chainsaw carving

simon o'rourke standing next to 2022 sandringham cup winner, 'Ascension'. She is a 9' tall ethereal female form, thinly veiled and looking upwards, ascending yet held back slightly by her veil. There is lots of sawdust and a gazebo in the background as she is freshly carved. Simon is holding his prize cup

2022 Sandringham Cup Winner

2022 Sandringham Cup Winner 600 600 Simon O'Rourke

The May bank holiday weekend marked a return to competitive carving for Simon after a four-year break. And he didn’t just compete! His sculpture ‘Ascension’ was spectacular and he earned the title of 2022 Sandringham Cup winner.

 

Simon O'Rourke being crowned the 2022 Sandringham cup winner. Her stands in the middle of a scaffold platform holding his cup. Two men (second and third) stand either side of him.

Simon receiving the 2022 Sandringham cup winner’s cup.

 

Sandringham Cup

Before talking about the sculpture that made Simon the 2022 Sandringham Cup winner, what is the Sandringham cup?!

The competition is part of The Sandringham Food, Craft & Wood Festival. This year 15 chainsaw carvers from around the UK took part, and each had three days to produce a carving of a design of their choosing. Logs were chosen via a draw, and competitors had the weekend to create their sculptures.

Judging then took place on the final day, with the top placing sculptures going up for auction.

The competition is organised by Mark Earp of Hebsta Chainsaw Art, who did a fantastic job once again in getting it all up and running and keeping the carvers organised!

 

A large piece of timber stands in front of a gazebo in a field. It's the set up for the 2022 sandringham cup, a chainsaw carving event and the timber is that chosen by 2022 sandringham cup winner, simon o'rourke

The timber chosen by Simon for his 2022 Sandringham Cup sculpture.

 

Choosing a Subject for the 2022 Sandringham Cup

Simon chose a piece of Corsican Pine for his sculpture in the draw. That was the timber sorted, but how did he choose his subject?

One of the things he likes about the Sandringham Cup is that carvers are free to create anything they want. Large scale human form sculptures are one of Simon’s favourite things to carve, so that was a natural starting point.

Prior to the event, he’d been experimenting with ‘wind blow’ sculptures, but on a much smaller scale. He wanted to create something similar on a larger scale to challenge himself – and carving drapery and creating a figure under cloth is definitely a big challenge!

And for those curious about the scale, ‘Ascension’ is about 9′ tall!

 

a photo of the 2022 sandringham cup winner in front of the gazebo with lots of sawdust surrounding her. she is a windblown, veiled female carved in corsican pine by simon o'rourke and stands around 9' tall

Understanding ‘Ascension’ (2022 Sandringham Cup Winner)

After just over two day’s carving, Simon finished his piece ‘Ascension’. The ethereal, veiled figure captivated people as soon as she was revealed on social media. And it’s unsurprising given she’s not only beautiful but intriguing…

There is no figure inside the cloth, just the impression. This is a reflection of how temporal we are as humans.

The figure is ascending, but the veil has a slightly restrictive feel. This indicates the things we clothe ourselves in; the masks we wear, and the impression we give others. That other people only see an impression of who we are, with the person inside remaining hidden, known only by themself.
Simon O'Rourke's sculpture 'Ascension' stands in front of a gazebo in a field with LOTS of sawdust around. She is freshly carved into corsican pine and stands around 9' tall.

Simon set himself the challenge of creating a windswept shrouded female sculpture on a large scale in the 2022 Sandringham Cup

Tips for Other Carvers

Of course, followers of Simon’s work will recognise this style of ‘shrouding’ and mystery from another large scale work, The Marbury Lady. He’s known to excel at creating drapery and movement through his sculptures too, as seen in other works like The Angel at the Pool of Bethesda, The Narnia Treehouse Fairy, The Oak Maiden, and these English Open Chainsaw Competition entries from 2019.

So with this being something of a trademark, what tips can other carvers pick up for creating their own sculptures?

In Simon’s words:

Making wood look like flowing cloth is always a challenge, you have to really feel what the cloth would be doing when the force of a wind pushes it against a form. The other major challenge is creating the detail of the face as if it’s behind a veil. Think about the form underneath, and carve the shape with an extra layer on it, then start working into it revealing the shape underneath.

Final thoughts on the 2022 Sandringham Cup

Obviously being the 2022 Sandringham Cup winner was a bit of a highlight of the weekend.

For Simon though, chainsaw carving events are about more than the competition. It was an opportunity to challenge himself, and to create something he wanted to create rather than a specific commission. The chainsaw carving community is a fun one, so Simon also enjoys being able to connect with friends and make new ones within the community. And, as this event was the one that Simon describes as ‘kickstarting his career’, there’s a touch of nostalgia too.

If you’re a chainsaw carver unsure about competing or joining events, there are massive benefits to the community and experience, so definitely go for it and enter!

 

a group photo of 15 people sitting in a field weating matching sage green t shirts. they are the 2022 sandringham cup chainsaw carving competitors

The 2022 Sandringham Cup competitors.

 

Where is ‘Ascension’ Now?

Although there was an auction for the top pieces (shout out to other winners Mike Jones, Jake Swanson and Matt Crabb), Simon’s reserve wasn’t met. This meant he got to take Ascension home with him, and enjoy her for himself.

At the moment The Leader reports that he’s happy to have Ascension for now and it’s nice to have her ‘home’. However, if you are interested in owning Ascension, Simon is potentially open to selling her. You can email him on [email protected] if you’re interested.

 

simon o'rourke standing next to 2022 sandringham cup winner, 'Ascension'. She is a 9' tall ethereal female form, thinly veiled and looking upwards, ascending yet held back slightly by her veil. There is lots of sawdust and a gazebo in the background as she is freshly carved. Simon is holding his prize cup

Simon with his 2022 Sandringham Cup winner, Ascension

And Finally…

Lastly, thanks to Stihl and Titan Chainsaw Carving for their support of Simon in the 2022 Sandringham Cup.

And if you would like to own your own chainsaw carving sculpture by Simon, please contact him via www.treecarving.co.uk/contact.

close up of the palm of simon o'rourke's wooden A Hand Between Sky and Earth sculpture in Allai

A Hand Between Sky and Earth Sculpture

A Hand Between Sky and Earth Sculpture 450 600 Simon O'Rourke

Today is Earth Day 2022 so I’m going to share one of my most recent sculptures with an environmental message: A Hand Between Sky and Earth.

 

Simon O'Rourke standing next to a tree that he will carve into the sculpture A Hand Between Sky and Earth The tree is around five times his height and has a white building in the background to the left and a few shorter trees to the right.

Simon with the tree that would become A Hand Between Sky and Earth sculpture

 

Earth Day 2022

Before I jump into the story of the A Hand Between Sky and Earth sculpture, what is Earth Day? And why is it relevant?

Earth Day is an annual event on April 22 to demonstrate support for environmental protection. It includes a wide range of events coordinated globally by EarthDay.org, and focuses on raising awareness and mobilising people to do their part in caring for the environment.

Care for the environment is something close to my heart. That’s why it’s always great to receive a commission for a project like A Hand Between Sky and Earth or The Giant Hand of Vyrnwy where I can use art to convey a message about caring for our planet.

 

Initial sketch for A Hand Between Sky and Earth. The photo of the tree is faded and a hand sketched sculpture of a hand is overlaid so clients could see what it would look like.

One of the initial sketches for A Hand Between Sky and Earth

 

A Hand Between Sky and Earth Sculpture: How It Began

Back in November, I had an enquiry about a sculpture on Sardinia. A tree in the village of Allai had become dangerous and needed to be cut down. The council didn’t want to cut it down completely and hoped I could transform it into a work of art.

They shared how they believe trees represent a natural resource of great significance. They’d researched their options and believed this was a good way to “save” the tree at the same time as embellishing and enhancing it. In the words of the client:

We love nature, we have lots of respect for our vegetation and probably your same love can help us to preserve our trees but in a different amazing way.

As well as preserving the tree, the sculpture was to serve the dual purpose of (hopefully!) becoming a tourist attraction.
New life for the tree, and increased benefit for the village!
Definitely a meaningful commission!

 

simon o'rourke stands in a cherry picker and uses a chainsaw to carve a sculpture into an standing tree trunk. in the background there is a white building.

Working on A Hand Between Sky and Earth sculpture in Allai

 

The Message Behind A Hand Between Sky and Earth Scultpure

The sculpture I created needed to be something that would capture the imagination and draw people to see it, but also needed to reflect the preservation aspect of the commission. Although the initial enquiry asked about wildlife sculptures, after some conversation, we settled on an outstretched hand. Something reaching between the material to the spiritual world that, like the Giant Hand of Vyrnwy, also represented the struggle of the tree to reach the sky.

To me, the hand is fitting as hands are a way to connect with the earth. They’re how we touch rocks, the earth and the trees. With our hands, we work the earth to grow food or build.

My sculpture is a symbol of this tactile connection with the world. It’s also a reminder that we use our hands to steward it, and the sculpture invites us to take care of it.

The hand position can be seen as an extension to gently touch or make a statement. The slightly straightened finger is meant to suggest a gentle command or complaint. ”

 

simon o'rourke's A Hand Between Sky and Earth Sculpture

Responses To A Hand Between Sky and Earth Sculpture

It’s only been a couple of weeks since finishing the commission, and the sculpture is already serving its purpose.

The municipal council are delighted with the finished sculpture. They describe it as “A symbolic work for a community, a careful warning to safeguard a territory that does not want to give up [but rather] fights for a prosperous and luxuriant future, with trust, determination and an obstinate love for the surrounding nature“.

 

close up of the palm of simon o'rourke's wooden A Hand Between Sky and Earth sculpture in Allai

 

One local lady who saw the sculpture being created was inspired to write a poem where she describes it as

A hand reaching out to the sky
like a cry for help to God
to save the planet and its ruin
that gradually falls into oblivion.”
Pina Frongia
the back of the hand on simon o'rourkes A Hand Between Sky and Earth sculpture. the only background is a grey-ish sky. lots of wood grain is visible in the hand

Visiting A Hand Between Sky and Earth Sculpture

Others on social media have been asking how they can go and see the sculpture, fulfilling its second role of helping to bring tourists to the area and strengthen the economy. It’s great both purposes are being fulfilled so soon!
If you are one of the people who would like to visit, it’s SO easy to find using What3words!
Either open the app and search for ///hangdog.candlestick.precocious or just click here.
And after experiencing the wonderful food, weather, scenery and hospitality in Allai (thanks to our new friends we met there!), Liz and I definitely recommend a holiday on Sardinia!
simon o'rourke and a female stand beneath the sculpture A Hand Between Sky and Earth, a giant hand carved into a standing tree trunk about 20ft tall.

With one of our hosts in Allai

 

Other Environmental Considerations

Of course, it isn’t enough to just create art that challenges people to care for the earth, helpful as art can be in communicating an important message. I’m also aware of the potential environmental cost of chainsaw carving and minimise impact where I can.

What does that look like?

First, I never carve or cut down a healthy tree for sculpture. Rather, use trees that have died or need to be felled due to disease, damage, or danger to people/places and give life back to them as art.

 

screenshot of simon o'rourke's instagram account showing he is a member of titan treecycle initiative

Members of Treecycle display ‘Titan Treecycle Member’ on their social media accounts.

 

I’m also part of Titan Treecycle. This is an initiative that encourages chainsaw artists to plant trees to replace the ones they use. Although the timber I use has never come from healthy trees, I’m aware that chainsaw carving impacts the environment in other ways. For example, travel for commissions or events, emissions from our tools. So I joined the initiative to offset my carbon footprint, not just replace the wood I use.

If you’re looking for a chainsaw artist for a commission, Titan Chainsaw Carving on Instagram is a great place to find artists, and then check that they display  “Treecycle Member” in their profile.

 

a white tiled building in the background. in front is the hand between sky and earth sculpture by simon o'rourke; a giant hand carved into the top of a tree trunk

 

Final Thoughts

It’s obviously exciting as an artist to be able to create art that challenges people to think about the environment. It’s great to post about it on Earth Day too. My hope though is that our thoughts and actions go far beyond this one day, that care for the earth becomes second nature to us all, and that we can all gradually make slow, sustainable changes that help preserve our incredible planet.

What changes have you been working on?

As always, if you are interested in a sculpture for your home, business, or community, fill out the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact.

If you’re interested in watching the creation of A Hand Between Sky and Earth, check out the video below too!

 

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

marbury lady sculpture by simon o'rourke and the what3words location cook.breath.gangs. the sculpture will be part of Simon O'Rourke's what3words chainsaw carving trail

What3Words Chainsaw Carving Trail

What3Words Chainsaw Carving Trail 600 600 Simon O'Rourke

This week a representative from What3Words approached Simon to ask about using images of the Giant Hand of Vyrnwy, sharing its location with their followers. Of course, the answer was yes! Simon already uses What3Words as part of his work, and has found it extremely helpful. And as soon as they contacted him, something clicked and another idea was born…

 

image showing people sitting in a park. the what3words location is displayed.

Image from what3words

What is What3Words?

Before we talk about the what3words Chainsaw Carving Trail though, let us introduce what3words! For those who haven’t heard of it, what3words is a geocode system. It’s different to anything else out there because it assigns a three-word code to every 3m square of land. That means you can easily share and save precise locations using the website or app – No long GPS codes, and no vague addresses! It’s currently being used for e-commerce and delivery, navigation, emergencies and so much more, and has some massive benefits…

 

Benefits of Using What3Words

As we said, many industries are using what3words. As it directs you to a location within a 3m square of where you need to be, it is much more efficient than a vague address when dealing with roadside telegraph poles, sections of railway track, water pipes, and more. It is set up for voice input and even works when you have no data. All of this combined means it also has massive health and safety benefits, which is how Simon currently uses the app.

 

chainsaw artist simon o'rourke in a cherry picker next to a tall tree carving of a mythical tree woman.

Simon often works alone on large estates and parks and can easily share his exact location using What3Words

 

How Simon Uses What3Words

As you know from our health and safety and chainsaw basics blogs, safety is hugely important to Simon. He’s found that giving what3words locations for his worksite is a way of enhancing his safety practice:

“The accuracy makes any communication much clearer, giving clients, public, and emergency services exact locations”

Imagine you are working on a National Trust property or stately home, such as when he created the Ent, Gollum, and Shakespeare Seat sculptures at Poulton Hall, or the Airman at Highclere. The grounds are huge, and should there be an emergency (or even someone coming with some refreshments!) it can be difficult to explain exactly where to find him. This can cause frustration or even dangerous delays.

By giving a what3words location, people can see EXACTLY where he is working.

 

marbury lady sculpture by simon o'rourke and the what3words location cook.breath.gangs. the sculpture will be part of Simon O'Rourke's what3words chainsaw carving trail

The Marbury Lady sculpture and her exact location using the what3words app

 

Creating a What3Words Chainsaw Carving Trail

Now you know about the app and all its benefits, you’ve probably guessed where we’re going with the what3words chainsaw carving trail!

People often ask where they can see Simon’s sculptures. Sometimes this is easy to explain, as in most residential addresses. Sometimes it’s much harder as they are in a large area, such as the Giant Hand of Vyrnwy at the Vyrnwy Estate. Or perhaps they are visible from a long road like the Dragon of Bethesda on the A5.

Having been prompted by the contact from what3words, we’ve realised it would be really good to extend Simon’s use of what3words, and to share locations of public sculptures.

 

picture of the giant hand of vyrnwy sculpture labelled with its what3words chainsaw carving trail location: incline.lingering.pose

The Giant Hand of Vyrnwy will be much easier to find using this geocode!

 

How Can I do the What3Words Chainsaw Carving Trail?

At the moment the what3words chainsaw carving trail is in progress. But in the next week or so we will have a link set up which gives the locations of some of Simon’s most-requested sculptures. In time we will add to it, so it’s more comprehensive. In future, people will be able to easily see multiple sculptures within a reasonable distance of each other to visit. Or even plan a national road trip! It’s entirely up to you! The map will be visible in the browser or the app.

Until then, look out on social media for both Simon and what3words and we’ll be releasing some of the locations.

It’s exciting to see technology being used collaboratively to make it easier for people to experience Simon’s pieces!

 

photo of O'Rourke's dragon of bethesda sculpture labelled with its what3words chainsaw carving trail code: rumble.wink.meanders

Now drivers can see exactly where the dragon is coming up on the A5 and hopefully there’ll be fewer sudden stoppages!

Final Thoughts on the What3Words Chainsaw Carving Trail

It’s great not just to be using this app for health and safety, but also to allow easier access to art. And to be raising awareness of the app! It has huge potential, and has already saved lives, which is awesome! Thank you to Alice at what3words for the email this week that prompted the trail!

 

photo of simon o'rourke's wwii soldier in workington park. it is labelled with its what3words chainsawcarving trail location: nail.pine.dime

Simon’s WWII soldier is easy to locate in Workington using what3words.

 

If you would like to contact Simon, please use the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact.

 

Using the Stihl MSA 200

Using the Stihl MSA 200 600 600 Simon O'Rourke

Happy New Year!
We’re kicking off 2022 with some tool talk! People often ask about the tools Simon uses, so this week we’re going to share a little more about one of his recommended chainsaws. Keep reading to find out more about using the Stihl MSA 200.

Stihl MSA 200 chainsaw with a plain white background. Part of a blog by Simon O'Rourke about using the Stihl MSA 200 chainsaw.

Stihl MSA 200 (photo from their website)

 

About the Stihl MSA 200

Simon has become a big fan of the Stihl battery chainsaws, and the MSA 200 is one of his most frequently used saws. It’s a cordless/battery-powered saw,  quite small and lightweight (relative to chainsaws!). Its size allows Simon to get close to his pieces which is a bonus for detailing. It’s also a quiet saw – quiet enough that you don’t NEED ear defenders. That said, Simon often still chooses to wear them as it’s more comfortable. Stihl also makes battery backpacks that enable you to carve for longer without changing the battery – very handy!

 

Simon O'rourke using a Stihl MSA 200 chainsaw to create detail in a wood sculpture of Ken Dodd.

Detailing Ken Dodd’s face with the MSA 200

Using the Stihl MSA 200

So, how does Simon use the MSA 200? He mostly uses it as a detail saw. He finds it’s a lovely saw for roughing out precise details in faces or the movement in clothing, fur or anatomy in particular.  One example of this is the drapery on the sculpture below that he’s working on at the moment. He used the MSA 200 to create lines that gave the basic movement – almost like a sketch. That gave movement to the fabric and enhanced the sense of the fabric being pulled in in response to the person stretching.

 

A sculpture in progress in Simon O'Rourke's workshop. Surrounded by chainsaw carving paraphernalia.

 

More About Using the Stihl MSA 2oo

Of course, a chainsaw is nothing without a chainsaw bar! At the moment Simon has his MSA 200 paired with a Canon 8″ .043 gauge carving bar (find out more about Simon’s tips for carving bar maintenance HERE if you’re interested). With the two paired together he finds he can trust his tools and doesn’t have to think about them. Rather, he can focus entirely on the sculpture, which is what every artist wants.
And for those who are interested, Stihl releases a new battery saw later this year; the MSA 300. Unsurprisingly, Simon can’t wait to try it!

 

chainsaw carver simon o'rourke using the stihl MSA 200 chainsaw and battery backpack to carve a series of owls into a tree trunk

Using the MSA 200 with the battery backpack

 

Where to Buy His Recommended Tools?

If you’re looking to buy any of the tools Simon recommends, his Stihl products are from www.stihl.co.uk. He buys his chainsaw bars from www.chainsawbars.co.uk, a company we have talked more about in a previous blog (click HERE to read it). They have a great product range, excellent customer service, quick delivery, and keep their website up to date so if something is out of stock, it will show.

And for those who would like to see Simon using the MSA 2oo, check out the video below. You can see Simon in action, and he adds more detail to the things we’ve shared in this blog.

 

 

If you would like to have Simon use his trusty Stihl MSA 200 to create a sculpture for you (!) please fill out the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/.

 

 

sample screenshot of a tree-nation forest page, showing the team logo and stats on trees planted and CO2 offset

Titan Treecycle Initiative

Titan Treecycle Initiative 900 600 Simon O'Rourke

At the start of November, Simon announced he’d joined ‘Team Titan’, and become part of the Titan Treecycle initiative, but we have never explained what that means! We thought we’d use this week’s blog to explain a little more about the project, and why it’s such an important initiative…

a facebook screenshot from Simon O'Rourke's facebook page announcing he is part of the titan treecycle initiative. the post is accomanpied by a photo of a forest.

Simon’s initial Treecycle announcement

About Titan Chainsaw Carving

Before we talk about the Titan Treecycle initiative, let’s back up a few steps and start with Titan!

Titan Chainsaw carving is a recently opened specialist chainsaw carving tools supply store, started by chainsaw carver Matt Crabb. He’s been a professional chainsaw carver for 15 years, so he certainly knows what carvers of all skill levels need! And although it has begun as a chainsaw carving supplies store, Matt hopes it will be much more.

He wants to support, encourage, inspire, and help new carvers – people with an interest to try carving. He also wants Titan to be a place where beginners come alongside pros, somewhere knowledge and inspiration can be shared.
chainsaw carver (founder of titan treecycle initiative) stands to the left of a large tree trunk carved into a sculptures of four owls

Matt Crabb is the founder of Titan Treecycle initiative
Photo taken from his Facebook page.

Team Titan!

To help form that community, Matt has formed a team of world-class chainsaw carvers as ambassadors of the brand. As a team, they will also work collaboratively on large-scale carving projects. Simon is honoured to be one of the team, along with Matt, James Elliott, Mike Jones, Michael Tamoszus, Ryan Villiers, Res Hofmann, Simon Archer, and Hikaru Kodama.
Exciting as this is, Matt also has a bigger out-reaching vision, and that’s where the Titan Treecycle Initiative comes in…
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 – a taste of the quality and artistry expected from the Titan collaboration

The Vision Behind Titan Treecycle

Matt is highly aware of the situation with climate change and the desperate need for big change in the world (an awareness Simon shares). As a result, one of his goals is to ensure Titan runs as completely carbon negative. What a fantastic goal! This lead him to an organisation called Tree-Nation, and the Titan Treecyle initiative came from that contact.
Tree-Nation has a goal of reforesting the world. They want to use technology to make tree planting easy and provide support, advice and solutions to citizens and companies to help them transition towards a sustainable future.
five adults hold gardening equipment and tree saplings in pots. they are all wearing white t shirts bearing the tree-nation logo

Some of the Tree-Nation team
Photo taken from the Tree Nation website

The Initiative Unfolds…

Matt decided to use Titan and the team’s ever-growing online presence in the chainsaw carving community, to promote an initiative for every chainsaw carver to replant more trees each year than they use. So he started Titan Treecycle.
Titan Treecycle is a ‘Forest’ or project, within Tree-Nation. Chainsaw Carvers can donate money towards the forest, and Tree-Nation uses that money to plant trees in one of their reforestation projects. If every chainsaw carver in the world joined this action, it would make a monumental change to our carbon footprint.

In Matt’s words:

It should become the norm. We [chainsaw carvers] use up trees to carve luxury items with carbon-emitting tools. Lots of carvers travel around and fly across the world to compete etc. It would be so so easy and at very little cost per individual to offset all of this. If we as a trade could set about this positive change, then perhaps our example can be used to show other trades and industries the way forward.

Looking at the Titan Treecycle Forest page, so far (December 2021) the group have planted 321 trees and offset 142t of carbon dioxide. A great start in only a couple of months!
sample screenshot of a tree-nation forest page, showing the team logo and stats on trees planted and CO2 offset

The forest page provides updates and accountability for members and supporters

Simon and the Titan Treecycle Initiative

It’s fairly well known that Simon only uses trees that are dead, diseased or dangerous for his sculptures, and never cuts trees down specifically to carve. So why join Treecycle?
In his words:
Even though all the wood I currently use has been cut for a valid reason, I feel this is an excellent way to encourage the carving world to go the extra mile in looking after the planet we’re so blessed to live on.

And there’s more…

 

The Giant Hand of Vyrnwy stands in the Lake Vyrnwy estate. The sculpture is one of Simon’s most famous examples of transforming a storm-damaged tree

Team Titan Collaboration

Remember we mentioned collaborative projects? The Titan team are planning to meet up in England in April this year to collaborate on (matt’s words!) “the biggest and most spectacular chainsaw carving project on earth!”

At this stage we can’t say anything more, but it promises to be epic!

There haven’t been many occasions before this where a large collective of elite professional artists have collaborated together in such a big way. As Matt says, “It’s going to be a very special project and a huge step forward for the wonderful art of chainsaw carving“.

Simon is excited about the collaboration, and of course, we’ll be sharing about it here!
screen shot of the Titan Chainsaw Carving facebook page. Titan are the founders of the titan treecycle initiative discussed in this blog

More Information and Contacts

Titan Chainsaw Carving supplies are on Facebook and Instagram, and a webpage (www.titanchainsawcarving.com) is coming soon.

You can follow the progress of the Treecycle team on their Forest page, and find out more about the work of Tree-Nation at www.tree-nation.com

Finally, contact Simon using the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/.

crohn's inspired sculpture of a man with head in hands reflecting despair

Crohn’s Inspired Sculpture

Crohn’s Inspired Sculpture 416 600 Simon O'Rourke

Next week is Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness Week in the UK (1st – 7th Dec 2021). Their theme is ‘Your Story Matters’ and Crohn’s and Colitis UK are encouraging everyone to share their story; patients, carers, supporters, nurses – anyone with a connection.
Back in 2017, Simon created a Crohn’s inspired sculpture for an award-winning charity garden at RHS Tatton Park. We haven’t shared the story on here, so we thought this week would be a good time to blog about the Crohn’s inspired sculpture, and hopefully raise awareness of the disease.

 

Eight people stand in a garden with their hands raised. The garden is part of RHS Tatton Park 2017 and the people were all helped create it

Simon with the others involved in the Crohn’s Inspired Garden at RHS Tatton Park 2017

 

The Story Behind the Garden

The person behind the Crohn’s garden was passionate amateur gardener, Denise Shields. After her son had a near-fatal Crohn’s relapse, she felt inspired to create a garden to tell his story and raise awareness of his condition. RHS flower shows have a variety of charity gardens each year and many others that tell a story. Named “Facing Fear: Finding Hope”, this one took the viewer on a journey beginning with the fear a patient faces at diagnosis. As the viewer walked through the garden, there were elements that portrayed the emotional and physical highs and lows. Walking through the garden finally took the viewer to a sculpture representing hope. To read more about the garden itself on the RHS website, click HERE.

The garden received praise from both visitors and judges. It even received an award!

 

view through a garden to a redwood chair. the chair is a crohn's inspired sculpture by artist simon o'rourke. it depicts a person with their head in their hands, in physical and emotional pain

The walkway through the garden to Simon’s Crohn’s inspired sculpture.

Simon’s Crohn’s Inspired Sculpture: “Alone”

Simon’s commission was for a sculpture/chair that would represent the Crohns’ patient at diagnosis. He made this poignant chair named “Alone” and it’s fitting in so many ways:

  • The head in arms shows the despair, disappointment and sadness many people feel at receiving the diagnosis of a chronic disease that will forever influence how they live.
  • The person in this sculpture is physically alone. And the reality is that no matter how strong a community the person is in, there is a massive amount related to Crohn’s that they will walk through alone.
  • The posture also clearly reflects a sense of isolation and protection – even though the anatomy is broken by the hollowed-out chair.  This is because many patients with Crohn’s talk about feeling isolated. Isolated because their condition can lead to missing out on Community and socialising. Isolated because people don’t understand the condition that is so central to their lives. And isolated because, as an “invisible illness“, the ‘outside world’ often has no idea about the physical pain, difficulties and constant mental load a Crohn’s patient carries.

 

crohn's inspired sculpture of a man with head in hands reflecting despair

 

More about “Alone”: A Crohn’s inspired Sculpture

Then there is the hollowed-out anatomy that creates the chair. It is hard not to relate it to being where our intestines are found – the part of the body Crohn’s impacts.

Being “hollow” is also fitting. Diseases like Crohn’s can be hard in and of themselves. Treatments and management can be hard. Side effects can be hard. The social, financial, dietary, and occupational effects can be hard. All these can leave patients feeling “Like a shell of themselves“, or “hollow” like the sculpture.

Thankfully that isn’t where the Crohn’s patient has to remain, and it isn’t where the garden finished. And while Denise wanted people to know about the difficulties of the disease, she also wanted people to know and be encouraged that there is hope to be found.

 

Simon O'rourke standing next to his crohn's inspired sculpture. the sculpture depicts a person with their head in their hands atop a hollowed out stomach that makes a chair

 

Using Art to Raise Awareness

If you have followed for a while, you’ll know that Simon and Liz frequently contribute and raise funds for causes that improve patient lives. They also love when a commission helps someone raise money over a longer time for one of those causes, such as the latest sculpture trail in Picton. Being an artist also gives Simon the opportunity to raise awareness of specific topics. It is always a privilege to be asked to give voice to passion, purpose or cause.

 

The team behind the Facing Fear: Finding Hope garden with Denise and her son, Callum. It was a privilege for Simon to work with them to tell part of Callum’s story.

With this kind of awareness-raising commission, Simon will always look to learn more about the person and impact so he can accurately tell a story. As with all his commissions, he will listen to your story and your experience as well as your ideas and preferences for a sculpture. From there he will create sketches for you of his initial ideas which you can work with him to refine. Sometimes he will create your sculpture on-site if it will use a standing trunk. Other times he will create the sculpture in the studio and then deliver and install the sculpture.

Whatever the process, Simon will make it easy every step of the way, and is knowledgeable about and helpful with practicalities as well as the artistic process.

 

 

Commissioning and Awareness-Raising Sculpture

Just as his story-telling abilities can greatly enhance a business, they can also greatly enhance sharing your story. We use the phrase “A picture tells a thousand words” for a reason! In the case of this sculpture (and garden) people were definitely moved and impacted as they ‘experienced’ Callum’s story told through garden design. If you have a story to tell and would like Simon to do it with a sculpture, contact him via www.treecarving.co.uk/contact and he will be in touch!

And, this Crohn’s and Colitis awareness week, if you are looking for support, don’t be alone! Crohn’s and Colitis UK. has resources for patients, carers and supporters.

 

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!

 

Head and shoulders of o'Rourke's chainsaw carving sculpture of a WWII soldier

WWII Soldier Memorial Sculpture

WWII Soldier Memorial Sculpture 450 600 Simon O'Rourke

As the country silences itself at 11am today, Workington has a new WWII soldier memorial sculpture to commemorate those who gave their lives in military service. The unveiling took place on Poppy Day, as you may have seen on BBC or ITV. Simon and Liz were also there today (Remembrance Sunday) to see the sculpture installed in its new home during the traditional laying of the wreath…

 

WWII Soldier Memorial Sculpture by Simon O'Rourke in Vulcan Park, Workington

 

Background to the WWII Soldier Memorial Sculpture

Workington Town Council commissioned the WWII soldier after talking for many years about having a VE/VJ day statue to memorialise all those who lost their lives to war. After deciding to go ahead with the statue, the process of commissioning an artist began.

They looked online for a number of different artists who could produce what they were looking for.  After finding a few artists who seemed suitable, the council invited them to submit costs and design ideas.  These then went to their Culture Committee who chose Simon’s design because of both appearance and the sentiment behind it.

If you are considering a sculpture for your community, this is often the first stage of seeing that vision realised.

 

Waist up view of Simon O'Rourke's WWII soldier memorial sculpture

From Commission to Installation

Many people don’t realise there can be many steps from commissioning a sculpture to having it installed. One aspect of this is the aesthetic. Simon will go back and forth with a client to ensure they are happy with the design. Another aspect is the practicalities of installing a sculpture such as transport, preparing the site etc. And then there are the legalities…

 

A gentleman reads the plaque by Simon O'Rourke's soldier sculpture in vulcan park

 

Things to Consider Regarding the Installation of a Chainsaw Carving Sculpture

It’s sometimes necessary to gain permission to install a sculpture. There may be licensing to consider. This can seem intimidating and may cause delays to the installation. However, as Workington Council discovered, Simon has excellent knowledge and understanding of this part of the process and is able to assist clients which makes it much easier.

When asked about the process of commission and installing the sculpture, a spokesperson for the council testified:
“It has been a joy working with Simon. The process has taken a lot longer than any of us thought it would with planning permissions, consultations and then COVID, but throughout everything Simon has been patient, professional and a pleasure to work with.”

 

Members of the military and the mayor with simon o'rourke's WWII soldier memorial sculpture

Representatives from the army, Royal British Legion, town council, and public attended the unveiling ceremony

Creating the WWII Memorial Soldier Sculpture

Simon created the sculpture in his workshop over several weeks. This sculpture is a great example of working with the wood and placing the sculpture wisely so inevitable cracks are not problematic.

In this case, Simon cut the log and created the sculpture using the front part. If he had carved it in the centre of the timber (which is often instinctual), the cracks will be in the middle of the soldier, and potentially split him in half!!!

By moving the sculpture to the front half, the centre of the log became the soldier’s back. In this way, the cracks will appear vertically in his back and enhance the movement of the fabric of his coat. This will not only preserve the facial details but also means the sculpture is much more stable.

 

Work in process. A chainsaw carving WWII sculpture surrounded by scaffolding and countryside

The soldier in process outside Simon’s workshop

Telling the WWII Soldier’s Story

As you will know if you are a regular follower of Simon’s work, his sculptures always tell a story and invite viewers into a moment with many possibilities. He leaves possibilities and every viewer will experience the sculpture differently. In the case of this WWII soldier memorial sculpture, we can see the soldier has already experienced the hardship of war. He stands with a hand on his heart, as posture we often associate with pride and patriotism. But there is also a slight slump in his posture. The heaviness in his eyes is obvious as he gazes at something the viewer can’t see. And poignantly, a single tear flows down his face (photographed above).

So what’s his story? As the viewer, you are free to engage and imagine. But one thing that is clear is the heaviness and hardship and pain of war.

 

wood sculpture by simon o'rourke. a single tear falls down the cheek of a WWII soldier memorial sculpture

 

 

The Installed WWII Soldier Memorial Sculpture

Now the sculpture has been delivered and installed, the clients are delighted:

“We could not be happier with how the finished piece has turned out. The statue itself, the fence surrounding the area and the plaque just finish the area off beautifully, and the feedback from residents has been so positive”.

He’s installed in Vulcan Park, Workington, and can be viewed at any time during the park’s opening hours.

 

Head and shoulders of o'Rourke's chainsaw carving sculpture of a WWII soldier

Final Thoughts

We hope this blog has not only introduced you to Simon’s WWII soldier memorial sculpture, but also given you some insight into what happens behind the scenes when a sculpture is commissioned. If you would like a memorial sculpture for your community (or any sculpture!), contact Simon using the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact.

If you’re interested in seeing other military memorial sculptures made by Simon, you could check out his WWI Soldier blog (also featuring some of his poppy sculptures) by clicking HERE, or his Highclere Castle Airman blog by clicking HERE.

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/ .