commissioning a sculpture

Photo shows a man carving a sculpture from a tree trunk. He is standing in a tall cherry picker. Equipment like this is one of the Things to Consider When You Commission an On-Site Chainsaw Carving Sculpture

Things to Consider When You Commission an On-Site Chainsaw Carving Sculpture

Things to Consider When You Commission an On-Site Chainsaw Carving Sculpture 450 600 Simon O'Rourke

A chainsaw carving sculpture can be a great addition to your home or business. It’s a lovely way to give life back to a tree that is dead, diseased or dangerous. As well as being a beautiful piece of art in its own right, it can also add value to your attraction or home. However, there are lots of practical considerations to think about if you want to commission an on-site chainsaw carving sculpture. When you contact Simon, he will ask for details and photos to help him plan. This blog is to help you think about those considerations, to help make the process as smooth as possible.

Simon can travel to your home or business to create a sculpture from a standing tree.

 

Things to Consider When You Commission an On-Site Chainsaw Carving Sculpture: Simon’s Workspace

Ideally, Simon needs 2-3m space around the tree stump to be able to move easily and approach the sculpture from the best angle. If it’s possible to clear this space, it’s really helpful for him. However, don’t worry if this isn’t possible. If the tree stump is against a fence or something similar and he doesn’t have this space, it doesn’t mean he can’t do it – it’s just good for him to know in advance.

When thinking about the workspace it’s also worth remembering that sometimes some large pieces of timber can come down off the tree. For this reason, we suggest moving anything valuable from the area before Simon comes to set up. Nobody wants a smashed table or squashed prize-winning begonias!

oak maiden sculpture in process

This photo of the Oak Maiden in process shows the size of branches Simon sometimes has to remove

 

Things to Consider When You Commission an On-Site Chainsaw Carving Sculpture: Spectator Space

It’s FASCINATING to watch Simon carve! It can be tempting to want to get as close to the action as possible, and if your sculpture is for a community, inviting people to watch may even be part of generating support for the commission. However, it can also be dangerous to get too close! If you do want to watch (or invite others), you will need to make sure there is a 6m space between Simon and the next closest human being!

Crowds watching ice carving for Wrexham Museum

Crowds watch Simon from a safe distance outside Wrexham Museum*

 

Things to Consider When You Commission an On-Site Chainsaw Carving Sculpture: Access for Equipment

All Simon’s equipment can be carried, so in some ways distance from parking to the site doesn’t matter. BUT! Some of it is quite heavy. If you are able to make a way for him to park as close as possible to the place he will be carving, it is incredibly helpful.

Simon will also ask you for photos of his access to the site from the parking spot – especially if he needs to use scaffolding or a cherry picker. This is because slopes or other obstacles may change the equipment he needs to hire. He may also need to find a creative way of getting it to the site. This happened this week in fact, getting this cherry picker to the carving site…

Photo shows a man carving a sculpture from a tree trunk. He is standing in a tall cherry picker. Equipment like this is one of the Things to Consider When You Commission an On-Site Chainsaw Carving Sculpture

Simon’s colleague Paul working in a cherry picker for an on site carving

 

Things to Consider When You Commission an On-Site Chainsaw Carving Sculpture: Additional Equipment

And while we’ve mentioned cherry pickers, let’s talk additional equipment!

Simon has his own platforms which enable him to carve a sculpture up to 2.5m without hiring extra equipment. For anything taller than that though, he will need to use scaffolding or a cherry picker. He will arrange it all, so don’t worry about suddenly having to become an expert in this area! As the client though, it’s worth knowing that this will impact the cost of the commission. It may also impact the time needed too. For example, the scaffolding for the Spirit of Ecstasy sculpture took a day to assemble!

Again, Simon will ask you for photos not just of the tree, but of the surrounding ground to help him arrange the best and safest equipment for the job.

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

This photo of work in progress on The Spirit of Ecstasy allow you to see suitable timber size and access for an onsite carving, as well as the scaffolding needed.

Things to Consider When You Commission an On-Site Chainsaw Carving Sculpture: Clean Up!

Chainsaw carving is messy! As you can imagine, there is a LOT of sawdust as well as chunks of tree. Simon is happy to do that tidy-up. However, this means paying for his time, so it’s generally better for the client to handle this part themselves. If you’re commissioning a sculpture, make sure you include time and energy for this clean up before you invite people over for an unveiling!

ThA sculpture of an ent in a monkey puzzle tree trunk. It is surrounded by sawdust. Clean up of this mess is a factor to consider whren you Commission an On-Site Chainsaw Carving Sculpture

The Ent at Poulton Hall surrounded by sawdust! It’s important to be prepared for this, and budget time and energy for cleaning up

 

Things to Consider When You Commission an On-Site Chainsaw Carving Sculpture: Power supply

Simon will generally come armed with fully charged batteries, petrol etc for his chainsaws and olfi video equipment. It can be helpful though, if possible, to give him access to a plug socket or two by running an extension cable through a window.

Simon O'Rourke's giant hand of vyrnwy surrounded by scaffolding. Scaffolding hire is one of the things to consider when you commission a chainsaw sculpture

Simon’s Giant Hand of Vyrnwy before the scaffolding was taken down.

Things to Consider When You Commission an On-Site Chainsaw Carving Sculpture: Final Thoughts

We hope this helps you understand the kind of information Simon will ask for (and why) when you commission and on-site chainsaw carving sculpture. Of course, we missed out that providing copious amounts of tea, coffee and the odd jammy dodger never go amiss either!

If you’re thinking of commissioning a sculpture, we recommend reading this blog about the suitability of your tree first. It may also be helpful to read this blog about commissioning a sculpture too.

To contact Simon about a commission, use the contact form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/. We look forward to hearing from you!

Care for a tree carving sculpture. Photo shows a close up of a yew dragon mouth sculpture treated with decking oil

How Do I Care For A Tree Carving Sculpture?

How Do I Care For A Tree Carving Sculpture? 600 600 Simon O'Rourke

I’m often asked is how to care for a sculpture after it’s installed. It’s a really good question! I’m also often asked how to treat the wood to help preserve its life. If you want to retain the colour on a sculpture then there are several things you can do to help. And so, today’s blog explores care for a tree carving sculpture…

 

Hiker in oak by SImon O'Rourke

Preservation of a commissioned sculpture is a natural concern

 

Care for a Tree Carving Sculpture: Choosing an Oil

I’ve always said decking oil is the best thing for sculptures outdoors due to its containing fungicide and UV protection. This is your best option if you want to treat the wood in any way.
There are several different levels of decking oil to choose from, so it can seem a bit overwhelming.
The brands I’ve used in the past are Rustins, Cuprinol, Ronseal, and Osmo. I’ve also tried own brands from B&Q and Wickes.
Quite often, the cheaper the oil, the less viscous it is. This has advantages such as being easier to spray on, but it isn’t often as hardy against the weather.
A lot of oils today are water-based emulsions. This makes them safer for the environment, which is great. However, I’m less sold on how well they do over time, and the finish can be a little gloopy.

 

Care for a tree carving sculpture. Photo shows a close up of a yew dragon mouth sculpture treated with decking oil

Decking oil can help protect sculptures.

 

Care for a Tree Carving Sculpture: Application

One of the most difficult things about oils is the application. My sculptures tend to have lots of rough surfaces which means it’s not always easy to cover with a brush. It can be even more difficult to get an even coat across the sculpture. It’s worth taking the time to do this though.
It’s possible to thin down most oils with good quality thinners or white spirit and use them in a sprayer. However, bear in mind you will need more coats and therefore more time. The sprayers can be very difficult to clean too.

 

care for a tree carving sculpture: many of simon's sculptures are rough and textured and this makes it difficult to apply even coats of oil. photo shows an example of the texture of a lion's face.

It can be difficult to achieve an even finish when oiling heavily textured sculptures like this lion.

 

Care for a Tree Carving Sculpture: Pre-Treatment

It can be a good idea to treat a sculpture with a clear wood preserver prior to oiling, as this helps prevent things from growing on the surface.
I’ve also been told that raw linseed oil can be good to treat exterior green oak. I’ve had no personal experience using it yet though, so I can’t really comment. But I will be trying it on a scrap piece to see what happens! Watch this space to see if it works!
picture shows a dragon carved in oak by simon o'rourke

Hemlock endures a lot while hired out for events, so oil is essential for protecting the sculpture.

Care for a Tree Carving Sculpture: Retouching

The next question is then how often it’s necessary to repeat this process. As with many questions about the lifespan of a wood sculpture, there are no definite answers. The frequency of oiling will vary based on the environment, and it’s important to note that as soon as the oil wears off the surface then the sun will bleach the wood very quickly. You can’t get the natural colour back again at this stage, unless the wood is sanded or cut back.

 

care for a tree carving sculpture: a man is sanding a piece of wood.

People photo created by freepik – www.freepik.com

Care for a Tree Carving Sculpture: Choosing the Right Timber

I’ve shared before that not every timber is suitable for a tree carving sculpture. All wood has different longevity. So I try to make sure that the sculptures I make are created from long lasting timber like oak, cedar, sweet chestnut, certain cypress varieties or redwood. However, I will occasionally carve a tree stump on a property that is from timber with less lastability, like beech or willow. I will always make sure the client understands that the sculpture won’t be as enduring. I also always recommend a good coat of clear wood preserver prior to oiling for these timbers to give them the best start.

 

Simon O'rourke using a chainsaw to cut into wood

Choosing durable wood is a key part of creating a long-lasting sculpture.

Caring for a Tree Carving Sculpture: Installation

The other thing to note is with free-standing sculptures, it’s wise to place them on a surface with good drainage, or have some airflow underneath them. The Queen of the South Soccer Players are a great example of this. They have been elevated so no water will collect. They are also on a wooden plinth which is where moisture will begin to gather first and travel upwards, preserving the players for longer.

sporting sculptures made by simon o'rourke. Photo shows sculpture of three soccer players standing back to back with onlookers admiring the piece

Caring for a Tree Carving Sculpture: Going Natural

The reality is, no wood sculpture will last forever. Really, the only way to ensure the longest life possible would be to keep it indoors! As I have shared before in this blog about wood versus bronze sculptures, I like the ageing process though. I think it adds character and beauty, and is more in keeping with using a material that once had a life of its own. It’s important to know what sort of finish you’re aiming for when you commission a sculpture. Discussing the finish and creating something you will love is all part of the process when you commission a sculpture.

Side by side photo of a woman's face carved in redwood by simon o'rourke to show the aging process of wood. The left is far more yellow and warm. The right has deeper shadows and cracks and grey hues.

Cracks and changing colour give a chainsaw carved sculpture more character

Get in Touch!

If you would like to commission a sculpture, you can contact me at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/ And whatever finish you choose for your own piece, I will be able to help with recommendations and tips for upkeep!

photo of a tree carving sculpture in progress. the sculpture is a wwi soldier in oak. there is a field and scaffolding behind him. the base of the sculpture shows the shape of the original tree trunk. the sculpture in in the front two thirds, and serves as an example of how to best position a sculpture within a log to avoid cracks that appear as it dries

How to Best Position a Sculpture Within a Log

How to Best Position a Sculpture Within a Log 450 600 Simon O'Rourke

People often ask how to prevent cracking in the wood used for sculptures. The simple answer is you can’t! However, Simon has learned a lot over the years about working with and around the natural behaviours of wood. There are ways to minimise the impact of cracking on your sculpture to ensure it lasts as long as possible. The biggest of those is positioning, and so in this blog, we share how to best position a sculpture within a log.

How best to position a sculpture within a log: ensure cracking enhances the sculpture. This photo shows a close up of an oak face sculpture. It has vertical cracks along the cheek.

Cracks are an unavoidable part of wood sculptures

 

Understand We Can’t Eliminate Cracks

Simon’s first tip as to how to best position a sculpture within a log is actually nothing to do with positioning or carving! The first tip is to understand that it’s impossible to eliminate cracking when working with wood. Cracks and changes in the colour are all part of the ageing and drying process, as Simon shares in this blog about how long a sculpture will last. It’s a natural material and therefore can be unpredictable. Understanding that and being OK with ‘imperfections’ are important as it means that rather than worrying about cracking, you can focus your energy on the best ways of working with it.

 

Side by side photo of a woman's face carved in redwood by simon o'rourke to show the aging process of wood. The left is far more yellow and warm. The right has deeper shadows and cracks and grey hues.

Cracks and changing colour give a chainsaw carved sculpture more character

 

Find the Centre of the Timber

Once we understand we can’t control cracking, we can focus on working with and around it. The first step towards that is finding the centre of the timber. This is important because it impacts the direction and amount of cracking, Wood shrinks faster circumferentially than radially. This means cracks start at the centre and move out, so the further from the centre, the more stable the wood. You will sometimes see cracks coming from the centre like wheel spokes. Usually, the centre is the middle of the log, but not always, so spend some time looking at the log and pay attention to where the cracks begin. This is your centre.

 

Photo shows a tractor with a fork lift attachment carrying a large tree trunk. Finding the centre of the trunk is essential in learning how to best position a sculpture within a log.

Finding the centre of a log like this means you can make the most of the solidity and stability of the timber.

 

Identify the Most Important Features of Your Design.

The next key in how to best position a sculpture within the log is to identify the most important features of your design. These are the parts that you most want to preserve. When sculpting human form, Simon finds it is most often the face. An example of this is the fairy sculpture below. Although there is a lot to see, the face is the part Simon wants people drawn to, so he will position the sculpture so her face is the least impacted by the cracks already appearing.
However, if your sculpture is more abstract, this may not be the case.
Where do you want the focus to be?
What details do you want to preserve?
Once you know this, you can work out the positioning.

 

Photo shows a chainsaw carving workshop with a sculpture in progress in the middle. The shape of a female sitting on a swing is blocked out in a large piece of oak, but no features are visible

The face of this fairy sculpture is the part Simon most wants to preserve from cracking

 

chainsaw carving sculpture of a 5' elf sitting on a swing

Simon carved this so the cracks are part of the shoulder. In this way the details of the face will be preserved.

Tactically Position the Sculpture

Now you know which parts are most important, you can work out whereabouts you position the sculpture in the log. If the face or front is most important, start carving so the centre of the log is at the back of the sculpture. That way as the sculpture ages and dries, the cracks will start at the back.

For this WWI soldier, Simon was able to cut the log and create the sculpture using the front part. If he had carved it in the centre of the timber (which is often instinctual), the cracks would be in the middle of the soldier, and potentially split him in half!!!
By moving the sculpture to the front half, it means the centre of the log becomes the soldier’s back. In this way, the cracks will appear in his back. This will not only preserve the facial details but also means the sculpture is much more stable.

 

photo of a tree carving sculpture in progress. the sculpture is a wwi soldier in oak. there is a field and scaffolding behind him. the base of the sculpture shows the shape of the original tree trunk. the sculpture in in the front two thirds, and serves as an example of how to best position a sculpture within a log to avoid cracks that appear as it dries

The base of the sculpture shows hows Simon positioned the sculpture in front of the centre of the log.

 

Have a Positioning Plan B!

Obviously positioning cracks so they are hidden at the back isn’t always going to be possible. Sometimes we just don’t have a log big enough. If that happens, use plan b in how to best position a log within a sculpture… Position it so there are lots of small cracks across a feature.

It’s better to have lots of small cracks that one big central crack. This way as they swell and shrink with the different weather changes, the impact on the sculpture is less.

An example of this from Simon’s work is his recent horse bench. He positioned the sculpture so the centre was to the far side of the horse. The cracks are all across the mane. In this way, they become part of the texture and there’s no risk of the mane looking like it’s been divided in half! More importantly, it also means the sculpture is the most stable and solid that it can be.

 

Tree carving workshop with a sculpture in progress. The sculpture is a bench, and one end is a horse with flame like mane

Simon used one half of the log for the horse head, and position it so the centre is on the far side of the horse.

 

Horse bench by chainsaw carving artist simon o'rourke

The centre of the log is now this side of the horse to ensure minimal cracking and most stability.

 

Know When to Say No!

Simon’s last tip as to how to best position a sculpture within a log is to recognise when a piece of timber simply isn’t suitable. Sometimes there is just too much rot. We actually have a blog about types of rot to help you with that. Sometimes when you cut into the log you find a crack that is already large and would impact the design. If this is the case, there is often little you can do. At this point, you need to either accept that this sculpture will have a short life, or start again.

This happened with the lion Simon made before Christmas. You’ll be able to see in the photo how the crack is already moving up into the lion’s body. In addition, the rot meant the wood was too soft to carve and would have begun rotting away much quicker. As this was for a commission, Simon wasn’t prepared to compromise on quality, and had to start over on a fresh log. This timber can still be used, but for a much smaller sculpture that wouldn’t incorporate the wood or crack.

At the end of the day, wood is a natural material and is unpredictable. It’s part of its beauty, and working with that and allowing it to enhance the sculpture is part of the challenge Simon enjoys. If you are choosing wood sculpture over something like bronze or marble, hopefully it’s something you like too! But occasionally it really does mean starting over!

 

How best to position a sculpture within a log... photo shows the start of a tree carving sculpture. The shape is blocked out but there is a large crack and split at the centre making it an usuitable log for sculpture.

Sometimes you just have to abandon a piece of timber!

 

Over to You!

Learning to work with cracking is something that will come with experience. If you are very concerned about a crack, it is possible to fill them, and Simon will do this very occasionally. However, he does recommend the tips he has shared here.

To the other chainsaw artists out there, what are some of your tips and tricks for working with cracks?

If you enjoyed this article, there is a  10 minute video below where Simon expands on these points. Please excuse the wind in one of the sections – the Welsh weather doesn’t always co-operate with plans for outdoor filming!

And, as always, if you are interested in commissioning a tree carving sculpture from Simon, contact us via the form on www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

How to Raise Funds for a Tree Carving Sculpture

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

How to Raise Funds for a Tree Carving Sculpture: Crowdfunding

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

ayrton senna bust by simon o'rourke in foreground. It is in progress. In the background Simon looks at a wall of senna photos, checking the details for his sculpture

FAQs: Why is Art Expensive? (What You Pay for When you Commission a Sculpture)

FAQs: Why is Art Expensive? (What You Pay for When you Commission a Sculpture) 1920 1278 Simon O'Rourke

But why does it cost so much? This is a question artists are asked across every field. Whether the artist is a sculpture, musician, painter, photographer (or any other field!) they are frequently asked to justify their prices. Many artists struggle to make a living as they often end up not charging enough to cover their time. It is definitely a valid question and one that we want to cover in this blog!

Simon O'Rourke photographed with the wooden bust he created of Ayrton Senna.

Simon photographed with his Ayrton Senna bust

Why is Art Expensive?
An Economist’s Perspective.

According to Wonderopolis, economists believe the cost of art to be based on supply and demand. They would say when it comes to demand, nobody really needs art! However, there are plenty of people who want beautiful artworks. Therefore, with plenty of demand for artwork, it’s the amount of work available that leads to high prices. Scarcity or the artist’s ability to only produce a limited number of pieces is what makes it expensive.
This is true to an extent. There are however LOTS of other reasons for the cost, and LOADS of things you are getting when you pay for a piece of art…

why is art expensive? photo shows a small wooden sculpture of a bulldog by simon o'rourke.

People are sometimes surprised by the cost of smaller pieces like this adorable bulldog portrait

Why is Art Expensive?
Materials & Sourcing

The first cost behind one of Simon’s sculptures is an obvious one. The raw materials, and the cost of sourcing that material. Even though his timber is only ever from a tree that is damaged, diseased or dangerous, there is still a cost involved. Unless of course, the commission is for a standing stump.
Simon works closely with a few tree surgeons he trusts to ensure that he is getting good, useable timber at a good price. Incidentally, if you are looking for someone to evaluate, cut back or remove a tree, we recommend TreeTech NW!

Sourcing and transporting the raw materials is one of the expenses underlying the cost of a sculpture

Why is Art Expensive?
Cost of Equipment

Every artist needs tools to work with. Simon is no different. And purchasing and maintaining chainsaws, drills, burr bits and more can be expensive. They cost a little more than say a good quality rolling pin or paintbrush! Tree Carving also demands good quality outdoor clothing, and protective workwear such as boots, helmet, ear protection and sometimes glasses or mask to shield Simon’s face. It’s important not to compromise on these as they have an impact on both long and short term health. Stihl make some great quality PPE by the way if you are on the lookout for some yourself!

why is art expensive? photo shows treecarver simon o'rourke on scaffolding working on a sculpture of a ghostly woman. He wears PPE. this is one of the underlying expenses in the cost of art.

It is important for artists to have the right tools and equipment like the PPE Simon is wearing in this photo of him working on The Marbury Lady

Why is Art Expensive?
Project-Specific Costs

Every project also has its own unique costs, not just the cost of the materials. If Simon has to travel, or stay in local accommodation, these are costs he has to take into account. Artists have different ways of doing this. Some create an itemised account and bill the customer for it specifically. Others will take it into account as something their annual income needs to cover when they set themselves an hourly rate. Either way, it is a legitimate thing!
There may also be other costs too, like hiring scaffolding or a cherry picker (trees can be quite tall you know!). Perhaps Simon needs to pay someone like Treetech to deliver the piece. There may also be permits needed in some public places for some of his sculptures.
Whatever the need, they are some of the costs that have to be factored into a commission, and they are part of what you get when you pay for artwork.

Why is art expensive? photo shows simon o'rourke with his oak maiden sculpture. It is around 3m tall, and he is standing in a cherry picker, one of the underlying costs behind his art

Sometimes Simon has additional equipment to hire, like this cherry picker used for The Oak Maiden

Why is Art Expensive?
Underlying Business Costs

We’ve all seen the romantic pictures of Bohemian artists working from their cluttered studio apartments. Or the classic photographer-in-movies who turns his bedroom into a darkroom. It’s a lovely picture, and one that we often cling to. Sadly though, it isn’t accurate! While there are many artists who are able to work alone, others (like Simon) employ a team of people. And rather than working from that perfect attic apartment, they rent or buy buildings. In Simon’s case this is a necessity not a preference. Can you imagine trying to carve a sculpture with a chainsaw on your dining room table?!  This means there are lots of costs that the artist’s business has to cover…

Salaries.
Rent/mortgage and utilities.
Insurance.
Health and safety training (especially proper training for using chainsaws and keeping licenses updated)

Insurance and health and safety compliance aren’t things we often think about when we think ‘art’, but as many artists are running business that go beyond themselves, it is one of the costs behind the ‘product’. Simon and Liz are fortunate to have a great consultant they work with to help with this side of things. If you run a business and need some advice, we recommend talking to Acton Health and Safety.

Why is art expensive? Simon O'Rourke is working on a sculpture in the middle of a busy workshop. Running the workshop, insurance, licensing for the chainsaw users etc are some of the costs behind his artwork

Simon at work in the workshop. Covering the costs of running a workshop are some of the underlying costs behind the cost of a commission.

Why is Art Expensive?
Artist’s Time

One of the costs behind a piece of art is paying the artist for the time it takes them to create the piece. That time may not just be the actual creation time either. They will have put time into getting quotes for equipment, finding the costs of materials, going back and forth with the client in conversation to find out what they really want. They will also put time into research and sometimes practice.

When Simon is asked to create something, he needs to take time researching the subject. That may look like hours on the internet looking at lion paws, as he did for these big cats. It may mean googling the clothing of a particular period as he did for these miners and the cricketer. His most recent portrait even included trying to establish if Shakespeare was left or right-handed! Portraits of real people, in particular, need him to spend time really trying to learn something about the person’s character and life, as he did for the Ayrton Senna bust.

This time and these details can be what makes the difference between a very good sculpture and an excellent one. And so, when you pay for a piece of art, you are getting the physical piece, but also the artist’s time!

ayrton senna bust by simon o'rourke in foreground. It is in progress. In the background Simon looks at a wall of senna photos, checking the details for his sculpture

Thorough research and preparation ensure excellence in Simon’s pieces

Why is Art Expensive?
Training, Expertise, Experience & Reputation

This last category of costs is a little harder to quantify than all the others. In every industry, we set salaries according to how much responsibility the person has, how much training and how much experience. Teacher salaries increase each year to a certain point. Gaining a Masters can lead to an increase in salary as a nurse. Many salaries are set taking into account how much the person paid for their training as well as the incredible amount of knowledge, skill and expertise they have. A consultant is able to charge more when they have gained experience and proven their capability.

We recognise these unquantifiable things make a difference to the ‘product’ we are receiving.

And so it is in the art world.
When we pay for a piece of art, we are gaining something we can’t count. What we see represents years of training, reading, watching, practice. Making mistakes. Learning better methods. Trying different tools. Tears. Sweat. Coaching. Starting over.

When you pay for a commission, you are getting all of that as well as the physical piece you take home… something that really can’t be valued.

simon o'rourker with his sculpture 'the dragon of bethesda'

When Simon carves a dragon like this, it is informed by years of sketching and carving other dragons.

Commissioning a Piece

We hope this has helped you think about what you are getting when you commission and pay for one of Simon’s sculptures – or any piece of art!

Simon often takes on a lot of public sculptures and loves for art to be accessible to as many as possible. For this reason, he is very reasonable in his costing. We do recognise though that for many people, owning art is a luxury, and cost can be off-putting.
However, Simon will also do what he can to ensure that cost isn’t the reason a potential client doesn’t go ahead with a commission. As we mentioned in our blog about ‘the sculptures that didn’t make the cut‘, if a potential client says ‘no’ based on cost, Simon will often have other ideas that could help bring the price down.

Maybe it’s size.
Maybe it’s less detail.
Perhaps it’s using different wood…

sketch by simon o'rourke of a potential sculpture of an unknown female

After Simon has made initial suggestions, he will chat with you about any changes, whether that be cost, material or design

So, if you are thinking about commissioning a piece, don’t assume that the initial quote is a final one. Although there are very real costs that often can’t be altered, Simon will also do what he can to make suggestions that match the budget you have, where he can. Don’t be afraid to ask!

You can start that commissioning process at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/

We look forward to hearing from you!

commissioning the best sculpture: a sketch of a lion by simon o'rourke. It is the head and front legs on a lion standing on a plinth. the lion is suggested to be Aslan from C S Lews' Narnia series.

Commissioning the Right Sculpture – Why Some Designs Make the Cut, (!!!!), and Others Don’t!

Commissioning the Right Sculpture – Why Some Designs Make the Cut, (!!!!), and Others Don’t! 1430 2048 Simon O'Rourke

It’s probably no surprise that Simon has an archive of sketches that never became sculptures. There are all kinds of reasons for this. It is SO important for a piece of commissioned art to be EXACTLY what the client wants. This means that no matter how great an idea, sometimes it just doesn’t work out for a sculpture to be realised. Perhaps the design just isn’t quite what the client wants. Sometimes the budget, location, timing, or feel just don’t come together. In this blog, we share some of Simon’s sketches that didn’t ‘make the cut’!!! (see what we did there?!) and explore some of his thoughts on those sculptures. We also have some tips on commissioning the right sculpture for yourself…

Commissioning the right sculpture means exploring a variety of designs. Picture shows a faded photo of a garden with a tree stump. Simon O'Rourke has sketched his proposed sculpture over the photo so the client can imagine what that piece would look like. Proposed sculpture is a Japanese dragon wrapped round the trunk.

Simon will often overlay his design over a photo of the tree to help the client visualise the finished piece.

Commissioning the Right Sculpture: The Process

Essentially, the first step in exploring a commission is for Simon to produce a sketch and costs for the sculpture. If the tree is a standing stump, he will often sketch his ideas over a photo of the tree which makes it easier for the client to visualise the finished piece. Sometimes there will be some conversation about modifications (design and budget). Sometimes though, the conversation ends at this point. The design may be revisited for another client in the future. Occasionally Simon may have the opportunity to use it for a competition. Often though, that idea is archived, and those are some of the sketches we’re sharing here today.

Picture shows sketches of two different potential horse sculptures by Simon O'Rourke. Above each is text explaining the size, material and costs. Proposals like this are a key part in commissioning the right sculpture by an artist.

Proposals include details of size, material, and costs, and often include more than one suggestion

Simon’s Perspective:

As well as sharing some of Simon’s unused sketches, we wanted to ask his perspective on these pieces that never became sculptures…

commissioning the right sculpture: a sketch of a lion by simon o'rourke. It is the head and front legs on a lion standing on a plinth. the lion is suggested to be Aslan from C S Lews' Narnia series.

An archived sketch for an Aslan sculpture

Q: Simon, how does it feel when a customer says no to a sculpture?

A: “It depends on why they say no if it’s because of budget, I will always offer an alternative option. I never the price to put off a customer.”

Client tips:
  • Rather than being disappointed by a proposal for an unaffordable sculpture, mention your budget when you first begin exploring ideas.
  • If you are commissioning a piece for a public space it is also worth researching grants or considering crowdfunding.
sketch of a crocodile emerging from long grass. the sketch is a proposal by sculpture simon o'rourke. sketches like this are a vital part in commissioning the best sculpture.

An idea Simon had for a reptilian sculpture

Is it helpful when a customer has a firm idea of what they would like?

“Yes, it’s really helpful as it gives me a starting point for the design.”

Client tips:
  • Share as much as you can about what you are looking for in a sculpture. This can include pictures of other sculptures you like, artists you admire, or a specific style or story you want. Although Simon will never copy the work of another artist, it helps him come up with a design that is more likely to be perfect for you.
  • Don’t be afraid to come back to Simon with specific changes or tweaks. Your satisfaction with the finished piece is the most important thing, and dialogue (as we mentioned in our St George and the Dragon blog) is a big part of that.
Sketch of a proposed sculpture by Simon O'Rourke. It features a giant Prometheus leaning down and giving fire to a small human.

A proposal for a sculpture of Prometheus

Q: Are there any designs you have done or sketches that you have produced that you wish the client would have said yes to and why?

A: Yes, I designed a Marionnette for a client, similar to the one I’d done at the HuskyCup 2007!! Sadly the customer didn’t have the budget for it after the other sculptures he’d already commissioned from me!!!

Client tip:

Of course, we understand sometimes a sculpture just can’t happen. That said if you would like a collection of commissioned art pieces but budget is an issue, consider ways of using them to generate income. Could you open your garden on certain days as part of a town art trail? Or hire out the sculpture for events?

proposal sketch for a sculpture by simon o'rourke. the sketch shows a giant 'treefolk' while he talks to a young boy. marionette sitting

The original sketch for a marionette sculpture.

Q: If there was one thing that you could sculpt, that no other Sculptor had made, what would it be and why?

A: It would be a huge dragon, like, huge, that moved and breathed fire, and just looked awesome, and completely embodied all of the ideals of the mythological descriptions and imaginations of what we, today, think of as, a dragon!!!!!

Client tip:

Part of commissioning the best sculpture can be finding the right artist. If you have a sculpture in mind, research artists and see if any have a particular passion or focus that ties in with what you want. For example, somebody wanting a dancer in Impressionist style would do well to find a sculpture who admires and emulates Degas. For people wanting human form, dragons or fantasy sculpture, Simon has an incredible portfolio.

Sketch of a brick tower which has broken in half. Half lies on the floor. A dragon climbs the side of the standing tower. The sketch is a sculpture proposal by Simon O'Rourke, and sketches like this form an important part of commissioning the best sculpture for the client.

An archived ‘dragon and tower’ sketch.

Q: Have you got any regrets when it comes to some of the sketches you’ve done and jobs you’ve not got and if so, why?

A: I feel I could have been more adventurous with some of the public art commissions I’ve been asked to quote for. I’ve erred on the side of caution with some of my proposals and reckon if I’d have gone with my first instinct I would have got the job.

Client tip:

There is a better chance of commissioning the right sculpture if the artists bidding know what you are looking for. Mention particular styles, inspiration, mood etc when you announce a commission opportunity, and all your competing artists are more likely to propose something you love!

sketch of an ent by simon o'rourke.

Simon originally sketched this Ent as an idea for the HuskyCup

Commissioning the Right Sculpture for Yourself

If you are interested in commissioning your own sculpture, we suggest reading our blog “How to Commission a Sculpture“. It will help you understand the process. As you can tell from these unused sketches, we understand that an enquiry doesn’t commit you to a sculpture!
Simon would love to start the conversation with you though!

Or perhaps one of these sketches has caught your attention and you would like to know more about commissioning the piece?

Whatever your hopes for a tree carving sculpture, contact us via the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/ and Simon will be in touch!

 

 

Woodland sculpture trails by simon o'rourke. sculpture of an owl hanging upside down next to a group of bats in Meadow Park

FAQs: Woodland Sculpture Trails

FAQs: Woodland Sculpture Trails 2000 2000 Simon O'Rourke

We’ve often talked about Simon’s woodland sculpture trails, and earlier this year we brought you virtual tours of Meadow Park, Page’s Wood, and Fforest Fawr. We wanted to answer some of the questions people often have, so here is our quick guide to woodland sculpture trails.

Woodland sculpture trails by simon o'rourke: european lynx sculpture in redwood located in fforest fawr

Simon’s European Lynx in Fforest Fawr

What is a Woodland Sculpture Trail?

At their most basic, Woodland sculpture trails are a series of sculptures based on a specific theme. Those sculptures are then stationed around a guided walk in a woodland area. Guests follow a prescribed route, and view the sculptures as they walk. The theme can be anything from local animals to fictional characters. Simon is happy to create either, but usually, people want something connected with the local environment.
In the past Simon and Liz have written stories for two of the trails, so there is a strong tie between the individual sculpture. For a third there was no central character, but they provided information in verse form for each sculpture.

Wooden sculpture of an owl on top of a tree trunk. The sculpture is part of the meadow park sculpture trail by Simon O'Rourke

Ruby the Owl is the central character of the Meadow Park Woodland Sculpture Trail

What Are the Benefits of Woodland Sculpture Trails?

Woodland sculpture trails have many benefits. We detail them more in this blog ‘Why Commission a Sculpture Trail?‘. In brief though, a few of the reasons include that they give individuals and families an extra reason to make the effort of visiting your site. They convey information in a fun, understandable way which is more likely to be retained than reading a flyer or placard. That means they help convey or reinforce your message, or tell your story. This is [probably the biggest reason we like these commissions so much. We are passionate about the environment and love that we can be part of educating people and calling them to take their part in caring for the earth.
In addition, they make great photo opportunities. As people post those photos online, it gives you some free publicity too!

Woodland sculpture trails by simon o'rourke. sculpture of an owl hanging upside down next to a group of bats in Meadow Park

Ruby the Owl meets new friends at Meadow Park, and learns about their homes.

What About the Story?

There are many reasons to have a story included in the trail. People engage more with characters and stories than with isolated snippets of information. They are fun, with an element of whimsy – like reading Wind in the Willows, or The Animals of Farthing Wood.
In turn, this means they are more likely to read the information and retain what they read. Simple verse form means that children can also join in and understand. One of the benefits to a story rather than stand-alone verses is that people are more likely to complete the full trail to, to discover the full story.
Simon and Liz have written the stories in the past. However, clients are free to choose other routes – including no story at all! They can provide the story themselves if they prefer, or could involve a local community group or school in the project.

sculpture of an owl watching a fox emerging from a hole in a tree trunk. It forms park of meadow park trail, one of simon o'rourke's sculpture trails

Ruby the Owl meets a fox at Meadow Park

What Goes in a Woodland Sculpture Trail Story?

Ideally, the story helps convey information about the local area. Simon and Liz then make the final sculpture a call to action, encouraging people to do their part in caring for the environment.
For the Meadow Park trail, Simon and Liz created the character of Ruby the Owl. Ruby was looking for a home for herself. She met other woodland animals along the way, saw their homes, and discovered why they wouldn’t work for her.
In the picture above, for example, the accompanying verse reads:

By the roots of a tree,
in a hole in the ground,
A fox with a bushy red tail is found.
Is this my home?
Lined with soil and bark?
I don’t like it here, it’s much too dark!

In Page’s Wood, the two protagonists (Verity Vole and Horatio Hedgehog) travel around the woodland, and the animals they meet tell them about their homes.

Wooden sculpture of a frog from Page's Wood, one of simon o'rourke's woodland sculpture trails

The frog from the Page’s Wood Sculpture Trail

How Much Do Woodland Sculpture Trails Cost?

There are too many variables to give a guide here. Things like size, number of sculptures, type of wood, and how the wood is being sourced are big factors. Whether the sculptures are carved on-site or in Simon’s workshop alters the cost too due to the need to hire additional equipment.
If you are interested, chat to Simon about it via the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/

The cost of a trail can seem offputting initially. However, woodland sculpture trails can help you adapt your site to having more outdoor activities (making them part of covid adaptations). They can be part of environmental education, or an arts and culture initiative. This means there may be grants available to help you with the cost of your woodland sculpture trail. We are also in an age where crowdfunding can be hugely successful and offset some of the costs.

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

This wolf forms part of the Fforest Fawr trail.

How Do I Commission a Woodland Sculpture Trail?

A big commission can seem intimidating, but Simon makes the whole process as easy as possible and will guide you through each step.
Firstly, there will need to be a decision about the theme, and any specific sculptures. Researching and getting creative is something Simon loves though, so don’t worry if you feel stuck for ideas.
You can come to Simon with as vague or specific of a concept/vision as you have, and he will put together a proposal for you to discuss. This will include sketches, the story (if required), and costings.

picture shows the original sketch for a wooden bench designed by simon o'rourke for the page's wood sculpture trail

One of the original sketches and poetry for Page’s Wood Sculpture Trail

Can I see Past Examples of Your Woodland Sculpture Trails?

Yes!
There are a few ways to do this.

1. Go and visit!
Trails are located in Fforest Fawr, Page’s Wood, and Meadow Park.

2. On Simon’s website
We have virtual tours of each of the woodland sculpture trails mentioned in this article at
https://www.treecarving.co.uk/woodland-sculpture-trails-meadow-park/
https://www.treecarving.co.uk/woodland-sculpture-trail-pages-wood/
https://www.treecarving.co.uk/fforest-fawr-woodland-sculpture-trail/
And there is also a Meadow Park case study.

3. Check local media
Each of the trails has been covered by local press, and can easily be found through a google search. It’s good to see how the trails were received by locals, and the excitement and enthusiasm they can generate for your woodland.

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

I Don’t Have a Woodland But Could a Trail Work For Me?

YES! We’ve talked about woodland sculpture trails here because they have been popular commissions and tie in with Simon and Liz’s passion for the environment. But a sculpture trail can benefit ANY attraction, as we mentioned in ‘Why Commission a Sculpture Trail’.
A sculpture trail should serve you, and figures can be created to tie in with any theme, message or history of the area.
It can also be something just for fun! Simon has created two Alice in Wonderland trails in the past, as well as an ‘apple trail’ for a local National Trust property as part of their Autumn activities.
The only limit to the possibilities is imagination!

Alice in Wonderland and Queen of Hearts sculptures from one of Simon O'Rourke's wooden sculpture trails

The Queen of Hearts and Alice from one of Simon’s two Alice in Wonderland trails

How Do I Contact You?

Simon is on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, which are all great for viewing his work too. However, the best way is to use the contact form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact.Whatever your idea or questions, we’d love to hear from you.
And if you do happen to participate in a trail, why not tag Simon in a photo? It’s always fun to see people enjoying his work!

 

How to commission a sculpture: picture shows a side by side of Simon O'rourke's original sketch and a finished sculpture of George and the Dragon. Minor changes were made to accomodate the flaws in the wood

How to Commission A Sculpture

How to Commission A Sculpture 960 960 Simon O'Rourke

How do I commission a sculpture?

If you find yourself thinking about commissioning a bespoke wood sculpture, you may be wondering where to start. The first thing is I want to make it as easy as possible for you to commission your own sculpture! So this is how I guide you through that process…

Bulldog sculpture by simon o'rourke. Visit blog to find out how to commission a sculpture of your own pet

Pets portraits are a popular subject for commissions

How to Commission A Sculpture: The Timber.

If you have your own tree stem you would like me to sculpt, I’ll need to see as many pictures as possible. I also need to know what the dimensions are. It’s not always possible for me to visit and see it for myself, so it’s important I get all the information so that I can give a price. At this stage, I can tell you what species the tree is and how suitable for sculpting it is. You can also check the basic requirements for yourself too in this blog about the suitability of your tree for a sculpture.

If you don’t have a tree or a log, or your own wood isn’t suitable, don’t worry! I can source any size of good quality timber.

How to commission a sculpture: photo shows a sketch of a man measuring the circumference of the tree to check if it is suitable for a sculpture.

Measuring dimensions is one of the first steps in determining the suitability of a tree for a bespoke wooden sculpture.

 

How to Commission A Sculpture: The Design

The next step is to discuss designs. Prior to producing any drawings, I ask for a deposit to secure the commission. I start with verbal ideas of what can be done, and can give examples of the quality and style in which your sculpture will be created.

Once you’re happy with my ideas, and a 50% deposit is paid, I will produce a drawing of what your sculpture will look like. Depending on the limitations of the wood, or unseen anomalies in the wood, the design may alter slightly when I create the sculpture.

How to commission a sculpture: picture shows a side by side of Simon O'rourke's original sketch and a finished sculpture of George and the Dragon. Minor changes were made to accomodate the flaws in the wood

This side by side of George and the Dragon shows some of the minor changes that may be needed.

How to Commission A Sculpture: The Creation

When the creation of the sculpture has begun, I record the process, either with still photos or using time-lapse photography. It’s always exciting to see the figure emerging from the wood! As an example, you can watch the timelapse of the St George and the Dragon sculpture below. Or check out my You Tube Channel and Facebook page for more.

On completion of the sculpture, whether it was completed at my workshop or created from your own tree, the most satisfying part of the process is seeing the delight on your face when you see the finished piece!

How to Commission a Sculpture: Telling Your Story

Your sculpture is a part of your story. That’s why I want to make it as easy as possible for you to commission your very own beautiful sculpture. Whether it’s a much-loved pet, a reflection of a passion/hobby, or something to reflect your heritage, it’s a privilege to create it.

Hot to commission a sculpture: A couple stand either side of a sculpture of a Sri Lankan lion, commissioned to reflect their heritage

This Sri Lankan Lion sculpture reflects the heritage of the client

If you would like to commission a sculpture or chat more, contact me via the form on www.treecarving.co.uk/contact. You can also read more testimonials on my Testimonials page.

Photo shows a comparison of Simon O'Rourke's original sketch for a wooden Sherlock Holmes bust and the finished sculpture.

This Sherlock Holmes bust was commissioned as a gift for a fan.

Please note: We hope you can appreciate that at certain times of the year, Simon’s calendar can get quite full. We do encourage you to get in touch as soon as possible if your commission is needed for a specific occasion like a birthday or anniversary, so he can do his best to fit it in.

What to do with a diseased tree? SImon O'Rourke created this sculpture of a dragon emerging from a tree trunk out of an ash killed by ash dieback

What To Do With A Diseased Tree

What To Do With A Diseased Tree 1368 1824 Simon O'Rourke

Trees contribute massively to a landscape’s value, so it’s important to take care of them. In fact, if you have a tree you suspect may be diseased and need some help, you can read this blog about how to deal with the most common tree diseases. However, sometimes there is nothing that can be done to treat a tree. At this point, lots of people wonder what they should do with a diseased tree. Cutting back or removing the tree are the most obvious options. You could also consider giving life back to the tree though, and turn it into a beautiful piece of art!

Wooden sculpture of radagast the brown from The Hobbit. Created by Simon O'Rourke from a diseased tree

Radagast was created to give life back to a diseased tree

Simon loves to transform trees that are dead or diseased into wonderful sculptures. In fact, his most recent creation (an emerging dragon) was one such project. He created the dragon from a standing tree trunk of a tree that had died from ash dieback.

What to do with a diseased tree? SImon O'Rourke created this sculpture of a dragon emerging from a tree trunk out of an ash killed by ash dieback

This diseased tree was transformed into this beautiful dragon

About Ash Dieback

Ash dieback is sadly extremely common and will kill around 80% of ash trees across the UK. It can affect trees of any age, and unlike some diseases, they can fight back and recover. However, repeated infection over years will eventually kill the tree. Research is being done, and it is thought that in the next fifty or so years, trees in the UK may have developed a tolerance so ash dieback won’t be the same threat to the environment.
Thankfully there are a few steps we can take to reduce its spread until then.
The Woodland Trust recommends these simple measures to help reduce the spread

  • Clean your shoes before and after visiting a wood.
  • Avoid taking cuttings or plant material from the countryside.
  • Wash your car or bike wheels to remove mud or plant matter.
    what to do with a diseased tree? Simon O'roruke created a stunning dragon nech and head emerging from a standing tree trunk of an ash killed by ash dieback

What To Do With a Diseased Tree: Reporting

If we notice signs of a diseased tree, we should also make a report to the Tree Alert service. The service has been established to gather information about the health of the nation’s trees, woodlands and forests. Reporting is fairly straightforward, and you can find out more at https://www.forestresearch.gov.uk/tools-and-resources/tree-alert/what-do-you-need-make-your-report/.

view looking down on a sculpture of a dragon emerging from a tree trunk. Sculpture is by artist simon o'rourke and transformed a tree killed by ash dieback into a piece of art

What To Do With A Diseased Tree: New Life

Obviously, there are times when treatment measures are not enough, and a tree will succumb to disease.

At that point the most common option is removal. For that, we recommend talking to a good arborist, such as Treetech. However, as this emerging dragon shows, there is another option for a diseased tree. Depending on the spread of disease and the size of the tree, Simon may be able to give it new life and turn it into a sculpture that reflects your hobbies, passions, or location. One example of this is the Radagast the Brown sculpture which was created from a blue atlas cedar infected with sirococcus.

life sized sculpture of radagast the brown, a wizard from Lord of the Rings. He is in a garden and surrounded by greenery. He is carved into the trunk of a tree killed by sirococcus.

Is My Tree Suitable For a Sculpture?

Although we would love for every tree to be able to be given new life, not every tree is going to be suitable for a chainsaw carving sculpture. The biggest factors are the spread of the disease, and the size of the tree. If you are wondering if a sculpture from your diseased tree may be possible, a good place to start is this blog we wrote about the suitability of your tree. If it meets the criteria for size, the next step would be to contact Simon via www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/.

Although Simon is always happy to make suggestions for a subject based on the shapes he sees, it’s a good idea if you have some ideas in mind too. You can see the range of his work in his Facebook Photos or his website portfolio for some inspiration.

More Sculptures From Diseased Trees

We thought that a blog about what to do with a diseased tree wouldn’t be complete though without visiting some of Simon’s other sculptures that came about this way…

what to do with a diseased tree? photo shows an elm trunk transformed into a sculpture of a ghostly lady, standing in the grounds of marbury park

What To Do With a Diseased Tree: The Marbury Lady

The Marbury Lady in Cheshire was commissioned as a result of a diseased tree. Sadly, saline poisoning damaged or killed many trees in Marbury Park. For this sculpture, Simon researched the story of the Marbury Lady and transformed the dead tree into a stunning sculpture that reflects local folklore. Now the tree is not only a beautiful piece of art, but it also adds to the life of the park as people visit to see it, and it tells some of the story of the location. What a great turnaround!

Close up of a sculpture of a female face, covered by strips of veil. Sculpture is the Marvury lady by simon o'roruke

The ‘ghost’ side of The Marbury Lady

What To Do With a Diseased Tree: The Poulton Hall Ent

Our next transformed diseased tree is a Monkey Puzzle in the grounds of Poulton Hall, Bebington. Earlier this year Simon turned the tree into an Ent from Lord of the Rings, and it has definitely been popular with his social media followers.
Aracurius the Ent (as he is known!) is one of many sculptures on the estate that are based on fantasy literature. This theme came about through the link with The Inklings, and reflects a passion of one of the previous residents.

So, if you are wondering what to do with a diseased tree, thinking about a subject that ties in with a theme already in your home or garden is a great start. Perhaps it’s wildlife. Maybe you live in a coastal town, so something nautical would be more fitting. Maybe you already have garden ornaments you could tie it in with. Whatever you choose, turning your diseased tree into a sculpture in keeping with that theme can only add to your home.

3m tall monkey puzzle tree trunk transformed into a sculpture on an ent from lord of the rings by simon o'rourke

The ent is a fabulous addition to the fantasy sculptures at Poulton Hall

What To Do With a Diseased Tree: Fforest Fawr Trail

In 2018 Simon created a sculpture trail for Fforest Fawr in South Wales. Regular readers of our blog or followers on social media will know some of the sculptures well. The trail is based on local wildlife (present and extinct) and includes a wolf, lynx, deer, and even a beetle among others. What many people don’t know though, is that the timber came from a diseased tree!

The tree was originally a redwood in Oswestry town centre. It was diseased and dying, and became a danger to the public. The only option at that point was removal. Far from being a loss though, that tree went on to be part of a wonderful trail in beautiful woodland.

Now, many people get to enjoy the sculptures as works of art. The trail is also educational though and teaches how we can better protect our environment. Viewers are challenged and taught to be better stewards of the land. So hopefully out of the death of that redwood tree, many others will live!

So perhaps you don’t want a sculpture on your own property. It may be possible though for your diseased tree to be removed, and used elsewhere.

Either way, it’s great to see something that was dead or damaged transformed into something beautiful.

what to do with a diseased tree? this sculpture of a red deer was made from a dead redwood

A diseased redwood tree was the source of timber fo the red deer in Fforest Fawr

What To Do With a Diseased Tree: Final Thoughts

We hope you see that there are endless possibilities for a tree that is diseased to have new life. If you have such a tree, Simon would love to hear from you via www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/.
He’d love to be part of transforming its story.

However, just like sickness in humans, there is a lot we can do to help protect our environment from disease. If you would like to know more about caring for trees, and preventing disease, we recommend visiting https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/plant-trees/advice/care/ for some great advice from The Woodland Trust. Between us, we can all be part of keeping our woodlands healthy!

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!