animal sculpture

Wellington Heath Jubilee Sculpture

Wellington Heath Jubilee Sculpture 426 600 Simon O'Rourke

What else could we blog about on this Jubilee weekend, but the Wellington Heath Jubilee sculpture?!
As the BBC reported, the sculpture actually commemorates not just one, but two jubilee celebrations. A doubly suitable subject for this weekend’s blog!

 

wellington heath jubilee sculpture. a tree trunk with wildlife carved into it and a bird of prey carved on top by simon o'rourke. There is a road in the background and a dog to the right

Poppy gives her seal of approval to the Wellington Heath Jubilee Sculpture!

Background to the Wellington Heath Jubilee Sculpture

How exactly does this one sculpture commemorate two royal jubilees?
The oak tree was initially planted in 1897 to celebrate Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee (60 years). Sadly, it died about two years ago. The parish council wanted to turn it into something meaningful rather, and suggested something to mark Queen Elizabeth’s platinum jubilee.The villages jumped at the suggestion, and so the idea was born! When they contacted Simon, the story and history behind it captured his attention – as well as the chance to create a large public piece in a lovely village!

close up of the bird of prey that features at the top of Simon O'Rourke's wellington heath jubilee sculpture, a collage of local wildlife carved into the trunk of a dead oak tree

Details in the Wellington Heath Jubilee Sculpture

The sculpture is one of Simon’s ‘Wildlife Pillars’ that have been proving quite popular recently with followers on social media. In fact, wildlife has been one of his most requested subjects, whether individual animals, pillars like this one, or his trails at Meadow Park, Fforest Fawr, Page’s Wood and Picton. There’s no room for boredom though! Wildlife is an infinitely varied, beautiful theme and Simon loves to explore the textures and shapes that make up the forms of animals.
chainsaw carver simon o'rourke stands to the left of an oak tree trunk and is carving into it with a stihl chainsaw. He wears a powercap ear, airway and eye protection.

Simon O’Rourke at work on the Wellington Heath Jubilee sculpture

For this pillar, Simon’s brief was to include animals from the local area. In particular, the client wanted a large bird of prey at the top, which they decided would be a red kite.

The only anomaly is a small monkey!
The story behind this is that Wellington Heath is (perhaps a little bizarrely!) known locally as monkey island. Once you know that, the monkey makes much more sense!
A close up of a carving in a tree trunk by simon o'rourke. the carving is a small monkey peering over the top of a banner that wraps around the trunk

This monkey detail is a fun nod at the history/former reputation of Wellington Heath

As well as the wildlife, the sculpture features a scroll. As well as giving it a more regal feel, it reads VR 1897 – EIIR 2022, reminding people of the occasion behind the sculpture.

 

two men stand either side of a tree trunk that has been carved into a sculpture featuring wildlife and a scroll. The photo shows the scroll that reads VR 1897 - EIIR 2022

Peter Constantine and David Darwood were both involved in commissioning the jubilee sculpture. The banner gives a regal touch as well as showing what it commemorates. Photo credit: BBC

 

Creating the Wellington Heath Jubilee Sculpture

The Wellington Heath Jubilee sculpture took about five days to create, including assembling and taking down the scaffolding. As is typical of using a natural material, the tree threw Simon some surprises!

There was a surprising patch of rot in the top section which he had to work around. That meant changing the position of the kite, and adding the second wing rather than using two existing branch stubs as planned.
a red kite carved into the top of an old oak tree trunk

The Kite at the top of the Wellington Heath Jubilee sculpture had to be reworked due to rot

There were also pockets of rot in old branch wounds around the tree. Simon was able to hollow those out though to leave nesting spaces for birds and bats in the hope that the local wildlife will still find the tree a useful place!
Finally,  another challenge was the number of nails he hit! Over the years the tree had been used as a local place for nailing notices.  Metal fragments are NOT a chainsaw’s friend, so this meant Simon spent a lot of time sharpening the chainsaws!!!
swallow details in the wellington heath jubilee sculpture

Swallow details in the sculpture

The Finished Piece

The final sculpture stands around 5m tall and is hopefully something people will enjoy for many more years. We’re sure that when it was planted, nobody envisioned that one day it would become this sculpture (after all, chainsaws at the time were very basic and only used for surgery!) but it’s nice to think they would also be proud of it.

 

chainsaw artist simon o'rourke stands next to the finished wellington heath jubilee sculpture. the piece is a variety of local wildlife carved into a 5m tall trunk from a dead oak tree.

Simon with the finished Wellington Heath Jubilee Sculpture.

 

It’s not too late to commission a jubilee sculpture for your own community!

If you’re interested, please contact Simon via www.treecarving.co.uk/contact and we look forward to hearing your ideas!

 

bill badger sculpture and bench in simon o'rourke's workshop

Bill Badger Sculpture and Bench

Bill Badger Sculpture and Bench 450 600 Simon O'Rourke

Did you see our hint on Wednesday about the sculpture for today’s blog? We showed the legs and asked people on social media to guess who/what it was. There were some great answers! Your guesses included Charlie Chaplin, Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, Bilbo Baggins and even Postman Pat! Somebody came close with Rupert Bear, but the correct answer is a Bill Badger sculpture and bench.

 

original sketch by simon o'rourke of rupert bear sitting on a bench

An initial sketch for the Bill Badger sculpture and bench commission

 

Commissioning the Bill Badger Sculpture and Bench

The clients who commissioned this bench are fans of Rupert Bear, a comic book star and franchise that began in the Daily Express in 1920. For those of us who grew up with him, it’s hard to believe he’s over 100! Simon’s clients have a collection of garden figures featuring Rupert and friends, and the only one they didn’t have was Bill Badger.

Last year they found Simon on his website, and subsequently commissioned him to create Mary and Joseph to stand outside their church at Christmas. They were so impressed with his work that they asked him about Bill! Previously, they’d seen another bench on the website with a seated character and liked the idea of combing the bench and sculpture. They talked it through with Simon and he sent a drawing which they said was just what they wanted.

 

bill badger sculpture and bench made of oak by simon o'rourke. Bill sits on one end. The bench is in a workshop and surrounded by sawdust

Creating the Bill Badger Sculpture

Simon created the oak sculpture and bench in his workshop. The bench was a lovely commission for him; fun, and a little bit different to other subjects he’s created. It touches on his background in children’s illustration but was also a favourite growing up. In fact, he has memories of reading the Rupert stories as a child. And even then the illustrations fascinated him. Anything that took him out of the real world and sparked his imagination with adventures was good in his eyes, and The Rupert stories did just that!

oak sculpture of bill badger sits on an oak bench in a workshop

 

More Thoughts on Making Bill Badger

The commission represented a slightly different challenge to his usual sculptures. Unlike many that are all animal or all human, the Nutwood characters have human bodies and proportions with animal heads!

That idea of normal human bodies with animal heads and the style of the characters created by Mary Tourtel always interested Simon. Especially as there were normal humans in the stories too!

Looking back, Simon recognises there are some questionable depictions of people from different countries (which would have been considered normal at the time), and this is something he is sensitive to when he thinks about classic children’s literature, and how he recreates characters or scenes. However, in general, Rupert Bear is a lovely classic, and it was fun to recreate Rupert’s fun-loving, optimistic best friend, Bill.

 

bill badger sculpture and bench in simon o'rourke's workshop

The Client’s Verdict and Final Thoughts

It’s always nice when Simon enjoys a commission or when it presents something new or interesting for him. What matters most though is the client’s opinion!
In this case, they are delighted with the Bill Badger sculpture and bench. When asked to comment, they shared with us that
“The finished bench is just fabulous and has pride of place in our garden and is much admired by our visitors.”

If you would like to commission a sculpture, contact Simon using the form on www.treecarving.co.uk/contact and he will be in touch to talk details!

 

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

Lower Farm Sculpture Trail

Lower Farm Sculpture Trail 551 600 Simon O'Rourke

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

 

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

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

About Lower Farm Holiday Cottages and the Idea for a Trail

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

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

 

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

One of the beautiful bedrooms at Lower Farm

Commissioning the Lower Farm Sculpture Trail

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

Current Progress on the Trail

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

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

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

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

Fudge the Dachshund: protagonist of the Lower Farm Sculpture Trail

Viewing the Lower Farm Sculpture Trail

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

Beyond the Trail

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

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

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

Watch this space for the book release and sale details!

 

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

Fudge meets Sid the Squirrel in Simon’s workshop!

 

Final Thoughts About Sculpture Trails

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

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

Fforest Fawr Trail

Meadow Park Trail

Page’s Wood Trails

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

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

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

Simon o'rourke working on a carved throne with jungle patterns at zandsculpturenfestijn, one of his top chainsaw carving events

Top Chainsaw Carving Events

Top Chainsaw Carving Events 481 600 Simon O'Rourke

When there isn’t a global pandemic, summer is chainsaw carving event season! There are lots of great events around, and lots of reasons to go and visit. In our blog ‘Tips for Getting Started in Chainsaw Carving‘, Simon recommended watching other artists carve as a way of learning and growing in your art. Even if you have no desire to pick up a chainsaw, watching artists at work is inspirational. They can make a fun day out for a family too, as there is usually plenty to see. And so this week, we bring you a selection of some of Simon’s top chainsaw carving events…

 

simon o'rourke stands next to a horse carving holding a chainsaw at the arb show 2019, one of his top chainsaw carving events

Simon with a speed carve at the Arb Show in 2019

No 1: HuskyCup

Huskycup is one of the major events in the chainsaw carving calendar. It takes place in Blockhausen, Germany each year, and features some of the world’s best chainsaw carvers. In the past, it was a competition (Simon won or placed several times – see the HuskyCup through the years blog for his pieces), but now runs as a demonstration event. There’s carving, good food, good community and beautiful German scenery to enjoy. Definitely a ‘must-visit’ for chainsaw carving fans! Visit www.blockhausencup.de to find out more.

 

Water Dragon by Keiji Kidokoro and Simon O'Rourke Huskycup 2019 one of the top chainsaw carving events

Water Dragon by Simon and Keiji Kidokoro at Huskycup 2019

 

No 2: Holz Flori & Friends Chainsaw Carving Weekend

The next of our top chainsaw carving events is also in Germany, this time Großgölitz. Every couple of years German chainsaw carving champion Florian Lindner invites other artists to come to an exhibition event.  The event also features speed carving competitions and an entertainment program with music, as well as some surprises. The last time Simon was there he made this fantastic moon hare conducting a Zodiac orchestra, which you can read about on our Skulptur Rabatz blog. Keep up to date on the latest Holz Flori and Friends plans at www.holz-flori.de.

 

top chainsaw carving events include holz flor and friends. photo shows a scene from that event including a moon hare sculpture by simon o'rourke

Simon’s moon hare created at Skulptur Rabatz Chainsaw Carving weekend, 2019

 

No 3: Zandsculpturenfestijn

The third of Simon’s top chainsaw carving events also features sand sculptures! Every year, the village of Garderen, Netherlands, opens an exhibition of sand sculptures, but also features a chainsaw carving event. Even if you can’t see the live carving, the exhibit is well worth a visit. As well as the art, there are beautiful grounds,  a lovely restaurant, accommodation and shopping. This year the theme is WWII and the exhibit is open until October. Visit www.zandsculpturen.nl for details.

 

Simon o'rourke working on a carved throne with jungle patterns at zandsculpturenfestijn, one of his top chainsaw carving events

Simon at work on the Jungle Throne during Zandsculpturenfestijn 2019

 

No 4: English Open Chainsaw Carving Competition

Simon has been a regular at the English Open Chainsaw Carving competition for many years. It takes place over the August bank holiday, and Simon has not just competed regularly, but also won several times! One of those victories was with Hemlock the Dragon in 2015, photographed below. It takes place during the Cheshire Game and Country Fair, which has LOTS happening, so it’s worth planning on being there for the weekend. Although not uniquely about chainsaws, there’s so much to enjoy, it’s easy to see why we’ve included it in top chainsaw carving events!

This year covid regulations have kept away international competitors, but that’s led to an exciting twist on THIS WEEKEND’S event! Organiser Mark Earp has invited new up and coming British carvers to take part, so you have an opportunity to spot some new talent. Simon may actually collaborate with some of them in future, and recommends watching out for James Elliot and Mike Jones.
Find out more at www.livingheritagecountryshows.com/cheshire-game-country.

P.S. Hemlock is sometimes available for hire as an attraction for events! He needs some TLC at the moment but will be back in action soon.

a couple in wedding attire sit on a chainsaw carved dragon

Hemlock at a wedding in 2018

No 5: Woodfest

The final suggestion for our top chainsaw carving events is Woodfest Country Show. It takes place in Wales and is a 3 day festival of Wood, country and rural activities, crafts and trade stands. Like the English Open, it is much more than chainsaw carving and is definitely family-friendly. Activities and stands range from those with an environmental focus to pole climbing and axe racing, so there’s definitely a lot of variety, all focused around wood. As well as competing, Simon has also exhibited and done demonstrations as an ambassador for Stihl in the past. Fun, educational, inspirational, and all in the beautiful Welsh outdoors.
Keep an eye on www.facebook.com/woodfestcountryshow for news about Woodfest 2022.

 

Tips for chainsaw carving in the sun. Photo shows simon o'rourke wearing protective headgear, carving a female sculpture from wood using a stihl chainsaw.

Simon carving in the sun at Woodfest 2017

 

Visiting Top Chainsaw Carving Events

Although we love chainsaw carving events, it’s worth mentioning that they can be noisy, and hot! So if you’re visiting, make sure you bring a water bottle (or two!) and sunscreen. If you think you might need a break from the noise of dozens of power tools, take something for your ears too! And if Simon is around, definitely come and watch, say hi, and tag him in your photos!

To book Simon for an event or commission a sculpture, contact him via www.treecarving.co.uk/contact.

close up of a pair of robins carved into a cedar bench.

Robin Memorial Bench

Robin Memorial Bench 800 600 Simon O'Rourke

COntacSimon often receives commissions for memorial sculptures. One of his most popular sculptures last year was a beautiful memorial for a young lady named Robyn. Recently he received a commission for another robin-themed memorial, this time a robin memorial bench…

 

a robin memorial bench carved in cedar in front of a brick wall

Robin Memorial Bench: The Brief

Simon’s brief for this commission was to create a bench to commemorate the client’s husband, Robin. Beyond that, it was simply to include a robin, and the name Rob. With such a simple brief, were several directions Simon could go. In chatting more with the client, he discovered she likes natural forms, climbing plants, and organic designs, so he set out to create something that would also reflect this.

 

robin memorial bench carved in cedar by simon o'rourke. it sits in front of a red brick wall on a tarmac surface

Robin Memorial Bench: The Design

Simon created the ends to look like old bricks covered in ivy (scroll through the next section for photo). This is reminiscent of much of the old ruins found in Ty Mawr Country Park, where his client was a ranger. He included a pair of robins together which gave a sense of symmetry. It also creates a feeling of a shared life, and the two still being together.

 

close up of a pair of robins carved into a cedar bench.

 

Robin Memorial Bench: Creating the Bench

Simon made the bench out of cedar, one of the top five woods he recommends for a chainsaw carving sculpture. Although the design itself wasn’t complex, it’s always a challenge creating a bench to sit straight and level. When the back and seat are 3 inches thick it’s difficult to make it sit right, especially when it’s being installed on a slight incline!

Simon used a little bit of water-based spray stain in a natural brown colour, and then flap sanded strategically to give highlights. He then used Osmo UV exterior oil to enhance the lovely natural colour, clarify the grain, and give some weather resistance. Another coat of oil every six months will keep it looking great!

 

close up of the sides of robin memorial bench by simon o'rourke. the sides are created to look like brick with ivy growing up them

 

Robin Memorial Bench: Testimonial

As with any sculpture, the most important thing is how the client feels about the final product. This is especially true when its purpose is commemorating a loved one. And in the case of this bench, Simon made something that the client is delighted with. She shares:

“Simon has created a bench for my garden in memory of my much-loved husband Robin. It reflects the sandstone walls in our garden and the ivy creeping over the walls with two lovely robins on the back. I love it and Robin would have loved it too. Thank you Si”

 

the name 'rob' is carved into the back of a cedar bench featuring two robins on the back. it is part of the robin memorial bench created by chainsaw artist Simon o'rourke

The client asked for Simon to include her husband’s name on the memorial bench

Your Own Memorial Sculpture

Having a beautiful and meaningful visual piece can be an important part of the grieving and healing process. As such, Simon always regards it as a privilege to create a sculpture that helps clients remember their loved ones.  Contact Simon via the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/ to commission a memorial for someone special to you or your community.

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Photo Credit: The Dragon Tower

 

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

Photo Credit: The Dragon Tower

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

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

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

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

 

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

Photo Credit: The Dragon Tower

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

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

 

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

Photo Credit: The Dragon Tower

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

Narnia Beaver Den Sculptures

Narnia Beaver Den Sculptures 150 150 Simon O'Rourke

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

 

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

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

 

About the Narnia Treehouse

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

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

 

narnia treehouse, oxford

The Narnia Treehouse

 

Finding Simon

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

 

narnia beaver den sculptures by simon o'rourke

The Process

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

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

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

The throne Simon created for The Narnia Treehouse

 

An On-site Carve

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

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

 

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

The Finished Narnia Beaver Den Sculptures

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

 

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

Visiting the Narnia Treehouse

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

 

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

 

Commissioning Your Own Sculpture

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

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

Eight Tree Carving Sculptures to See this Bank Holiday Weekend

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

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

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

The Giant Hand of Vrynwy by night by Gareth Williamson

One: Giant Hand of Vyrnwy

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

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

Two: Dragon of Bethesda

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

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

Three: Prestatyn Hillside Shelter Walkers

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

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

Number Four: Maes Y Pant Boy Sculpture

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

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

Number Five: The Shakespeare Seat at Poulton Hall

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

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

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

Number Six: The Highclere Airman

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

Highclere Castle Airman by Simon O'Rourke

Number Seven: Marbury Lady Sculpture

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

Number Eight: Woodland Sculpture Trails

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

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

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

This wolf forms part of the Fforest Fawr trail.

Share Your Experience!

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

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

 

Photo shows an oak bench with a sculpture of shakespear sitting on the far end

How to Raise Funds for a Tree Carving Sculpture

How to Raise Funds for a Tree Carving Sculpture 800 600 Simon O'Rourke

There’s no doubt about it, commissioning a sculpture by Simon can be expensive. As we explained in our blog “Why is Art so Expensive?“, there are lots of costs that go into creating a chainsaw carved sculpture. It’s not just the timber and time! This cost can be off-putting, and ultimately cause people to write off the idea. However, there are lots of ways you can raise the funds, and the cost doesn’t need to be a problem. Read on for some of our ideas about how to raise funds for a tree carving sculpture…

Photo shows an oak bench with a sculpture of shakespear sitting on the far end

A multi-day project like this can be costly, but there are creative ideas for funding your commission

 

How to Raise Funds for a Tree Carving Sculpture: Obtain a Grant

Many people don’t realise grants are available for funding certain sculptures. Where you look for that grant depends on the purpose and subject of your sculpture.
For example, if you are creating a Woodland Sculpture Trail, these are often part of the environmental education goals of an organisation. In this case you could look for grants for learning outside of the classroom, or environmental awareness.

If your sculpture is for creating an outdoor attraction, there are currently grants for business to adapt to covid regulations. Grants from the Arts Council and ArtFund provide funding to help museums, galleries and other visual arts organisations realise adventurous projects.

There are also more general grants you could consider. What about the National Lottery? Or a sculpture-specific grant? For example, The Henry Moore Foundation will sometimes offer funds as part of its mission to support sculpture across historical, modern and contemporary registers.

Although they can be elusive, there are grants to be found, so it’s worth investing time to look.

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

This wolf forms part of the Fforest Fawr trail. There are often grants available to fund outdoor attractions like this, especially if it is part of adapting for covid regulations.

 

How to Raise Funds for a Tree Carving Sculpture: Sponsorship by a Local Company

If your sculpture benefits the community in some way, it may be possible to raise funds by asking a local company to sponsor some – or all! – of the cost. Some companies offer fund-matching which can relieve some pressure. Others will cover the cost completely, especially if they are looking to build their reputation in the area.  An example of this is Simon’s sculpture in Capenhurst. Urenco funded the entire sculpture!
There is one key principle to apply here too… You never know if you don’t ask! Be bold! Write to local companies. Reach out! The worst that can happen is they say no!
And if local companies aren’t an option, what about a national company with a local presence. Tesco Bags of Help scheme allows the community to vote for three projects at a time, so you can get up to £2000 towards the cost of a sculpture that benefits the community in some way.

how to raise funds for your tree carving sculpture: this wildlife scene in capenhurst was funded by urenco. it features various local animals in a 'totem' style and is standing on a green space with houses in the background

This wildlife scene on a village green was funded entirely by a company with a local presence

 

How to Raise Funds for a Tree Carving Sculpture: Crowdfunding

Crowdfunding is a bit of a buzz word, but basically describes asking lots of people for a small amount of money – usually via the internet. It’s important to choose a website that is easy to use and trusted. GoFundMe would be our top recommendation, as it’s well run, easy to use and has a solid reputation. IndieGoGo is lesser-known but also a site that allows for community projects such as a sculpture trail. It also allows you to offer incentives to donors for larger amounts. If you are wondering what those rewards could be, we have an idea! Simon offers a package that gives clients a copy of the original sketches and a DVD of the sculpture being made. Perhaps you could offer a copy of the DVD or sketch to people making large donations?

Crowdfunding in the community has the added benefit that it also gives people more of a sense of ownership or involvement in the project which always beneficial.

how to raise funds for a tree carving sculpture: projects like this which are in public places could be funded through crowd sourcing. Photo shows a giant hand carved into a dead tree trunk. it is surrounded by trees.

Public sculptures like this Giant Hand of Vyrnwy could potentially be funded through crowdfunding.

 

How to Raise Funds for a Tree Carving Sculpture: Fundraising Events

Another idea for raising funds for a community sculpture is holding a fundraising event. We’re all familiar with bake sales, and there’s a reason for that. They’re popular!

Now being honest, you will need to sell a LOT of cakes to raise the money needed for a large scale sculpture or sculpture series! BUT community fundraisers can still be a help. Sponsored events, dances, quiz nights, raffles, competitions, book drives…they are all tried and tested methods.

In this category, we would also count using a website like Bonfire or Teespring to create merchandise that can easily be sold to generate funds. Using sites like these mean you don’t need to be concerned about inventory. You set up your shop, upload your products and they take care of manufacture and shipping. You have no customer service issues and you don’t have to invest money in products you may not sell. One of our team raised £3000 for medical costs incurred in the US using Bonfire, so we know it can work!

how to raise funds for a tree carving sculpture: consider fundraising events or selling merchandise  for a sculpture for a local park. Photo shows a dead yew tree trunk carved into a dragon hatching from its base

Although this was a private commission, transforming a dead tree in a local park into a sculpture like this could be done through fundraising.

 

How to Raise Funds for a Tree Carving Sculpture: Monetise your Tree Carving Sculpture

Our final suggestion for raising funds for a sculpture by Simon O’Rourke, is to monetise the sculpture. That is, use it in some way to generate funds.

We don’t mean to do that all year round necessarily. In the case of something like a woodland sculpture trail, that would take away from its purpose. However, there are ways you could do this occasionally.

  • Perhaps by hosting a special moonlight walk around the trail once or twice a year with an admission fee?
  • What about selling tickets for a ‘sneak peak’ event before the official unveiling?
  • Or if you are having a sculpture created from a standing trunk on site,  IF health and safety allows for it, could you let people watch Simon carve for an hour for a donation?
  • If your sculpture is a character with a name such as Ruby the Owl, Verity the Vole, or Horatio the Hedgehog, could you run a competition to name it, or guess the name?
  • Or if the unveiling involves a celebrity, sell raffle tickets for the opportunity to be part of the ceremony and be photographed with the sculpture and celebrity?

Monetising your sculpture may not initially seem easy, but we’re sure there are ways you could do it occasionally to offset the costs.

Sculpture of a scarecrow made from oak by Simon O'Rourke. He is pointing to the sky and surrounded by bare trees.

Meet Tattybogle the scarecrow! Naming a sculpture is one of the ways to generate smalle rtirckles of money that can help offset costs of your sculpture by Simon.

How to Raise Funds for a Tree Carving Sculpture: Final Thoughts

We hope this has been helpful for you in generating some ideas for funding your tree carving sculpture by Simon. While some of them will by no means cover the cost, we hope they will be a springboard for you for other ideas as well as possibly bringing in small amounts. After all, every little helps!

Simon never wants the cost of a sculpture to be prohibitive either. So when you chat about the costs of a commission, why not ask him for some alternative ideas if the initial suggestion is too costly? Someone from the team can also talk to you about structuring payments.

Contact us using the form on www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/
We’re looking forward to hearing from you!

 

 

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

A Sculpture for All Seasons – Sculptures in the Snow

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

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

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

Photo credit: Mario Hamburg

Sculptures in the Snow: Viking Raid

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

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

Sculptures in the Snow: The Lion Roars

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

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

 

Sculptures in the Snow: The Giant Hand of Vyrnwy

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

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

Photo Credit: Rob Mays

Sculptures in the Snow: Gwyddion the Wizard

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

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

Photo Credit: Mike Norbury

Sculptures in the Snow: Your own Images

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

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