Television & Film

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

Why Commission a Sculpture Trail?

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

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

 

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

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

Why Commission a Sculpture Trail: Education

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Why Commission a Sculpture Trail: Tourist Attraction

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

Review of the decade 2014 Mungo Park

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

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

wooden carved dragon with outstretched wings by simon o rourke.

The Dragon of Bethesda became an accidental tourist attraction!

Why Commission a Sculpture Trail: Covid Safe!

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

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

One of the apples Simon created for the Erddig Apple Trail

 

Why Commission a Sculpture Trail: Double the Fundraising!

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

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

Queen of Hearts from Simons Alice in Wonderland trail

 

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

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

Fforest Fawr Sculpture Trail Lynx by Simon O'Rourke

Fforest Fawr Sculpture Trail Lynx

Choosing a Theme for Your Sculpture Trail

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

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

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

monk by simon o rourke

One of the monks of Monksbridge

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

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

Basically, the only limit is your imagination!

10' wooden fairy sculpture by simon o rourke

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

Commission Your Sculpture Trail

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

 

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

Fan Art Series: Movie Based Sculptures

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

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

Movie Based Sculptures: Ent from Lord of the Rings

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

Movie Based Sculptures: Radagast the Brown

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

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

 

Movie Based Sculptures: Groot

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

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

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

giant groot marionette tree carved sculpture by simon o'rourke

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

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

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

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

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

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

Movie Based Sculptures: Spiderman

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

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

Movie Based Sculptures: Batman

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

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

Movie based sculptures: Batman by Simon O'Rourke

 

Movie Based Sculptures: Marilyn Monroe & More Comic Book Heroes

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

Marilyn Monroe illustration wall hanging by simon o'rourke

superhero wooden wall hanging illustrations by simon o'rourke

Commissioning Your Own Movie Based Sculpture

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

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

TV Themed Sculptures

TV Themed Sculptures 800 800 Simon O'Rourke

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

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

TV Themed Sculptures: Wallace and Gromit

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

TV Themed Sculptures: Sherlock Holmes

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

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

 

TV Themed Sculptures: Saturday Night Stars

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

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

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

Live Carving

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

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

TV Themed Sculptures: Countryfile

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

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

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

Photo from The Oxford Mail

TV Themed Sculptures: Game of Thrones

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

What Would You Commission?

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

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

TV presneter George Clarkes standing in from of a small stone building with a wall mounted fire breathing dragon made from redwood by Simon O'Rourke

A Fire Breathing Dragon

A Fire Breathing Dragon 768 1033 Simon O'Rourke

This week Simon was featured on the series opener of Amazing Spaces. It was a great episode, featuring some spectacular architecture and engineering. Simon’s contribution? A 7ft fire breathing dragon!

The Clients

Local couple Guy and Tracey commissioned the fire breathing dragon. They were renovating a former bakehouse, and it was to be the finishing touch. When they approached Simon, he knew he couldn’t say no. He always loves a challenge, so a wall-mounted, fire breathing dragon was a project he couldn’t turn down!

TV presenter George Clarkes standing in from of a small stone building with a wall mounted fire breathing dragon made from redwood by Simon O'Rourke

George Clarke with the fire breathing dragon

The Building

The building itself is incredible. When Guy and Tracey bought their property, it came with a small stone building, which was a former bakehouse. Although it only measures around 3m x 2.5m, they had the idea to turn it into a little crash pad/den. A mini-house!
Space was obviously going to be an issue. Guy is a gifted engineer though and came up with an ingenious fix. In his own words:

“Your bathroom only needs to be big when you’re in it, so I figured you could have the whole bathroom wall moved across and stuck on the wall, and when you need it, pull it towards you to create the bathroom”

That’s right! Guy created a disappearing bathroom to maximise the space! George Clarke was so impressed, the property now ranks in his top three builds!

A Dream Holiday Home

Now finished, the property is a beautiful little getaway, ideal for a couple. Once lockdown is over, it will be available to rent via www.thedragontower.co.uk. If you are impressed with the creativity and engineering, you can also follow them on Twitter where they share more about the process.

fire breathing dragin made from redwood by simon o'rourke mounted on a small stone two storey building

The Story of Maggon the Dragon

The idea for Maggon the Fire Breathing Dragon came from Tracey. The fairytale look of the bakehouse captivated her, and she made a joke about needing a dragon to protect them. Tracey is also a big fan of children’s literature and illustration and had always wanted a piece of fantasy art. And so from there, the dragon commission was born! They also had the idea that he could breathe fire when the doorbell rang. Such a fun, and creative finishing touch to a creative and ingenious renovation!

Initially, they planned on making the dragon themselves. But then, they met Simon. His portfolio includes many incredible dragons, including the well-know Dragon of Bethesda. His background as an illustrator also tied in with Tracey’s love of children’s illustration. So all in all, he was the perfect fit for this commission.

redwood fire breathing dragon mounted on a small stone bake house in north wales

Making Maggon the Fire Breathing Dragon

Maggon is 7ft and made from a fallen redwood tree. The warm red colour is perfect for this property in North Wales, as it reflects the red dragon on our flag.
Nerd alert! In dry climates, redwood actually becomes a lighter-silvery tan shade if left to weather naturally. These clients needn’t worry though. In damp climates, redwood darkens, so the North Welsh weather will mean that lovely red colouring is retained for years to come.

Engineering Challenges!

The most obvious challenge for this commission was how to make it breathe fire! In this case, Guy had a plan, and Simon’s role was to create a cavity within the sculpture for the propane pipe. If you saw the episode you will have heard Tracey joking about the dragon breathing fire when the doorbell rings. So, for the curious among you.. yes, it is really connected to the doorbell! However, Guy and Tracey wanted to make the fire breathing dragon as environmentally friendly as possible. For this reason, they limit his ‘bursts’ using their own control box – which also helps limit accident potential! Health and Safety matters!

Another problem for Simon to think through was the installation. The dragon not only needed to breathe fire but was going to be mounted on the wall of the house – as if it was climbing towards the window. This meant keeping strictly within certain specifications so it would fit the space. It also meant Simon needed to create the dragon in sections so it would be easier to mount on the wall. Being able to visualise this and take account of it in the design is an essential aspect of larger projects.

More About Making a Fire Breathing Dragon

Simon used a few different Stihl chainsaws with various bars to create the main shape of the dragon. He also used these to begin to add a few cuts that give depth, and some of the more general shape and texture. No dragon is complete without scales though! Simon created the scales with the Manpa Tools Multicutter with a round cutter attachment. The friendly grin (we didn’t want Maggon scaring off guests!) and other facial details were created using Saburrtooth burrs.  The flame-shaped burr is an especially useful tool for these projects. You can see a bit of a ‘before and after’ in this photo, Tracey and Guy took in the workshop. Simon has created the main shape and some details with the chain saw, and begun to add the scales with the multi cutter around the dragon’s hind legs.

close up of a dragon tail made out of redwood

Although it took several days to create Maggon, you can watch the process in under a minute! What are your guesses for who the sculpture in the background will be?

Being on Amazing Spaces

As an artist, it is always an honour to have a piece featured on television. The focus of the show was the build itself, but Simon did also get to meet George Clarke on unveiling day, and enjoyed a good chat! He also loved seeing the build too:
It’s incredible what they’ve managed to do with such a small space! It was great to be involved and to add to a project like that.

chainsaw artist simon o'rourke with TV presente George Clarke. They are pictured in front of The Dragon Tower, a stone bake house converted to a guest house in NOrth Wales. Simon is holding a Stihl chainsaw

Simon with George Clarke and a trusty Stihl chainsaw!

What’s Your Fire Breathing Dragon?

Thank you to those who took the time to comment on social media. It is always lovely to hear from you, and we’re touched by all the great feedback.

If you have a rental property, a novelty piece of art is a GREAT way to make it stand out, and to attract attention – and gain business! If you have an idea for your home or rental property, why not have a chat with Simon? Contact us using the form on www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/ and someone will be in touch!

Thank you for reading our blog! Don’t forget to subscribe to make sure you don’t miss any of our posts.

Perfect Portrait for You: Part Two

Perfect Portrait for You: Part Two 720 960 Simon O'Rourke

If you regularly read our blog, you’ll know that last week we began writing about the perfect portrait scultpure for you. We feel people sometimes shy away from commissioning a portrait. That can be for lots of different reasons. However, we also know that portraiture is extremely varied. Simon is also able to sculpt in many different styles and scales. This means there is ALWAYS a perfect portrait for you!

Last week we looked at some of Simon’s classic full length sculptures, and a classic bust. There is no doubt that every time Simon creates a new full full size portrait, it has impact. However, they may not be the perfect portrait for YOU. Space, budget, style preferences and more mean the perfect portrait for you might be something a little different….

Chainsaw carving artist Simon O'Rourke standing with his life size sculptures of soccer players kenny dalglish and Bill Shankley

 

The Bobble Head!

If a classic sculpture isn’t quite your thing, and you want something more ‘relaxed’, what about a bobble head?

Typically bobble heads are a figurine with a disproportionately large head mounted on a spring. This allows it to bob up and down – hence the name! They are often made as a caricature of a famous person. You can find out more in this article about the history of the bobble head as a portrait.


The perfect portrait for you, your space and your preferences might be something fun like this bobblehead sculpture of Gary Barlow. In the photo simon o'rourke is pictured with three shots of a full size sculpture of gary barlow with a disproportionately large head!

A bobble head portrait can be created in any size to suit your space. Simon can create a flattering representation, or more of a caricature or the person. They definitely bring some fun to the idea of a portrait! If a bobbing head causes you concern, don’t worry. Simon can still carve in this style with a fixed head that stays firmly in place!

perfect portrait for you might be a bobble head like this life size carving of chainsaw artist steve backus depicted with an oversized head and carrying chainsaw carving equipment

A bobble head of fellow chainsaw artist Steve Backus

The Collage/Group Portrait

Maybe you’re looking for something unique instead of a family photo. Or something to commemorate a team. n which case, the perfect portrait for you may be some kind of collage.

A collage can be created in an endless number of ways, depending on the number of subjects and how you want to pose them. Again, they are something a little different to a classic portrait. The presenters from BBC’s Country File certainly loved the sculptures Simon created for them a few years ago!

 

a perfect portrait for you and your family might be a collage. this photo is of a sculpture of multiple faces in one piece of wood.

Stylised/Modern

Are you more of a modernist when it comes to sculpture? Perhaps something more stylised would suit you. These faces were exhibition pieces Simon created at a couple of different events in 2019. You can read about their story in our Face to Face blog.
Even though they appear simple, in-person, they are incredibly striking!
Although these are not direct likenesses, they are great examples of Simon’s versatility as a portrait artist.

The ‘Cheeky Nod’

The perfect portrait for you may not actually be an actual portrait! Rather, it may be that you incorporate the features or likeness of someone into something else. Kind of a cheeky nod to the person rather than a formal depiction.

One example of that is Simon’s dragon for St George’s hospital garden. Mark Owen (former Take that singer) was the special guest who would be opening the garden. So, when Simon carved the dragon, he chose to use Mark Owen’s features in the dragon. It’s subtle, but there is definitely a fun likeness!

When might this ‘cheeky nod’ be appropriate? Maybe your club or society is commisioning  a sculpture to commemorate an event or occasion. The sculpture itself can’t be of the individual, but using the features of a specific key person on a character or object can be a fun way of acknowledging them and their involvement.

Singer Mark Owen photographed next to chainsaw carver simon o'rourke

A chainsaw carved dragon by simon o'rourke in cartoon style. The dragon's face has been carved to incorporate the features of singer Mark Owen so it bears a resemblance to him

If that’s a bit TOO subtle for you, what about using the faces of specific people on other objects? More of a ‘hybrid’ or combination than just a ‘cheeky nod’ to the person.

One client did just that. She wanted traditional ornaments for her garden, like pixies, fairies and gnomes. However, as a loving grandmother, she also wanted to depict her grandchildren. That led to the unique commission below. Simon carved these cute miniature pixies appropriately sized for her garden. Rather than imagining a character and featurs for each though, the face of each sculpture was one of the client’s granchildren!

Three traditional pixies carved in miniature on a small tree stump.

The Wall Hanging

Finally, maybe space doesn’t allow for you to have a 3D sculpture. Maybe it just isn’t your thing. In which case, these illustrated wall hangings could be the perfect portrait commission for you.

If you have read his biography, you’ll know Simon trained in illustration. He initially had aspirations to be an illustrate children’s books, and stumbled into tree carving! An alternative to a sculpture is a portrait in wood. Like all Simon’s portraits (except a bust!), wall hangings can be for individiual or group portraits. They can be created in a wood to suit your room, and make a great gift or commemorative piece.

prefect portrait for you series featuring a pyrography portrait of marilyn monroe by simon o'rourke

 

The faces of the four beatles created by simon o'rourke through burning and etching a wood panel

We hope you have enjoyed exploring some of Simon’s portrait work. We also hope you feel inspired, and know that there really is a perfect portrait for you, no matter your preference, budget, space, or occasion!

If you would like to explore commissioning a portrait, contact Simon at http://www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/

We’d love to hear from you!

The Perfect Portrait Sculpture for You: Part One

The Perfect Portrait Sculpture for You: Part One 960 960 Simon O'Rourke

There’s an app for that!
We often hear that when we need a digital solution. But did you know, when it comes to portraits, Simon’s ‘got a carve for that!’
It’s true!  Portraiture has changed a lot over the centuries, and there are lots of different ways to capture and represent a person. Whatever your preferences  or the occasion, we’re pretty sure there’s a perfect portrait sculpture for you!

 

Review of the decade 2014 Mungo Park

Portrait of explorer Mungo Park

When Portraits Go Wrong!

The idea of having a portrait done can be daunting though.
Let’s face it, there are enough comedic moments on TV shows and movies based on unveiling a portrait that horrifies the subject!
Most often, that horror seems to be because the portrait looks like a child’s drawing, or Picasso on steroids! Remember Martin’s portrait of Jackie in Friday Night Dinner?!
Before we look at some of the different portraits Simon has created, let’s look at why people sometimes don’t consider a sculpture portrait.

Actress Tamsin Greig in character as Jackie from Friday Night Dinner, standing next to the comedic portrait her onscreen husband painted.

Tapping Into Insecurities

Other times the onscreen comedy (or real life fear) is the possibility of seeing something that picks out or exaggerates features we don’t like. Like the time  James Cordon pranked David Beckham with a sculpture of himself! This fear is usually unfounded though. Portraits have almost always been flattering, and Simon’s goal is ALWAYS to create something beautiful. Not just that, but a portrait that goes beyond physical features and captures character and countenance.

David Beckham and the sculpture James Cordon used as a prank

And speaking of soccer-related sculptures, thankfully Simon’s Queen of the South footballer portraits are a MUCH better likeness than James Cordon’s David Beckham!

Simon’s Billy Houliston side by side with one of the pictures Simon used for reference

Sometimes our discomfort with the idea of a portrait isn’t so much that it DOESN’T look like us, so much as it might look  bit TOO familiar! There were certainly plenty of laughs when Steve McCroskey was ‘caught’ standing by his portrait in the movie Airplane!

Steve McCroskey by his likeness in Airplane

It was HOW BIG?!

The scale of a portrait is often find it is used for comedy too. Although entertaining, moments like that can genuinely put us off commissioning a portrait! Who else watched the Gilmore Girls scene where Loralei sees a stern Richard looming over the family home for the first time? And who else watched it and, putting themselves in that position, secretly hoped nobody ever did that to them?!

Loralei sees Richard’s portrait for the first time

Moving Beyond the Fear

All in all, TV and movies have done a great job of convincing us that portraits are associated with words like ‘pretenious’ or just plain awkward. That truly isn’t the realty though, and many people have been moved by a meaningful portrait. They can be a beautiful way to honour and commemorate somebody. Human form sculptures are one of Simon’s favourite things to carve, and his skill and versatility as an artist mean he can produce a wide range of styles and types. In this series we’ll walk through a few Simon has created over the years and explore some forms you may not have considered. We’re sure that whatever your preferences, setting or occasion, one of them is the perfect portrait sculpture for you……

A portrait created as part of Huskycup

The Classic

One of the most common sculpture portraits Simon makes are full length ‘statues’. They are always met with admiration, appreciation and even awe, no matter the subject or setting. No matter how large scale the sculpture portrait, Simon is still all about the details that make the difference between a good sculpture and a stunning piece of art.
The direction of a glance
Some texture to show the age of a face
A hair that doesn’t quite lie flat
The angle of an arm which tells a whole story

All of these and more combine to make sure that each and every full length portrait is a piece of art worthy of the person it honours.

Wooden sculpture portrait of a pilgrim sitting on a bench by simon o'rourke

 

Timbersports Full length Portraits

Simon has a real desire to understand his subject, what they did and who they were, and to bring that out in his sculptures. Look at these portraits of the Stihl Timbersports athletes! Simon created them in 2018 when his home town of Liverpool hosted the tournament. Each sculpture is a to-scale portrait of one of the athletes who took part from around the world.

Perfect sculpture portrait for you series, stihl timbersport athlete sculptures in front of the liver building

So, where and when might you commission a full length portrait sculpture?

They are most popular in public places, where they commemorate a person, event or tie in with a theme. They make a wonderful addition to village greens, halls, stadiums, theatres, and even pubs and restaurants like Mungo Park pictured at the start of the blog. Sometimes they are historic figures, relevant to a place, such as Friedrich Froebel pictured below. Other times they are deeply personal, such as the sculpture he made as a memorial to a young girl who died of leukaemia.

Classic Bust

Not everyone is looking for something so ….. large!
Full length, full size portraits are great in entrances to public buildings, open spaces and large gardens, but not always viable for the average home! If a full length, to-scale portrait is not the perfect sculpture portrait for you, a good alternative might just be a bust….

Perfect sculpture portrait for you example of elvis presley bust by simon o'rourke

These also work brilliantly indoors or out, which opens up your choices of wood too. You can read about why that’s a factor in our blog about Is my tree suitable for carving?
In brief though, indoor sculptures can be made from less durable woods, as they aren’t exposed to the elements.

As a bust can be less visible to the public, it can also be more personal. Private. Reflect aspects of our story or passions we may not want everyone to see. Maybe some ‘fan art’ of a favourite TV show or character, or a famous person we admire. We might want something as a tribute but – not want it on a scale where it has to be in front of our house for everyone to see! A bust in that case makes a wonderful gift or treat to yourself, such as the Ayrton Senna and Sherlock Holmes Simon made.

Perfect portrait sculpture for you series sherlock holmes tree carving bust by simon o'rourke

Ayrton senna chainsaw carving scultped bust by Simon O'Rourke

And Yet More Options!

These are just two options when it comes to finding the perfect sculpture portrait for you. Next week we will explore four other possibilities that you may like to consider for commemorating or honouring someone in your own life.

 

If you would like to talk to Simon about possibilities for a portrait or other commission, visit our contact page to send an inquiry.

Thinking about superheroes: spierman by simon o'rourke

Thinking About Superheroes

Thinking About Superheroes 960 960 Simon O'Rourke

This week we’ve been looking through old photos and videos, and remembering some fun commissions.  There are several comic book characters among Simon’s past pieces, which got us thinking about Superheroes. Come and join us on this walk down memory lane, thinking about superheroes Simon has made before…..

Wooden Batman carving by Simon O'Rourke

Some superheroes like Batman have great physical strength, intellect, wealth, and some awesome technology! This batman sculpture also helped sell a house!

Thinking about superheroes: spierman by simon o'rourke

Other superheroes have incredible agility. And let’s not forget their unfortunate back story (radioactive spider bite anyone?) and profound quotes!

thinking about superheroes: superman wooden illustration by simon o'rourke

When thinking about superheroes, we can also be impressed by their lightning speed. Or their ability to fly. Or,  and the way they somehow still ‘get the girl’ whilst wearing their underwear on the outside!

groot tree carving sculpture by simon o'rourke

Other superheroes warm our hearts with their likeability and loyalty. And sometimes wow us by growing body parts whenever they’re needed!

comic book illustration in wood by simon o'rourke

When we’re thinking about superheroes, they usually defy expectations, and can perform superhuman feats. All whilst looking great in lycra! This one even controls the elements – something I bet we all wish we could do from time to time!

Thinking about superheroes illustrated wooden panel y simon o'rourke

Beyond the Comic Books

It’s fun thinking about those superheroes. It’s also fun to sculpt those superheroes, and we hope you enjoyed this flashback to some of Simon’s work from the past decade. But in thinking about superheroes of comic books and movies, we also can’t help but think about the superheroes all around us at the moment.

We see superhero parents, trying to balance working from home whilst educating their children.

Superhero shop workers and public transport drivers, often working without PPE to ensure we still have what we need.

There are superheroes volunteering with foodbanks, donating money and helping neighbours.

Lockdown can bring out the worst in people, but it can also bring out the best. And we honour all of you every day superheroes today.

BUT as we’re thinking about superheroes, we especially want to take this opportunity to public thank and honour our NHS heroes. We see the numbers, we see the online photos of the damage done wearing PPE all day. We see you carrying on and making sacrifices for the wellbeing of others. And we’re thankful.

Some superheroes wear lycra and a cape. Others wear stethoscopes and facemasks.

So to all our NHS and Healthcare Superheroes out there, we thank you.

Stay safe.

Into the 20’s – A Review of the Decade

Into the 20’s – A Review of the Decade 150 150 Simon O'Rourke

As we start a new decade, we’ve been reflecting on the many changes that have happened personally and professionally over the last ten years. Professionally, it’s been a great decade with some fantastic opportunities and commissions. We’ve also met some amazing people and seen some wonderful places along the way. Before we move forward into the 20’s, we thought we would bring you our ‘review of the decade’. And, as we do, let us wish you a Happy New Year from all at Tree Carving.

Simon O'Rourke Game of Thrones Egg Carrier carving

Simon and Liz O’Rourke wish you a happy new year (and decade) on behalf of the Tree Carving team.

Review of the Decade: 2010

As we looked back, we could definitely see we didn’t use social media as much! And the technology we used definitely didn’t produce the kind of photos and videos we do today! But here is a look back at two competition pieces from that year, both taking second place. Neptune from the English Open Chainsaw competition, and a traditional miner from the Huskycup.
A quick glimpse at Simon’s awards shows that this was a good decade for competition, placing in most things he entered and winning seven awards. However, when it comes to competitions Simon says:
“Competitive sculpture has taught me a lot about completing work to a deadline. I have competed all over the world and although I have placed highly in many events, the most important thing to me is being happy with my own work.”

Neptune by Simon O'Rourke as featured in his review of the decade

Simon O'Rourke second place huskycup 2010

Review of the Decade: 2011

Two of the projects we chose as highlights from 2011 are The Giant Hand of Vrynwy, and the Somerset Tree.

At 50′ tall, it was no wonder the hand caught the attention of the local press, as you can see in the article by The Leader newspaper. Simon’s inspiration for the hand came from the name for the woodland area, which made reference to giants. Creating something on this scale reminded Simon how small we are compared to some of the living organisms on this planet. He described the experience as being very humbling!

Giant hand by Simon O'Rourke

The next project although tall still, was a little smaller in scale! Simon was commissioned by the Museum of Somerset to create this stunning tree for their new museum. Sourced from local wood, it stands proudly in the museum where it tells some of the area’s 400 million year history.

Tree of Somerset by Simon O'Rourke

Review of the decade: Tree of Somerset by Simon O'Rourke

Review of the Decade: 2012

Another Huskycup entry! This time, the sculpture of “Christian and Mary”. Simon worked on this piece as part of ‘Team Europe’ with Tommy Craggs and Michael Tamoszus. They placed fourth overall, with some tough competition from a great bunch of talented artists. As we had a quick glimpse back at the Facebook album of the event it was lovely to be reminded of the support, encouragement and lovely comments.

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

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

fourth place Huskycup 2012 by O'Rourke, Cloggs and Tamoszus

Review of the Decade: 2013

For our 2013 highlight, we chose something a little different. During that year Simon created this incredible Alice in Wonderland booth for Steak of the Art in Bristol. Their vision is for the restaurant to be an ever-changing art gallery that compliments their delicious menu. As you can see from the photos in the case study Simon wrote, his booth more than fits their vision. Every single character is its own work of art, and with so much to see, although the piece doesn’t change, there is something new to notice each time you sit within it. Here we get a reflection of the changing technology too, with this timelapse video of its making!

Alice in Wonderland booth at Steak of the Art by Simon O'Rourke (a review of the decade)

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

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

Review of the Decade: 2014

2014 saw us receive a lot of publicity for two ‘guardians’.

The first was created for the ‘Pawtraits‘ series by Maria Slough, and was actually named ‘The Guardian‘. The series featured people photographed alongside animals that had impacted their lives, and Simon was brought in to create a piece to be used for the portrait of Virginia McKenna. Understandably, the actress wasn’t too keen on reclining on a real lion – hence Simon stepping in with The Guardian! As McKenna was so impressed with his work, Simon was later commissioned to sculpt a lion cub for the Born Free Foundation charity auction, a charity McKenna established. As well as the photos below, you can click HERE to see a timelapse of The Guardian being made.

 

The Guardian by Simon O'Rourke

Maria Slough Pawtrait Virginia McKenna featuring lion by Simon O'Rourke

Photograph copyright of Maria Slough from the Pawtraits Series

The other ‘guardian’ created by Simon that year is just as iconic. Phil and Leah from Wahoo Group wanted to harness the power of social media and do something novel to help sell their home. Thinking completely outside of the box (no baked cookies here!) they commissioned a sculpture of…..Batman!

The caped crusader sat on top of their home where it gained attention from both local and global news outlets, and helped the couple find tenants for their property.

Wooden Batman carving by Simon O'Rourke

Wooden Batman carving by Simon O'Rourke

Batman by Simon O'Rourke and St Giles Church Wrexham

As one of Simon’s strengths is Human Form, we also couldn’t resist throwing in this sculpture of Scottish explorer, Mungo Park. He was commissioned for a pub in the explorer’s hometown of Peebles, and sits on this bench for passers by to enjoy.

Review of the decade 2014 Mungo Park

 

 

Review of the decade 2014 Mungo Park

Review of the Decade: 2015

2015 was the year when Simon won the English Open Chainsaw Competition with Hemlock the Dragon.

Since then Hemlock has made countless appearances around the country, including at a wedding! Hemlock has recently had some repair work on the wings, and is ready to meet the public again. If you are interested in hiring Hemlock for your event, just email us on [email protected]

Hemlock the Dragon English Open Chainsaw Competition 2015 by Simon O'Rourke

Review of the Decade: 2016

2016’s highlight is another Huskycup Flashback: Viking Raid.

As well as the Viking Raid Case Study Simon wrote, we also have a blog about Viking Raid for those who want to know more. As we mentioned in our Huskycup 2019 blog, 2016 was actually the last year Huskycup was a competition. It meant Simon was the last ever Huskycup champion, as Viking Raid took first place. What a way to end the competition for him! Although it is no longer a competition, Simon continues to participate, and it is something of a highlight each year.

In 2016 Simon also became an affiliate of Olfi. We love their action cameras, and how they’ve transformed what we’re able to share with you through timelapse videos. Find out more in our Olfi blog!

Viking Raid at Huskycup 2016 by Simon o'Rourke

 

 

Viking Raid at Huskycup 2016 by Simon o'Rourke

 

Review of the Decade: 2017

2017’s highlight is from Liverpool. Simon created a tribute to The Beatles by carving life size figures of the Fab Four live along the dockside over a weekend. You can read more about the event in our Global Beatles Day Blog, and keep scrolling to enjoy our flashback photos and video.

2017 was also the year Simon began being sponsored by Stihl. Not only do they manufacture quality equipment, but it was something of a ‘full circle’ for Si, as his very first chainsaw experience was using Stihl equipment.

 

Beatles at the Liverpool dockside by Simon O'Rourke

 

Nearly done!!

Posted by Simon O'Rourke – Tree Carving on Monday, 28 August 2017

 Review of the Decade: 2018

As Simon says in his case study about the Spirit of Ecstasy, this was one of his most challenging sculptures to date.
You may remember from our Spirit of Ecstasy blog, that Simon recreated the Rolls Royce icon for an enthusiast to give new life and purpose to a beautiful oak tree which had died. Despite the challenges, the finished piece was faithful to the Rolls Royce concept, graceful and simply stunning. We hope you enjoy the finished result as much as we (and most importantly, the client!) did.

Spirit of Ecstasy by Simon O'Rourke

 

 

Review of the Decade: 2019

In our new year blog at the start of last year, we told you 2019 would be our ‘year of the dragon’. We weren’t wrong! Over the year Simon created seven new dragon-related carvings, including an ice dragon in our local town.
It all started off with The Dragon of Bethesda. It sits in an arboretum in North Wales after the landowner commissioned Simon to create something spectacular from a fallen tree. Y Ddraig Derw was featured in national media, and we are still overwhelmed by the encouraging response from so many people to the piece.

Dragon of Bethesda by Simon O'Rourke

 

Our other dragon highlight from the year, is this stunning casket created for HBO’s Game of Thrones.

Game of Thrones egg props Simon O'Rourke

Simon was commissioned by HBO as part of a wider project where artists re-imagined original props from the show. He received these beautiful dragon eggs, and created the casket for them to sit in. You can remind yourself of the whole project and process in our Game of Thrones blog.

Again, we were amazed, thankful and VERY encouraged by all the positive comments we received.

This is also the year Simon became an affiliate for ManpaTools. Their angle grinders especially have taken some of his texture and detail to a whole new level.

Simon O'Rourke casket Game of Thrones Season Eight

Moving into 2020, Simon has also become an affiliate for Saburrtooth. With quality tools and equipment from Stihl, Manpa and Saburr, Simon’s talent and creativity, and the continued support of all our amazing clients and co-workers, we look forward to what the next decade – the roaring 20’s – will hold.

We hope you enjoyed our Review of the Decade. We definitely loved seeing some of these pieces afresh as we looked back.
As always, if you have a project in mind, email us on [email protected]

The Case of the Sherlock Holmes Bust

The Case of the Sherlock Holmes Bust 150 150 Simon O'Rourke

Sherlock Holmes. He may not have been the first recorded fictional detective, but Guinness World Records lists him as the most portrayed. Ever since his first appearance in 1887, we’ve seen him in books, comics, movies, TV series, art work and more. In fact, he’s been played by over 75 actors! Now, in 2019, we bring you: Simon O’Rourke’s tree carving ‘Sherlock Holmes Bust’.

Sherlock Holmes bust by Simon O'Rourke

The Timber

The Sherlock Holmes bust was for a private client who commissioned it as a gift. He’s made from oak which means that although he is pale at the moment and has some yellow tones, in time he will get darker. The rings and markings will become black as it makes contact with rain, and the UV rays of the sun will cause the wood to pick up greyish hues. In combination with the natural darkening, it means that as he ages, the wood will become more reminiscent of the furniture and drawing room decor of the Sherlock’s own era.

Sherlock Holmes bust by Simon O'Rourke

It’s all in the Details!

Fans of the detective will have noticed a few interesting details on the Sherlock Holmes bust that refer to Conan Doyle’s original short stories, and four novels.
Incidentally, as well using his trusted Stihl and Manpa tools for this project, Simon also used the Saburrtooth burr bits on the die grinder and some of their small rotary tools to achieve the details and texture. But back to the details! Simon included nine ‘clues’ or references to the Sherlock Holmes stories on the bust. Can you spot them all? See how many you can find before we reveal all later!

Sherlock Holmes Sculpture by Simon O'Rourke

The Inspiration

One of the problems when creating a sculpture of a character from a book, is that there isn’t a definitive image to work from as there would be a historic figure. This is only heightened when he has been represented by so many different people on screen too! As the client is a fan of the fiction and not just a particular on-screen representation of Sherlock, Simon chose the Sidney Paget illustrations as his inspiration.

Paget illustrated the original Conan Doyle stories for The Strand magazine. With over 350 illustrations created by Paget, there was no shortage of imagery to work from! Simon not only used the facial features of the Paget artwork as the basis for his carving, but was also attentive to the original stories as he added details to the bust. One of the most obvious of these is the shape of the pipe. Although we have come to associate Sherlock Holmes with a large, curved meerschaum pipe, there is actually no reference to this in the original stories. By choosing something simpler and less iconic, Simon has ensured the bust is faithful to the original illustrations rather than the images that evolved over time.

Sherlock Holmes by Simon O'Rourke

The Big Reveal!

All good detective stories end with a ‘big reveal’. Thankfully, when this sculpture was revealed to the birthday person, it was received better than the surprise the characters often get in crime fiction! We are glad to say that the client told us Sherlock arrived this afternoon and is now in its final location. We’re absolutely delighted – it is stunning!”

And now, for our other ‘big reveal’: The clues within the Sherlock Holmes Bust……

Snake and Baker Street Detail from Sherlock Holmes Sculpture by Simon O'Rourke

 

The Hidden Clues

As you look at the various views of Sherlock, you should hopefully find the following ten references to stories:

1. Stiletto dagger he used to pin correspondence to the mantle piece
2. Pince nez glasses – The Golden Pince-nez
3. Honeycomb – His Last Bow
4. Broken crown – Musgrave ritual
5. Persian slipper he used for storing tobacco

Sherlock Holmes tree carving statue by Simon O'Rourke

6. Handgun
7. 221b plaque
8. Snake – The Speckled Band
9. Violin
10. Stick Men – The Adventure of the Dancing Men

Oak Sherlock Holmes Bust by Simon O'Rourke

We loved this commission, because as well as being an opportunity for Simon to show his talent for human form, it was such a unique gift to create. If you need a beautiful, unique and sustainable gift for somebody, contact us on [email protected] to talk about the details.

Downton Revisited: The Highclere Castle Airman

Downton Revisited: The Highclere Castle Airman 150 150 Simon O'Rourke
The Visit

No, our blog title doesn’t refer to the movie released this weekend. We mean the real life setting for the series and movie: Highclere Castle. The castle is part of Lady and Lord Carnavon’s estate and is located in Hampshire, over 200 miles from the fictional setting. But for the fans of the series who enjoy a good tear-jerker, today’s blog about visiting the Highclere Castle Airman is just as good!

You may remember that last year Simon and Dan worked on a memorial for the Highclere Estate. For those who need a refresher, the project was a sculpture of a WWII airman and a series of benches that were unveiled at the Highclere Heroes weekend. They were made as a tribute to the airmen who lost their lives in the eight plane crashes that occurred there during WWII.  The benches even featured actual wreckage from one of the B17s that crashed on the estate. This weekend Simon and Liz had the privilege of visiting to see how the Highclere Castle airman is doing.

Keep reading to find out what that entails for Simon, but also a wonderful ‘plot twist’!

Simon and Liz O'Rourke at Highclere Castle, home of his airman sculpture

Simon and Liz at Highclere

Highclere Castle Airman with the house in the background

The beautiful setting for the airman and benches

The ‘Check Up’

Simon looks out for a few things when checking on a sculpture. One is obviously any damage that needs repairing. Thankfully there is no damage to either the airman or benches. That is, except for the inevitable bird deposits! He also reports that the Sculpture is weathering nicely. It’s already turned a lovely silvery grey colour, which was the intention.
When Simon re-visits a sculpture, he also looks at where the wood has opened up. When he is carving, he has to calculate where cracks will appear as it ages, and take this into account. Using wood in the right way can ensures it doesn’t split across the face or important parts of the sculpture as the wood dries. Again, thankfully all is well!

Highclere Castle Airman by Simon O'Rourke

The airman

Highclere Castle Airman by Simon O'Rourke

Reflecting on the project

The estate is a beautiful place to  enjoy the British countryside, and the Highclere Castle Airman is located in a particularly tranquil spot. As Simon and Liz were able to sit and enjoy both countryside and sculpture, they took some time to reflect on the project.

The O’Rourkes still feel extremely honoured to have been involved in this memorial. They hope that people will be able to enjoy the sculpture and benches in this setting for years to come. They’re also still extremely grateful to Lord and lady Carnarvon for commissioning Simon and Dan, and for their hospitality to them. As at the original unveiling,  it was very moving for them to be in a place so many sacrificed their lives for others, and to be part of a project that makes that history a visible and ‘living memory’ for others.

Simon, Liz and Dan weren’t the only ones moved by this lovely tribute commissioned by Lady Carnarvon. Several news outlets picked up on the sculpture, but also some of the stories behind it. The BBC article focused on the story of Len Nitti; a serviceman who miraculously survived a crash. The Daily Post focused on the project itself, as does the Daily Mail who also reflect on how the commission was an example of life and art imitating each other, and mirrored the final scenes of Downton Abbey.

B17 Benches, part of the Highclere Castle Aiurman memorial by Simon O'Rourke and Dan Barnes

The ‘B17 benches by Dan Barnes featuring shrapnel from crashed planes

The 'B17 benches by Dan Barnes featuring shrapnel from crashed planes. Part of the Highclere Castle Airman memorial

The ‘B17 benches by Dan Barnes featuring shrapnel from crashed planes

And then…..

And now for that beautiful plot twist!

Simon and Liz met with families of the airmen who lost their lives as part of the project – a very meaningful part of the Highclere Castle Airman story for them. So much so in fact, they are still in touch with one of the families today. There was one family that they didn’t get to meet at the time though. The family of William Dutton were the only family who were unable to make the unveiling weekend last year. 2nd Lt Dutton died on May 5th 1945 in the B17 Flying Fortress. In fact, it’s parts from his plane that are in the bench legs!
Life is full of surprises though. Completely unexpectedly,  Simon and Liz got to meet Nancy Dutton Sanders this weekend – William Dutton’s sister!

Simon O'Rourke meets sister of deceased Highclere Castle Airman

Meeting with Nancy Dutton Sanders

It added a poignancy and beauty to the visit. As always, meeting the ‘real life people’ behind the stories, makes all of us feel afresh a thankfulness for those who fought in wars for our freedom. For Simon and Liz, meeting families and seeing how much it means to them to have their loved ones honoured, is also a privilege and a joy, and adds real purpose to a project. How much more fun when it is totally unexpected!

This really ‘made’ the visit. We only hope that people viewing Highclere on the Big Screen this weekend get as much of a happy ending!