Public Sculptures

Sculptures created by Simon O’Rourke that are viewable by the public

redwoos sculpture of dragon mounted on wall of a house. he is breathing fire.

The Dragon Tower’s Fire-Breathing Dragon: Ten Fun Facts

The Dragon Tower’s Fire-Breathing Dragon: Ten Fun Facts 600 600 Simon O'Rourke

A year ago, George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces featured Simon and his fire-breathing dragon sculpture, Maggon. Maggon was commissioned by Guy and Tracey, the owners of The Dragon Tower; a holiday rental property at their home in North Wales. He was the finishing touch to an incredible and innovative renovation that even includes a folding bathroom! It was fantastic to create something that’s become so integral to their home and business.
One year on we contacted them to find out what it’s like living with a fire-breathing dragon. We loved what we heard!
Read on to find out ten fun facts that we learned about the dragon tower’s fire-breathing dragon…

 

george clark stands in front of a small stone building. The building has a redwood dragon mounted above the door. The dragon is breathing fire. Created by Simon O'rourke from redwood, his number three recommended best wood for a sculpture.

George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces featured Maggon the Fire Breathing Dragon in June 2020.

The Dragon Tower’s Fire-Breathing Dragon Fact One:
Kids Love Him!

Kids love Maggon! And in the way only kids can, they have some funny ways of finding language to describe what they experience. Apparently, he sounds like a hot air balloon!

The Dragon Tower’s Fire-Breathing Dragon Fact Two:
He’s An Alternative To Fireworks!

At New Year the village was locked down due to covid. This meant none of the usual firework displays. But that doesn’t matter when you own a fire-breathing dragon! Guy and Tracey fired him up at midnight for the village, using their sculpture to help foster community.

The Dragon Tower’s Fire-Breathing Dragon Fact Three:
He Toasts a Mean Marshmallow!

Guy and Tracey are often asked if Maggon cooks things. So they gave it a try!
And guess what?
It turns out that Maggon is the perfect marshmallow toaster – from a safe distance of course!
As Wales is the land of dragons, we can’t think of anything more perfect to be part of a Welsh holiday experience! How often do you get to say you ate a marshmallow cooked by a dragon?!

The Dragon Tower’s Fire-Breathing Dragon Fact Four:
He Gets More Handsome With Age!

As you know if you read this blog about how wood ages, Simon believes the natural ageing process of wood adds beauty and character to the sculpture. Thankfully, Maggon’s family feel the same! They describe him as being more handsome now than when he arrived. They also commented on how he has lightened in colour. In time he will not only lighten, but will take on more grey hues and complement beautifully the Welsh stone building.

The Dragon Tower’s Fire-Breathing Dragon Fact Five:
You Can Spot Shapes in His Flames

Some of us like to find shapes in clouds. But when you have a dragon, it’s more fun to spot shapes in his flames! Guy and Tracey have had some great photos of Maggon’s flames from guests. As you can see in the photo below, he can even make Mini-Maggons!

The Dragon Tower’s Fire-Breathing Dragon Fact Six:
Tracey Would Love to Write a Story About Him.

Simon loves to tell stories with his sculptures. However, he likes to leave the narrative open for some imagination. And so with a sculpture like Maggon, and clients that are so creative we can’t wait to read it and see what adventures they imagine he has had!
It’s worth noting too though, that if you’re a business owner, this is a great way to create revenue from your sculpture. Or you could incorporate a story into a sculpture trail.

 

The Dragon Tower's Fire-Breathing Dragon Maggon photographed breathing fire. The flame is shaped like a baby dragon.

Can you see Mini Maggon in the flame? Photo Credit: The Dragon Tower

The Dragon Tower’s Fire-Breathing Dragon Fact Seven:
He’s Forever Changing.

As wood changes over time, a chainsaw carving sculpture takes on a new look over time. Maggon is no different, and Guy and Tracey commented that he looks different every time they see him.
The material is also a work of art itself. Guy and Tracey have spotted a knot on his wing that looks like a love heart. We wonder if that will be part of the story when it’s written.

The Dragon Tower’s Fire-Breathing Dragon: Fact Eight
He’s A Dragon For All Seasons!

Guy and Tracey have had fun dressing Maggon for each season, and he even has his own sled to help deliver gifts at Christmas! Rain, shine, Christmas, Easter, Halloween… Maggon is part of it!

 

The Dragon Tower's Fire-Breathing Dragon wearing pink sunglasses. It's taken from an angle that makes him appear to recline in the sun

Photo Credit: The Dragon Tower

 

The Dragon Tower's Fire-Breathing Dragon at Christmas. He is pulling a sled and decorated with fairy lights

Photo Credit: The Dragon Tower

The Dragon Tower’s Fire-Breathing Dragon: Fact Nine
He’s Makes An Impact

Guy and Tracey give guests to The Dragon Tower a fiery welcome from Maggon. And their eyes light up each time! What customer doesn’t love a welcome like that? And what business owner doesn’t want that impact and fun as part of their guests’ experience?

The Dragon Tower’s Fire-Breathing Dragon: Fact Ten
“We’re known as The Ones With the Dragon”.

Our last fact leads us nicely to this. Maggon the fire-breathing dragon is a unique statement piece, and makes them stand out from everyone else. Even the locals know them as ‘The ones with the dragon’. It’s so important to have something unique as a business. Something you can be known for and that makes you stand out from the others.
Guy’s amazing folding bathroom would have done that alone. The gorgeous Welsh landscape and access to both North Wales and the North West of England we already strong selling points for The Dragon Tower. But Maggon has just added a little more to that, and given them something that both they and their guests can enjoy.

 

The Dragon Tower's Fire-Breathing Dragon mounted on the wall of The Dragon Tower; a stone bakehouse converted to a holiday let.

Photo Credit: The Dragon Tower

The Dragon Tower’s Fire-Breathing Dragon:
Closing Thoughts

A year after the program aired, it was lovely to hear from Guy and Tracey, and hear some of their thoughts about Maggon (you can catch that episode HERE if you missed it). It was so clear that Maggon the Dragon has not only become a vital part of their business, but also a much-loved part of family life. It’s a great example of how a sculpture can add value to both work and home at the same time. We also love seeing Maggon wearing his outfits and toasting marshmallows!
The Dragon Tower was always absolutely brilliant in its own right, and to be able to add something more to something like that has been a joy.

 

The Dragon Tower's Fire-breathing dragon photographed from underneath. He is holding a sign between his wings that says 'The Dragon Tower'. He is breathing fire.

Photo Credit: The Dragon Tower

If you feel inspired to commission a sculpture for your work or home, contact Simon using the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact and he’ll be in touch!

the prestatyn walker sculptures with bushes in the background

How The Prestatyn Walker Sculpture Could Help Rejuvenate a Town

How The Prestatyn Walker Sculpture Could Help Rejuvenate a Town 600 600 Simon O'Rourke

We’ve blogged before about the power of a sculpture to increase tourism and revenue. Friends of Prestatyn Railway Station had the same thought when they commissioned the Prestatyn Walker sculpture. This week’s blog shares the story behind that sculpture…

 

Prestatyn Walker sculpture photographed at Simon O'Rourke's workshop. The sculpture is a male hiker leaning on a signpost. In the background there are fields.

Prestatyn Walker Sculpture Story: Walkers Are Welcome

Prestatyn was the first town in Wales to be awarded ‘Walkers are Welcome‘ status. Two of Wales’ most significant routes (the Offa’s Dyke trail and the Welsh coastal path) pass through the coastal town,and locals have worked to create a welcoming town with attractions and amenities. However, in a survey, around 1/3 of people were unaware of this. Locals saw the need to change this, especially as the beach brings trade to the town for a short season in the year, but walking had the potential to generate year-round income…

 

the prestatyn walker sculpture on the disused platform at Prestatyn Station. A railway bridge is visible in the background.

Prestatyn Walker Sculpture Story: Prestatyn Railway Station

Around 22 million passengers a year travel through Prestatyn Station, so Friends of Prestatyn Railway Sation felt they had a role to play in attracting more walkers to the town. And so they set to work! The group began to improve the appearance of the station to make it more appealing to visitors. As their ideas grew, they decided to commission a piece of artwork to install on a disused platform. Their goal was to tell a story and help convey the message that the town is associated with walking – thus attracting more visitors.

 

the prestatyn walker sculptures with bushes in the background

Prestatyn Walker Sculpture Story: Commissioning the Sculpture

The story is much longer than we can share in this blog. However, fast-forwarding through all the work and research, the group came to a point of inviting proposals from three artists for the sculpture. Simon’s proposal was a lovely tie-in with the message that walkers are welcome. The clothing made it immediately obvious that the sculpture was a ‘walker’/hiker. It was large enough to be seen from a passing train, the wood sculpture fits the aesthetic, and it immediately told the story the group wanted.

 

a group of people in orange safety vests srround a sculpture of a walker on a railway platform

 

Prestatyn Walker Sculpture Story: From Commission to Installation

The group faced a few hurdles with this project. If you’re thinking of commissioning something for a public area, it’s worth being aware that you can sometimes need to apply for permission. However, they gained sponsorship to cover the cost and persevered with the red tape. And this week, Simon and a team installed the sculpture on the disused platform! (If you have five minutes, the video is below)

Thankfully, in all the challenges they faced working with Simon wasn’t one of them! Sherry Walker can attest that he was ‘excellent to work with’ and that they are delighted with the sculpture.
They now hope the council will extend the walkway to the side of the platform. This means in future, passers-by will see the sculpture with walkers in the background and people will immediately know that indeed walkers are welcome! And hopefully, it will, in turn, encourage more walking tourism to the town.

 

Your Own Story-Telling Sculpture

Has this inspired you to think about how a sculpture could help attract visitors to your town or attraction? If so, contact Simon at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/ to start a conversation. Even if you’re not 100% certain of what it might be, Simon often has excellent, creative ideas and would love to be a part of rejuvenating your community!

Narnia Beaver Den Sculptures

Narnia Beaver Den Sculptures 150 150 Simon O'Rourke

Last weekend Simon travelled down to Oxford to install his fairy sculpture and work on a lovely new commission for the Narnia Tree House. These Narnia beaver den sculptures are sure to delight anyone who is a fan of C S Lewis’ classic tales…

 

whimsical fairy on a swing wood sculpture by chainsaw artist simon o'rourke

This whimsical fairy is one of several sculptures commissioned for the Narnia Tree House

 

About the Narnia Treehouse

We couldn’t talk about the sculptures though, without first explaining a little about the clients and their property. Simon’s client, Yaz, and his partner own a property bordering the house once lived in by author C S Lewis. The beautiful woodland surrounding both houses would undoubtedly have been some of Lewis’ inspiration for the woodland in his classic series, The Chronicles of Narnia.

Wanting to create a venue they could use for family gatherings and parties, Yaz and his partner built an incredible treehouse on their property among that woodland. And so the Narnia Treehouse was born! Over time they began to host events and let it out for overnight stays, with the income going towards Congenital Anaemia Network, a charity founded by Yaz’ partner (Dr Roy) who, as a haematologist, found that there was little support available for those who suffer from these rare inherited disorders.

 

narnia treehouse, oxford

The Narnia Treehouse

 

Finding Simon

Prior to finding Simon, the clients had worked with a number of other chainsaw artists including the very talented Matthew Crabb who designed a Mr Tumnus sculpture.
When the clients found a photo of an angel sculpture on the web and wanted a similar one commissioned, Mathew immediately recognised it as one of Simon’s and recommended him.
In time, the couple also wanted to add more sculptures to further the Narnian feel and enhance the experience people have when visiting.
With his background in children’s illustration and a love for fantasy fiction like Lord of the Rings, Simon turned out to be a great fit for their project.

 

narnia beaver den sculptures by simon o'rourke

The Process

Yaz had several ideas for sculptures. These included the fairy on the swing and a throne.
The fairy is a whimsical sculpture appropriate for any fantasy woodland. And the throne Simon created is reminiscent of the throne belonging to Jadis the White Witch in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.

Upon hearing the Narnia connection, Simon also brought the idea of the Beavers’ den. There can be some back and forth between Simon and a client when it comes to settling on a design (as we talk about in this blog about how to commission a sculpture) but Yaz can testify the process from commissioning to finished product was smooth.

a throne made out of wood by chainsaw artist simon o'rourke. it is surrounded by woodland and is part of the narnia beaver den sculptures series at narnia treehouse, oxford

The throne Simon created for The Narnia Treehouse

 

An On-site Carve

Sometimes it makes more sense for Simon to create a piece in his workshop and install it at a later date. That was the case with the fairy. Sometimes, it’s necessary or more practical for Simon to carve on site. As it was with the throne and Narnia beaver den sculptures. This is obviously the case when carving into a standing piece of timber but also makes sense when the client is providing the timber from their own land as Yaz did.

There are a few things that you may need to do for an on-site carve, which we talk about in our blog “Things to consider when you commission an onsite chainsaw carving sculpture”. One advantage though if this is the case is getting to watch Simon work! Most people who have watched find it fascinating. These particular clients were also shocked at how incredibly quick it was!

 

Narnia beaver den sculptures by simon o'rourke: Mrs Beaver

The Finished Narnia Beaver Den Sculptures

The finished scene shows Mr and Mrs Beaver sitting around their table, with empty seats ready for hosting the Pevensie children. Or modern-day human visitors to the treehouse who would like a photo with them!!! Unless of course, you fancy yourself as more of a Queen, in which case there’s the throne! The beavers are wonderfully sweet and the expressions Simon gave them perfectly reflect the gentle and kind characters C S Lewis created. And, importantly, the family all love them!

 

mrs beaver, an oak sculpture from simon o'rourke's narnia beaver den sculptures scene

Visiting the Narnia Treehouse

One of the blessings of Simon’s work is that as a team we get to meet lots of different people with lots of different stories, passions and interests. Yaz is incredibly creative and it was so fun to see such a beautiful property born out of something as simple as a family treehouse. As someone with a rare disease themself, one of our team was also encouraged by the way this family have been using their home to benefit people with rare haematological conditions. The family are currently taking a break from letting the treehouse, but you can watch out for future openings by following them at www.instagram.com/narniatreehouse/. We warn you though – you will fall in love with the property and start dreaming of your own version!

 

sideways view of the narnia beaver den sculptures by simon o'rourke. two beavers sit on tree trunk chairs around a table.

 

Commissioning Your Own Sculpture

If you would like to bring one of your favourite books to life with a sculpture, contact Simon via the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact and one of the team will be in touch!

Two life size sculptures of women carved from oak, standing on a balcony at Prestatyn Hillside Shelter. They are two of Simon O'Rourke's public tree carving sculptures to see this bank holiday weekend

Eight Tree Carving Sculptures to See this Bank Holiday Weekend

Eight Tree Carving Sculptures to See this Bank Holiday Weekend 1024 600 Simon O'Rourke

It’s bank holiday weekend which means an extra day for relaxing. With reasonable weather predicted, why not get out and enjoy some of our British outdoors or attractions? And if you wanted to take in some public art while you’re out, here are eight of Simon’s tree carving sculptures to see this bank holiday weekend…

the giant hand of vrynwy by simon o'rourke. Photograph is taken at night and shows an illuminated 50ft hand sculpture surrounded by woodland

The Giant Hand of Vrynwy by night by Gareth Williamson

One: Giant Hand of Vyrnwy

The first of our sculptures to see this bank holiday weekend is the Giant Hand of Vyrnwy. The hand has taken the social media world by storm, and it’s even more impressive in real life. Standing at 50ft tall and surrounded by trails through the stunning Welsh countryside, you won’t be disappointed by your visit. Plan your trip at www.lake-vyrnwy.com.

giant hand of vyrnwy. one of simon o'rourke's public sculptures to see this bank holiday weekend

Two: Dragon of Bethesda

Technically, the Dragon of Bethesda is on private land. However, it’s viewable from public areas – but please don’t block the driveway next to the layby when you park! If you’re travelling through Snowdonia, it’s worth a look for sure. Find the dragon at 53°11’40.6″N 4°04’42.4″W or https://maps.google.com/?q=53.194613,-4.078445.

Simon O'Rourke's dragon of bethesda, one of his public tree carving sculptures to see this bank holiday weekend

Three: Prestatyn Hillside Shelter Walkers

You get two in one for our third suggestion of tree carving sculptures to see this bank holiday weekend! The sculptures are installed at the Prestatyn Hillside shelter and represent the era the shelter was built, and the Offa’s Dyke National trail. And the view is simply incredible! Definitely worth the walk up the hill. All the links you need to plan a visit (map, public transport, parking etc) are at www.haveagrandtour.co.uk/take-five-for-a-view-across-prestatyn.

Two life size sculptures of women carved from oak, standing on a balcony at Prestatyn Hillside Shelter. They are two of Simon O'Rourke's public tree carving sculptures to see this bank holiday weekend

Number Four: Maes Y Pant Boy Sculpture

Maes y Pant is a lovely woodland close to Wrexham, ideal for a walk and with the bonus that dogs are welcome! Simon and his team actually have a few pieces there, including the Maes Y Pant fort and Gwyddion the Wizard. However, we feel the highlight is the young boy planting a tree. Plan your visit at www.maes-y-pant.com.

Trees for Kids 'Boy Planting Sapling' sculpture by Simon O'Rourke

Number Five: The Shakespeare Seat at Poulton Hall

This Shakespeare Seat is one of Simon’s most recent pieces. As well as this piece, Poulton Hall is also home to his Ent and Gollum sculptures as well as several pieces by other artists. Although the gardens are only open on select weekends, this weekend happens one of them! Book your visit at www.poultonhall.co.uk/GardenOpenings.html.

A client sits on on the bespoke shakespeare seat at poulton hall. It appears as if she is in conversation with a life size sculpture of William Shakespeare by Simon O'Rourke

Simon positioned Shakespeare to sit as if in conversation with anyone who sits with him

Number Six: The Highclere Airman

The sixth of Simon’s tree carving sculptures to see this bank holiday weekend is the Airman sculpture at Highclere Castle. Something for Downton Abbey, history and architecture fans all in one place! Plan your visit and book your tickets at www.highclerecastle.co.uk.

Highclere Castle Airman by Simon O'Rourke

Number Seven: Marbury Lady Sculpture

The Marbury Lady is our seventh suggestion of tree carving sculptures to see this bank holiday weekend. She cuts an impressive (and ghostly!) figure at Marbury Country Park in Northwich. The park is free although the pool does have an admission fee. And it’s another one that allows dogs! Find out more about the various trails and plan your visit at www.visitcheshire.com/things-to-do/marbury-country-park-and-outdoor-pool-p32091.

Number Eight: Woodland Sculpture Trails

If one sculpture leaves you wanting to see more, our final suggestion for tree carving sculptures to see this weekend is just what you want! Simon has created sculpture trails at Page’s Wood, Meadow Park and Fforest Fawr. Each of the trails features multiple sculptures based on local wildlife, tells a story and encourages conservation.

Click on the links below to plan your visit to each:
Page’s Wood Woodland Sculpture Trail
Meadow Park Woodland Sculpture Trail
Fforest Fawr Woodland Sculpture Trail

woodland sculpture trails by simon o'rourke. Photo shows a howling wolf in redwood, surrounded by trees. Located in Fforest Fawr.

This wolf forms part of the Fforest Fawr trail.

Share Your Experience!

Whatever you do this weekend, we hope you have fun, feel refreshed and stay safe. And if you do visit one of Simon’s sculptures, please share your experience! Tag Simon in your photos on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter and tell us what you thought. It’s always great to hear from you!

And if you feel inspired and want your own sculpture, contact Simon via the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact.

 

Simon O'Rourke's Lews Castle Carriage Driver sitting in the antique cart at Lews Castle

Lews Castle Carriage Driver Sculpture

Lews Castle Carriage Driver Sculpture 450 600 Simon O'Rourke

This week Simon’s carriage driver sculpture arrived in its new home up in the Outer Hebrides. The commission is part of an upgrade/renovation to Lews Castle; a Victorian castle located in the town of Stornaway. The project has several components and is a lovely example of the community uniting to rejuvenate and improve the aesthetics of the town. Thank you to Janet Paterson for sharing some of the story for this week’s blog…

 

Simon O'Rourke's Lews Castle Carriage driver sculpture photographed in his workshop. The sculpture is a lifesize cedar sculpture of a bearded man posed as if driving a pony carriage

The carriage driver sculpture in Simon’s workshop

Lews Castle Carriage Driver Sculpture: Background to the Commission

During lockdown, the Western Isles Lottery Team undertook a project to upgrade ‘Miss Porter’, a horse sculpture that has been one of the town’s attractions since 1994. She could be found – along with a carriage – at the Lews Castle Porter’s Lodge, and was in need of some TLC. Sadly it turned out the original carriage was beyond repair. So, as well as restoring the horse sculpture, the team sourced an amazing replacement that dates back to 1898. Once the restoration was completed and installed, the team loved the result but felt the carriage was missing a driver. A local sculptor followed Simon on social media, and through that connection, the team reached out to commission a driver.

 

Miss Porter, the horse sculpture at Lews Castle, before the 2020 restoration. The horse is in need of paint work and repair.

Miss Porter with members of the Stornaway Amenity Trust before her restoration

Lews Castle Carriage Driver Sculpture: Creating the Sculpture

Simon sourced a suitable piece of oak for the sculpture so it would be hard-wearing and durable. It was easier and more cost-effective for Simon to create the sculpture in his workshop and ship the finished piece. This meant getting plenty of photos and measurements from the team to ensure the driver would not only look good but would also fit well in the carriage.
We’ve mentioned in this blog Things to Consider When You Commission an On-Site Chainsaw Carving Sculpture that Simon will sometimes need photos and details in advance. That can sound a bit overwhelming, but don’t worry. This client can testify that working with Simon was “simple and straightforward”, that the sculpture is “beautifully crafted to complement the period carriage”, and fits EXACTLY!

Simon O'Rourke's Lews Castle Carriage Driver sitting in the antique cart at Lews Castle

Lews Castle Carriage Driver Sculpture: Power of Community

This successful restoration/upgrade is a great example of how communities can come together to bring art to their locale. The Western Isles Lifestyle Lottery was created to raise funds for the regeneration of its many communities. They have now raised approx £240,000 for projects the length and breadth of the Western Isles. Amazing! The carriage driver is just one of many, many projects they have invested in. These projects not only make improvements for residents but have helped bring tourism and revenue to the area.
As well as the lottery funding, the team worked closely with local trusts and businesses to complete the upgrade.
If you have a similar project in mind for your locality, we definitely recommend utilising the power of community, as the team in Stornoway did. There are also some ideas for fundraising in our blog How to Raise Funds for a Tree Carving Sculpture.

 

lews castle carriage driver sculpture by simon o'rourke. sculpture is seated in an antique pony cart being drawn by a wooden sculpture of a horse

The finished horse, carriage and driver installed by the Porter’s Lodge in Stornoway

Lews Castle Carriage Driver Sculpture: Name the Driver

The finished sculpture has delighted the team. Simon captured exactly what they were looking for in the pose, clothes and character of the sculpture, and the whole project has been described as “a beautiful showpiece” by the lottery team’s secretary. And, in another act of community, they are holding a competition to allow local residents to name the drive. His face is definitely full of character, so he definitely can’t remain nameless! What would you name him? Leave us a comment with your suggestion!

Close up of the face of simon o'rourke's cedar carriage driver sculpture

A face with this character needs a name!

We hope you feel inspired by the story behind this sculpture and the way a community can come together to rejuvenate an area. As always, if you have an idea for a sculpture, contact Simon via the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/. 
We’re looking forward to hearing from you!

close up of the face of Simon O'Rourkes bespoke shakespeare seat at poulton hall

Bespoke Shakespeare Seat at Poulton Hall

Bespoke Shakespeare Seat at Poulton Hall 800 600 Simon O'Rourke

405 years ago today the world lost a literary legend, 52 years to the day that is is often recognised as being born. Who are we talking about? Britain’s very own bard, William Shakespeare.
To fit the occasion, this week’s blog is the story behind Simon’s bespoke Shakespeare seat at Poulton Hall…

close up of the face of Simon O'Rourkes bespoke shakespeare seat at poulton hall

Bespoke Shakespeare Seat: The Commission

This bespoke Shakespeare seat is installed at Poulton Hall, Bebington. It joins two of Simon’s other sculptures; the Monkey Puzzle Ent and Gollum. If you read either of the blogs about those sculptures, you will remember that the whole estate features literary-themed art.
Poulton Hall is the ancestral home of the Lancelyn Green family. The father of the present incumbent was Roger Lancelyn Green, the author of many well-known books about Robin Hood, King Arthur, Greek Heroes, Ancient Egypt, Norse Myths, Dragons, and all things imaginative and creative.  As one of the Oxford Inklings, Roger was also friends with J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis, who was an occasional visitor to Poulton. As a result, many aspects of the grounds have been inspired by imaginative literature.
Although Shakespeare is a departure from this fantasy literature genre, there is no doubt he fits right in among such a rich literary legacy.

Bespoke shakespeare seat at poulton hall in procee. artist simon o'rourke has outlined Shakespeare in the wood sitting. It is clear it is a person but only his top half has any details.

Work in progress on the bespoke Shakespeare seat at Poulton Hall

Bespoke Shakespeare Seat: The Design

The Shakespeare seat has been designed as both a beautiful portrait and a seat for visitors. When Simon takes on a commission like this, he is careful to ensure the seating is functional. He also gives his usual attention to the details in the sculpture to create a stunning feature for any private garden or public attraction. In this case, he has chosen to depict Shakespeare sitting on the bench. He has tilted the head to make it look as if Shakespeare has paused his writing to share a conversation with whoever sits with him. That twinkle in Shakespeare’s eye (seen in the first picture) makes it seem that the conversation was humorous!

A client sits on on the bespoke shakespeare seat at poulton hall. It appears as if she is in conversation with a life size sculpture of William Shakespeare by Simon O'Rourke

Simon positioned Shakespeare to sit as if in conversation with anyone who sits with him

Bespoke Shakespeare Seat: More Details

Shakespeare’s position and expression weren’t the only details that Simon thought out carefully. He researched clothing of the period to ensure the clothes and hair accurately showed the fashion of the day. He also discovered a historic disagreement too. It seems people can’t agree as to whether Shakespeare was left or right-handed! As you can see, Simon and the client settled on showing him writing with his right hand.
Although that may not seem important, for clients it matters that the portrait is an accurate reflection of the person.

Another lovely touch is the stack of books for seat legs. Rather than pick titles himself, he wanted the seat to fully reflect the passion and preferences of the client.

As with the decision about Shakespeare’s dominant hand, it may seem a little strange to dedicate so much time to tiny details. However, touches like this are what can really make a work stand out.
It also matters that the client is happy with Simon’s work, so any time there is a detail that is uncertain, Simon will work closely with the client who will make the final decision.

seat of a bench carved to look like a stack of books bearing titles of shakespeare plays. It is the leg of the bespoke shakespeare seat at poulton hall by simon o'rourke

The book titles were chosen by the client to reflect her passions and preferences.

 

Viewing the Bespoke Shakespeare Seat at Poulton Hall

People often ask if they can view Simon’s work. The good news is that it IS possible to see the bespoke Shakespeare seat and Simon’s other Poulton Hall sculptures! The estate opens on certain days of the year, usually in aid of charity. Both the home and gardens are stunning and worth a visit. In fact, novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne enjoyed them so much he even commented on “the fine lawns and the view of the Welsh hills out across the ha-ha or sunken fence”. They are also available to book for weddings. A perfect venue for any literature lovers! You can check the dates at http://www.poultonhall.co.uk/GardenOpenings.html if you are interested in paying a visit.

bench and sculpture of william shakespeare carved by artist simon o'rourke

The finished bespoke Shakespeare seat at Poulton Hall

 

Final Thoughts on the Bespoke Shakespeare Seat

This was one of Simon’s first jobs coming out of this year’s lockdown. It was a great one to start with though as he enjoyed carving it, and the client is delighted with the finished piece. It got us thinking though… if you were to sit and have a conversation with Shakespeare, what would you talk about?

As always, if you are interested in commissioning a sculpture like this for your own home or attraction, contact Simon via the form on www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/ We’re looking forward to hearing from you!

Cheshire Life Magazine cover featuring The Marbury Lady sculpture by Simon O'Rourke

The Marbury Lady Revisited

The Marbury Lady Revisited 419 600 Simon O'Rourke

This month Cheshire Life magazine featured The Marbury Lady on its front cover. It was part of a feature on local photographer Alison Hamlin Hughes – AKA The (other!) Marbury Lady! Although the article wasn’t about Simon, many people have been interested in the sculpture. So, we thought we’d revisit the story behind the sculpture in this week’s blog…

 

Cheshire Life Magazine cover featuring The Marbury Lady sculpture by Simon O'Rourke

The March/April edition of Cheshire Life featuring Simon’s Marbury Lady sculpture

 

Marbury Lady Revisited: The Location

The Marbury Lady is found in Marbury Park, Northwich. Many of the features of the park date back to the days when it was a grand estate. Since then however, it has served many purposes including country club, Prisoner of War camp, and hostel. Nowadays it is an integral part of  Mersey Forest with a range of paths and trails.

 

Marbury Lady Sculpture by Simon O'Rourke

Marbury Lady Revisited: The Commission

The Marbury Lady sculpture had its roots (no pun intended) in the sad demise of an avenue of elms. A burst brine pipe had cause saline poisoning and many of the trees had died. The Friends of Anderton and Marbury who run the park decided to turn one of the stumps into a sculpture. An that’s where Simon comes in!

For those wondering about saline poisoning though, sadly it is very common in the UK. When a tree is exposed to too much salt, it blocks the flow of essential nutrients. In turn, the tree can no longer make chlorophyll. If like us, your high school science is a bit of a blur, that’s the green stuff plants use to turn sunlight into usable energy! A tree can be exposed to salt in many ways, including splashes from gritted/salted roads in winter.

Thankfully when spotted early enough, it can be reversed. For anyone who wants to know more, we recommend this Gardening Know How article on the topic. https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/garden-how-to/soil-fertilizers/reversing-soil-salinity.htm

 

The Lady of Marbury sculpture by Simon O'Rourke in process

At work on a sculpture. Acton Safety have helped ensure all site work is the safest it can be for Simon and the public.

 

Marbury Lady Revisited: The Design

The Marbury Lady sculpture is essentially a two-faced woman. Although it may seem an unusual choice, it makes sense if you are familiar with local history/folklore. The legend of the Marbury Lady dates back to the time Smith-Barry occupied the hall. It involves a romance with a mistress or housekeeper (versions vary) that he brought back from his travels overseas. It is said that she haunted the house after her death, and now the land. Even now there are reported sightings of a lady in a white veil, and well as tales of strange sounds and happenings. Whether you believe in ghost stories or not, she makes an interesting subject for a sculpture…

 

The Living depiction of The Marbury Lady by Simon O'Rourke

The Egyptian girl, portrayed as she was alive

 

Marbury Lady Revisited: The Two Faces

Simon decided to show The Marbury Lady in both her manifestations. One side of the sculpture shows a living woman. The reverse shows a ghostly face, shrouded in a shredded veil. On the ‘living’ side, her expression is calm, peaceful. On the reverse she appears more gaunt, and pained.

As well as carving her with two faces to reflect the story, Simon also did this because he wanted to encourage people not just to view the sculpture passively. He wanted physical engagement with the sculpture. He wanted people drawn into a story. In carving her this way, people have to physically move round to the other side of the sculpture to see the full story. And from there, there is room to interpret as the viewer chooses.

 

Simon O'Rourke creating the Lady of Marbury sculpture

The ghostly side of the Marbury Lady shows a gaunt, sad expression

Marbury Lady Revisited: The Response

The Marbuy Lady sculpture was one of Simon’s favourite sculptures to create. It was technically challenging and stretched him creatively and technically. You can read more about this in our original Marbury Lady blog.

At the time she was received well, and it was wonderful to hear comments from people who enjoyed the piece.

One year on, it’s great to see her still making an impact. Alison Hamlin Hughes has also created some coasters with different views of the sculpture, and there have been a lot of comments on her posts appreciating Simon’s work.

As an artist, it is the client’s opinion that is most important at the end of  the day. In the case of a public sculpture, there are a lot of opinions likely to come forth! When so many are so appreciative it isboth humbling, and rewarding. Especially in this difficult season of lockdowns, to be part of bringing joy and beauty into people’s lives is a privilege.

 

The Marbury Lady Revisited: A series of four coasters featuring photos of The Marbury Lady sculpture by Simon O'Rourke

These coasters of the Marbury Lady have been created by local photographer Alison Hamlin Hughes

 

Marbury Lady Revisited: Resurrected Life

It’s also fitting that we are talking about the Marbury Lady on Easter weekend. The whole message and theme of Easter is resurrection – life revived. Turning a dead tree into a work of art is a fantastic way to give life back to that tree.

If you have a tree that is diseased, dying or dangerous, it may be possible for Simon to transform and resurrect it in the same way he did with The Marbury Lady. We recommend reading our blog “Is My Tree Suitable for a Tree Carving Sculpture” as an initial ‘self-assessment’. If it looks like it might be, contact Simon using the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/.

And if you have photos of his sculptures, we’d love it if you tagged him so we can see them! It’s always fun to see people enjoying Simon’s sculptures, and we love to see how they are ageing – just like this photo by Alison Hamlin Hughes.

 

The Marbury Lady Revisited: Sunset photo of the Marbury Lady

It’s lovely to see sculptures appearing online.
PC: Alison Hamlin Hughes

chainsaw artist simon o rourke stands in a cherry picker on the left. on the right is the sculpture he is working on - the pantpurlais mad hatter sculpture. the character is carved into a standing ash stump.

Pantpurlais Mad Hatter Sculpture

Pantpurlais Mad Hatter Sculpture 450 600 Simon O'Rourke

Our followers on Facebook will have spotted a lovely new carving this week. Simon travelled over to Llandrindod Wells where he transformed a diseased tree into the Pantpurlais Mad Hatter sculpture…

 

Panpurlais Mad Hatter sculpturte by Simon O'Rourke. Photo shows a view of the whole character with a metal barn roof behind

Background to the Pantpurlais Mad Hatter Sculpture: The Property

The mad hatter sculpture was a commission for the owners of Pantpurlais, Llandrindod Wells. This beautiful property is set on 23 acres of Powys countryside and has a rich and diverse history. Little is known about the property prior to 1856. However, since then it has changed hands many times and had many uses. This includes being a residence, farm and tea rooms. Owners rebuilt the house following a fire in the early 20th century, and that’s the property that stands today. In Macrh last year Darren and Claire Hudson bought the property and have big plans for the place!

 

Photo shows a 20th century home surrounded by lawn and trees. the property is known as Pantpurlais and is situated in llandrindrod wells

The current house at Pantpurlais

 

Background to the Pantpurlais Mad Hatter Sculpture: The Tea Rooms

The tea rooms first became a feature of Pantpurlais in 1911. At the time Llandrindod Wells was a thriving spa town. However, as times changes, the owners of Panpurlais saw a decline in interest, and the property became a farm again.
The former tea rooms became derelict, and this part of the town’s history lost. Until the Hudsons took ownership, that is! They have plans to restore the tea rooms back to their former glory over the coming months. From next year, the Pantpurlais tea rooms will once again be a beautiful and vital part of Llandrindod Wells. The Mad Hatter sculpture is part of that revival of the tea rooms.

 

Photo shows a derelict shed in a field with trees to its left. It is the former Pantpurlais teas rooms.

The former tea rooms are currently derelict, but the Hudsons will restore them to their former purpose.

 

Background to the Pantpurlais Mad Hatter Sculpture: The Commission

Since they took ownership, the Hudsons have been planting trees and working on a biodiversity project.  As part of the work on the property, there was an ash tree damaged by Ash Dieback that needed to be cut down. Saddened by the demise of the ash tree, they commissioned the sculpture to give it new life and make a statement.
Ash dieback is a growing problem in the UK, and only a few months ago Simon  actually transformed another tree impacted by the disease into this amazing dragon. It actually represents a substantial threat to trees in the UK’s forests and parklands, so if you have time, we do recommend reading https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/profile?pid=779 to find out how you can be part of the solution.

 

a tree trunk of an ash tree that had to be cut down due to ash die back. It stands in front of a derelict barn and is the base of the Pantpurlais mad hatter sculpture by simon o'rourke

The owners of Pantpurlais wanted to make a statement by turning this tree killed by ash dieback into a sculpture.

 

The Pantpurlais mad hatter sculpture in progress. The sculpture is outlined but has no detail.

Work in progress on the Pantpurlais Mad Hatter sculpture

 

Background to the Pantpurlais Mad Hatter Sculpture: Choosing a Subject

Although the clients knew they wanted a sculpture making from the standing ash stump, they initially weren’t sure what it would be. Knowing the property would become a tea room, Simon suggested The Mad Hatter from Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland. The clients were happy with this, and so Simon went ahead and drew up sketches. As well as being fitting for the purpose of the tea room, it is also a lovely hint back to the history of the property. Lewis Carroll wrote his classic book during the Victorian era when the spa at Llandrindod Wells and the tea rooms were thriving.

Keeping with this sense of history, Simon took his inspiration from the original John Tenniel illustrations. Although less whimsical or fantastical than later interpretations, this choice means the sculpture ties in beautifully with the history and vision for the tea rooms.

 

chainsaw artist simon o rourke stands in a cherry picker on the left. on the right is the sculpture he is working on - the pantpurlais mad hatter sculpture. the character is carved into a standing ash stump.

Simon at work on the Mad Hatter sculpture.

 

The finished Pantpurlais Mad Hatter Sculpture

Simon worked on-site during some of the warmest and brightest days we have had this year. You’ll notice the Mad Hatter is standing in a teacup. This is not just an artistic choice to hint at the famous tea party scene in Carroll’s book. Simon is always concerned with the longevity of his work, and the cup was also a good choice to add stability to the structure. Functional AND aesthetically pleasing!

 

The Pantpurlais mad hatter sculpture by Simon O'Rourke

 

The clients are delighted with the result, and as the sculpture is on a popular walking route also hope that it will delight others.

The owners are a lovely couple, with big plans for this property. Their concern for biodiversity is something that also just clicked with us. If you’re in the area from next year, we totally recommend a visit to support them in their new venture as well as enjoying the beautiful Welsh countryside. And if you take photos with the Mad Hatter, don’t forget to tag us! We love to see your photos!

 

Pantpurlais mad hatter sculpture against a background of bare trees

 

 

Your Own Commission

If you have a diseased tree and would like to give it new life as a sculpture, you can see if it would be suitable by reading our blog ‘Is my Tree Suitable for a Tree Carving Sculpture?‘.
If it is, contact Simon via the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/. As the story of this sculpture shows, you don’t need to have a clear idea of what you want. Simon is happy to chat with you and get to know you, and make suggestions.

The best tree is a living one. But if a tree is dead, diseased or dangerous, it’s Simon’s pleasure to turn it into a beautiful work of art, as he did with this Mad Hatter.

And if you would like to follow more of the restoration at Pantpurlais, give them a follow HERE.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sculptures for world book day by Simon O'Rourke. An Owl sits on top of a tower of books in a 'totem pole' style sculpture.

Sculptures for World Book Day

Sculptures for World Book Day 400 600 Simon O'Rourke

If you have school-aged children you will know next Thursday is World Book Day. We’ve actually heard it might be the most dreaded day of the school year!!! Based on all the Facebook posts of the last-minute scrambling to find a costume, we that could easily be true!
Costume-panic aside though, the mission of World Book Day is fantastic. Reading for pleasure is the single biggest indicator of a child’s future success – more than their family circumstances, their parents’ educational background or their income. And so to engage with the day and celebrate, we wanted to share a selection of literature-related sculptures for world book day…

sculptures for world book day: learning to fly by Simon O'Rourke depicts a child about to soar standing on top of a tower of books

“Learning to Fly” clearly reflects the message and mission of World Book Day

Sculptures for World Book Day: Learning to Fly

This sculpture wasn’t commissioned specifically for World Book Day. However, it does reflect their message well. The child is standing on top of a tower of books, ready to fly which clearly depicts the potential we have to achieve when we have a solid foundation of reading for pleasure.

Our next sculpture has a similar message. In this case though, it is an owl sitting on the book tower though. Owls have long been associated with wisdom and learning, so it subtly reminds us of the wisdom we gain through reading.

Sculptures like this are great for libraries, nurseries, schools etc. Children often struggle to engage with reading, especially in this age of technology. However, gentle but powerful visual reminders like this can capture their attention (more so than an adult telling them!) and reinforce the message that reading is beneficial.

Sculptures for world book day by Simon O'Rourke. An Owl sits on top of a tower of books in a 'totem pole' style sculpture.

Owls are often a symbol for wisdom

Sculptures for World Book Day: Children’s Classics

Of course, you may prefer your World Book Day commission to reflect a favourite book or character. Simon has created many literary-themed sculptures over the years, including some beautiful children’s classics. Who can resist a cute Peter Rabbit (from the Beatrix Potter classics) or Hans Christian Andersen’s beautiful Little Mermaid?

Sculptures for world book day by simon o'rourke. The Little Mermaid from the Hans Christian Andersen classic.

The Little Mermaid is a much-loved children’s classic.

 

Oak sculpture of Peter Rabbit by Simon O'Rourke

Most children in the UK are familiar with Beatrix Potter Tales of Peter Rabbit

Sculptures for World Book Day: Modern Classics

Perhaps modern classics are more your thing. In which case, Simon has you covered! This Charlie and the Chocolate Factory booth was made for Cardiff’s Steak of the Art. It features many of the key characters from the Roald Dahl classic including Charlie, Oompa Loompa’s and the main man, Willy Wonka. How many references can you find?

Will wonka restaurant booth by simon o'rourke

How many ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ references can you find in this restaurant booth?

Sculptures for World Book Day: Trails

Sculpture trails are a brilliant and fun way to convey information and attract people to your venue. Books are rich with characters and events so it’s easy to tie a trail in with World Book Day – or reading in general. Or perhaps you want to celebrate an author who lived in your home town and draw visitors. to the area. Simply choose the book or author, and Simon can create a series of sculptures to be installed around the venue or town. One such trail in his portfolio is his Alice in Wonderland series created for a location in Scotland. The full series has ten sculptures, but here’s four to whet your appetite!
A trail like this is a great year-round attraction, but could become a key part of your World Book Day events and activities.

sculptures for world book day: alice in wonderland series by simon o'rourke

Sculptures for World Book Day: All-Age Classics

Over the years Simon has also created some incredible sculptures of characters from literary classics enjoyed by all ages, which could also become a feature of a World Book Day activity. When we think of classic books that all generations can enjoy, one of the first to come to mind has to be Tolkien’s Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. In fact,vital they rank at 12 and 7 respectively in the top 25 best selling books of all times. It’s no wonder then that Simon’s Lord of the Rings sculptures have also been incredibly popular when we’ve shared them.

Gollum and the Monkey Puzzle Ent are both more recent sculptures that can be viewed by the public at Poulton Hall when it is open. Radagast the Brown was a private commission, which is all the more reason to share it here so you can enjoy it too!

sculptures for world book day: gollum by simon o'rourke

Gollum is one of the characters in the classic Middle Earth series by Tolkien

 

Monkey Puzzle Ent sculpture by simon o'rourke

The Ent are a race of treefolk in the Tolkien Middle Earth books

 

radagast the brown. a sculpture in fir by simon o'rourke

This sculpture of Radagast the Brown gave new life to a diseased tree

Sculptures for World Book Day: Upcoming Sculptures

If you read our new year blog, you’ll know Simon has some more exciting literature-related commissions coming up this year. We can’t wait to share them with you! And we hope that they will somehow play a part in encouraging reading for pleasure as the sculpture prompts reading or re-reading of the book.
But we’d love to know…. who are your favourite literary characters, and which would you like to see Simon create?

As always, if you would like to see one of them realised, contact Simon via the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/

open book by simon o'rourke

Sculptures for World Book Day: Final Thoughts

Lastly, reading is SO vital in reaching our full potential, but sadly access to good books is a privilege many are denied – even in the UK! So if you are interested in the valuable work of World Book Day you can find out more about getting involved at https://www.worldbookday.com/about-us/how-can-you-get-involved/. Whether you’re a teacher looking for resources for class, a parent thinking of ways to engage your children busy, or just somebody who would like to make reading more accessible for others, there’s something for you!

 

Romance-Themed Sculptures: A Valentine’s Blog

Romance-Themed Sculptures: A Valentine’s Blog 150 150 Simon O'Rourke

This Sunday is Valentine’s Day. We know not everybody is a fan of this festival of all things pink and glittery! But! Whether you are a romantic who loves indulging or a hater of the ‘Hallmark Holiday’, we hope you enjoy this Valentine’s blog featuring some of Simon’s romance-themed sculptures…

Romance-themed sculptures by Simon O'Rourke. A wooden sculpture of Beauty and the Beast dancing together.

Beauty and the Beast.

Romance-Themed Sculptures: Beauty and the Beast

For many people, Disney movies are one of their earliest exposures to ‘love stories’, and “Beauty and the Beast” is arguably one of the best-loved. Even therapists who usually find the problems in Disney relationships acknowledge this romance to be a positive example! And we think Simon’s sculpture of the famous duo captures the story perfectly. The gentle hand-holding, warm smiles and gazing into each other’s eyes shows a real sweetness and tenderness. A lovely depiction of the couple! And for those who enjoy watching Simon at work, we even have a timelapse:

Romance-Themed Sculptures: Lancelot and Guinevere

The next of our romance-themed sculptures is this event piece from 2010 of Lancelot and Guinevere. Their story is one of the most often-told love stories, with countless movies, TV shows, pieces of art and literature being dedicated to the couple. Even Tennyson wrote a poem based on their romance!
We believe that even if someone had never heard of them before, this sculpture tells a lot about their romance. Their eyes alone tell a story!
Simon named this sculpture ‘Forbidden Fruit’. As he carved, his goal was to convey that sense of forbidden romance. That’s why he depicted the characters beneath a fruit tree – a hint to the story of Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit in the book of Genesis.

Romance-themed sculptures by Simon O'Rourke. a wooden sculpture of lancelot and guinevere. She kneels at his feet as he gazes into her eyes.

Lancelot & Guinevere

Romance-Themed Sculptures: Romeo & Juliet

The third of our romance-themed sculptures is Shakespeare’s Star-Crossed Lovers: Romeo and Juliet.
Simon made this sculpture for Plas Coch holiday park many years ago.  The trees had grown to be entwined, so they were the perfect base for depicting this tragic pair.

romeo and juliet carved into two intertwined tree trunks. It is one of Simon O'Rourkes romance-themed sculptures.

Romeo and Juliet

As well as the couple themselves, Simon also engraved a quote from the famous play. That quote is split between the two trees, giving them another point of connection and the sense of the one belonging with the other…

This bud of love, by summer’s ripening breath, May prove a beauteous flower when next we meet.

Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet, act two, scene two

tree trunk engraved with a quote from Romeo and Juliet

 

Romance-Themed Sculptures: Wedding Rings

The last of our romance-themed sculptures is one of the classic symbols of enduring love: wedding rings.
We don’t often share Simon’s ‘wearables’, but as well as sculptures he used to make beautiful wearable wooden items such as bow ties, cufflinks, and these gorgeous wedding rings.

In many cultures, the simple wedding band is a sign of eternal love, and it’s typically made of precious metal to symbolise the precious nature of the relationship. However, with more people becoming concerned about how their metals are sourced, couples are beginning to look at other options.
These wooden rings are a beautiful alternative, whether you are concerned with sustainability, or just prefer something a bit different.

 

Final Thoughts

And so we come to the end of our 2021 Valentine’s Blog, and our flashback to some of Simon’s romance-themed sculptures.
We hope that whether you are in a relationship or single that this weekend you will know you are valued, and loved. And whether you love or loathe the day itself, why not use it as an excuse for reaching out to a friend or loved one?

If you would like to commission a sculpture, please use the contact form on www.treecarving.co.uk/contact. We’re looking forward to hearing from you!