Public Sculptures

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

close up of the palm of simon o'rourke's wooden A Hand Between Sky and Earth sculpture in Allai

A Hand Between Sky and Earth Sculpture

A Hand Between Sky and Earth Sculpture 450 600 Simon O'Rourke

Today is Earth Day 2022 so I’m going to share one of my most recent sculptures with an environmental message: A Hand Between Sky and Earth.

 

Simon O'Rourke standing next to a tree that he will carve into the sculpture A Hand Between Sky and Earth The tree is around five times his height and has a white building in the background to the left and a few shorter trees to the right.

Simon with the tree that would become A Hand Between Sky and Earth sculpture

 

Earth Day 2022

Before I jump into the story of the A Hand Between Sky and Earth sculpture, what is Earth Day? And why is it relevant?

Earth Day is an annual event on April 22 to demonstrate support for environmental protection. It includes a wide range of events coordinated globally by EarthDay.org, and focuses on raising awareness and mobilising people to do their part in caring for the environment.

Care for the environment is something close to my heart. That’s why it’s always great to receive a commission for a project like A Hand Between Sky and Earth or The Giant Hand of Vyrnwy where I can use art to convey a message about caring for our planet.

 

Initial sketch for A Hand Between Sky and Earth. The photo of the tree is faded and a hand sketched sculpture of a hand is overlaid so clients could see what it would look like.

One of the initial sketches for A Hand Between Sky and Earth

 

A Hand Between Sky and Earth Sculpture: How It Began

Back in November, I had an enquiry about a sculpture on Sardinia. A tree in the village of Allai had become dangerous and needed to be cut down. The council didn’t want to cut it down completely and hoped I could transform it into a work of art.

They shared how they believe trees represent a natural resource of great significance. They’d researched their options and believed this was a good way to “save” the tree at the same time as embellishing and enhancing it. In the words of the client:

We love nature, we have lots of respect for our vegetation and probably your same love can help us to preserve our trees but in a different amazing way.

As well as preserving the tree, the sculpture was to serve the dual purpose of (hopefully!) becoming a tourist attraction.
New life for the tree, and increased benefit for the village!
Definitely a meaningful commission!

 

simon o'rourke stands in a cherry picker and uses a chainsaw to carve a sculpture into an standing tree trunk. in the background there is a white building.

Working on A Hand Between Sky and Earth sculpture in Allai

 

The Message Behind A Hand Between Sky and Earth Scultpure

The sculpture I created needed to be something that would capture the imagination and draw people to see it, but also needed to reflect the preservation aspect of the commission. Although the initial enquiry asked about wildlife sculptures, after some conversation, we settled on an outstretched hand. Something reaching between the material to the spiritual world that, like the Giant Hand of Vyrnwy, also represented the struggle of the tree to reach the sky.

To me, the hand is fitting as hands are a way to connect with the earth. They’re how we touch rocks, the earth and the trees. With our hands, we work the earth to grow food or build.

My sculpture is a symbol of this tactile connection with the world. It’s also a reminder that we use our hands to steward it, and the sculpture invites us to take care of it.

The hand position can be seen as an extension to gently touch or make a statement. The slightly straightened finger is meant to suggest a gentle command or complaint. ”

 

simon o'rourke's A Hand Between Sky and Earth Sculpture

Responses To A Hand Between Sky and Earth Sculpture

It’s only been a couple of weeks since finishing the commission, and the sculpture is already serving its purpose.

The municipal council are delighted with the finished sculpture. They describe it as “A symbolic work for a community, a careful warning to safeguard a territory that does not want to give up [but rather] fights for a prosperous and luxuriant future, with trust, determination and an obstinate love for the surrounding nature“.

 

close up of the palm of simon o'rourke's wooden A Hand Between Sky and Earth sculpture in Allai

 

One local lady who saw the sculpture being created was inspired to write a poem where she describes it as

A hand reaching out to the sky
like a cry for help to God
to save the planet and its ruin
that gradually falls into oblivion.”
Pina Frongia
the back of the hand on simon o'rourkes A Hand Between Sky and Earth sculpture. the only background is a grey-ish sky. lots of wood grain is visible in the hand

Visiting A Hand Between Sky and Earth Sculpture

Others on social media have been asking how they can go and see the sculpture, fulfilling its second role of helping to bring tourists to the area and strengthen the economy. It’s great both purposes are being fulfilled so soon!
If you are one of the people who would like to visit, it’s SO easy to find using What3words!
Either open the app and search for ///hangdog.candlestick.precocious or just click here.
And after experiencing the wonderful food, weather, scenery and hospitality in Allai (thanks to our new friends we met there!), Liz and I definitely recommend a holiday on Sardinia!
simon o'rourke and a female stand beneath the sculpture A Hand Between Sky and Earth, a giant hand carved into a standing tree trunk about 20ft tall.

With one of our hosts in Allai

 

Other Environmental Considerations

Of course, it isn’t enough to just create art that challenges people to care for the earth, helpful as art can be in communicating an important message. I’m also aware of the potential environmental cost of chainsaw carving and minimise impact where I can.

What does that look like?

First, I never carve or cut down a healthy tree for sculpture. Rather, use trees that have died or need to be felled due to disease, damage, or danger to people/places and give life back to them as art.

 

screenshot of simon o'rourke's instagram account showing he is a member of titan treecycle initiative

Members of Treecycle display ‘Titan Treecycle Member’ on their social media accounts.

 

I’m also part of Titan Treecycle. This is an initiative that encourages chainsaw artists to plant trees to replace the ones they use. Although the timber I use has never come from healthy trees, I’m aware that chainsaw carving impacts the environment in other ways. For example, travel for commissions or events, emissions from our tools. So I joined the initiative to offset my carbon footprint, not just replace the wood I use.

If you’re looking for a chainsaw artist for a commission, Titan Chainsaw Carving on Instagram is a great place to find artists, and then check that they display  “Treecycle Member” in their profile.

 

a white tiled building in the background. in front is the hand between sky and earth sculpture by simon o'rourke; a giant hand carved into the top of a tree trunk

 

Final Thoughts

It’s obviously exciting as an artist to be able to create art that challenges people to think about the environment. It’s great to post about it on Earth Day too. My hope though is that our thoughts and actions go far beyond this one day, that care for the earth becomes second nature to us all, and that we can all gradually make slow, sustainable changes that help preserve our incredible planet.

What changes have you been working on?

As always, if you are interested in a sculpture for your home, business, or community, fill out the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact.

If you’re interested in watching the creation of A Hand Between Sky and Earth, check out the video below too!

 

two people stand on scaffolding that surrounds a 20ft tree trunk carved into a susanna wesley sculpture

Susanna Wesley Sculpture

Susanna Wesley Sculpture 450 600 Simon O'Rourke

inIf you follow Simon on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, you’ll know he’s had a big project this week. He’s been down in East Finchley working on a sculpture for East Finchley Methodist Church. We’ll have more to share soon, but for this week, let us introduce you to his Susanna Wesley sculpture…

 

Simon O'Rourke at work on his susanna wesley sculpture. a 20ft tree is surrounded by scaffolding with a church in the background. the trunk is partially carved into a portrait of susanna wesley

On-site at East Finchley Methodist Church

Background to the Susanna Wesley Sculpture

The Susanna Wesley sculpture was commissioned by East Finchley Methodist Church. The London church celebrates its bicentennial year this year, and they were keen to mark the occasion. They had a 20ft red cedar that had stood bare for over four years and decided to turn it from an eyesore into art…

 

a 20ft bare tree trunk stands to the left of a red brick church. shops and a road are in the background. the tree is the 'before' of simon o'rourke's susanna wesley sculpture

The bare cedar in the ground of East Finchley Methodist Church

Susanna Wesley: An Unusual Subject?

When we asked people to guess who the sculpture might be, we had several guesses at various saints and even Jesus! Nobody guessed Susanna Wesley though, so why a sculpture of someone who didn’t seem an obvious choice? Who was Susanna Wesley and what’s the connection with the church?

 

susanna wesley sculpture carved in 20ft cedar trunk by simon o'rourke

Why a Susanna Wesley Sculpture?

Susanna Wesley is known as called ‘The Mother of Methodism’. This is primarily because the Methodist movement was founded by two of her sons (John and Charles Wesley). However, more than this, she was part of the movement herself…

It is said that she attracted crowds of local people to her family services on Sunday afternoons. Senior church steward Jane Ray said “The bare branches looked to us like Susanna’s welcoming outstretched arms and we are excited to see Simon bringing this vision to life”. And so, the church chose to commission a sculpture of Susanna Wesley.

This is a perfect example of how a sculpture can point towards and share something of the story of a community.

 

two people stand on scaffolding that surrounds a 20ft tree trunk carved into a susanna wesley sculpture

Simon with church steward, Jane. Photo Credit: Graham Chestney

More Than Just a Sculpture

The sculpture isn’t the only thing the church is doing. It’s actually part of a larger garden renovation. The church is transforming the garden into an area for children and adults to come, as well as a new soft play area. They hope that, in the spirit of Susanna Wesley, the community will feel welcomed to their church through this area.

 

Creating the Susanna Wesley Sculpture

Simon had a busy few days working on the sculpture. As well as the portrait of Susanna Wesley, there are some lovely details. Simon created organic shapes, adding texture to the bark below the portrait. Animals also hide among the leaves.

It’s been lovely to see the excitement and anticipation for the sculpture. The church filmed and photographed the entire project, and a local primary school also visited the site and met Simon.

Fascinated, the students even took away a momento! It was a strange sight, but they worked together to take a 20ft strip of bark back to the school with them!

 

eight people walk on an urban street carring a 20f strip of tree bark

 

Watch this Space

We’re excited to share more in the next few weeks. For now though, we hope you enjoyed this quick introduction to Simon’s Susanna Wesley sculpture.

Are you considering a sculpture for your community, home or business?
Contact Simon using the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact.

 

susanna wesley sculpture

Head and shoulders of o'Rourke's chainsaw carving sculpture of a WWII soldier

WWII Soldier Memorial Sculpture

WWII Soldier Memorial Sculpture 450 600 Simon O'Rourke

As the country silences itself at 11am today, Workington has a new WWII soldier memorial sculpture to commemorate those who gave their lives in military service. The unveiling took place on Poppy Day, as you may have seen on BBC or ITV. Simon and Liz were also there today (Remembrance Sunday) to see the sculpture installed in its new home during the traditional laying of the wreath…

 

WWII Soldier Memorial Sculpture by Simon O'Rourke in Vulcan Park, Workington

 

Background to the WWII Soldier Memorial Sculpture

Workington Town Council commissioned the WWII soldier after talking for many years about having a VE/VJ day statue to memorialise all those who lost their lives to war. After deciding to go ahead with the statue, the process of commissioning an artist began.

They looked online for a number of different artists who could produce what they were looking for.  After finding a few artists who seemed suitable, the council invited them to submit costs and design ideas.  These then went to their Culture Committee who chose Simon’s design because of both appearance and the sentiment behind it.

If you are considering a sculpture for your community, this is often the first stage of seeing that vision realised.

 

Waist up view of Simon O'Rourke's WWII soldier memorial sculpture

From Commission to Installation

Many people don’t realise there can be many steps from commissioning a sculpture to having it installed. One aspect of this is the aesthetic. Simon will go back and forth with a client to ensure they are happy with the design. Another aspect is the practicalities of installing a sculpture such as transport, preparing the site etc. And then there are the legalities…

 

A gentleman reads the plaque by Simon O'Rourke's soldier sculpture in vulcan park

 

Things to Consider Regarding the Installation of a Chainsaw Carving Sculpture

It’s sometimes necessary to gain permission to install a sculpture. There may be licensing to consider. This can seem intimidating and may cause delays to the installation. However, as Workington Council discovered, Simon has excellent knowledge and understanding of this part of the process and is able to assist clients which makes it much easier.

When asked about the process of commission and installing the sculpture, a spokesperson for the council testified:
“It has been a joy working with Simon. The process has taken a lot longer than any of us thought it would with planning permissions, consultations and then COVID, but throughout everything Simon has been patient, professional and a pleasure to work with.”

 

Members of the military and the mayor with simon o'rourke's WWII soldier memorial sculpture

Representatives from the army, Royal British Legion, town council, and public attended the unveiling ceremony

Creating the WWII Memorial Soldier Sculpture

Simon created the sculpture in his workshop over several weeks. This sculpture is a great example of working with the wood and placing the sculpture wisely so inevitable cracks are not problematic.

In this case, Simon cut the log and created the sculpture using the front part. If he had carved it in the centre of the timber (which is often instinctual), the cracks will be in the middle of the soldier, and potentially split him in half!!!

By moving the sculpture to the front half, the centre of the log became the soldier’s back. In this way, the cracks will appear vertically in his back and enhance the movement of the fabric of his coat. This will not only preserve the facial details but also means the sculpture is much more stable.

 

Work in process. A chainsaw carving WWII sculpture surrounded by scaffolding and countryside

The soldier in process outside Simon’s workshop

Telling the WWII Soldier’s Story

As you will know if you are a regular follower of Simon’s work, his sculptures always tell a story and invite viewers into a moment with many possibilities. He leaves possibilities and every viewer will experience the sculpture differently. In the case of this WWII soldier memorial sculpture, we can see the soldier has already experienced the hardship of war. He stands with a hand on his heart, as posture we often associate with pride and patriotism. But there is also a slight slump in his posture. The heaviness in his eyes is obvious as he gazes at something the viewer can’t see. And poignantly, a single tear flows down his face (photographed above).

So what’s his story? As the viewer, you are free to engage and imagine. But one thing that is clear is the heaviness and hardship and pain of war.

 

wood sculpture by simon o'rourke. a single tear falls down the cheek of a WWII soldier memorial sculpture

 

 

The Installed WWII Soldier Memorial Sculpture

Now the sculpture has been delivered and installed, the clients are delighted:

“We could not be happier with how the finished piece has turned out. The statue itself, the fence surrounding the area and the plaque just finish the area off beautifully, and the feedback from residents has been so positive”.

He’s installed in Vulcan Park, Workington, and can be viewed at any time during the park’s opening hours.

 

Head and shoulders of o'Rourke's chainsaw carving sculpture of a WWII soldier

Final Thoughts

We hope this blog has not only introduced you to Simon’s WWII soldier memorial sculpture, but also given you some insight into what happens behind the scenes when a sculpture is commissioned. If you would like a memorial sculpture for your community (or any sculpture!), contact Simon using the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact.

If you’re interested in seeing other military memorial sculptures made by Simon, you could check out his WWI Soldier blog (also featuring some of his poppy sculptures) by clicking HERE, or his Highclere Castle Airman blog by clicking HERE.

wooden sculpture of Fudge the daschund, protagonist of the Lower Farm Sculpture Trail

Lower Farm Sculpture Trail

Lower Farm Sculpture Trail 551 600 Simon O'Rourke

In this week’s blog, we’re doing something a little different! Usually, the blog is about finished sculptures. This week though, we invite you to a sneaky peek of a work in progress. Keep reading to find out about one of Simon’s current projects; the Lower Farm Sculpture Trail…

 

Lower Farm holiday cottages courtyard view. The site of the lower farm sculpture trail

Lower Farm holiday cottages, site of the Lower Farm Sculpture Trail

About Lower Farm Holiday Cottages and the Idea for a Trail

Lower Farm Holiday Cottages are located in Picton, Cheshire. They were originally farm buildings, converted and now run as holiday cottages by Matt and Rachel. When their daughter Olivia turned one, doctors confirmed she was born with a hole in her heart. Alder Hey Children’s Hospital gave her exceptional care and repaired the hole, offering her a bright healthy future. Matt and Rachel were overwhelmed with what the hospital did for them so they offered a family holiday in one of their holiday cottages as a fundraiser raffle for Alder Hey.

To their amazement, the raffle raised £7336! They then had the idea of doing something that would hopefully generate a steady donation stream for the hospital. They’ve always admired and appreciated Simon’s work and always wanted to have something of his, but didn’t have any trees suitable for carving. Then the idea hit them though to do a trail or hunt around the orchard from timber Simon would source. The sculptures would have a common theme, and form a trail or ‘hunt’ that guests could enjoy during their stay. All guests have free access to the trail during their stay, and they simply ask for voluntary donations for Alder Hey Children’s Charity from guests who would like to support the cause.

 

Double bed with brick wall beind and wooden beams. Bedroom at Lower Farm Holiday Cottages

One of the beautiful bedrooms at Lower Farm

Commissioning the Lower Farm Sculpture Trail

 Matt and Rachel contacted Simon and instantly got the feeling he was very passionate about his work. He talked them through his and Liz’s background which included writing children’s storybooks. In that 30-minute phone call, the idea was born!

Simon and Liz visited the holiday cottages to get a feel for the place, and everyone agreed it would be a fantastic base for a sculpture trail and children’s book incorporating their daughter Olivia, pet dog Fudge and the wild farm animals that visit regularly.

Liz and Simon got to work with input from Rachel, Matt, Olivia and some close family friends. After a few edits, the team settled on their children’s story for the trail, all about Fudge’s evening adventure.

 

A young girl holding her pet dachshund Fudge. He is the cntral character of the Lower Farm Sculpture Trail

Matt and Rachel’s daughter Olivia with Fudge, the main character in their sculpture trail

 

Current Progress on the Trail

The story is now complete, and Simon is creating scenes and characters in the workshop. Once they are all finished, he will install them around the property to form the trail. Keep scrolling for a sneak preview of Fudge, Sid the Squirrel, and the Shetland Pony!

Matt and Rachel have visited the workshop and have “seen first-hand the passion and effort he [Simon] puts into every piece”.

They’re delighted with what they’ve seen so far, and thankfully, they are both satisfied they came to the right place and found the right team to make their vision a reality!

wooden sculpture of Fudge the daschund, protagonist of the Lower Farm Sculpture Trail

Fudge the Dachshund: protagonist of the Lower Farm Sculpture Trail

Viewing the Lower Farm Sculpture Trail

The trail is in a private garden and therefore only available for guests and invited visitors. But!  If you want to stay at one of their cottages you book via www.facebook.com/lowerfarmholidaycottages or www.lowerfarmpicton.co.uk. Alternatively, bookings can be made via Sykes holiday cottages.

Can’t wait for the finished trail? No problem!

Simon has created a mini carved bug hunt while the Fudge trail is in process! Based on an activity sheet created by Matt and Rachel’s talented friend Emma Glaysher, participants can hunt for six (larger-than-life!) bugs hidden around the orchard. Each bug has an assigned letter, and at the end the letters can be unjumbled to spell one of the Lower Farm Holiday Cottages animals.

 

a bug and inscription from Simon O'Rourke's mini bug trail at Lower Farm Holiday Cottages

One of the bugs in the ‘mini trail’ at Lower Farm Holiday Cottages

 

Beyond the Trail

And while Simon is busy carving, Liz continues to plan and dream with Matt and Rachel.

The couple loved the story about Fudge. They felt “Liz [did] an exceptional job of listening to [their] ideas and creatively writing a children’s bedtime story that is beyond what [they] ever hoped for”. This has led to a second project for the four…

Matt Rachel, Simon and Liz all share a dream of turning Fudge Gets Locked Out into a book which they will sell to raise funds for both Alder Hey Children’s hospital and Dementia UK – another cause close to Simon and Liz’s hearts.

Watch this space for the book release and sale details!

 

Fudge and Sid oak sculptures in a workshop. both are characters from lower farm sculpture trail

Fudge meets Sid the Squirrel in Simon’s workshop!

 

Final Thoughts About Sculpture Trails

Both couples are VERY excited about this trail, and the possibility of a book. We hope you’ll love it too once we share the finished sculptures.

Matt and Rachel are using the trail for fundraising, but a sculpture trail can be just as valuable for business revenue. If you’re thinking about a trail for your business or community, why not read our blog Why Commission a Sculpture Trail? Or make a ‘virtual visit’ to one of his other trails? Just click on the link below to view each one.

Fforest Fawr Trail

Meadow Park Trail

Page’s Wood Trails

shetland pony from the lower farm sculpture trail on the back of a truck

This shetland pony is one of the characters Fudge meets in the Lower Farm Sculpture trail

Settled on having your very own trail? Contact Simon via the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/ .

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!