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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.

The Perfect Portrait Sculpture for You: Part One

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

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

 

Review of the decade 2014 Mungo Park

Portrait of explorer Mungo Park

When Portraits Go Wrong!

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

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

Tapping Into Insecurities

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

David Beckham and the sculpture James Cordon used as a prank

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

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

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

Steve McCroskey by his likeness in Airplane

It was HOW BIG?!

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

Loralei sees Richard’s portrait for the first time

Moving Beyond the Fear

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

A portrait created as part of Huskycup

The Classic

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

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

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

 

Timbersports Full length Portraits

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

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

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

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

Classic Bust

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

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

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

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

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

Ayrton senna chainsaw carving scultped bust by Simon O'Rourke

And Yet More Options!

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

 

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

Fforest Fawr Woodland Sculpture Trail

Fforest Fawr Woodland Sculpture Trail 150 150 Simon O'Rourke

We’ve had some beautiful weather this week – perfect for a woodland walk! With Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland still in lockdown though, we know that for many of us, that isn’t an option. And so, once again, we decided to bring the woods to you! This week we visit Tongwynlais, in South Wales, and the Fforest Fawr Woodland Sculpture trail….

Castell Coch viewed through fforest fawr

Castell Coch and Fforest Fawr

About Fforest Fawr Woodland Sculpture Trail

Fforest Fawr is a beautiful woodland close to Castell Coch and a short walk from the centre of Tongwynlais. As well as beautiful woodland, it has trails for cycling and walking and a tea shop that serves delicious Bara Brith.
There was also sculpture trail to attract and encourage visitors. As it was deteriorating, Natural Resources Wales commissioned Simon to create a new trail, which was installed in April 2018. All the sculptures are made from a Giant Redwood which was removed from Oswestry as it was dying, and posing a threat to the public. A perfect repurposing of a stunning resource!

Tree carving chainsaw artist simon o'rourke photographed with the redwood lynx from the fforest fawr woodland sculpture trail he created

Simon photographed with the lynx

Fforest Fawr Woodland Sculpture Trail: The Message

The commission from Natural Resources Wales asked for a trail that was engaging for families with young children. It was to make it have an educational aspect, and to be appealing to a broad range of ages as well. With that in mind, Simon returned to his illustrator roots. He wanted to give it a storybook feel which would encourage people to walk the whole thing, and so a new poem was born.

This is not unusual for Simon, as you will know if you read our blogs about Meadow Park and Page’s Wood.
Usually though, the trails focus on the current inhabitants of that area. However, in the case of the Fforest Fawr woodland sculpture trail, Simon also wanted to draw attention to what we  have lost……

close up of a redwood tree carving of a forest lynx from simon o'rourke's fforest fawr woodland sculpture trail

Close up of the lynx in the fforest fawr woodland sculpture trail

Past meets Present

Simon’s created story in poem form, about the wildlife that not only lives in the forest, but also species that are no longer there. The trail then ends with a call to action, encouraging the viewer to look after the woodland.
The aim of the trail is to make the viewer aware of what was there before, but also to highlight the need to preserve what is there now.

Bilingual Challenges!

The English form of the poem is in rhyming couplets which makes it fun and memorable for younger viewers. Translation always proves a challenge though. The Welsh translation isn’t in poetry form, but still conveys the feel, and – most importantly – the message of the story Simon and Liz wrote. 

Local press articles about the trail show it was very well received. We think you’ll like it too!
The concept sketches with the poem read as a beautiful children’s story book in themselves, so we have included those for you as well. We hope you enjoy them as much as the sculptures!

And so, without further ado, join us on a walk through the Fforest Fawr Woodland Sculpture Trail!

Introductory Sculpture:

In Fforest Fawr, deep, and green,
There’s so much to discover, so much to be seen,
All kinds of creatures, great and small,
And wonderful trees, towering and tall!

Yn nyfnder a gwyrddni Fforest Fawr,
mae cymaint i’w ddarganfod… Cymaint i’w weld:
Pob math o greaduriaid, – mawr a bach,
a choedydd rhyfeddol, – tyrog a thal!

Simple redwood sculpture of trees as part of simon o'rourke's tree carving chainsaw art woodland sculpture trail in fforest fawr

 

A Forest Timeline

On the path we see wonders in the forest today
But there are stories and treasures along the way!
There were creatures living here in the past, you’ll see,
Let’s take a walk, back through history!

Heddiw, ar y llwybr, gwelwn ryfeddodau yn y fforest.
Ond, mae storïau a thrysorau ar hyd y ffordd!
Cewch weld bod creaduriaid yn byw yma yn y gorffennol.
Gadewch inni fynd am dro…yn ôl drwy hanes!

 

timeline from fforest fawr woodland sculpture trail carved from redwood, featuring wolf, lynx and pine marten

 

A Red Squirrel

A long time ago, in the tops of tall trees,
Leaping and climbing on branches and leaves,
A long fuzzy tail, and nimble toes,
It’s a little red squirrel, with a little pink nose!

Amser maith yn ôl, – ar ben prennau uchel,
yn neidio a dringo ar ganghennau a dail,
wele gynffon hir, grychiog, a bysedd traed heini
wiwer goch fechan, – gyda thrwyn bach pinc!

A redwood bench with red squirrel details as part of fforest fawr woodland sculpture trail

 

The Brown Otter

Diving in rivers and hunting for fish,
A long, strong tail that goes swish, swish, swish!
Swimming through reeds, and with barely a splash,
It’s a sleek brown otter, that’s gone in a flash!

Yn plymio mewn afonydd ac yn hela pysgod, –
cynffon gref, hir sy’n siffrwd, siffrwd, siffrwd!
Yn nofio drwy gorsennau, – a phrin dynnu sylw, –
dyfrgi brown llyfn ydyw… ddiflanna mewn fflach!

 

A European Lynx

Crouching in the tall tall grass so green,
Silently stalking its prey, unseen,
The tufts on its ears, and the piercing eyes
It’s a European lynx! With its eyes on the prize!

Yng nghwrcwd yn y glaswellt tal, tal mor wyrdd, –
nas gwelir, – yn dawel ddilyn ei ysglyfaeth,
y cudynnau ar ei glustiau a’r llygaid treiddgar…
wele Lyncs Ewropeaidd, – a’i lygaid ar y wobr!

Fforest Fawr woodland sculpture trail by Simon O'Rourke: european lynx

 

A Red Deer

In the woodland we see a majestic sight,
With smooth red fur and a tail so white.
Velvety antlers that reach for the skies
It’s a stunning red deer, with big brown eyes!

Yn y goedlan, gwelwn olygfa urddasol
gyda ffwr coch llyfn, cynffon mor wen,
a chyrn melfedaidd sy’n cyrraedd i’r awyr…
Carw coch syfrdanol ydyw, – â llygaid mawr brown!

Simon O'Rourkes fforest fawr woodland sculpture trail: A Red Deer. Lifesized, created with chainsaws from redwood

 

The European Wolf

Hunting in packs, on the woodland floors,
Through forest and field, and across the moors,
Grey shaggy fur from its head to its paws,
It’s a European wolf, with strong, strong jaws!

Yn hela mewn cnudoedd ar loriau’r goedlan,
drwy fforest a chae, ac ar draws y rhosydd,
wele ffwr blewog, llwyd o’i ben i’w bawennau, –
blaidd Ewropeaidd, – gyda genau cryf, cryf.

fforest fawr woodland sculpture trail by simon o'rourke: european wolf

 

A Pine Marten

Hiding in old hollow trees, out of sight,
Climbing, and running, and hunting at night,
With soft sleek fur, and sharp little claws,
It’s a pine marten, foraging on the forest floor!

Yn cuddio mewn hen goed gwag, – allan o’r golwg, –
yn dringo a rhedeg ac yn hela’r nos, –
gyda ffwr graenus, llyfn, a chrafangau bach miniog…
wele Fela’r Coed, – yn casglu porthiant ar lawr y fforest!

Fforest Fawr Woodland Sculpture Trail by Simon O'Rourke: Pine Marten

 

Devil’s Coach Horse Beetle

Crawling in leaves, and black as night,
With spindly legs, and jaws that bite.
When it raises its tail, you’d better beware,
Devil’s Coach Horse beetle leaves a stink in the air!

Yn ymlusgo mewn dail, a chyn ddued â’r nos,
Gyda choesau main, a genau sy’n brathu, –
gwell ichi ochel pan gwyd ei chynffon:
Mae Chwilen Gnoi yn gadael drewdod yn yr awyr!

 

Wildlife Still Present in the Forest

These creatures are gone from the forest now
But the ones who live here today can be found!
There’s badgers and dormice and buzzards I’ve heard,
Goshawks, owls, and other woodland birds!

Mae’r creaduriaid hyn wedi mynd o’r fforest ‘nawr,
ond, gellir dod o hyd i’r rhai sy’n byw yma heddiw!
Clywais fod moch daear a llygod daear a boncathod,
gwyddweilch, tylluanod ac adar y goedlan eraill.

 

 

A Final Call to Action

We’ve learned about creatures from times gone by,
And the ones living here, that walk, and that fly.
Fforest Fawr is a beautiful place as we’ve seen,
Help us to keep it tidy and clean!


‘Rydym wedi dysgu am greaduriaid o’r amseroedd a fu
a’r rhai sy’n byw yma, – sy’n cerdded ac sy’n hedfan.
Fel y gwelsom, mae Fforest Fawr yn le hardd.
Rhowch help inni i’w chadw yn daclus a glân!

Mike James, Woodland Manager from Natural Resources Wales said:

“We hope people will enjoy our new sculpture trail and the woodland characters will bring to life the story of the forest, its wildlife, and its history. And with the story comes a strong message – the importance of looking after our environment and our forest so the wildlife which currently live there can continue to thrive for years to come.”

We hope you enjoyed the tour through Fforest Fawr Woodland Sculpture trail, and feel inspired to do your part in ensuring we will still be enjoying the wildlife we see round us for decades to come – and beyond!

chainsaw art/tree carver simon o'rourke photogrpahed with a redwood red deer he carved for fforest fawr woodland sculpture trail

Commissioning a Woodland Sculpture Trail

If you are involved with managing or maintaining and green area, and would like an educational sculpture trail, you can find out more about prices, concept etc by reading our Page’s Wood Case Study.
To chat to Simon about details, email us via https://www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/

We’re looking forward to hearing from you!

 

 

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!

visual guide to determining if the measurements of your tree stump make it suitable for a tree carving sculpture

Is my Tree Suitable for a Tree Carving Sculpture?

Is my Tree Suitable for a Tree Carving Sculpture? 1440 2560 Simon O'Rourke

It’s always a joy as an artist, when somebody admires your work, and wants to commission a piece. Simon is no exception! Many of the inquiries we get relate to storm damaged trees, or trees that have been cut back for various reasons. This is great, as Simon loves to bring life and beauty back to these trees. However, not every tree is suitable for a tree carving sculpture. There are several things Simon has to take into account when somebody approaches him about creating a sculpture from an existing piece of timber on their property. This is our guide to deciding if your tree is suitable for a tree carving sculpture……

Dragon of Bethesda by simon o'rourke

Dragon of Bethesda, one of Simon’s best known sculptures from a storm-damaged tree.

Species of Tree

The first thing to consider when deciding if your tree is suitable for a tree carving sculpture, is species, or type. All timber has different durability. Although it can be treated with preservative, some woods simply won’t last. For example, a Black Locust fence post can last 25-30 years, which is very durable. In contrast, Horse Chestnut will only last 2-3 years.
If you are investing in a piece of art, you want it to last.

Suitable species for an outdoor sculpture include (but not limited to): Black Locust Oak, Walnut, Sweet Chestnut, Elm, Yew, Cedar, Sequoia.

Trees that are not suitable because of durability include: Horse Chestnut, Holly, Sycamore, Spruce, Hornbeam, Lime, Birch and Alder.

Simon O'Rourke creating the Lady of Marbury sculpture

The Marbury Lady was carved into a tree that had died due to saline toxicity.

Size of Stump

Size is hugely important in determining whether or not your stump is suitable for a tree carving sculpture. The smallest it can be is 30cm (approx 12″) diameter or 1000mm (39″) circumference. Anything smaller than this won’t be suitable for Simon to carve.

If you’re unsure about how to measure the circumference, here’s a guide:
Take a tape measure, if you don’t have a tape then a piece of string or rope will do.
Try to clear any ivy away from the tree and pass the tape around the tree.
You may need help if the tree is really big!
You can mark or hold the string or rope where it meets the other end, and then lay it out on the ground to measure it.
To be suitable, this measurement must be 1000mm / 100cm / 39″ or more.
Think about hugging your tree whilst holding string!
visual guide to determining if the measurements of your tree stump make it suitable for a tree carving sculpture

How to measure the circumference of your tree

Other Factors

There are other factors that can make timber unsuitable for carving. Let’s look at some examples.

Example One: Branch Wounds

Our first example is again, related to durability. Branch wounds like this on a tree trunk show that there is internal decay. In turn, this will mean there may be nothing to carve once Simon gets past the out layers of bark! It also means the sculpture won’t be durable. Unfortunately, if your tree stump looks like this, it will not be suitable for a tree carving sculpture.

Example of tree not suitable for a tree carving sculpture

Example Two: The Mystery Tree!

In our second example of an unsuitable tree, there is simply too much ivy to tell what is underneath it! If you have a tree like this, to know the quality and circumference of the timber, you would need to cut back all the extra foliage growing round it, and assess what is underneath.

Example two of a tree not suitable for tree carving sculpture

Example Three: All the Extras!

Our final example shows a tree that initially seems large enough to carve. However, if we look more closely, there is actually not enough wood underneath the layers of dirt and stones. Once all the ‘extras’ are cleaned/stripped away, there is not enough clean wood to be suitable for a tree carving sculpture.


Unsuitable tree for a sculpture

Examples of Timber Suitable for a Tree Carving Sculpture

We’ve looked at what makes a tree unsuitable, but let’s flip it round. What makes a good piece of timber?

We’ve already covered the type of tree and circumference. Let’s look at these examples of trees perfect for a sculpture….

Example of a tree suitable for a tree carving sculpture courtesy of simon o'rourke

This tree has a large chunk of good, solid wood. It is durable, has minimal damage, and no disease. It has the added bonus of an interesting shape too, which is a great start to creating something that looks organic as well as striking.

Example of a tree suitable for a tree carving sculpture courtesy of simon o'rourke

Our second good example also ticks lots of boxes. It’s oak (so durable), and it’s a good, solid chunk of timber of the right size. It also has plenty of SPACE around it. Chain saws are not small tools to work with! To stay safe, as well as being able to use the tools to carve to his best, Simon needs sufficient room around the tree.

As you have seen from The Spirit of Ecstasy , St George and the Dragon, and The Two Towers, the area doesn’t have to be completely clear. However, there does need to be enough room for Simon to safely use a chainsaw, to be able to step back to see his work, and to be able to hold the chainsaw at the optimal angle for carving each shape and detail.

Work in Progress: Spirit of Ecstasy by Simon O'Rourke

The work in progress on The Spirit of Ecstasy allow you to see suitable timber size and access.

What if my Stump isn’t Suitable?

Don’t be disappointed if you have gone through all this and realised your tree isn’t suitable. There may be other options! That was the case with our next example. However, it may be possible for Simon to create a sculpture in another piece of timber, and mount it onto your stump. Our final picture shows the tree stump on the left, and then the finished sculpture mounted onto it on the right. This may be something you would like to consider as an alternative.

Next Steps in Commissioning a Piece

If you know you have a suitable piece of timber, the next step is for you to get in touch. Please contact Simon on [email protected] rather than using social media. This ensures more efficient communication with us!

You should include:

Pictures of the stump from a few different angles
Measurements (circumference or diameter, height)

Some clients have a definite idea in mind. Others start by asking Simon what he can see in the natural shape. Both of these are fine. As you will have read in our blog about St George and the Dragon, deciding on a design is always a process.

St George and the Dragon tree carving sculpture by Simon O'Rourke

Having my Tree Assessed

If your questions about your tree are even a couple of steps back from this. It may be that you have a tree growing too close to your property, or you are uncertain if it can be saved. Maybe you aren’t sure about removal.
Don’t worry, we know a man who can help! In our blog about Treetech, we mentioned Shaine, our man who can! If you need an expert opinion about the best course of action for a tree on your property, we HIGHLY recommend connecting with him via https://www.facebook.com/TreetechNWLtd/

We hope this has been a helpful guide for you in deciding if your tree is suitable for a tree carving sculpture. If you have further questions, that aren’t answered here, again, do contact using the contact form here

We look forward to hearing from you!

Close up of St Georg in the St George and the dragon sculpture by Simon O'Rourke

St George and the Dragon Sculpture

St George and the Dragon Sculpture 720 960 Simon O'Rourke

It’s a day late, but Happy St George’s Day to my English friends!
It’s actually quite the week for important days. The Queen’s birthday, St George’s Day, and the anniversary of both Shakespeare’s birth and death. Definitely lots of choice there for a blog that fits the calendar! We decided to balance out all the dragons on this blog a little though, and share about this St George and the Dragon sculpture. I actually carved the piece earlier this year, so you might have seen the pictures on social media already. Every sculpture has its own story though,  so keep reading to find out about this one…..

St George and the Dragon tree carving sculpture by Simon O'Rourke

The Subject

This St George and the dragon sculpture was a commission from a client in the south of England. She had an oak stump in the garden, and began exploring ideas with Simon as to what it could become.
Commissioning a sculpture is never just one email requesting a particular subject. There is the actual timber itself to consider (is the size, shape etc suitable), client preferences, artist vision and skill, and the overall impact in its environment. Investing in a piece of art isn’t a small decision, especially when it’s a tree stump and physically not so easy to move as selling a small picture!

In this case, of the ideas discussed, St George was most meaningful to the client. St George’s Day is special to her as it is also her birthday! The sculpture will now be part of her annual celebration as, in her own words, she can “raise a glass every year standing by [her] stunning tree carving!”

Original client concept sketch of St George and the Dragon by Simon O'Rourke

Original sketch for the commission overlaying the stump

Finalising the Design
Once a subject is chosen, there is still more discussion between Simon and a client. Simon will share some of his ideas, as well as talking about how to make that happen. He will take into account not only the kind of piece the client wants, but also the timber. Sometimes there may be cracks that need to be taken into account. Other times there may be a beautiful grain pattern. Sometimes knots or the shape of the branches will lend themselves to a particular feature.
Close up of St Georg in the St George and the dragon sculpture by Simon O'Rourke
Refining an Idea
In this case, some of the main conversation points were focused on:
Scale
Given the diameter of the trunk, St George couldn’t be life size. Simon suggested that instead, he could be stood on a precarious pile of rocks, which would give a nice context. Ultimately, St George would need to be no higher than 18″. This ‘miniature’ turned out to be a fun contrast for Simon, as it immediately followed the Marbury Lady!
Story
Those of you familiar with Simon’s work, know he takes his inspiration from artists like Rodin and Bernini. They changed the concept of portrait work from being static, to telling a story. In the same way, Simon’s work always invites the viewer into a narrative. In this case there was a natural story to tell…..the legend of St George and the Dragon.
St George and the Dragon sculpture by Simon O'Rourke
Choosing the Narrative
SPOILER ALERT!
For those who are unfamiliar with the story of St George and the Dragon, basically an English knight tames and slays a dragon. Simon suggested that this sculpture incorporate that story. His suggestions included portraying George in the act of stabbing the dragon with a spear.
Alternatively, he suggested the dragon could be underneath him, or it could be rearing up above him, even adding wings on to give a striking silhouette.
This is where dialogue is important, as although these ideas could look fantastic, they weren’t fully what the client was after. She had concerns stabbing the dragon could look a little macabre (and who wants to celebrate a birthday that way!!), and wanted the emphasis on St George.
With this in mind, Simon decided to include the dragon as part of the story, but to merge it into the trunk. As well as hinting at the legend, this would also have the effect of emphasising the figure of St George. And so, the St George and the Dragon sculpture was decided!
Dragon from Simon O'Rourke's St George and the Dragon sculpture
Creating the St George and the Dragon Sculpture

As you look at the concept sketch next to the finished design, you will notice it wasn’t identical. This is part of the process of working with wood. When Simon saw the stump in person, the design changed due to the centre of the tree being offset. This meant that as it ages, it won’t split as much, as if he had used the original design.

Concept sketch with finished st george and the dragon sculpture

Creating this in the client’s garden involved copious use of the Stihl battery saws. As he was carving, Simon hit a few nails, hence the dark blue staining on the inside of the tree. Luckily he had spare chain with him for the saw he was using for detail. Hitting metal with that delicate chain is usually terminal for the cutters!!

 

St george and the dragon in process

The sculpture as Simon finished with the chainsaws, and was ready to begin with the smaller tools.

Saburrtooth burrs also played a bit part in the detailing. The detail on the face was made using the 3/8″ eye cutter and 1/4″ taper – a couple of staple tools that Simon relies on.

 

Visible detail on St George and the Dragon Sculpture by Simon O Rourke

Visible detail on the rocks and dragon

And that brings to an end our story of the St George and the Dragon sculpture!
We hope you enjoyed hearing a little more about the process behind finalising a design.
If you would like Simon to create something truly unique for your own home, garden or business, contact him on [email protected]
Although at the moment he is unable to carve at the moment, he is still able to sketch ideas and work on initial concepts and quotes, as well as working on his upcoming online art courses.

Next week, as we can’t go outdoors and travel as much, we will be bringing some of the UKs forest trails to you instead!

We leave you with the time lapse of the creation of this stunning St George and the Dragon sculpture.
Stay safe, and stay well.

 

 

 

Angel at the Pool of Bethesda sculpture by Simon O'Rourke at Biddulph Old Hall

Sculpture for Historic Property

Sculpture for Historic Property 420 630 Simon O'Rourke

alsoOne of the things Simon has enjoyed over the years, is creating sculpture for historic property. These projects usually combine Simon’s love of human form with his passion for storytelling. They also add value for the owner in sometimes unexpected ways. Over the years Simon has created many pieces for historic properties, ranging from National Trust homes or places of worship to private home owners. He has also had a season as ‘artist in residence’ at Erddig, a local National Trust property.
This week we share examples from that extensive portfolio, and explore the value of commissioning sculpture for historic property.

Highclere Castle Airman by Simon O'Rourke

The airman at Highclere Castle

Reasons to Commission a Sculpture for Historic Property: Commemoration & Storytelling

There are many reasons to commission a sculpture for your historic property. One of those reasons is to have a commemorative piece, to mark an event or occasion.  The Airman at Highclere Castle (pictured above) is an example of this. He is also an example of another reason for commissioning a sculpture. That is, story telling.  If you ever read our blog about the Highclere Airman, you will know that he tells a part of the story of that property. Although people may be aware of the history of a building, a visual aid telling that story is always powerful. Even traditional school text books become much more interesting with a picture! How much more so when the visual story telling is in 3D?! If your building is open to the public, this enhances their experience, which is always a good thing!

Mungo Park sculpture by Simon O'Rourke

A Tourist Attraction!

Another reason that a sculpture can add value to a historic sculpture, is it can become an attraction in itself. Take Mungo Park for example, photographed above.
This likeness of the Scottish explorer was created in 2014 for a Wetherspoons in Peebles, Park’s home town. It reflects the history of the area, so enhances the experience of the visitor, and helps provide information about the town. It also helps to set that restaurant apart from the others in the area. It’s a focus point for visitors – something unique the other eateries in town don’t have. It’s also fun –  customers also sit alongside Mungo on the bench outside the pub, for a photograph. And we all know the power of a shared photograph on social media!

 

Angel at the Pool of Bethesda sculpture by Simon O'Rourke at Biddulph Old Hall, Sculpture for historic property

Case Study: Angel at the Pool of Bethesda

One of Simon’s favourite sculptures that he has created for a historic property is the Angel at the Pool of Bethesda. She was carved from oak in 2016 as a commission for Biddulph Old Hall.  Although the property has an extensive history dating back to 1480, this commission relates to a 19th Century resident…..

The Story Behind the Sculpture

In 1871, attracted by the romance of the ruins in their moorland setting, artist Robert Bateman took up residence in the hall. He actually painted most of his best works in the Hall between 1871 and 1890. In 1874  he and the love of his life, Caroline Howard, were separated. Then, in 1876, Caroline married the Rev Charles Wilbraham. Bateman was heart broken, and painted The Pool of Bethesda as “an autobiographical cry of anguish”. The commission of the sculpture was to commemorate Robert and Caroline’s memory as part of the house’s story.

To read more about the history of the painting, click here.

Angel at the pool of bethesda by simon o'rourke at biddulph old hall is an example of sculpture for historic property

Creating the Sculpture

The setting with the angel stepping down a few steps towards a pool of water replicates the Bateman painting. The difficulty for Simon centered around the fact that all he had to work from was a flat 2D image. This meant that to begin with, he had to visualize what the painting would look like in 3D. From there, he then had to create what he was imagining. Which, according to owner Nigel Daly,  “he has done magnificently…. The piece fully represents the sense of Caroline stepping down into the water that Bateman created in the original painting.”

 

Testimonies of the Value Added

Obviously art always enhances or ‘adds’ something to a room, or wherever it’s located. However, in a historic property it does more than this. It captures the attention of the viewer. They are drawn in, as it narrates the story of that place. It also helps them envision, imagine and remember.

Nigel Daly is “thrilled” at the impact of the sculpture:
“Visitors never fail to gasp as they are led through a small octagonal tower from the ruins themselves into the small courtyard with the pool in its centre and Caroline at its head. As time has passed she has weathered beautifully to settle into the time-worn surroundings of the Hall.

The work has been much admired, and such is the skill of the work we are saving up for a second sculpture for the centre of the ruins based on Burne-Jones’s ‘Love Leading the Pilgrim’, which we feel is just up Simon’s street!”

Angel at the pool of bethesda by simon o'rourke at biddulph old hall

Your Own Commission

If you would like to enhance story-telling and scene-setting with a unique sculpture for your historic property, contact Simon on [email protected].

Poppy met stihl helmet and ear protection

When Poppy met Stihl!

When Poppy met Stihl! 1536 2048 Simon O'Rourke

We thought this would be a good week for something a little different, and a little fun. Simon has been sponsored by Stihl since 2017. It’s a perfect partnership, and a truly authentic one, as he really does love the quality, and range of products. Whether it’s a chainsaw he needs or protective clothing, Stihl have it covered! In this blog, we’ll share some of their products that are used almost daily – featuring our very own pet (and unofficial Tree Carving mascot), POPPY! Scroll down to see what happened when Poppy met Stihl!

Poppy Stihl with the MS500i

When Poppy Met Stihl: The Stihl MS500i

Obviously chainsaw art can’t happen without good, dependable chainsaws! The Stihl MS500i is a high performance saw that makes easy work of large pieces of timber. It uses innovative technology to achieve rapid acceleration from 0 to 100 km/h in an unbelievable 0.25 seconds! Definitely not for use on your garden hedge!  In fact, Simon describes it as a ‘beast’! With that kind of power, it’s his first choice for the large cuts to block out big sculptures.
With a hint back to our blog about Acton Health and Safety, this saw also features STIHL’s anti-vibration system. This is important for Simon for minimising some of the well-documented health challenges associated with vibrations from power tools.

When Poppy met stihl clothing

When Poppy Met Stihl: Advance X-TREEm Jacket

If a dog’s got to be out working in all conditions, they need a decent jacket.  The Stihl X-Treem jacket (see what they did there?!)  featured in all these photos does it ALL! We think Poppy makes it look pretty good too! Anyone know any canine modeling agents?
But back to the jacket!
Attachment points for saw guard…… Removable sleeves, spacer material on the shoulders and adjustable ventilation openings for comfortable regulation of body temperature……Ceramic dots on the elbows offer abrasion protection…..Outer shoulder zone has grip dot abrasion protection…… Large areas of high visibility orange with contrast areas for excellent visibility……Two breast pockets, one inside pocket and one sleeve pocket…..
What more could a dog want? Works pretty well for Simon too!

Poppy wasn’t so keen on wearing them, but Simon also relies on the cut-proof and waterproof trousers and lightweight jackets, whether working in the workshop or outdoors.

When poppy met stihl ear protection

When Poppy Met Stihl: Ear Protection

Ear protection is an essential….at least for Simon! Stihl have a great range of gloves, safety glasses, head and ear protection.  Notice the cap too. According to Poppy, Stihl clothing is also for leisure time and not just work!

Poppy met stihl helmet and ear protection

When Poppy Met Stihl: Safety Helmet

Poppy’s final photo features another essential piece of protection. Did you spot it? That’s right, a blanket – an essential for tree carving trips.
OK, not really!
As you may have seen in our blogs about the Marbury Lady, the Spirit of Ecstasy, or the Giant Hand of Vrnwy, Simon often has to climb some fairly tall scaffolding. When he has projects that need him to work at height, he always wears his Stihl safety helmet. Safety is incredibly important, and their helmets have all kinds of ‘add ons’ or design features specific to this kind of work. These range from integrated ear or face protection to vents, or lightweight versions.

If you work with machinery, heights, or just in any area of your work, we do encourage you to follow safety protocols. It may be uncomfortable initially, but optimum health and safety is always worth the initial discomfort.

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

Poppy Stihl!

For those who enjoyed our blog featuring Poppy, she actually has her own Instagram account. You can follow her at www.instagram.com/poppystihl. If you come out and see us at the workshop, a show, or an appearance of Hemlock the Dragon, you may also meet her in person as she often comes along. She may be a bit trickier to spot though, as she isn’t always wearing ‘Stihl Orange’!

We hope you enjoyed something slightly different, and (hopefully) more ‘fun’ this week.
We leave you with this video from Simon, sharing a little more about his partnership with Stihl.

Stay safe, stay well, and stay connected.

 

A Bespoke Tawny Owl Sculpture

A Bespoke Tawny Owl Sculpture 150 150 Simon O'Rourke

One of the things that Simon was known for early on in his career was carving owls! Although he prefers human form, his attention to form, story, structure and detail mean he has created some incredible owls over the years. Some of them have become famous in their own right too, such a Ruby the owl. She’s part of Meadow Park sculpture trail on the Wirral and was actually stolen and – amazingly – returned! This week we look at Simon’s most recent example: a bespoke tawny owl sculpture that will be installed in Pocklington, Yorkshire.

A bespoke tawny owl by Simon O'Rourke for the town of Pocklington, Yorks

The Commission

This bespoke tawny owl is for public display in the town of Pocklington. When it was originally commissioned, the clients came to Simon with an existing Horse Chestnut stump. Their hope was that the owl could be carved from that. However, Simon advised them that it would be unsuitable as Horse Chestnut rots quickly. Instead, they decided to have the owl carved from oak, and to mount it upon the original stump.

To create the owl, Simon paid careful attention to the shape, size and proportions of the owl. He also imitated perfectly the way the feathers fall, and how the lengths and appearance vary on the different body parts. We can see clearly the fluffier chest and legs compared with the sleek, defined tails and wings.

bespoke tawny owl and original by Simon O'Rourke
As the Sculpture Ages….

Wood changes over the years. That means a commission such as this bespoke tawny owl will weather and gradually change in appearance. When Simon creates a sculpture, he takes into account how it will crack in future. This is important, so he can carve in a way that although the appearance will change, the structure will still be sound.
The face below is a perfect example of this. It has small cracks appearing but retains its structure and shape – and will for decades to come!

Face by Simon O'Rourke

Changing and Protecting Colour

Another aspect of this changing appearance that Simon considers, is the colour. All wood will change colour as it ages and is bleached by the sun. Once that happens, the only way to get the colour back is to sand it or re-finish the surface. Long-lasting woods such as oak and sweet chestnut weather nicely and last well without any finish. This means this bespoke tawny owl sculpture didn’t need any additional treatment.

For some sculptures, the bleaching and aging adds to the beauty and aesthetic of the sculpture. Maybe it is part of a forest trail and it needs to blend in with the environment. In other cases, the nature or setting of the sculpture lends itself to the aging process. The Angel at the Pool of Bethesda (included in our review of the decade) is a perfect example of this. It is based on an old painting, and sits in a Biddulph Old Hall, a historic property. The sculpture was left untreated so it would bleach naturally in the sun, and age to fit in with its environment. We love the way it looks two years on….

Angel at the pool of bethesda by simon o'rourke at biddulph old hall

Angel at the pool of bethesda by simon o'rourke at biddulph old hall

Recommended Treatment

The bespoke tawny owl sculpture is made of oak, so didn’t need treatment. However, if you do want to retain colour of the original sculpture, decking oil applied every 4 months will do this. It acts mostly as a weather proofer, allowing the sculpture to keep its original colour. It also offers UV protection, and has an additional bonus of containing mould inhibitors too. Unlike most other weatherproofing options, the oil is a good choice as it allows the wood to breathe. Over the years Simon has number of different brands . While he doesn’t necessarily have a favourite, he always buys from  www.restexpress.co.uk and recommends them as a supplier.

In addition, if the wood needs an initial treatment of wood preserver, he applies that before the oil. The preserver soaks in like water and prevents surface growth of mould and fungi.

barn owl by simon o'rourke

A Sculpture for Life!

Whenever Simon creates a sculpture, he considers the future appearance and carves and treats so it will last. However, if you do have damage or something that needs re-working, Simon is available for repair, upkeep and restoration. Contact him on [email protected] whether to talk about upkeep of a current sculpture, or a new commission.