Cedar Sculptures

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

Susanna Wesley Sculpture

Susanna Wesley Sculpture 450 600 Simon O'Rourke

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

 

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

On-site at East Finchley Methodist Church

Background to the Susanna Wesley Sculpture

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

 

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

The bare cedar in the ground of East Finchley Methodist Church

Susanna Wesley: An Unusual Subject?

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

 

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

Why a Susanna Wesley Sculpture?

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

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

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

 

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

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

More Than Just a Sculpture

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

 

Creating the Susanna Wesley Sculpture

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

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

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

 

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

 

Watch this Space

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

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

 

susanna wesley sculpture

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.

"The Offering" an oak fairy sculpture in cedar by simon o'rourke

Oak Fairy Sculpture

Oak Fairy Sculpture 450 600 Simon O'Rourke

Simon has created several fairies over the last few years. His fairy sculpture for the Narnia Treehouse was especially popular on social media. His most recent however is very different in style. It’s captivated several viewers, and today we share the story behind the oak fairy sculpture. Thanks go to client Tracy for sharing her story for this blog.

The oak fairy tree carving sculpture by simon o'rourke

Photo taken by client and used with permission

Oak Fairy Sculpture: The Idea

Client Tracy had to have one side of a split trunk oak cut down for safety reasons. Although she was fascinated watching the process, afterwards (we all do this, don’t we?!) she wished that she’d asked them to leave more behind, so she could have a sculpture created in what remained.
Disappointed with herself, she tenaciously Googled Tree Carvers. Tracy very soon found Simon on Instagram, liked his work (who wouldn’t?!) and made contact…

photo shows a split tree oak with a line drawing of an oak fairy sculpture superimposed over the trunk

Oak Fairy Sculpture: Choosing a Design

Simon’s initial response to Tracy was that a carving was possible – but only a low form like a sleeping fox or fairy as it was a stump. She liked the fairy idea but, not in the style of previous fairy sculptures Simon had made. Rather, she envisaged something in the style of Cicely Mary Barker;  the creator of the Flower fairies, but an ‘Oak Fairy’.  When Tracy spoke to Simon, they realised her love of Art Deco and his love of illustrator Arthur Rackham collided and would be the inspiration for the sculpture. Simon then got to work to create a sketch for a 1920s/art deco/Barker/Rackham style fairy.  He sent Tracy the sketch pictured above, and a design was chosen!

close up of the face of simon o'rourke's oak fairy sculpture

The acorn hat Simon created for the fairy is reminiscent of 1920s women’s fashion, reflecting Tracy’s love of Art Deco and the era

Oak Fairy Sculpture: The Creation

Simon worked onsite for this commission, so Tracy was able to watch her sketch (amazingly!) come to life! Simon took a large piece of cedar with him, and over two days brought the oak fairy sculpture to life! Complete with her adorable acorn hat!  One of the advantages of an onsite carving is being able to see the sculpture emerge from the timber. Tracy found it fascinating to watch Simon wield a variety of tools from a large chain saw right down to a very small drill type saw for the intricate work. In her words, it was “just superb”.
If you are considering a sculpture that Simon would carve on-site, we recommend reading this blog about what an on-site sculpture entails.

Simon O'Rourke's oak fairy sculpture

Oak Fairy Sculpture: Finishing Touches

The evening Simon left the sun caught her beautifully and Tracy was particularly pleased she actually seemed to be part of the tree, standing on leaves. Being practical, Tracy’s husband felt she needed protection so they coated her to protect her from the elements. This changed her colour slightly, and has left her with a warmer tone. They have also since had her lit up, which Tracy describes as “the icing on the cake”. She certainly looks lovely! And, after investing in a piece of art like this, it’s great to be able to enjoy her day or night!

oak fairy sculpture by simon o'rourke by night.

Photo from client and used with permission

Oak Fairy Sculpture: Final Thoughts

Simon titled her “The Offering”, and, as some of the comments and messages on social media show, there is something both ethereal and spiritual seeing the fairy offering an acorn back to the aged oak tree. A few weeks ago we shared some fun facts about Maggon the Dragon and shared how a sculpture can take on a life of its own and become part of the home. This sculpture is no different! Tracy is currently in the process of naming the oak fairy sculpture, and is trying to decide between Olette (‘small winged one’) in Latin or Tiana (‘Fairy Queen’ in Russian) as that’s quite close to her name!! What would you name her? Let us know in the comments!

Oak fairy sculpture entitled 'the offering' by simon o'rourke

Commissioning a Sculpture

“The Offering” is a great example of how Simon engages with clients to discover their preferences and passions to create a beautiful, unique piece of art that’s perfect for them.

If you would like to commission a sculpture for your home, community, or business, contact Simon using the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact. We look forward to hearing from you!

Simon O'Rourke's Lews Castle Carriage Driver sitting in the antique cart at Lews Castle

Lews Castle Carriage Driver Sculpture

Lews Castle Carriage Driver Sculpture 450 600 Simon O'Rourke

This week Simon’s carriage driver sculpture arrived in its new home up in the Outer Hebrides. The commission is part of an upgrade/renovation to Lews Castle; a Victorian castle located in the town of Stornaway. The project has several components and is a lovely example of the community uniting to rejuvenate and improve the aesthetics of the town. Thank you to Janet Paterson for sharing some of the story for this week’s blog…

 

Simon O'Rourke's Lews Castle Carriage driver sculpture photographed in his workshop. The sculpture is a lifesize cedar sculpture of a bearded man posed as if driving a pony carriage

The carriage driver sculpture in Simon’s workshop

Lews Castle Carriage Driver Sculpture: Background to the Commission

During lockdown, the Western Isles Lottery Team undertook a project to upgrade ‘Miss Porter’, a horse sculpture that has been one of the town’s attractions since 1994. She could be found – along with a carriage – at the Lews Castle Porter’s Lodge, and was in need of some TLC. Sadly it turned out the original carriage was beyond repair. So, as well as restoring the horse sculpture, the team sourced an amazing replacement that dates back to 1898. Once the restoration was completed and installed, the team loved the result but felt the carriage was missing a driver. A local sculptor followed Simon on social media, and through that connection, the team reached out to commission a driver.

 

Miss Porter, the horse sculpture at Lews Castle, before the 2020 restoration. The horse is in need of paint work and repair.

Miss Porter with members of the Stornaway Amenity Trust before her restoration

Lews Castle Carriage Driver Sculpture: Creating the Sculpture

Simon sourced a suitable piece of oak for the sculpture so it would be hard-wearing and durable. It was easier and more cost-effective for Simon to create the sculpture in his workshop and ship the finished piece. This meant getting plenty of photos and measurements from the team to ensure the driver would not only look good but would also fit well in the carriage.
We’ve mentioned in this blog Things to Consider When You Commission an On-Site Chainsaw Carving Sculpture that Simon will sometimes need photos and details in advance. That can sound a bit overwhelming, but don’t worry. This client can testify that working with Simon was “simple and straightforward”, that the sculpture is “beautifully crafted to complement the period carriage”, and fits EXACTLY!

Simon O'Rourke's Lews Castle Carriage Driver sitting in the antique cart at Lews Castle

Lews Castle Carriage Driver Sculpture: Power of Community

This successful restoration/upgrade is a great example of how communities can come together to bring art to their locale. The Western Isles Lifestyle Lottery was created to raise funds for the regeneration of its many communities. They have now raised approx £240,000 for projects the length and breadth of the Western Isles. Amazing! The carriage driver is just one of many, many projects they have invested in. These projects not only make improvements for residents but have helped bring tourism and revenue to the area.
As well as the lottery funding, the team worked closely with local trusts and businesses to complete the upgrade.
If you have a similar project in mind for your locality, we definitely recommend utilising the power of community, as the team in Stornoway did. There are also some ideas for fundraising in our blog How to Raise Funds for a Tree Carving Sculpture.

 

lews castle carriage driver sculpture by simon o'rourke. sculpture is seated in an antique pony cart being drawn by a wooden sculpture of a horse

The finished horse, carriage and driver installed by the Porter’s Lodge in Stornoway

Lews Castle Carriage Driver Sculpture: Name the Driver

The finished sculpture has delighted the team. Simon captured exactly what they were looking for in the pose, clothes and character of the sculpture, and the whole project has been described as “a beautiful showpiece” by the lottery team’s secretary. And, in another act of community, they are holding a competition to allow local residents to name the drive. His face is definitely full of character, so he definitely can’t remain nameless! What would you name him? Leave us a comment with your suggestion!

Close up of the face of simon o'rourke's cedar carriage driver sculpture

A face with this character needs a name!

We hope you feel inspired by the story behind this sculpture and the way a community can come together to rejuvenate an area. As always, if you have an idea for a sculpture, contact Simon via the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/. 
We’re looking forward to hearing from you!

Sculptures for world book day by Simon O'Rourke. An Owl sits on top of a tower of books in a 'totem pole' style sculpture.

Sculptures for World Book Day

Sculptures for World Book Day 400 600 Simon O'Rourke

If you have school-aged children you will know next Thursday is World Book Day. We’ve actually heard it might be the most dreaded day of the school year!!! Based on all the Facebook posts of the last-minute scrambling to find a costume, we that could easily be true!
Costume-panic aside though, the mission of World Book Day is fantastic. Reading for pleasure is the single biggest indicator of a child’s future success – more than their family circumstances, their parents’ educational background or their income. And so to engage with the day and celebrate, we wanted to share a selection of literature-related sculptures for world book day…

sculptures for world book day: learning to fly by Simon O'Rourke depicts a child about to soar standing on top of a tower of books

“Learning to Fly” clearly reflects the message and mission of World Book Day

Sculptures for World Book Day: Learning to Fly

This sculpture wasn’t commissioned specifically for World Book Day. However, it does reflect their message well. The child is standing on top of a tower of books, ready to fly which clearly depicts the potential we have to achieve when we have a solid foundation of reading for pleasure.

Our next sculpture has a similar message. In this case though, it is an owl sitting on the book tower though. Owls have long been associated with wisdom and learning, so it subtly reminds us of the wisdom we gain through reading.

Sculptures like this are great for libraries, nurseries, schools etc. Children often struggle to engage with reading, especially in this age of technology. However, gentle but powerful visual reminders like this can capture their attention (more so than an adult telling them!) and reinforce the message that reading is beneficial.

Sculptures for world book day by Simon O'Rourke. An Owl sits on top of a tower of books in a 'totem pole' style sculpture.

Owls are often a symbol for wisdom

Sculptures for World Book Day: Children’s Classics

Of course, you may prefer your World Book Day commission to reflect a favourite book or character. Simon has created many literary-themed sculptures over the years, including some beautiful children’s classics. Who can resist a cute Peter Rabbit (from the Beatrix Potter classics) or Hans Christian Andersen’s beautiful Little Mermaid?

Sculptures for world book day by simon o'rourke. The Little Mermaid from the Hans Christian Andersen classic.

The Little Mermaid is a much-loved children’s classic.

 

Oak sculpture of Peter Rabbit by Simon O'Rourke

Most children in the UK are familiar with Beatrix Potter Tales of Peter Rabbit

Sculptures for World Book Day: Modern Classics

Perhaps modern classics are more your thing. In which case, Simon has you covered! This Charlie and the Chocolate Factory booth was made for Cardiff’s Steak of the Art. It features many of the key characters from the Roald Dahl classic including Charlie, Oompa Loompa’s and the main man, Willy Wonka. How many references can you find?

Will wonka restaurant booth by simon o'rourke

How many ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ references can you find in this restaurant booth?

Sculptures for World Book Day: Trails

Sculpture trails are a brilliant and fun way to convey information and attract people to your venue. Books are rich with characters and events so it’s easy to tie a trail in with World Book Day – or reading in general. Or perhaps you want to celebrate an author who lived in your home town and draw visitors. to the area. Simply choose the book or author, and Simon can create a series of sculptures to be installed around the venue or town. One such trail in his portfolio is his Alice in Wonderland series created for a location in Scotland. The full series has ten sculptures, but here’s four to whet your appetite!
A trail like this is a great year-round attraction, but could become a key part of your World Book Day events and activities.

sculptures for world book day: alice in wonderland series by simon o'rourke

Sculptures for World Book Day: All-Age Classics

Over the years Simon has also created some incredible sculptures of characters from literary classics enjoyed by all ages, which could also become a feature of a World Book Day activity. When we think of classic books that all generations can enjoy, one of the first to come to mind has to be Tolkien’s Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. In fact,vital they rank at 12 and 7 respectively in the top 25 best selling books of all times. It’s no wonder then that Simon’s Lord of the Rings sculptures have also been incredibly popular when we’ve shared them.

Gollum and the Monkey Puzzle Ent are both more recent sculptures that can be viewed by the public at Poulton Hall when it is open. Radagast the Brown was a private commission, which is all the more reason to share it here so you can enjoy it too!

sculptures for world book day: gollum by simon o'rourke

Gollum is one of the characters in the classic Middle Earth series by Tolkien

 

Monkey Puzzle Ent sculpture by simon o'rourke

The Ent are a race of treefolk in the Tolkien Middle Earth books

 

radagast the brown. a sculpture in fir by simon o'rourke

This sculpture of Radagast the Brown gave new life to a diseased tree

Sculptures for World Book Day: Upcoming Sculptures

If you read our new year blog, you’ll know Simon has some more exciting literature-related commissions coming up this year. We can’t wait to share them with you! And we hope that they will somehow play a part in encouraging reading for pleasure as the sculpture prompts reading or re-reading of the book.
But we’d love to know…. who are your favourite literary characters, and which would you like to see Simon create?

As always, if you would like to see one of them realised, contact Simon via the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/

open book by simon o'rourke

Sculptures for World Book Day: Final Thoughts

Lastly, reading is SO vital in reaching our full potential, but sadly access to good books is a privilege many are denied – even in the UK! So if you are interested in the valuable work of World Book Day you can find out more about getting involved at https://www.worldbookday.com/about-us/how-can-you-get-involved/. Whether you’re a teacher looking for resources for class, a parent thinking of ways to engage your children busy, or just somebody who would like to make reading more accessible for others, there’s something for you!