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The Giant Hand of Vyrnwy

The Giant Hand of Vyrnwy 1703 2560 Simon O'Rourke

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

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

The Giant Hand of Vrynwy by night

The Giant Hand of Vrynwy: About Vyrnwy

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

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

Simon at work on the hand in 2011

The Giant Hand of Vyrnwy: The Commission

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

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

Simon’s Vision

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

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

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

The Giant Hand of Vyrnwy: Creating the Sculpture

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

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

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

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

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

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

Listen to more from Simon himself here:

Revisiting the Giant Hand of Vyrnwy: Your Thoughts!

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

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

Close up of Simon O'Rourke using the manpatools belt sander to refine the mouth of a water dragon. It is one of his favourite manpatools for creating texture on sculptures.

FAQs: Favourite Manpatools for Creating Texture on Sculptures

FAQs: Favourite Manpatools for Creating Texture on Sculptures 1098 1098 Simon O'Rourke

Welcome back to our FAQs blog series! In part two we look at Simon’s favourite Manpatools for creating texture on sculptures.

Chainsaw artist simon o'rourke is using one of his favourite manpatools for creating texture on sculptures. The round cutter tool is being used to add texture to flames as a phoenix rises from them.

Using the round cutter head to create texture on the phoenix

About Manpatools

Before we go into specific tools, a little bit about Manpatools.
They’ve been around since 1988. This means they have had over 30 years to develop their tools, and to still be in existence, clearly have a strong customer base. This in itself speaks of quality and customer satisfaction. They focus on attachments that work with an angle grinder, and in the UK are available through www.chainsawbars.co.uk. Incidentally, if you want to know more about buying through them, you can read our blog about our collaboration with chainsawbars.co.uk.
In general, Manpatools are a great quality product, with excellent functionality. They are nicely balanced, straightforward to attach, and come with different sizing rings so you can use different angle grinders. As a bonus, they are also neatly packaged, well presented, and come with an easy-to-understand user manual. Basically a winning product all round!

simon o'rourke's Favourite Manpatools for Creating Texture on Sculptures: the multicutter. Photo shows the multicutter with various attachments and accessories spread out alongside a manual.

The manpatools multicutter comes with everything you need to get started.

Favourite Manpatools for Creating Texture on Sculptures: The Belt Sander.

The first of the tools Simon has enjoyed using is the Manpatools belt sander.
As you can see, it is chunkier than some, and Simon reports “it has some beef”. For those who are uncertain, when it comes to power tools, that’s usually a compliment! That said, Simon reports there is minimal vibration when using the sander.

The size means it isn’t great for precision work when it comes to creating textured sculptures, but it’s great for creating contrast in larger areas. For example, creating a smoother appearance on the bones in the wings of this water dragon collaboration with Keiji during the 2019 Huskycup.

simon o'rourke's Favourite Manpatools for Creating Texture on sculptures. Photo shows SImon using a belt sander to create smooth texture on the bones of dragon wings

Simon uses the manpatools belt sander

Favourite Manpatools for Creating Texture on Sculptures: The Rear Handle

Another of Simon’s favourite Manpatools products is the rear handle attachment. This is really great when working on a large scale, or with chunky pieces of timber. It transforms the angle grinder (Simon likes a Milwaukee angle grinder by the way) to a rear handle tool. It’s easy to put together, and holding the tool from further away means less vibration.
Although this may not seem to be a big thing, it’s actually super important for health. Vibration can cause changes in tendons, muscles, bones, and joints, and it can also affect the nervous system. Collectively, these effects are known as Hand-Arm Vibration Syndrome (HAVS), and it isn’t something you want! Minimal vibration helps prevent these problems from developing.

Close up of Simon O'Rourke using the manpatools belt sander to refine the mouth of a water dragon. It is one of his favourite manpatools for creating texture on sculptures.

Simon refines the water dragon mouth with the Manpatools belt sander

Favourite Manpatools for Creating Texture on Sculptures: The Multicutter

The multicutter by Manpatools has become one of Simon’s essential pieces of kit. It is absolutely brilliant for creating texture on sculptures, and extremely versatile because this attachment also comes with a range of attachments!
The basic kit comes with a side handle, wrench, pulley wheel, drive belt, sizing rings, a rounded carbide cutter, cutter housing, and  – of course – the cutter itself. It’s extremely smooth with no wobble and has a massive amount of applications depending on the cutter used.

For those who have time, Simon introduces the tools in much more detail in this 20-minute video, as well as showing how to put them together…

Favourite Manpatools for creating Texture on Sculptures: Shaped Cutters

As we said, one of the things that makes the multicutter so versatile is the various attachments available. It comes with the round cutter, and Simon has also tried the square, triangle, v, hole, crack, and miniature cutters.

The round cutter is a staple and was used to create the scales on Maggon the Fire-Breathing Dragon, featured on George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces. You can actually stay in this building, and see the incredible texture up close for yourself! Visit www.thedragontower.co.uk to find out more.

A close-up of a redwood dragon mounted onto a wall, breathing fire! The close up shows the texture of the scales that artist simon o'rourke created using a manpatools round cutter attached to a milwaukee grinder; one of his favourite tools for creating texture on sculptures.

A close up of Maggon the Dragon shows the texture created with a round cutter.

Focus on: Miniature Cutter & Crack Cutter

It didn’t take long for the miniature cutter to become one of Simon’s favourite attachments. He finds it especially useful for adding subtle texture and movement to a sculpture. For example, folds in clothing and other drapery, such as the clothing on this angel.

Simon tends to use the miniature cutter with very gentle, light movements. In this way, he takes very little off the wood and doesn’t dig very deep. He’s mindful of the direction of the fabric and uses it next to larger folds to create more subtle movement. If he does need to remove larger amounts to show a deep fold, he sometimes turns it on its side and scrapes, leaving a deeper cut and greater shadow. You can see both techniques demonstrated in this video.

angel sculpture by simon o'rourke stands surrounded by greenery. The angel has 'praying hands' and a serene expression.

The Manpatools miniature cutter was used to enhance the drapery in this angel sculpture.

Focus on: Triangle Cutter

The triangle cutter is absolutely amazing for creating fur and hair. It’s a unique tool, and is one of Simon’s top tools. The shape of the cutter allows Simon to create thin, sharp lines, such as the mane of this Sri Lankan lion.

 

A tip for using the triangle cutter in this way is that less is often more – especially in large scale sculptures. Simon will often add texture to very specific parts of the sculpture rather than the whole thing. For example, on the lion below, he added small sections of texture to show the way the fur lies on the chest, which helps add to the shape of the sculpture.

For those with time and an interest in how to use the tools, you can click HERE to watch Simon demonstrate.

close up of a lion cub carved by simon o'rourke. the photo shows the texture of the chest fur, created with on of his favourite manpatools for creating texture on sculptures, the triangle cutter

The fur on the chest of the lion cub was created with the triangle cutter

Other Cutters

Simon has also used the hole cutter for deep holes and some shaping, and the square cutter in a similar way to the triangle. Although they haven’t had their own ‘section’, both are a useful part of his collection and are definitely still some of his favourite Manpatools for creating texture in sculptures.

Close up on a monkey puzzle ent by Simon O'Rourke showing heavily textured trunk created with a manpatools triangle cutter

The texture on this Ent was created with the multicutter tool

Your Own Experience with Manpatools

If you try any of these for your own sculptures, we’d love to see what you create! If you got this link on social media, drop us a photo in the comments.
And if you would like to commission your own sculpture by Simon and watch him in action using some of these tools, use the form on www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/ and Simon will be in touch to discuss details.

Thank you for reading this week’s blog, and we leave you with this video of Simon in action with the Manpatools Multicutter…

tips for carving big cats: a large sculpture of a roaring lion shows the importance of accurate proportions when sculpting.

Tips for Carving Big Cats

Tips for Carving Big Cats 720 960 Simon O'Rourke

As a sculptor, there are certain subjects that Simon is known for, and often asked to create. Fictional characters and dragons are definitely in the top two. Another popular subject for sculptures is the lion. In fact, any big cat!
Over the years Simon has created many sculptures of big cats, including lions, tigers and cheetahs. A couple of those sculptures that people have especially enjoyed include The Guardian and the Sri Lankan Lion. Carving the same subject allows for a lot of learning and refining. Since Simon recently created the lion family photographed below, we thought we would share some of his tips for carving big cats…

Tips for carving big cats by simon o'rourke. Photo shows a lion family Simon created from two separate tree trunks. One shows a male lion twisted to look in the direction of the second trunk which shows a lioness climbing down the trunk to reach a cub.

A lion family diptych Simon created this year

Tips for Carving Big Cats: Research

The starting point for a realistic sculpture of a big cat, is research. The goal of that research is to understand the underlying structure of the animal. That includes the skeleton, how the muscles lie (and where), and how each individual body part is formed. For example, understanding the paws is an area of study in itself. This is important because the proportions of the animal are dictated by its skeleton and muscles. They also dictate what positions the big cat may be in, and the shape we see on the outside.
Other research includes things like texture and direction of the fur and how it contrasts between different parts of the body.
If you are looking for a good basic tutor, Deviant Art has a big cat blog series that is worth checking out.
Once you have a good understanding of anatomy, you can move forward with your sculpture.

tips for carving big cats: a large sculpture of a roaring lion shows the importance of accurate proportions when sculpting.

The skeleton abnd muscle structure determin the proportions and shape of the sculpture.

Tips for Carving Big Cats: Determining a Realistic Pose

Understanding the underlying structure of a big cat allows you to move forward into creating your sculpture. It’s important to consider what your big cat is doing; what’s the story behind the sculpture? Once you have a sense of the story, you can create the basic shape of the animal.
At this point there is sometimes a plot twist or two as Simon discovers cracks or cavities in the wood.
That was the case with the male lion. However, that cavity meant Simon moved the position of the legs slightly, which ultimately created more drama and a sense of story. So don’t worry if you have a surprise or two! With some creative thinking (whilst still considering the basic skeleton and muscle structure) a re-think can actually be a blessing in disguise!

A tree carving by chainsaw artist simon o'rourke. The photo shows a large male lion with his front paws on a pile of rocks. He is twisted to glance over his shoulder. This realistic pose is one of simon's tips for carving big cats.

How realistic that pose will appear is determined not just by the basic shape, but also by emphasis. Simon will often use the tip of a bar to emphasise an indent, curve or a flap of skin. These are the things that help to show which muscles are flexed or relaxed, and where the pose is causing the animal to stretch. They also show the size and shape of the muscles which help to give Simon’s big cat sculptures their sense of strength and power.

a chainsaw carving or a lion in process in a workshop.

This photo of the lion in process shows where Simon is choosing to emphasise specific dips, flaps and twists, such as the flank.

Tips for Carving Big Cats: Keep Looking at Your Reference

Especially with big sculptures, being right on top of the sculpture while you carve can mean you lose a sense of perspective. This means it’s important to keep stepping back and looking at your sculpture. Check the proportions. And always check it against your reference for the animal, whether that’s your rough sketches or a series of animal photos. This principle isn’t unique to big cats. Simon often also talks about the importance of this in carving faces which you can read more about in this blog about the golden ratio.

close up of a lion cub carved into a tree trunk by simon o'rourke

Tips for Carving Big Cats: Adding Texture

Once you are happy with the shape of your sculpture, you can begin to add details and texture. Those details are key in conveying the story of a sculpture. For example, in what direction are the eyes looking? If the mouth is open, is the nose smooth showing a more relaxed animal, or is it wrinkled in a snarl?

At this point, Simon will often use something like the Manpatools multicutter. In this video Simon uses the triangle cutter head effectively to create this striking Sri Lankan lion mane.

At this stage, Simon often also uses his favourite range of Saburrtooth burr bits to create texture. They are especially useful for smaller details like claws, eyes, nose, mouth and ears. However, they can also add subtle rounded shapes like cheeks, or the shape of a paw. They really make a big difference and help take his sculptures to a whole new level!

Tips for carving big cats: SImon O'Rourke uses a saburrtooth flame burr bit to create texture on a lion's face

Tips for Carving Big Cats: Practice Makes Perfect

Simon’s final tip is true of everything. If your first big cats aren’t what you want, don’t give up. Practice is are really the biggest factor in improving your big cat sculptures. It really is true that practice makes perfect!

Friday ramblings about my thought process while carving big cats!!

Posted by Simon O'Rourke – Tree Carving on Friday, 21 August 2020

Your Own Big Cat Sculpture

Do you have a favourite of the big cat sculptures Simon has made? Drop us a comment and let us know!
And if you would like to commission your own big cat sculpture, contact us via the form on www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/
We’re looking forward to hearing from you!

a roraring lion carved by simon o'rourke

 

 

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

Monkey Puzzle Ent Tree Sculpture

Monkey Puzzle Ent Tree Sculpture 1920 2560 Simon O'Rourke

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

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

Um, what’s an Ent Tree Sculpture?!

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

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

So, why an Ent tree sculpture?!

The choice of an Ent has a special story…
The sculpture is in the grounds of Poulton Hall, which is the ancestral home of the Lancelyn Green family. The present incumbent, or squire, is the 32nd lord of the manor of Poulton Lancelyn and Lower Bebington.  His father was Roger Lancelyn Green, the author of many well-known books about Robin Hood, King Arthur, Greek Heroes, Ancient Egypt, Norse Myths, Dragons, and all things imaginative and creative.  As one of the Oxford Inklings, Roger was friends with J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis, who was an occasional visitor to Poulton. The Inklings praised the value of narrative in fiction and encouraged the writing of fantasy. Many aspects of the grounds have been inspired by imaginative literature.

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

The Poulton Hall Gardens

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

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

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

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

The Character of the Ent Tree Sculpture

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

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

The fox at the foot of the Ent

 

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

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

Depicting a Monkey Puzzle Ent

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

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

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

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

 

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

Rearview of the Ent showing the monkey puzzle leaves

A Face That Tells a Story

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

ent sculpture by simon o'rourke at poulton hall

More Details

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

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

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

View of the Ent showing the woodpecker and owl

The Process of Making the Ent Tree Sculpture

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

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

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

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

 

Over to You!

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

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

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

 

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!

 

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

Which is Better: Wood or Bronze Sculpture?

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

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

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

Wood or Bronze Sculpture: Benefits of Bronze.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wood or Bronze Sculpture: The Beauty of Aging Wood

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

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

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

Wood or Bronze: Simon’s Philosophy as an Artist

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

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

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

Bronze or Wood: An Evolving Piece of Art

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

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

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

Bronze or Wood Sculpture: Environmental Benefits

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

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

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

Wood or Bronze Sculpture: A Summary

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

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

We’d love to hear from you!

 

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

Sculptures based on Literature: Fan Art Series

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

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

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

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

William Shakespeare Sculpture

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

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

Sabine Obermaier

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

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

Conan Doyle Bust

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

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

Tolkien Sculpture

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

Radagast the Brown by Simon O'Rourke

Lewis Carroll Sculptures

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

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

Photo credit Paul Worpole

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

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

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

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

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

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

Roald Dahl Booth

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

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

 

Hans Christian Anderson

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

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

Beatrix Potter

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

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

J K Rowling

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

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

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

Who Would You Choose?

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

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

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

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.

Memorial sculpture for Robyn by Simon O'Rourke

A Memorial Sculpture for Robyn

A Memorial Sculpture for Robyn 1824 1368 Simon O'Rourke

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

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

The Commission

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

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

Simon’s original memorial for Robyn

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

 

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

The memorial sculpture for Robyn underway in Simon’s garden

Creating the Memorial Sculpture for Robyn

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

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

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

Working from Home

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

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

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

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

What a scorcher!

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

The Finished Sculpture

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

 

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

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

Testimonial

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

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

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

Photo provided by client and used with permission.

Commissioning Your Own Memorial Sculpture

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

Woodland Sculpture Trail: Pages Wood

Woodland Sculpture Trail: Pages Wood 150 150 Simon O'Rourke

Welcome back to our woodland sculpture trail series!

If you read our blogs about the Pages Wood commission, and the Meadow Park woodland sculpture trail, you will know that sculpture trails are a great way to encourage people to get outside. They also encourage engagement with the environment and its care – something Simon and Liz are both passionate about. At the moment, we obviously can’t get out to enjoy our beautiful woodlands and parks, so we thought we would bring them to you!

Last time we visited the Wirral and Meadow Park. This week we take you to revisit the Pages Wood sculpture trail….

Verity Vole by Simon O'Rourke, part of the Page's Wood sculpture trail

Verity Vole, the second protagonist at the Page’s Wood sculpture trail

About Pages Wood

Pages Wood is the Forestry Commission’s largest site in Thames Chase and home to 100,000 trees. The wood offers 6.5km of walking and cycling paths and 2.2km of bridlepaths. This valley of green space offers excellent views as well as a rich mosaic of habitats for wildlife – all reflected in Simon’s sculptures.

Extensive views, an excellent path network, developing woodlands, and (of course) Simon’s woodland sculpture trail  all make Pages Wood a “must-visit” site – either for some brisk exercise or just simple relaxation.

As with Meadow Park, Simon and Liz wrote a story to engage the viewer. The trail follows the adventures of Horatio Hedgehog and Verity Vole as they meet other animals in the forest.

Verity Vole Woodland Sculpture Trail

This is Verity! She wanders through Pages Wood, and teaches about the friends she meets through verse, and the visual of the sculpture. See how many of the animals you recognise and knew inhabited the south east of England.

Original Woodland sculpture trail concept sketch by simon o'rourke, Verity Vole

Verity Vole by Simon O'Rourke, part of the Page's Wood sculpture trail

Verity Vole, the second protagonist at the Page’s Wood sculpture trail

 

dragonfly bench concept sketch by simon o'rourke for pages wood woodland sculpture trail

 

 

 

 

What do you think? Did Verity teach you anything new? And which was your favourite sculpture from her story?

Horatio Hedgehog Woodland Sculpture Trail

Next we have Horatio! You can scroll through and follow him on his adventure, not only as he meets his woodland friends, but also from his concept sketch to fully installed sculpture!

 

 

 

 

hedgehog and badger tree carving sculpture by simon o'rourke from pages wood woodland sculpture trail

 

 

Horatio Hedgehog meets Squirrel at Page's Wood Sculpture Trail by Simon O'Rourke

 

Horatio Hedgehog meets a fox at Page's Wood. By Simon O'Rourke.

We love that each trail ends with a bench so people can sit and relax and enjoy being in our great British outdoors. It also gives time to ponder on anything they learned it the trail. Our hope is that when Simon makes a woodland sculpture trail, it isn’t just fun to look at, but actually inspires people to action too.

If you are involved in running a local conservation area, and would like to consider adding an educational sculpture trail, why not check out the Meadow Park Case Study on on website for ideas and information?

To talk more about specifics, email Simon on [email protected] Can’t wait to hear from you!