning a sculpture that depicts local folklore can really help in sharing something of the history and culture with visitors and locals alike.

If you would like to commission your own sculpture of a myth or legend, contact us via the form on www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/ and Simon will be in touch!

Wood or Bronze Sculpture: A side-by-side photo shows the same wooden sculpture of a stylised woman's face years apart. Photo one is warm and smooth. Photo two has taken on rich, grey hues, and the weatherted wood now has the character of a real face

Which is Better: Wood or Bronze Sculpture?

Which is Better: Wood or Bronze Sculpture? 1875 1875 Simon O'Rourke

Wood or bronze sculpture? Is the longer lasting sculpture a better sculpture? Which one should I choose? Simon is often asked “Why make a sculpture from something that will eventually degrade and return to nature?” In this blog we explore why Simon loves working with wood, and why it might be the choice for you…

Wood or ronze sculpture? Angel at the pool of bethesda by simon o'rourke at biddulph old hall. Photo shows the beautiful effect of an aging wood sculpture against the hostoric building and gardens.

Wood or Bronze Sculpture: Benefits of Bronze.

A bronze sculpture is first created in clay, wax, or other materials. That sculpture is used to create a mould, and finally, molten bronze is poured into that mould.

A bronze statue will last for thousands of years of course. We have seen this from ancient bronze sculptures still in existence today. For example, ‘Dancing Girl’ from Mohenjo-Daro is the oldest known bronze sculpture in the world, dating back 2500 years.

Wood on the other hand is a material that will eventually rot away and break down over the years…

Wood or Broze sculpture? Photo shows the bronze sculpture of dancing girl of mohenjo-daro

Wood or Bronze Sculpture: Why make something that will rot?

Environmental artists the world over operate at the opposite end of the scale. Artists like Andy Goldsworthy create artworks from nature that are gone in a short space of time. “It’s not about art,” he has explained. “It’s just about life and the need to understand that a lot of things in life do not last.

This momentary art is a powerful medium for drawing the attention to the natural world and its inherent beauty. Wood has also been used as a material for sculpture for thousands of years and also lasts well, depending on the species and how it is looked after. We shared more about which species are most enduring in our blog “Is my tree suitable for a tree carving sculpture“.

However, unlike bronze, it will always weather and begin to wear away over time.

Wood or Bronze sculpture? A close up of 'The Guardian' by Simon O'Rourke. It shows cracks in the nose of the oak lion, and the changing colours of oak sculpture.

Close up of The Guardian which shows the effects of aging on wood sculpture

Wood or Bronze Sculpture: The Beauty of Aging Wood

Weathering wood reveals much more of the character and growth patterns that form during the time the tree is growing. As an artist, Simon loves to see the process of weathering: that transformation of the freshly shaped timber to ancient-looking textures and cracks. He loves the revealing of the shapes of growth, and the natural progression of decay. For him, there is something warm about wood that captures a moment in history, the timeline of the tree, from seed to sculpture.

Wood or Bronze Sculpture: Picture shows large praying hands carved in oak by Simon O'Rourke. The wood has taken on grey hues due to weathering to give the hands character.

These praying hands have taken on more character and grey hues as the wood has aged and weatherted.

Wood or Bronze: Simon’s Philosophy as an Artist

Simon feels this compliments his artwork, and philospophy as an artist. He loves to capture a moment in time, a scene from a story, and leave the viewer feeling like they have momentarily been part of a bigger picture. The process of decay also captures an essence of the fragility of life.
Simon is very aware that his work isn’t permanent. This isn’t discouraging for thim though. Rather, he shares that:
Although some of my sculptures will eventually outlive me, their inevitable return to the earth to become part of the perpetual circle of life, is for me, a humbling experience“.

Wood or Bronze Sculpture: A side-by-side photo shows the same wooden sculpture of a stylised woman's face years apart. Photo one is warm and smooth. Photo two has taken on rich, grey hues, and the weatherted wood now has the character of a real face

Side by side photos like this show that the aging process enhances the depth and beauty of a sculpture

Bronze or Wood: An Evolving Piece of Art

As well as reflecting Simon’s philosophy as an artist, this aging process creates an ever-evolving piece of art. The photo above of a stylised woman’s face, shows that aging process actually enhances the beauty and intensity of a piece. In particular the pupil and iris are much more striking as the wood has darkened and taken on grey hues. The more varied hues and tones in the wood create something much more life-like and organic looking.

Close up of a face of a wooden sculpture showing the cracks created by weathering

Character created over time by aging and weathering of the wood.

Bronze or Wood Sculpture: Environmental Benefits

We have talked about the humbling aspect and cyclical journey of a sculpture returning to the earth. However, this is also an environmental consideration too. Simon sources his wood responsibly, and loves to transform storm-damaged and diseased trees into sculptures, giving life back to the timber. The wood will eventually return to the earth, and make no permanent footprint.

Angel at the Pool of Bethesda by Simon O'Rourke. View is from behind showing the Angel standing by a pool against the background of Old Biddulph Hall

This view from behind of Angel at the Pool of Bethesda at Biddulpho Old Hall shows how a wood sculpture perfectly compliments historic property and mature gardens

Wood or Bronze Sculpture: A Summary

Commissioning a piece of art is a big decision and an investment, and it needs to reflect your preferences and values as the buyer. All mediums have their beauty and benefits, so we would never claim one is definitively ‘better’ than another. However, if anything of the philosophical, environmental or aesthetic benefits of wood mentioned here resonate with you, it is likely a wooden sculpture is the best choice for you.

If you would like to commission a wooden sculpture, you can contact us using the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/ .

We’d love to hear from you!

 

Radagast the Brown by Simon O'Rourke. Radagast is on of his movie based sculptures.

Fan Art Series: Movie Based Sculptures

Fan Art Series: Movie Based Sculptures 720 960 Simon O'Rourke

This week we return to our Fan Art Series. In Part One we looked at sculptures based on literature. Then, in Part Two we shared some of Simon’s TV themed sculptures. This week, in Part Three, we are going to re-visit some of the movie based sculptures Simon has created over the years…

Movie Based Sculptures: Ent from Lord of the Rings

The first of these movie based sculptures had its own blog, but we think it’s worth sharing again. We’re talking about The Ent sculpture from Lord of the Rings. This Ent can be found in Poulton Hall on the Wirral, which is good news because it means it can be viewed by the public! The gardens are open on specific dates during the year, so if you’re in the North West why not take a look?

Movie Based Sculptures: Radagast the Brown

Again, our next sculpture has a blog of its own. You can read the full story at www.treecarving.co.uk/radagast-the-brown-blue-and-pink/, but basically, the Radagast tree sculpture came about as a way of transforming and giving life back to a diseased tree. For Lord of the Rings fans, there are endless possibilities for unique fan art. Simon is incredible at creating both fantasy and human form works of art and Lord of the Rings has plenty of both. If you’re looking for something unique either for yourself or a gift, why not a full-size sculpture or miniature piece for your garden? Create your own Hobbiton!

Radagast the Brown by Simon O'Rourke. Radagast is on of his movie based sculptures.

 

Movie Based Sculptures: Groot

Our next movie based sculpture is a character Simon has made on several occasions. Groot.

The loveable Flora Colossus was originally a Marvel creation and has featured in several popular films. Simon has created Groot sculptures for private and public commissions including this giant marionette version for Wales Comic-Con in 2015. This depiction of Groot is much more like the comic book version, or the Groot seen in Guardians of the Galaxy, 2014. It’s also an amazing likeness to the version in Marvel’s ‘Rocket and Groot’ animation from 2017.

sculptures based on movies: simon o'rourke creating a giant groot marionette for Wales Comic Con 2015

giant groot marionette tree carved sculpture by simon o'rourke

sculptures based on movies: giant groot marionette by simon o'rourke

Another version of Groot that Simon created is this sculpture. It shows a cuter, more cartoon-like Groot which is much closer to how we see him a little later.

groot by simon o'rourke, photographed in his workshop whilst in progress

Our final Groot sculpture was commissioned as a 50th birthday gift. He was hanging around the studio for one of our open days in aid of Clatterbridge Hospital. That was when this little chap got to meet him. As well as making for a cute photo, it shows the scale too – similar to an average nearly-two-year-old!

Movie based sculptures: a 3' groot carved by simon o'rourke stands next to a two year old in winter clothing to show scale

The client was kind enough to share the video with us from when she was given the Groot sculpture. Thankfully was less bemused by him than our little friend above! She shared:
Am over the moon with my 50th present off my family. As always Simon got the character spot on. Thank you so very much, he’s amazing
If you have a special birthday coming up and have a movie fan in the family, why not commission something for them?

Movie Based Sculptures: Spiderman

Continuing with the Marvel Comics theme, the next of our movie based sculptures is Spiderman. SPiderman is a little different from many of Simon’s pieces because he doesn’t just rely on shadow from cuts/texture to give him his distinctive pattern. Simon will sometimes use colouring techniques and stains or a blowtorch to create colour on a sculpture. These still allow for an organic colour and feel, so it remains in keeping with natural wood sculpture.

movie based sculptures: life sized spiderman wood sculpture created by simon o'rourke

Movie Based Sculptures: Batman

Looks like we’re on a roll here the comic book movie characters, because our next character is Batman. Good to give DC some representation too!

Batman was commissioned by Phil and Leah Jackson of Wahoo Marketing Agency (we are thankful as a business for their expertise), and helped them sell their house!
It’s true!
Batman doesn’t just fight crime, he moves real estate!
How?
Well basically, photos of the Batman sculpture went viral and drew international attention to their property.
Although it may seem excessive, in the context of the costs of renovating, improving, and staging a house for sale, a novelty sculpture can be a great investment. Not only can it help attract attention, but it may be that if the sculpture is free-standing, that you can take it with you or sell it later. A sculpture could also help tell the story of a property or area which moves the viewer in a way words don’t. So, if you are selling your property and think a sculpture may help, we’d love to hear from you!

Movie based sculptures: Batman by Simon O'Rourke

 

Movie Based Sculptures: Marilyn Monroe & More Comic Book Heroes

Our final example of movie based sculptures might be a bit of a cheat, as it’s not actually sculpture. But we’re going to go ahead and share anyway!
For people without room for a sculpture, an illustrated wall hanging may be just the solution. These are examples of some Simon has created over the years, including the original ‘blonde bombshell’, Marilyn Monroe.
Simon uses his background in illustration and combines it with his skill with an angle grinder, blow torch and, saw to create these unique illustrations. They make a striking piece of fan art, and are perfect for a gift or commemorating an occasion.
Please excuse the resolution. These were all created at events a few years ago, and cellphone camera technology wasn’t quite what it is today!

Marilyn Monroe illustration wall hanging by simon o'rourke

superhero wooden wall hanging illustrations by simon o'rourke

Commissioning Your Own Movie Based Sculpture

We hope you enjoyed this tour through some of Simon’s movie based sculptures. If you feel inspired and would like to commission a piece, we would love to hear from you. You can use the contact form on www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/ and Simon will get back to you to chat through the details.

tv themed sculptures: egg case for game of thrones by simon o'rourke

TV Themed Sculptures

TV Themed Sculptures 800 800 Simon O'Rourke

Last week we began a series of blogs sharing some of Simon’s ‘fan art‘. That is, sculptures he has made over the years based on books, tv, music, sports, etc. Strictly speaking, it isn’t ‘fan art’ as Simon himself may not be the fan, but rather the client. The description kind of fits though! Last week we kicked the series off with sculptures based on literature. This week we bring you TV themed sculptures…

TV themed sculptures by simon o'rourke. Picture shows wooden chainsaw carved sculptures of wallace, gromit and shaun the sheep from the Nick Park series

TV Themed Sculptures: Wallace and Gromit

The first of our TV themed sculptures are these pieces based on Wallace and Gromit. The lovable duo was an immediate hit when they debuted in 1989. Yes, you read that right, 1989. They really are 31 years old! What started as an animated ‘short’ turned into seven TV movies and various TV series. Nick Park created the original characters from clay, but we think the wooden version is just as lovable! Simon created his Wallace, Gromit, and Shaun the sheep from Douglas fir over several days in the workshop. You can watch the process in the timelapse below…

TV Themed Sculptures: Sherlock Holmes

The next of our sculptures based on TV shows are Sherlock Holmes. Although he was originally a literary character, there have been so many representations of him on our screens over the years, it would seem wrong not to include him! In fact, the detective stories are so popular, he has been portrayed by over 75 different actors!
This sculpture was commissioned as a gift for a fan around the end of 2019. Simon didn’t just carve a portrait of the famous detective though. He also included references to ten different stories that you can look for in the pictures. If you can’t find them though, you don’t need to feel frustrated. We have the answers in our blog: The Case of the Sherlock Holmes Bust.

Sherlock Holmes Sculpture by Simon O'Rourke, one of his tv themed sculptures created in 2019

 

TV Themed Sculptures: Saturday Night Stars

Our next sculptures are based on two very large TV personalities. In fact, if you watched Saturday night television, for three decades this Scouse duo would have featured on your screens: Cilla Black and Ken Dodd.

Both originating from Liverpool, the two were carved live at the Pierhead in Liverpool in 2018. Simon chose to portray Cilla in her 60s pop star era – although she was better known later for presenting ‘Suprise, Surprise’ and Blind Date. Comedian Ken Dodd is unmistakable too, holding his famous ‘tickle stick’! As well as the fantastic sculptures, we love the sneaky appearance here too of Poppy, Simon, and Liz’s dog. Poppy sometimes attends events with them, and can often be found in the workshop with her trusty blanket. Oh, and occasionally modeling some of Simon’s favourite Stihl products too! Check out www.treecarving.co.uk/when-poppy-met-stihl/ to see her in action, as well as finding out some of his recommendations.

tv themed sculptures by simon o'rourke. To-scale wooden sculptures of Cilla Black and Ken Dodd outside the Liver Building

Live Carving

It isn’t just incredible to see what Simon creates. It’s absolutely fascinating to watch the process too. Simon often competes and does demonstrations at events over the summer. If you get the chance, it’s well worth watching. For now, we’ll just have to leave you with this great shot of Simon wielding one of his favourite Stihl chainsaws to create the Ken Dodd’s face…

Simon O'Rourke using a chainsaw to carve a wooden sculpture of Ken Dodd

TV Themed Sculptures: Countryfile

Our next TV themed sculpture was created as a secret project for the BBC TV Show Countryfile. They were unveiled during the Countryfile Live event at Blenheim Palace in 2018. Simon created two separate pieces that depict each of the presenters in a portrait ‘montage’ or ‘collage’. The pieces were displayed during the event, and although Simon didn’t meet them, we heard that the presenters loved their likenesses! The photos definitely show some happy customers!

tv themed sculptures: countryfile presenters stand with their likeness created in wood by simon o'rourke

TV themed sculptures by simon o'rourke. Countryfile presenters sitting with their likelnesses carved into two pieces of wood by simon o'rourke

Photo from The Oxford Mail

TV Themed Sculptures: Game of Thrones

We thought we ould save this one for last… The egg casket from Game of Thrones.
At the end of 2018, Simon was chosen as one of 18 artists whose work would be used to promote the final season of HBO’s hit show Game of Thrones. HBO gave each artist an original prop from the show. Their task was to reimagine it somehow or to create something additional using that prop.  It was no small thing when the dragon eggs arrived here in Wales…

Simon chose to create a case for the eggs. The idea was that they could be carried in the case when they were presented as a wedding gift.

Simon made the casket from yew, which had some beautiful markings and colouring.  He created
seemingly random Dragon teeth throughout the interior, that hold the eggs securely in place. He shrouded the mouth with abstract dragon wings and added ash poles for carrying.
The final sculpture is stunning. It shows not only Simon’s technical ability, but his creativity, and understanding of symbolism. Each and every detail was carefully thought about to create this impact, which we share in our blog ‘For the Throne’.

tv themed sculptures: egg case for game of thrones by simon o'rourke

 

close up of game of thrones egg casket by simon o'rourke

Poppy, Simon, Liz O'Rourke with the Game of Thrones eggs and casket

What Would You Commission?

If you were to commission a TV themed sculpture, what would it be? We can think of all kinds of applications… fan art for a wall or office, a garden ornament, commemorative sculpture in a hometown…
The great thing too is that they can be obvious (like a portrait) or subtle. An object from a TV show can become a great talking point and focus in a garden for example.

If you would like to commission a TV themed sculpture, contact Simon via the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/ and he can chat with you about ideas, details, costs. We’re looking forward to hearing from you!

Alice in Wonderland booth carved by Simon O'Rourke for Steak of the Art

Sculptures based on Literature: Fan Art Series

Sculptures based on Literature: Fan Art Series 960 960 Simon O'Rourke

Over the years, Simon has created many sculptures based on literature. They have been for a range of settings, including libraries, schools, National Trust property, and even restaurants! No two pieces are alike, even when they are based on the same book. Simon has been asked to carve figures from several different genres, and include sculptures based on works by Shakespeare, Tolkien, Dahl, Carroll, Conan Doyle, and Beatrix Potter.
One of the nice things about sculptures based on literature is that often there is no definitive image of the person to have to replicate. Books allow the imagination to flow, and creating sculptures based on literature is no different. With a description but no image to work from, Simon can get creative as he carves. Join us as we revisit some of his literary sculptures from over the years…

tree carving sculptures based on literature by simon o'rourke. an open book with the title alice in wonderland and the chesire cat sitting on a hollow log to the right

Part of Simon’s Alice in Wonderland sculpture trail at Erddig National Trust property

William Shakespeare Sculpture

Early examples of Simon’s sculpture based on literature are these Romeo and Juliet figures. Two trees at a local holiday park had become intertwined.  This positioning meant they perfectly lent themselves to becoming Shakespeare’s famous lovers. Simon worked the angles and shape of the trees brilliantly to depict them gazing lovingly into each other’s eyes. There is no doubt they are infatuated with each other! As well as creating figures of Romeo and Juliet, Simon also engraved text from the play into the trunks. If you had to choose only one quote from Romeo and Juliet to include, what would it be?

romeo and juliet tree carving sculpture by simon o'rourke, one of his sculptures based on literature

Sabine Obermaier

Our next literary sculpture is much less famous: Christian and Martha from “The Midwife” by Sabine Obermaier. You may have seen this sculpture in our blog about the Huskycup through the Years, or our Review of the Decade. We also have a Facebook album where you can see a bigger range of photos. “Christian and Martha” was created for the Huskycup competition in 2012. It was created in collaboration with Tommy Craggs and Michael Tamozus – TEAM EUROPE! The public loved the piece – and so did the judges! Christian and Martha took third place, making it Simon’s fourth time to finish in the top five.

Christian and Martha, one of Simon o@rourkes sculptures based on literature. It shows the two characters sitting on a giant shire horse

Conan Doyle Bust

On a TOTALLY different scale to the last two, our next sculpture based on literature is this Sherlock Holmes bust. It was a private commission for a fan, created towards the end of 2020. As well as depicting Conan Doyle’s famous detective, it also has hints and clues to elements of Sherlock stories. A bust is a great alternative portrait sculpture if you are looking for something small or more portable. They always add a touch of class and are a more subtle piece of fan art than a full-size sculpture.

Sculptures based on literature: Sherlock Holmes bust by Simon O'Rourke

Tolkien Sculpture

Another recent favourite of Simon’s sculptures based on literature is Radagast. The character may not be as well known as Gandalf, but the sculpture has been a hit!
This sculpture is also a great example of Simon transforming something sad into a beautiful piece of art. It came about after a Blue Atlas Cedar was infected with Sirococcus. Trees with this disease must be cut back as a minimum, but younger trees usually die. Rather than lose the tree, the owners contacted Simon, and the tree lives on in the form of Radagast the Brown!

Radagast the Brown by Simon O'Rourke

Lewis Carroll Sculptures

Alice in Wonderland has been a VERY popular theme, and Simon has had several commissions based on the Lewis Carroll classic. It doesn’t get repetitive though. Each time he gets to reimagine the characters and tell different parts of the story. Every commission also has a different purpose and setting too. Some have been individual sculptures such as this series created for a park in Scotland…

Alice in Wonderland sculpture by chainsaw artist simon o'rourke. Figures carved in wood of around 6' show the quuen of hearts, king of hearts, alice and tweedle dum

Photo credit Paul Worpole

Or this caterpillar which formed part of an  Alice in Wonderland trail at Erddig National Trust. Erddig is local to us, and we love the place. Simon was lucky enough to be their artist in residence for a season too!

wood carving of the caterpillar from alice in wonderland by simon o'rourke

Other Alice in Wonderland pieces have included a themed booth for Steak of the Art in Bristol…

Alice in Wonderland booth carved by Simon O'Rourke for Steak of the Art

And this themed chair created for The Storyhouse in Chester. The chair was a donation (read the full story here) for the children’s library, and incorporates other elements not seen in the other Alice pieces Do you have a favourite?

alice in wonderland themed chair by simon o'rourke for storyhouse chester. one of his sculptures based on literature

Roald Dahl Booth

For our next piece, we stay with children’s literature. This time, the author is Roald Dahl, and the book is Charlie and the Chocolate factory. Several years ago Simon was commissioned to create a booth for Steak of the Art in Cardiff. It was the first of three installations he has done for the chain now (the second is the Alice booth above). Each gives him the challenge of combining structural and practical requirements with artistic elements. It’s fun spotting all the different characters in a scene like this, as well as different elements in the story. How many can you find?

Alice in Wonderland booth by Simon O'Rourke, Steak of the Art

 

Hans Christian Anderson

Moving on, the next of our sculptures based on literature is from the timeless classic ‘The Little Mermaid’. The Hans Christian Anderson protagonist has been depicted in many different ways over the years, including as a redhead with a fish for a best friend – thank you, Disney! Fun fact: This little mermaid by Simon is much bigger than the Copenhagen landmark which is indeed a very little mermaid at only 1.25, tall!

Sculptures based on literature: a tree carved little mermaid by Simon O'Rourke

Beatrix Potter

Of course, not all literary heroes are human. And so, for our next piece, we bring you one of Simon’s furry literary sculptures: Peter Rabbit. A favourite for generations, this little Peter makes a cute addition to this garden.  With the facial features and little jacket, it’s unmistakeably the Beatrix Potter bunny. Not only does it look like Peter Rabbit though, but Simon also perfectly captured his cheeky character. A fun take on a literary sculpture!

sculptures based on literature by chainsaw artist simon o'rourke: Peter Rabbit eating carrots

J K Rowling

It’s amazing that despite the popularity of Harry Potter, Simon hasn’t yet been asked to carve any fan art based on the series. We have a feeling it won’t be long until he is though! However, although it isn’t strictly one of Simon’s sculptures based on literature, we think this phoenix rising from the ashes looks a lot like Fawkes. Especially as Jason Cockcroft depicted him on the original hardback cover of The Order of the Phoenix. What do think? Could this be Fawkes?!

Close up of the upper part of "A Phoenix Arises" by Simon O'Rourke

Close up of the phoenix rising from the sun-like flames

Who Would You Choose?

We hope you enjoyed this selection of Simon’s sculptures based on literature. He certainly enjoyed creating them!
Of course, with so many wonderful books, not everybody can choose a favourite character for their home, garden, library or school. So maybe a montage is in order? Something like this sculpture “Learning to Fly” but with figures from many books incorporated…

simon o'rourke sculptures based on literature. Child standing on a atower of books.

If you would like to commission a sculpture based on a literary figure, we’d love to hear from you. Contact Simon via the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/ and someone will be in touch to chat about ideas and details. We’re looking forward to hearing from you.

The finished head

Huskycup Through the Years

Huskycup Through the Years 3648 2736 Simon O'Rourke

An annual highlight in the chainsaw carving calendar is The Huskycup. Every summer chainsaw carvers from around the world descend on Blockhausen in Dorfschemnitz and the sawdust starts flying! We absolutely recommend a visit at least once in a lifetime! As you might expect, this summer’s event has sadly been cancelled. But never fear! Just like our series where we brought Simon’s woodland trails to your home (click here for Part One, Part Two and Part Three), we thought we would bring the Huskycup to you! Join us as we look back as Simon’s entries in the Huskycup through the years…

Huskycup through the years: participants in the 2019 huskycup showcase

Simon and the other participants from the 2019 Huskycup

About Blockhausen

Before we revisit Simon’s entries at the Huskycup through the years, we have to share a bit more about the place. It’s incredible!

Blockhausen had its beginnings in something very practical: a hut to store forest management material and hay. SO different to its current function! You can read the full story at https://www.blockhausen.de/geschichte-gebaeude/wie-alles-begann/ , but nowadays it’s a venue for chainsaw carving courses, forestry training, open air museum, events venue, holiday destination, and hiking trail. In fact, it’s home to the largest collection of chainsaw art in the world! Oh, and if that isn’t enough, it also has a pretty great snack bar/cafe! Public can visit all year round, and hire various buildings. Many of them incorporate some fantastic pieces of chainsaw carving, so it’s like staying in an art gallery!

At certain times of year though, it is transformed into an arena for some of the world’s best chainsaw carvers. The largest of these events being Huskycup…

The Huskycup Experience

Initially Huskycup was an annual competition. As we mentioned in our Huskycup flashback blog though, it is now an exhibition event/showcase, although there is still a speed carving competition. Artists team up to create incredible chainsaw carving exhibits that tie in with a given theme. Simon participated for the first time in 2007 and has returned several times since then. It’s definitely a favourite event! Although he was very successful in competition, Simon prefers the more relaxed atmosphere of the exhibition. Primarily, it enables artists to feel more relaxed as they carve. It also allows them to take more time to enjoy each other’s creations, and try things they may not if there was the ‘risk’ of it not working out when they were being judged. It means teams can be more varied too as they aren’t restricted to a geographical region. Whether a participant, chainsaw artist, or fan, Huskycup is a great event to attend for community, and inspiration.

Huskycup through the years: crowds entirely fill a path in the woodland with chainsaw artists set up in booths alongside the path, carving various dragons

Crowds in 2019. Photo taken from the Huskycup website.

Simon and the Huskycup through the Years: The Beginning…

Simon’s first Huskycup experience was in 2007. He had to apply to organiser Andreas by sending a design. There was no theme for this year. This is a bit of a double-edged sword! It’s great because it allows for SO much variation. However, it can also be tricky to know what’s going to appeal. Simon was up for the challenge though! He created a giant marionette that really moves! The sculpture placed fourth on the competition – pretty good for a first time competitor! It’s still installed at Blockhausen and remains a crowd-pleaser today.

Huskycup through the years - 2007. A giant marionette created in oak by chainsaw carver simon o'rourke

2007 entry: Giant marionette

Huskycup Through the Years: 2008

2008 Simon’s brief was to create a naked man and woman cuddling! It was another success and he placed fourth again. For those wanting to see the sculpture, you’ll need to visit Blockhausen! After the competition, it was installed in one of the haylofts where people can stay.

A life size oak sculpture by simon o'rourke of a naked man and woman reclining rogether

Simon’s 2008 Huskycup entry

Huskycup Through the Years: 2009

In 2009 Simon paired up with Sebastian Seiffert to make TEAM EUROPE! This year teams created columns that depicted stories and legends from their home continent. Simon and Sebastian opted for a Celtic theme. Rather than tell specific stories though, they decided to show the seasons of the year as people. This unique approach impressed the judges, and they placed second! Their columns joined the other competitors, and they became the pillars supporting one of the log cabins.

Column holding up a large wood cabin. Created by Simon O'Rourke with celtic knots and featuring a nude woman

celtic knot column featuring nude woman by simon o'rourke

 

nude man incorporated into illar featuring celtic knotwork by simon o'rourke

nude man incorporated into illar featuring celtic knotwork by simon o'rourke

Huskycup Through the Years: 2010

2010 brought Simon a live model, Knut! The theme was ‘Miners from the Ore region’, and each competitor had a model dressed in their various uniforms. Simon’s placed second again with his miner, meaning he had now placed four times out of five competitions.

Simon and Liz O'Rourke pictured with Knut, an miner from the ore region and his likeness that simon carved in oak at huskycup 2010

Simon and Liz pictured with Knut

The Long Table

Blockhausen’s founder Andreas is always up to something big though, and the 2010 Huskycup was no exception! Each of the miners created was to help support a canopy over the table at Blockhausen. Not just any table either. The table is actually in the Guinness Book of Records as the longest table in the world! For those wondering how big a table has to be to make a world record, it’s a whopping 39.8m! That’s the equivalent of 23 men of average height in Germany! It seats 200 people, weighs two tons, and it safely holds around 10,000 bottles of beer! That’s a lot of people, and a lot of beer. It’s also a LOT of fun as people gather and sit together to enjoy food and drink from the cafe. The process behind building the table is fascinating, and you can read more at https://www.blockhausen.de/geschichte-gebaeude/laengster-tisch-2010/. For now, enjoy the miners!

life size miners created by various chainsaw artists act as pillars for a canopy over a 40m table

The 2010 Huskycup pillars in place alongside the table, ready for the canopy

 

life size miners created by various chainsaw artists act as pillars for a canopy over a 40m table while a man sands the table

Sanding the giant table!

Huskycup Through the Years: 2012

Simon returned to the Huskycup in 2012 and teamed up with Tommy Craggs and Michael Tamozus to make TEAM EUROPE! They created an incredible piece depicting Christian and Martha from Sabine Obermaier’s book, The Midwife. Once again, the team did brilliantly and took third place.

Review of the decade: Christian & Martha Huskycup 2012 by O'Rourke, Cloggs and Tamoszus

Christian & Martha Huskycup 2012 by O'Rourke, Cloggs and Tamoszus

Walk of Fame!

2012 was also the year that Simon entered the Blockhausen Walk of Fame! Just like the Hollywood version, it’s an honour to have your name on a star in the Blockhausen Walk of Fame. Unveiling is usually a big event!

Chainsaw artist SImon o'Rourke kisses his star in the blockhausen walk of fame

Huskycup Through the Years: 2016

The 2016 Huskycup was a memorable one for Simon because he took first place. The theme was Vikings, which left plenty of room for creative storytelling – something Simon LOVES to do. He depicted a daughter being taken away by a Viking warrior, while the father grieves. A moving scene! And, just as Simon is often inspired by classical artists such as Rodin,  this scene has hints of Michaelangelo’s “Creation of Adam” in the way the father reaches for his daughter as she is carried away. Winter or summer, it makes a striking exhibit in the Blockhausen open-air exhibition. We shared more about this in our blog about the 2016 and 2018 Huskycup, or you can check out the Viking Raid case study on the website to find out more.

 

Viking Raid at Huskycup 2016 by Simon o'Rourke

Viking Raid, Huskycup 2016

Viking Raid, Huskycup 2016

viking raid sculpture by Simon O'Rourke in the snow

 

Huskycup Through the Years:

By 2018 the Huskycup was no longer a competition. Rather, a showcase event. The theme was once again ‘Miners’. This time however, the finished pieces had a slightly different purpose. Rather than holding up a cabin or canopy, they were going to form that year’s Nativity scene. Simon’s task was to carve two miners that would eventually be two of the three wise men visiting the stable. You’ll see from the pictures that by now Simon had been introduced to Saburrtooth. Their burrs have enabled him to take his facial details to a whole new level! They now form a staple part of his tool collection along with his faithful Stihl chainsaws and Manpa multi cutter and angle grinder.
Once again he had live models, and they looked pretty happy with the finished sculptures of themselves!

Huskycup through the years: Simon O'Rourke Working on details of the miners at Huskycup 2018

Working on details of the miners at Huskycup 2018

 

Working on details of the miners at Huskycup 2018

Using a Saburrtooth burr to create the eyes of a miner

The finished Miners, Huskycup 2018

The finished Miners, Huskycup 2018

Huskycup Through the Years: 2019

2019 was another amazing Huskycup for Simon, as you’ll know if you ready our Huskycup 2019 blog. He teamed up with Keiji Kikodoro, where they had the task of creating a sculpture with the theme ‘dragons’. Simon’s relationship with Keiji goes back years, and he has been privileged to carve with him in Japan. As regular followers know, Simon has MANY dragons in his portfolio, and is something of an expert dragon carver. His most recent dragon sculpture even breathes fire! He wanted something completely unique though for Huskycup 2019, and came up with this idea:

Initial sketch of Water Dragon by Simon O Rourke and Keiji. Learn these skills in our online art courses with Simon.

The initial concept sketch by Simon

When we look at the finished piece, we see glimpses of the way dragons are traditionally portrayed in the cultures of both artists, and there is no doubt that their teamwork created something fantastic. Even without the competition, this is a winner!

Water Dragon by Keiji Kidokoro and Simon O'Rourke Huskycup 2019

Water Dragon by Simon and Keiji at Huskycup 2019

Profile view of the finished Water Dragon

Profile view of the finished Water Dragon

The finished head

The finished head

Huskycup 2020

And what about Huskycup 2020?
Well, at this point it’s hard to say. Andreas has postponed the main event, and planned a ‘mini huskycup‘ for October of this year, but whether Simon can be there or not is very much up in the air. If it goes ahead, the theme is ‘Brothers Grimm’, and participants are free to choose either modern or traditional interpretation. What a lot of scope for amazing fantasy sculptures AND human form. Some of Simon’s favourite kind of projects!

Either way, we feel strongly that safety needs to come first, so we watch and wait, and will choose wisely at the time, within the regulations.

Even if it goes ahead, it will be with much reduced attendance. So, with little likelihood of you enjoying Husycup in person this year, we hope you enjoyed seeing Huskycup through the years from Simon’s perspective. If you can’t go the the event, we bring the event to you!

But seriously, if you can ever get there, we recommend attending a Huskycup. The atmosphere is amazing, the carving off the charts, and the venue stunning. Andreas has created an incredible destination, and a great event, and it’s definitely been a highlight to be part of the whole thing.

If you feel inspired by any of these sculptures to commission your own, contact Simon using the form on www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/. We’re looking forward to hearing from you!

Memorial sculpture for Robyn by Simon O'Rourke

A Memorial Sculpture for Robyn

A Memorial Sculpture for Robyn 1824 1368 Simon O'Rourke

In our blogs,  the perfect portrait sculpture for you part one and part two, we mentioned commissioning a portrait as a memorial. This week we would like to share a memorial portrait Simon recently created. In fact, it was Simon’s first piece after lockdown began to lift. Thank you to the family for allowing us to write about this memorial aculpture for Robyn.

A memorial sculpture for Robyn carved by Simon O'Rourke depicting a young girl as a fairy with a robin on her open hand

The Commission

Several years ago, Simon received a commission to create a sculpture for a local High School, in memorial of a young student who had tragically passed away. The family were touched by the way the sculpture captured their daughter’s character, even though Simon had never met her. More specifically, they were moved by the way Simon’s portrayal of Robyn captured her loving and caring nature. A

Memorial sculpture for Robyn, carved in oak, depicting a young girl reading a book

Simon’s original memorial for Robyn

Any death of a young person is difficult. However, for this family, there were also questions that took several years to settle. Thankfully they were recently able to find closure and resolution.
To mark the ending of this horrendous time in their lives they wanted to celebrate Robyn’s life. They also wanted to do something that would help eradicate the legal battle which had prevented them from being able to grieve their beautiful daughter. And so, when they moved house, they created a garden that would honour and remember her. Remembering the original memorial scultpure for Robyn that Simon had created, they commissioned a portrait for their garden.

 

memorial sculpture for robyn by simon o'rourke in process. picture depicts a metal stool with a very basic outline carved in oak of a young girl sitting, woth a robin on her outstretched hand

The memorial sculpture for Robyn underway in Simon’s garden

Creating the Memorial Sculpture for Robyn

Although the commission was small in scale compared to many Simon has undertaken (have you seen the Giant Hand of Vrynwy or the Marbury Lady?!), in some ways, it was a big undertaking.
Ensuring a memorial sculpture captures and reflects the person is SO important as it is often a key part of the grieving process, and impacts the way the person will be remembered. Simon understands this, and takes time to ‘get to know’ the person through photos and conversation. He is then able to create a memorial sculpture that is truly honouring to the person.

In the case of Robyn, she was a caring, and loving young lady. The many cards the family received after losing her showed them how respected and valued she was for being a good friend. This sculpture shows Robyn at peace, and serene. It also reflects that caring and gentle nature through her body language and relationship with the robin on her hand.

close up of the face of the oak memoral sculpture for robyn by simon o'rourke. a young girls face is shown in an oak carving with a serene expression

Working from Home

Simon didn’t just face creative challenges with this sculpture. There was also the very real practical challenge of …… LOCKDOWN!

Health and safety of all the team is important to Simon and Liz. So, like many of the population, Simon had to work from home! Also like many of the population, that meant learning to deal with new interruptions (like the dog moving the video camera) and new distractions (a beautiful garden to tend) In case you didn’t catch them on our Facebook page, here are some of the videos of the memorial sculpture for Robyn in progress….

Back on the chainsaw after 8 weeks! It's been good for me to have a break though …

Posted by Simon O'Rourke – Tree Carving on Wednesday, 20 May 2020

What a scorcher!

Posted by Simon O'Rourke – Tree Carving on Wednesday, 20 May 2020

The Finished Sculpture

As you can see in the videos, Simon used his Stihl cordless chainsaws for the bulk of the carving. He then used Saburrtooth bits to add details and texture. The memorial sculpture for Robyn is oak, which means it is sturdy and stands up well to the chainsaws! It also means it is durable, and will withstand wind and rain – essential for an outdoor sculpture. Oak tends to pull out more brown hues than blacks or greys. This means as the sculpture ages, it will both deepen in colour and become much ‘warmer’ in tone.  This video shows the finished piece from several different angles.

 

Here's a little video to show a different angle!

Posted by Simon O'Rourke – Tree Carving on Friday, 22 May 2020

Testimonial

Simon received a lot of lovely feedback on social media when he originally shared the picture of the memorial for Robyn. Thank you to those who commented! The most important thing though is that the client is happy…..

I do need to thank you for undertaking the carving. As soon as I saw it I was so moved. It is beautful and I thank you for creating a carving in remembrance of Robyn

It is ALWAYS humbling to receive such lovely comments. Even more so when the piece marks the ending of something as challenging as these clients have walked through. Being a part of the healing journey for clients is truly an honour. We think Robyn looks beautiful in the garden created in her memory, and we hope this sculpture will bring the family joy for years and years to come.

Photo provided by client and used with permission.

Commissioning Your Own Memorial Sculpture

If you would like to commission a sculpture in memorial of a loved one, Simon would love to hear from you. Visit us on http://www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/ to connect.