Public Sculptures

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

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!

 

wooden wedding rings superimposed in an archway of greenery. Simon O'Rourke made the rings. They are part of his wooden wearables range.

Romance-Themed Sculptures: A Valentine’s Blog

Romance-Themed Sculptures: A Valentine’s Blog 1296 1944 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.

wooden wedding rings superimposed in an archway of greenery. Simon O'Rourke made the rings. They are part of his wooden wearables range.

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!

sculptures in the snow: Viking raid by Simon O'Rourke, depicting a viking kidnapping a young woman

A Sculpture for All Seasons – Sculptures in the Snow

A Sculpture for All Seasons – Sculptures in the Snow 1439 960 Simon O'Rourke

One of the lovely things about a wooden outdoor sculpture is how they change with the seasons. Obviously, there is weathering which changes their appearance over time. But even the different lighting and weather gives the sculpture a different look as the seasons change. Our recent wintery weather prompted people to post a few of Simon’s sculptures in the snow, and it got us thinking it would be good to share some of them…

sculptures in the snow: Viking raid by Simon O'Rourke. A viking kidnaps a young woman. Her father kneels in anguish.

Photo credit: Mario Hamburg

Sculptures in the Snow: Viking Raid

The first of our sculptures in the snow is Viking Raid. This scene was created for the 2016 Huskycup – and won! The three sculptures depict the kidnapping of a young woman during the raid of a village. Given the Scandanavian origin of the Vikings, the snow transforms this into a different, but a still-realistic story. There is a definite striking beauty in the stark contrast between the snow, and the warm wooden sculpture.

Sculptures in the snow: Viking raid by simon o'rourke. The photo shows a young woman being kidnapped by a viking. The sculptures are topped in snow and the entire landscape is also covered in snow.

Sculptures in the Snow: The Lion Roars

The next of our sculptures in the snow is a bit of a sad story. Vandals damaged the sculpture, and it had to be removed. However, thankfully we have photos like this to remember Simon’s work!
In the summer this lion looked at home in the sun – his natural comfort zone. And now, in winter – like the Viking Raid – he tells a different story. He still looks majestic and makes a striking contrast with the snow. We think Narnia fans are also reminded of Aslan. Although he wasn’t intended to be C S Lewis’ famous lion, it’s a natural connection when you see a powerful lion in a wintery environment! Looking at this sculpture in the snow, it’s easy to imagine Aslan roaring in the Battle of Beruna

Sculptures in the Snow: A roaring lion surrounded by snow covered ttrees

 

Sculptures in the Snow: The Giant Hand of Vyrnwy

The next of Simon’s sculptures in the snow is one of his most popular: The Giant Hand of Vyrnwy.
The hand depicts the tree’s struggle to live despite the force of the elements and human damage, and this hand reaching upwards is its final attempt to reach the sky. Seeing the hand covered in snow only adds to that sense of struggle as it stands firm throughout the adverse conditions of winter.

Sculptures in the snow: The giant hand of vyrnwy by simon o'rourke. Photo credit: Rob Mays

Photo Credit: Rob Mays

Sculptures in the Snow: Gwyddion the Wizard

This final sculpture was photographed last weekend at Maes y Pant.  Gwyddion stands along one of the accessible trails and draws attention in all seasons. We love how the snow has changed the narrative a little. Where he is holding a bird, it now appears as if he is cradling him and protecting him from the cold. His eyes look tired – perhaps because of living through a cold, harsh winter. His posture has also taken on the sense that he is keeping himself warm in the cold. And again, we are drawn into works of fiction like Lord of the Rings where elderly wizards battle for good over evil.
As with all the other sculptures too, we love how the contrast with the snow seems to enhance the warm tones of the wood.

Sculptures in the snow: Gwyddion the wizard by Simon O'Rourke. Photo credit: Mike Norbury

Photo Credit: Mike Norbury

Sculptures in the Snow: Your own Images

Have you seen any of Simon’s sculptures in the snow? If so, we’d love to see your photos! We’d love to hear too how the snow changed the sculpture’s story for you! Just drop your story or photo in the comments, or through any of the usual channels (Facebook, Insta, Twitter). We’re looking forward to hearing from you!

If you would like to talk to Simon about your own commission, contact him via the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact

george clark stands next to sculpter simon o'rourke. they are in front of a small brick building with a redwood fire breathing dragon mounted on the wall. the dragon is made of redwood and was one of simon's sculptures of 2020

Sculptures of 2020

Sculptures of 2020 960 1280 Simon O'Rourke

HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Wishing you all a healthy and prosperous 2021 with much less turbulence than 2020. Thank you to all those who have continued to support us through this year through commissions, sharing, commenting. We value you all.
Before launching into 2021, here is a month by month highlight of Simon’s sculptures of 2020…

sculptures of 2020: close up of the face of a lion. Carved by Simon O'Rourke

This lion was one of Simon’s last sculptures of 2020

 

SCULPTURES OF 2020: JANUARY

January started with some smaller projects including one which is still a secret! The ‘highlight’ we’ve chosen though is The Marbury Lady. She was commissioned to give life back to an elm that had sadly died from saline poisoning. She’s in a public location in Marbury Park, so if you are in Cheshire you can enjoy a walk and see her in person.

simon o'rourke's sculptures of 2020: photo shows the marbury lady in northwich

SCULPTURES OF 2020: FEBRUARY

For February’s highlight, we’ve chosen this hiker. He was commissioned to stand on a disused platform at Prestatyn Railway Station. The plan was to install and unveil him in March, but then a global pandemic hit, and you know the rest! As things begin to open up again though it will be possible for travellers to Prestatyn to view the sculpture.

Life size oak culpture of a hiker carrying a backpack. He leans on a signpost. One of Simon O'Rourkes sculptures of 2020

SCULPTURES OF 2020: MARCH

March was the month that the UK turned upside down! The rumours and stories from other countries suddenly became our story too. Before lockdown happened though, Simon was able to complete a few sculptures, including George and the Dragon. Our chosen highlight though is this massive Oak Maiden on a private estate in Surrey. The tree had died, and Simon was able to create this stunning oak maiden using the natural fall of the oak tree’s shape as inspiration. In this photo the oak maiden isn’t finished yet, but we love the way it gives a sense of scale. Also featuring one of Simon’s trusty Stihl chainsaws used to make the sculpture!

simon o rourke stands in a cherry picker next to the oak maiden sculpture he created in a dead oak tree. sculptures of 2020.

SCULPTURES OF 2020: APRIL

During April the workshop was closed, and Simon wasn’t working on commissions. This first lockdown gave him opportunity to work on another project though: his art coaching. During the month, Simon created the first in a series of teaching videos available at https://artcoach.teachable.com/
If you are interested in an online art course and not sure if this is the one for you, there is also a short free course there for you to ‘try before you buy’. Find out more in this video!

SCULPTURES OF 2020: MAY

May saw Simon return to carving in his own garden. His first piece was this beautiful, serene memorial sculpture. As an artist being able to help people grieve and heal is a real privilege, so this felt like a special piece. The full story is at https://www.treecarving.co.uk/a-memorial-sculpture-for-robyn/.

sculptures of 2020 by simon o'rourke. A girl is depicted as a fairy sitting surrounded by greenery. A robin sits on her hand as if in conversation with her.

SCULPTURES OF 2020: JUNE

For June we had a couple of sculptures to choose from, but how could we not settle on Maggon the Dragon?! Maggon is a fire breathing dragon commissioned for a holiday rental property in north wales. The property known as The Dragon Tower is INCREDIBLE and even features a folding bathroom. Really! It was featured on George Clark’s Amazing Spaces, which meant Simon also made a small appearance. You can watch the full episode HERE.

george clark stands next to sculpter simon o'rourke. they are in front of a small brick building with a redwood fire breathing dragon mounted on the wall. the dragon is made of redwood and was one of simon's sculptures of 2020

SCULPTURES OF 2020: JULY

Usually, Simon cuts into trees. In July he had to create one! It was commissioned for the entrance to the new Ronald McDonald House in Oxford, and created from one of the trees cleared from the land used for the property. It will hold leaves that bear the names of donors, hence its name: The Giving Tree. Families using the house are often going through some of their hardest times, so being asked to create something which helps to create a beautiful environment for them was an honour.

the giving tree by simon o'rourke

SCULPTURES OF 2020: AUGUST

OK, so this one is a little bit of a cheat, as most of it was created in July. But right at the start of August, Simon finished an exciting sculpture: The Ent at Poulton Hall. Simon loves fantasy and fiction and it ties into his training as an illustrator. There was a historic link between the residents of Poulton Hall and J RR Tolkien, so creating something from Tolkien’s works for the property was a lovely connection. The Ent has been one of Simon’s most popular works of the year, and can be viewed by the public when the grounds are open for visitors. Check for dates at www.poultonhall.co.uk.

monkey puzzle ent sculpture by simon o'rourke. one of his sculptures of 2020

SCULPTURES OF 2020: SEPTEMBER

Are you still with us?!
September’s highlight is another fantasy sculpture. This time, a phoenix rising from the ashes. Made from cedar, it represents the client’s rise from depression. It was an honour to depict such a positive mental change.

phoenix carved into a cedar trunk by artist simon o'rourke, one of his sculptures of 2020

SCULPTURES OF 2020: OCTOBER

In October Simon returned to Poulton Hall to create a sculpture of another Tolkien character: Gollum. Simon is an incredible storyteller through his sculptures, and we love this depiction of Gollum startled whilst catching fish for his dinner. If you have ten minutes, this is a great video where Simon takes you through the process of creating the sculpture. If you prefer to read, why not check out this blog about the process of creating Gollum.

SCULPTURES OF 2020: NOVEMBER

Armistice Day.
11:00am on 11/11/1918.
A day the world should never forget.
Sadly there have been many wars fought since then, with so many lives lost or irrevocably changed, which means November 11th is always a somber occasion. During this year Simon went back and forth on this sculpture which he completed in November: A WWI soldier for public display in Cumbria. We don’t have the details yet, but once we do, we will let you know where you can view him, and take a moment to remember those who gave their lives for the sake of others’ freedom.

World War I soldier in oak. Carved by simon o'rourke.

SCULPTURES OF 2020: DECEMBER

December was a busy month as Simon worked on Christmas commissions as well as some other bigger projects. The workshop looked a little bizarre in all honest with everything from fairies to lions to aliens! As our highlight though we’ve chosen Simon’s final carving of 2020: The Old Oak Father.
The sculpture is on the same property as the Oak Maiden, and the client decided they were Father and daughter. As well as the story on the blog (linked above) you can also hear Simon’s thoughts in the video below if you have five minutes. If not, don’t worry – we’ve included a photo below too!

the old oak father sculpture by simon o'rourke

The Old Oak Father points across the fields to the Oak Maiden

FINAL THOUGHTS

We hope you’ve enjoyed this highlight reel of 2020. If you want to see more of Simon’s works from this year, you can visit his Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram.
Although you can use any of these to contact Simon, we recommend using the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/, especially if you are interested in a commission.
January and February are looking busy next year, so we’re looking forward to sharing some new sculptures with you in the next few weeks, depending how lockdown unfolds.

We hope and pray this year is a good one for each and every one of you, and you are blessed with health, joy, and peace throughout the year, no matter what it holds.

With love from Simon and the team

a pair of lion sculptures: photo features the face of the oak lion mentioned in the accompanying blog

A Pair of Lion Sculptures

A Pair of Lion Sculptures 1824 1368 Simon O'Rourke

If you had been traveling on the M6 last weekend you might have seen a strange sight. A pair of lion sculptures making their way to their home in Colchester!

Photo shows a pair of wooden lion sculptures tied to the back of a flatbed trailer.

The lion sculptures in transit

A Pair of Lion Sculptures: The Client

The lions were commissioned by  The Lion Brasserie in East Bergholt. It doesn’t take much of a jump to see why they chose to commission a big cat sculpture! The larger lion sits in front of the building, and the second, smaller lion will be installed on the wall near the doorway. He’ll replace a fibreglass lion that is currently in place.

a wooden sculpture of a lions face with a pub sign in the background that says 'The Red Lion'

Photocredit to The Lion Brasserie

About the Redwood Lion Sculpture

Simon made the pair of lion sculptures in his workshop, then later transported them to Colchester. The smaller lion is made from redwood which is a similar colour to the current fibreglass sculpture. It’s a fitting choice as the name of the pub is The Red Lion!
For this sculpture, Simon had to work within a specific framework, as the pub is a listed building, and the sculpture was going to be mounted on the wall. This meant specific pose and size requirements.
This kind of thing can be intimidating to potential clients, but don’t worry! Simon is experienced and knows the right questions to ask. He will always ensure that your sculpture meets any necessary regulations as well as aesthetic preferences.

redwood lion sculpture in a workshop

The redwood lion in Simon’s workshop

About the Oak Lion

The large oak lion stands around 2m (7′) tall. With his well-defined muscles, mane, and noble expression, he’s definitely a presence! If you follow Simon on Facebook, you will have seen he had a bit of a false start on this one. As we have mentioned in our blogs about rot and aging, wood is not an exact science. Sometimes it’s difficult to “read the log” and an old wound can lead to a pocket of rot that isn’t visible from the outside. That was the case with this lion…

an abandoned unfinished wood sculpture of a lion

The abandoned stump!

This isn’t always a bad thing though! In this case Simon wasn’t totally happy with the first lion’s pose. The rot allowed him to start over and create something he was much happier with.

a wood lion sculpture standing on a tree stump outside a red brick building

Thoughts on Carving Lions

This year Simon has actually had several lion commissions. Each one is an opportunity to build on his past experience while also creating something fresh. For readers who are curious about his process, he talks about it in this blog about creating big cats. One key point is always understanding the underlying anatomy. It might be surprising then that his biggest ‘trade secret’ is not a technical anatomy book for artists (although there are some great ones around). Rather, a great place to start your research for any artistic project is… PINTEREST!!!!
A simple search can bring up a wealth of resources and give you pictures to work from as well as directing you to blogs, videos and tutorials. Being able to save images to different boards is also a helpful way of organising research.

close up of the face of an oak lion sculpture

A Pair of Lion Sculptures: Customer Reactions

Although the second lion hasn’t been installed yet, customers have enjoyed the new addition. The oak lion has captured attention and imagination, and the owners say the reaction has been ‘amazing’. And that is the most important part!
If you happen to be in the area, we recommend checking out The Lion brasserie. The food is great, and the staff are lovely. And if you’re there, we’d love it if you tagged us in any photos of the lions, and drop us a comment to know what you think.

Your Own Lion Sculpture

If you would like your own lion sculpture, Simon would love to chat with you. You can find out more HERE about how to commission a sculpture. Simon makes it as easy as possible for you from the initial ideas through to installing the final piece. And as always, you can contact him via the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/.

In conclusion, we leave you with a few thoughts from Simon on carving big cats…


 

The Giant Hand of Vyrnwy

The Giant Hand of Vyrnwy 1703 2560 Simon O'Rourke

In 2011 Simon carved what would become known as The Giant Hand of Vyrnwy. Simon wasn’t very well known at the time, and social media was only just in its early days. The hand gained some press coverage and attention, but it faded quite quickly. Recently pictures of the hand were re-shared on Facebook and Twitter, and it’s gone viral! Simon is getting lots of shares, comments and questions, which is incredible. Many people have never heard the story behind the sculpture though, so we thought we would revisit the story behind the Giant Hand of Vyrnwy.

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

The Giant Hand of Vrynwy: About Vyrnwy

The history of Vyrnwy itself is controversial. Viewers of ‘The Crown’ may have heard it mentioned recently in season three of the popular Netflix show when Prince Charles visits the home of his language teacher in Aberyswyth. The topic is clearly painful, and it’s suggested that the Prince was deeply moved by the story.
Years on, less people are aware of its past, and nowadays the area is now known for its beauty and wildlife. And no wonder! It’s just on the edge of The Snowdonia National Park, set in the middle of the beautiful Berwyn Mountains. There is a 24,000 acre RSPB Reserve, with viewpoints and hides around the Lake to observe the amazing variety of birds and scenery, and lots of opportunities for walks, cycle rides, and adventure activities.

Simon O'roruke kneels in front of a giant hand carved into a tree trunk. He is using an angle grinder to add texture to the sculptire 'The GIant Hand of Vyrnwy'

Simon at work on the hand in 2011

The Giant Hand of Vyrnwy: The Commission

Simon’s commission to create the hand came about in a very roundabout way. One evening he watched an episode of Countryfile that featured Wales’ tallest tree. He learned it was damaged and needed to be felled. He then heard elsewehere that they were leaving a 50ft stump, and were looking to convert it into a piece of art. It seemed like a great opportunity, not just to create a sculpture, but to create something with a message. After a bit of research, he connected with the Forestry Commission and was given the brief for the project. He added his proposal to those from the other artists, and waited…

Picture shows scaffolding surround a tree stump. It is in the process of ebing carved into a giant hand by artist simon o'rourke. The piece is now known at the giant hand or vyrnwy

Simon’s Vision

Simon’s vision for the tree, was for it to not just be a sculpture, but for it to be an environmental statement in its own right. Having learned that the tree had been known as one of the ‘Giants of Vyrnwy’, Simon was inspired to create a giant hand.
He wanted it to be coming out of the earth, and reaching upwards; making one last attempt to reach the sky. He wanted to show the hand stretching and straining; fighting to reach its full height. This is why Simon highlighted veins and creases, and why there is visible tension and power in the hand. It reflects a battle against not only the elements, but also damage humans have done.
The changes in colour and tone of the wood have emphasised those features, so the sculpture tells its story more loudly now than when it was made.

close up view of the giant hand of vyrnwy, showing creases and veins and stretch in the hand

This close up shows the details Simon added to reflect the strain of the tree’s final reach for the sky.

The Giant Hand of Vyrnwy: Creating the Sculpture

Simon started work on the hand in October 2011, and it was definitely a challenge! Even today, it is the largest-scale work he has completed! In photos, it can be difficult to really understand the scale of the sculpture. The sculpture is also viewed from 30′ away too, so although up close the size is impressive, it can be hard to appreciate.
To help give some context, Simon used a scale of 1:10 when he worked out the size and proportions. This means that the length of the hand from wrist to fingertip is around 2.25m. Or 90″ in ‘old money’!!! An average male in the UK is 1.75cm (69″), so the hand itself is nearly 50% taller than the average person!

The wrist is the entire width of the original stump, and the hand is carved in the top. Simon did need to add onto the stump too, to create the thumb and little finger stretching beyond the width of the wrist.

View from below the giant hand of vyrnwy looking up towards the sky

Viewing the hand from below helps give a sense of the scale, as well as showing the details like popping veins

Revisiting the Giant Hand of Vyrnwy: Simon’s Final Thoughts

Winning this commission was an amazing opportunity for Simon. Not just as an artist, but also as someone who wanted to share an environmental message. That message seems even more poignant now in 2020 when we are even more aware of climate change. Simon believes that the environmental factor is partly why the hand has had more attention lately.
His hope is that the juxtaposition of a hand coming from the tree stump will cause people to think about our connection and relationship with the earth. That being witness to the tree’s battle for growth will cause us to think. That we will be conscious of the footprint we leave behind. And that we will remember our duty of care for the planet.

Listen to more from Simon himself here:

Revisiting the Giant Hand of Vyrnwy: Your Thoughts!

Over the years since he made the hand, Simon has heard many comments from people who were moved by the sculpture. Thank you to those who have taken time to write or comment. We appreciate all the feedback.
Simon is always interested to hear about the impact of his work. And so, we want to invite you to share your story!
If you have seen the hand in person, or via social media, would you take a few moments to let us know what you think? Not just a like or a share, great as they are!
What did it say to you? How did it make you feel? What message did you take from it?
Let us know by emailing Simon on [email protected], or through his Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

And for now, enjoy a few more of these little-shared photos of the Giant Hand of Vyrnwy…

face of the gollum sculpture at poulton hall by simon o'rourke

Process of Creating the Gollum Sculpture

Process of Creating the Gollum Sculpture 1368 1824 Simon O'Rourke

Over the last few weeks we posted photos on social media of a Gollum sculpture Simon created. Thank you to those of you who left kind comments. It’s always encouraging to hear and see you enjoying Simon’s pieces. As always, there were questions about how to see it in real life, and about how Simon made it. And so, in this week’s blog we walk you through the process of creating the Gollum sculpture.

Sculpture of Gollum carved into a standing tree trunk, surrounded by the gardens at Poulton Hall. Sculpture is the work of chainsaw carving artist Simon O'Rourke

About the Sculpture

Regular readers will remember that in July Simon created an Ent sculpture from a Monkey Puzzle trunk in the grounds of Poulton Hall;  the seat of the Lancelyn-Green family. The father of the current incumbent was Roger Lancelyn Green – well known author, member of The Inklings, and friend of J R R Tolkien. This connection was the inspiration for a Lord of the Rings sculpture, which ties in with some of the other sculptures in the ground which are also based on Fastasy Literature.
As well as the standing monkey puzzle stump, there was a good, workable piece of the monkey puzzle trunk left over. It was perfect for creating another Lord of the Rings sculpture for the grounds of the hall. In this case Simon created something better known: Gollum.

3m tall scultpure of an Ent, created from the stump of a monkey puzzle tree by chainsaw artist Simon o'Rourke

The Ent at Poulton Hall

Process of Creating the Gollum Sculpture: Evaluating the Timber

The first thing Simon does when he starts a sculpture, is evaluate the timber. There are a few things he looks out for. However the first is definitely looking at what is useable, and where there is rot. For those who are interested, Simon explains a bit more in this video about different kinds of rot. For those who prefer to read, we also have this blog explaining the difference between white and brown rot.
In the case of this stump, it looked pretty nasty on the outside, but had some good, solid timber on the inside.

The process of creating the gollum sculpture step one. Simon evaluates the wood. Photo shows a large stump of monkey puzzle tree lying horizontally on the ground. It appears to be rotten. A chainsaw sits on the top.

The monkey puzzle stump Simon used to create the Gollum sculpture.

Simon also has to evaluate the timber from an artistic perspective. Using his original sketches as a guide, he has to imagine the figure within the stump. This includes thinking about the position of the figure, and what sections can be used. He pays attention to any visible branches, knots and other characteristics that he can use to help give shape to the figure. He also needs to find the point at which he wants the head to sit. From there he can work out the size and proportions.

The process of creating the gollum sculpture: photo shows SImon O'Rourke's original sketches of the sculpture. It shows the face from three angles, and two full length sketches of the sculpture.

Simon’s original sketches for the Gollum sculpture.

 

Process of Creating the Gollum Sculpture: Removing Large Facets

The next part of Simon’s process as he created the Gollum sculpture was to remove large pieces of the wood and outline the basic figure of Gollum. For this, he will use a ‘meaty’ chainsaw like the Stihl MS500i. It’s well suited to harvesting and processing large timber, but also makes easy work of this part of creating a sculpture!
Simon will still consider the original sketch, but at this point may need to change or adapt certain parts. As we have said before, wood is unpredictable. At this stage he may find pockets of rot, cracks and knots as he strips back the timber. All of these may mean needing to alter angles or even change a pose.
In Simon’s own words, this stage of the process is all about “working into the wood and working with it”.

The process of creating the gollum sculpture: photo shows simon o'rourke using a chainsaw to remove large pieces of wood from the trunk of a monkey puzzle tree. he wears stihl clothing and uses a chainsaw. a figure is beginning to emerge in the top half or the timber.

This part of the process is when Simon discovers problems or characteristics which will determine the basic figure of a sculpture

Process of Creating the Gollum Sculpture: Whittling Down the Figure

The next stage in the process of creating Gollum was whittling down the basic figure so the pose and proportions were correct. Most human form sculptures have specific fixed points and proportions that need to be considered at this stage. There is sometimes a formula for working those out, for example, The Golden Ratio. In the case of Gollum though, he is almost a caricature with certain features in very different proportion to a typical human. So in creating something like Gollum, Simon had to forget normal proportions and ratios.
Things he had to particularly consider were Gollum’s large head in comparison with his much skinnier body and limbs!

process of creating the gollum sculpture: photo shows a very basic outline of gollum carved into a tree trunk. there are no details such as fingers, face or clothing

It’s important to get the basic shape of the body correct at this point before details are added

It’s important for Simon to get this right at this stage. If he began working on details like facial features before this is done, it would be easy to make a mistake that can’t be corrected once the wood is removed. In particular, an anatomically correct head shape gives Simon the reference points to begin adding facial features.

process of creating the gollum sculpture: photo shows simon o'rourke using a chainsaw to create the head shape of gollum's head from a monkey puzzle stump

Process of Creating the Gollum Sculpture: Creating the Face

Once Simon is happy with the shape and pose, he can begin working on the facial features. One of Simon’s strengths as an artist is that his work always tells a story and invites the viewer to participate. The face is a key part in that. And that means Simon always needs to have a back-story in mind which will determine the facial expression. In the case of the Gollum sculpture, Simon wanted to go for a look of surprise. The sculpture is more reminiscent of Gollum’s alter-ego, Smeagal. He has just caught a fish which he is about to eat, and is caught off guard by someone or something disturbing him. The moment Simon captures in this sculpture is when Gollum turns to face the thing that has disturbed him, surprise on his face.

Surprisingly, at this stage, Simon doesn’t usually switch to smaller tools yet, and will still use a chainsaw! He is still able to create a lot of detail just by using a smaller chainsaw (such as the Stihl MSA 200c) and a smaller blade.

process of creating the gollum sculpture: simon o'roruke uses a stihl msa200c chainsaw to add facial features to the sculpture

Simon uses the Stihl MSA 200c to add facial features to Gollum

Process of Creating the Gollum Sculpture: Refining the Facial Detail

The final stage of creating a sculpture is to refine the details on the face – and indeed the rest of the sculpture. At this point Simon will use a Milwaukee angle grinder with Manpatools multicutter or Saburrtooth burr bits. The latter are especially great for adding shape and texture. For those who are interested in finding out more about how to use these tools, we have a blog about Simon’s favourite burr bits and how he uses them HERE. We also have a blog about the Manpatools tools he favours HERE.

Simon O'Rourke uses saburrtooth burr bits and a milwaukee angle grinder to add texture to the face of a Gollum sculpture

Simon will often use these smaller tools to get into small nooks and crannies and create small, deep features. The gaps in Gollum’s teeth in the photo above are a great example of this.
Unlike visual art where there are different tones and colours that can be used, Simon is dependant on different depths of cut creating shadows which create the illusion of shape and texture. This means that at this stage he may need to exaggerate some cuts and create depths or gaps that are deeper than they would be in real life. Examples of this in the Gollum sculpture are the eyes, toes, and the tunic.

close up of the face of the gollum sculpture created by chainsaw artist simon o'rourke

The Eyes

In the case of the eyes, Simon used the eye bit to create a deep cavity, where our eyes would usually be a ball shape. He left wood in place, and so created the illusion of a pupil.

close up of the toes on simon o'rourke's gollum sculpture.

The Toes

We can also see this exaggerated cut in the toes. Simon has created much deeper cuts than we actually have if we examine our bare feet. The shadow this creates help give the impression of five distinct digits. If he didn’t do this, the viewer would have only the impression of a foot rather than a realistic representation.

process of creating the gollum sculpture: close up of the tunic shows the exaggerated cuts simon uses to create shadow

The Tunic

The final example of these exaggerated cuts is the tunic, photographed above. In reality, this tunic would lie flat against Gollum’s legs. Simon, however, has made a deep cut along the edge of the tunic, which creates a thicker edge to the tunic, several centimetres removed from the leg underneath. This trick is what allows us to see that Gollum is indeed wearing clothing! Without that exaggerated gap and with no difference in the colour between the body and clothing, we wouldn’t be able to see the clothing from a distance.

process of creating the gollum sculpture: close up of simon o'rourke using a saburr tooth eye bit to create the cavity that will be gollum's eye

Process of Creating the Gollum Sculpture: Knowing When to Finish

The final stage of creating a sculpture is refining the rest of the sculpture. This may include texture or folds in clothing, wrinkles in the skin or the fold of an elbow or knee. At this point though, the key part in the process is…. knowing when to finish!

Simon – like most artists – is committed to excellence. In a quest for perfection though, it can be easy to ‘over do’ it. There will always be small tweaks and refinements that can be made. However, Simon has to consider that those things may actually take away from a sculpture of this nature.
Simon also can’t rely on ‘am I happy with this?’ to determine if something is finished. Like most artists, he can be over critical and see flaws or things he would do differently next time, so that point may never come!

And so, at this point, Simon will be asking is the pose correct? Are all the proportions correct? Is the overall effect as it should be?
Yes?
Then the sculpture is finished!
And in the case of Gollum, we hope you agree that it’s another fantastic piece.

gollum sculpture by simon o'rouke

Sculpture of Gollum carved into a standing tree trunk, surrounded by the gardens at Poulton Hall. Sculpture is the work of chainsaw carving artist Simon O'Rourke

Any Questions?

If you have any questions about Simon’s process as an artist, we would love to answer them! You can contact Simon through his Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or by filling out the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/.
That form is also the contact if you would like to commission your own sculpture.

Lastly, if you would like to see Simon creating this sculpture and hear his own thoughts on the process, we will have a video on Simon’s YouTube channel soon. Watch this space!

 

 

Face of the ent tree sculpture by simon o'rourke in Poulton Hall gardens

Monkey Puzzle Ent Tree Sculpture

Monkey Puzzle Ent Tree Sculpture 1920 2560 Simon O'Rourke

Simon spent the week working in the grounds of Poulton Hall, Bebington. Thankfully the weather cooperated for this outdoor project! Over four days of carving Simon transformed a monkey puzzle tree into this fantastic Ent tree sculpture…

ent tree sculpture by simon o'rourke. carved into a standing monkey puzzle tree outside poulton hall

Um, what’s an Ent Tree Sculpture?!

For those who are wondering, Ent are one of Tolkien’s literary creations. So this week’s sculpture would have fit perfectly in the literary fan art blog we posted a few weeks ago! The Ent feature in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings and are one of the oldest races of Middle Earth. They are described as shepherds and protectors of the trees. They are tree-like in appearance and take on the appearance of the trees they guard. Although we don’t often think of a ‘tree person’ as being a fearsome warrior, “Their punches can crumple iron like tin, and they can tear apart solid rock-like bread crusts.”!

front view of the ent tree sculpture by simon o'rourke at poulton hall

So, why an Ent tree sculpture?!

The choice of an Ent has a special story…
The sculpture is in the grounds of Poulton Hall, which is the ancestral home of the Lancelyn Green family. The present incumbent, or squire, is the 32nd lord of the manor of Poulton Lancelyn and Lower Bebington.  His father 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 friends with J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis, who was an occasional visitor to Poulton. The Inklings praised the value of narrative in fiction and encouraged the writing of fantasy. Many aspects of the grounds have been inspired by imaginative literature.

blue plaque stating roger lancelyn green lived in poulton hall, bebington

The Poulton Hall Gardens

There are several different gardens at Poulton Hall, all of them stunning in their own way. They are open a few times a year, usually in aid of a charity. The walled gardens are also available for private functions such as weddings, tea parties, musical performances, and exhibitions. Details for opening are on their website www.poultonhall.co.uk/GardenOpenings/ if you would like to visit.

Each garden has a slightly different flavour as you can discover at www.poultonhall.co.uk/TheGardens.  The entrance to the walled gardens is intended to make you think you are entering a world of make-believe. Simon’s sculpture is not the only reference to fantasy and literature in the grounds. Other sculptures include a Jabberwock  (from Lewis Carroll’s poem Jabberwocky, in his book Through the Looking Glass) a Viking head, a Robin Hood, an Excalibur, and a Storyteller’s Chair.

This historic link with Tolkien and the property already having the sense of a fantasy garden meant a literary fantasy character was a natural choice for this latest addition.  The Ent not only fit the literary-fantasy theme but is also much more unusual than more commonly seen sculptures of fairies, wizards, and mythological animals. It has the benefit too of blending more naturally with the surrounding gardens than other human or animal subjects. And so, whilst an unusual choice, the Ent is perfect for Poulton Hall.

Face of the ent tree sculpture by simon o'rourke in Poulton Hall gardens

The Character of the Ent Tree Sculpture

As the Ent are moving, talking fictional beings with personalities, it was important that Simon first decide who this particular Ent is before he started carving. These all inform the pose, texture, expression – and more – of a sculpture. In this case, Simon was carving a Monkey Puzzle tree, and so Aracaurius the Ent was born! The name comes from the Latin name for the tree: aracauria Araucana. Aracaurius the Ent tree sculpture is 5m tall and has an affinity for the local wildlife. There’s a fox, a rabbit in his hand, an owl perched on his left hand, an angry stoat, a squirrel, a woodpecker, and a hidden mouse!

the fox at the foot of the ent tree sculpture by simon o'rourke at poulton hall

The fox at the foot of the Ent

 

Squirrel in the trunk of the ent tree sculpture by simon o'rourke

The squirrel peeping out from the leg of the ent tree sculpture

Depicting a Monkey Puzzle Ent

One of the features we mentioned of the Ent, is that they take on the features of the tree they protect. In this case, a monkey puzzle tree. The monkey puzzle tree is an evergreen with long, spiky branches. Simon captures this in the long vertical cuts down the length of the Ent.

close up of the ent tree sculpture by simon o'rourke, focusing on the rabbit in its left hand

Close up of the rabbit and the long vertical texture that suggests the long spiky coniferous branches of the monkey puzzle tree.

Monkey Puzzle trees also have a distinctive, leathery, pointy leaf. Simon has created variation in the texture of the ent tree sculpture by creating patches where the leaves are growing. This also hints at the evolutionary transformation of the Ent where it gradually takes on more and more of the characteristics of the tree it is guarding.

 

rear view of the ent tree sculpture by simon o'rourke, showing the leaf and trunk detail

Rearview of the Ent showing the monkey puzzle leaves

A Face That Tells a Story

An important part of anthropomorphising objects is the face. There have to be believable details that blend the object/animal with human features. A glimpse at the face shows that this gentleman is an older Ent, with wise eyes, and a hint of compassion.

ent sculpture by simon o'rourke at poulton hall

More Details

It’s amazing to think about the number of details that go into creating something like the Ent tree sculpture. For example, look at the shoulder. That ‘point’ makes all the difference in convincing the viewer the Ent is a ‘tree person’ and not human. Drop that shoulder, and it immediately becomes ‘too human’, and less organic. The arms need to have enough irregularities to appear as a branch and not a human arm.  Attention to details like this as well as the phenomenal texture are what makes this Ent so striking and convincing.

And speaking of details, we have to share the rest of those animals hiding about the Ent’s person!

woodpecker and owl in simon o'rourke's ent sculpture

View of the Ent showing the woodpecker and owl

The Process of Making the Ent Tree Sculpture

As always, it is fascinating to watch Simon at work. On this project the Stihl MS500i did a LOT of work! It’s a meaty saw with the best power-to-weight ratio on the market, and the simplest operation. It’s perfectly suited to arboriculture or sculpting large pieces of timber. Although a 5m Ent may not be what what Stihl had in mind when they developed the product!

When it came to texture and larger details, the battery powered saws by Stihl were invaluable. They allow for much more movement round the tree, are more lightweight, so easier to get into some of those angles.

As we have said before too, the saburrtooth burrs are a gamechanger for facial details! For eyes like this, there has to be quite a deep cut to create the shadow needed for the eyes to hold their expression, and to be seen from further away. This last part is especially important on something large scale. The burrs are perfect for creating these smaller, deep, details.

We’ll have a timelapse of the whole process ready soon, but until then, you can see Simon in action on day one of the project.

 

Over to You!

If you were going to commission a literary fantasy sculpture what would you choose? Would it be Middle Earth, Narnia, Discworld, Camelot, Neverland, Ga’hoole? Or something else? The possibilities are endless and can lead to a truly unique and beautiful piece of sustainable art.

Before we sign off, we need to give a shout out to JB Platform Hire. Great to work with, and it’s their cherry picker that enabled me to carve and get video like this one…

If you have an idea, contact us using the form on www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/ and Simon will get back to you to chat about ideas, details, and costs.