Competition

Skulptur Rabbatz: A Cacophony of Carvers!

Skulptur Rabbatz: A Cacophony of Carvers! 150 150 Simon O'Rourke

Skulptur Rabatz 2019 certainly lived up to its name! ‘Rabatz’ translates as ‘din’, and with 13 simultaneous sculptures in production, there certainly was a ‘din’! There was also a lot of fun, community, and creativity on show at this event hosted by Florian Lindner.

Florian is a well-known character in the tree carving world. He hosts an event around this time each year, usually called ‘Holz-Flori & Friends’. This year, the change of name reflected the task: creating an ‘orchestra’ of zodiac figures.

Participants in Skulptur Rabatz

Participants in Skulptur Rabatz

 

Skulptur Rabatz stands 2019

Participant ‘booths’ at Skulptur Rabatz, displaying the flag of each participant

Over the event, 15 tree carvers took part and each created a ‘sign of the zodiac’ playing an instrument. When displayed together, they make up a ‘zodiac orchestra’. The sculptures will be displayed in a circle, as if they mark numbers on a clock. Simon carved the conductor, who will stand in the centre as the ‘gnomon’ (the piece that casts the shadow).

The rabbit gnomon by Simon O'Rourke

The rabbit gnomon

The idea of zodiac figures playing instruments is quite comic, and meant the artists could all really use their imaginations.  Most are oversized and have a cartoon or caricature-like quality, adding to the fun of the concept. Simon’s finished sculpture is an ‘Alice-in-Wonderland’-like moon-gazing hare (fits with the zodiac/astrology theme) with a fly-away tail coat and over-sized feet and ears. And what better thing to use to conduct such an orchestra than a chainsaw with a blade Stihl would be proud of!

Rabbit Gnomon with chainsaw baton by Simon O'Rourke

The rabbit conductor ‘gnomon’ with chainsaw ‘baton’

There was also a speed carve where Simon carved this elegant-looking lady in under an hour!

elegant lady Speed carve by Simon O'Rourke

Simon’s speed carve from the event

As with all these events, there is far more happening than just the carving – impressive as that is. As well as other attractions, Skulptur Rabatz also featured ‘The Sprockets’ – a band made up of some of the carvers and their wives, including Si and Liz! No footage has emerged yet, but if you give Skulptur Rabatz a follow on their Facebook page, some might appear soon!

The 13 sculptures completed for the sundial

The 13 sculptures completed for the sundial

Pets and family are also welcome and get incorporated into the fun. This gave @poppystihl chance to build her own following/fan club!
Poppy is Liz and Si’s dog, and can often be found ‘helping’ at events. You can follow her tree carving adventures separate from Simon on Instagram. If you ever stop to see Simon and Liz at an event, feel free to give her a belly rub!

If you are able, we fully recommend coming to a tree carving event. Not only is it impressive to watch the artists at work, but the events are great fun. There is a wonderful sense of community and inspired creativity. They usually happen surrounded by beautiful scenery, and there is often plenty to do for the whole family.

Did you enjoy the ‘zodiac’ theme? Maybe it’s something you’d like to incorporate into your own garden, using the star signs of your family? If so, message us on [email protected] to talk about possibilities and costs.

Rauschwitz Angel

Rauschwitz Angel 150 150 Simon O'Rourke

Germany has a big tree carving tradition, and throughout the year there are events, festivals and competitions. We love that we get to be part of the events themselves. Bigger than this though, we love that we are able to be part of the tree carving community. Each time we participate we meet wonderful people and grow friendships whilst helping to maintain the tradition.

This week’s blog is from one of the newer events, hosted by Rauschwitzer Wood Culture Community. This particular event is run by Christian Schmidt who himself is a talented tree carver. It featured several artists carving angels (read on for the explanation) and a speed carving competition.

In Rauschwitz, there is an open air church, where the ‘walls’ are all trees, and a space cleared between them, with benches for the congregation to sit on. The task this year for all the participants, was to carve an angel for the end of each of the church benches.

Rauschwitz Church Angel by Simon O'Rourke

Rauschwitz Angel by Simon O’Rourke – notice the photobomb by @poppystihl!

The angel ‘theme’ really helped to tie the carvings together. There was incredible diversity as each artist was free to carve their own interpretation. There is also a real unity though as they all carved the same subject. This is a great depiction of what church is supposed to be – a celebration of diversity within unity.

Rather than just focus on Simon’s sculpture, we thought we would also share some others from the event. What do you like about each, and why? Leave us a comment and let us know!

Griffon Ramsey angel

Angel by Griffon Ramsey

Angel at Rauschwitz by Dieter Kruger

Angel by Andrej Lochel

Angel by Andrej Lochel

Angel by Andrej Lochel

Miners Revisited

Miners Revisited 150 150 Simon O'Rourke

In a week’s time (8th-10th June) Simon and his wife Liz will be in Germany for The Huskycup.
The Huskycup is an annual event in Blockhausen with demonstrations, exhibits, and a speed-carving competition. At one time it was a competition, but is now a more relaxed event. Artists pair up over the week to create something that ties in with the theme, without the pressure of competition. Simon has often participated, and  took first place in 2016 with his Viking Raid.

Viking Raid, Huskycup 2016

Viking Raid, Huskycup 2016

Simon will partner with Japanese artist Kejie Kedokoro for this year’s event. They will join five other teams to produce the best sculpture they can over the two days. This year’s theme is especially fitting for 2019 for us – Dragons!

The teams can produce anything their imagination allows! Realistic, comic, imagined or recognisable from a movie or TV show – the choice is theirs! We’ve seen Simon create amazing dragons in all those styles, so we can’t wait to see what he makes this time!

Until then, we want to flashback to last year and The Bergmen (Miners)….

Simon O'Rourke's Bergmen in progress at Huskycup 2018s

Simon O’Rourke’s Bergmen in progress at Huskycup 2018

 

Simon’s challenge was to recreate a likeness of 15th Century German miners. He loves sculpting human form, so this was a project he could really sink his teeth into. This carve allowed him to show his skill in creating not only lifelike human form, but also historically accurate, realistic uniform whether through details like  buttons on the uniform or the sense of movement of the cloth.

Simon O'Rourke miner carving

Working on details of the miners at Huskycup 2018

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Simon’s inspiration for his human form sculpting comes from Rodin and Bernini. Both are artists known for their use of texture, and for pioneering a style where they created motion and ‘story’ in their sculptures, rather than presenting classical poses. Simon was faithful to that ideal when he carved these miners. It’s pretty clear in this photo of the final sculptures that these 15th century Bergmen are delighted with their likeness!

The finished Miners, Huskycup 2018

The finished Miners, Huskycup 2018

As well as the opportunity to carve, one of the fantastic parts of events like this is the community. The website shows it is going to be an amazing event. There will be great food and drink and entertainment. The speed carve features Germany against a combined Czech Republic and Slovakian team – who are keen to win after their defeat to Germany last time. There will be various demonstrations and craft stands as well as machinery exhibits and even glass work. We just hope the weather co-operates!

We’ll be sharing Simon’s work and news from the event on our Facebook and Instagram.  We wish all the artists good luck, and look forward to sharing with you the finished dragon!

Huskycup 2018

Simon is available for competitions, events and commissioned work. Email [email protected] or use the form on our contact page for information, quotes and availability.

 

 

 

 

Home Is Where The Art Is

Home Is Where The Art Is 2448 2448 Simon O'Rourke

Recently Simon was asked by the BBC to take part in a new show called Home is Where the Art is, which airs on week day afternoons. The show is a new format, and in each episode, three artists compete to win a commission from a mystery buyer.

Promotional material for Home is Where the Art is on BBC One

The three artists meet at the buyer’s house and receive a brief and a budget. For the episode Simon was involved with, he was pitted against a stainless steel sculptor and an acrylic pet portrait painter. Three very different mediums! The brief was to create something that captured the spirit and form of the buyer’s beloved horse, ‘Dragon’.

 

Simon with Nick Knowles

Simon says of this process:
“We all got to snoop around the buyer’s house to get a feel for the kind of things they might like. We also got to meet Dragon, which gave us all a flavour of his temperament and form. Each of us went away after this and were asked to come up with a two minute pitch, which was filmed at a studio in Manchester. The buyer then chose two artists to create the artwork they had pitched, and come back in a few weeks to present the artwork to the buyer. The buyer would then choose one to buy!   Nick Knowles is the host of the show, and made us feel really comfortable, and the buyer threw a couple of curveballs in by asking if any of us would be happy to change our designs!”

Simon was one of the two artists whose pitch was chosen to compete in the episode. He took around eight hours to carve a representation of Dragon out of cedar as his entry, capturing not only his form but his movement and character.

 

‘Dragon’

 

Now the episode has been aired, we can reveal the chosen commission wasn’t Simon’s, but rather, the stainless steel sculpture by Claire Bigger. Far from being disappointed, Simon shares “The buyer Delyse had a really difficult time choosing between us, but I feel she made a great choice, as I would have chosen Claire’s work!”

And not only is it a privilege to be invited to take part in something like this, but even the name of the horse has tied in with our ‘year of the dragon’ here at Simon O’ Rourke Tree Carving!

 

‘Dragon’

 

If you would like a portrait of your pet, Simon is available at [email protected] to chat about your commission. 
This particular sculpture which features in Home Is Where the Art is today (April 12th 2019) is available for purchase. Please contact Simon on the address above if you are interested.

Imagine Carving Dragons

Imagine Carving Dragons 150 150 Simon O'Rourke

It isn’t everyday you hear someone saying they count working with dragons among their job description! But that’s exactly what we get to say when people ask! Maybe we shouldn’t be too surprised as we are based in North Wales – a land where recorded legends about dragons date back to the 7th century, and they have long been used as a symbol of national identity.

Y Ddraig Derw, Bethesda

 

Earlier this year Simon carved “Y Ddraig Derw“, or “The Dragon of Bethesda” (above) and we have continued to be overwhelmed by the number of appreciative messages and amazing photos that are coming in from those of you who have stopped by to see it. Y Ddraig Derw was far from our first dragon carving though, and talking dragons for a couple of weeks triggered some fun for us reminiscing about other dragon carves in the past. Scroll on to join our trip down memory lane!

Prize-winning Hemlock the Dragon on display at Wrexham Museum

 

Carving dragons represents some great challenges and a lot of fun. Nobody REALLY knows what a dragon looks like, so although we have a pretty set idea, there is still a lot of imagination Simon gets to employ in deciding the scale, proportions, shape and details – more so than when carving an animal we all know such as his owls, horses, labradors, eagles etc where although there is variety, there is still a very definite and specific anatomical structure to be represented.

Ever wanted to BE a dragon? This carve of dragon wings in Japan was intended for just that reason! The ultimate selfie/photo prop!

 

Dragons also mean portraying a contrast between the great size and strength of their bodies, wings and snouts with minute details such as teeth, a tongue, individual scales, and even the texture of those scales.

Welsh dragon carve in process

There’s also the wings to consider. If they are to be outstretched and carved from wood, there is an engineering challenge to be able to scale them in a way the dragon won’t overbalance as well as how best to attach them securely, especially if the dragon will be out in the elements and at the mercy of the wind and rain. Or, if using other material as we did with Hemlock, what will best represent the density and texture of the animal whilst also fitting in with the style of carving and colouring and texture the timber will take on?

Carving a dragon image into a storm-damaged tree

 

And then there’s the story. Dragons appear in many contexts from national legends to epic movies like The Hobbit or Harry Potter through to the cute and humorous beasts we find in family stories like Pete’s Dragon and How to Train Your Dragon. Which of these is the finished carve to represent? And how is that done? A glint in an eye? The shape of an open mouth? The angle of the head? So much possibility!

Crouching Dragon from a few years ago

 

Dragons also have so many different details and aspects that are unique to them, that it can be fascinating to incorporate them into something else (like this arch below), and for it still to be distinctly ‘dragon’. Maybe it’s a bench, or an arch, or a box, or a walking stick, but whatever the commission, a dragon will always create a technical and aesthetic challenge, which, like the dragon in flight, we are more than happy to rise to! Indeed, “Watch this space” for more dragons later this year!

Dragon mouth archway

We hope you’ve enjoyed seeing some of our favourite dragon carves from the last few years. Which is your favourite?

As well as accepting commissions, Hemlock the Dragon is available for hire for weddings, parties, events etc. Please email us at [email protected] for information

 

Tale of Two Carvings

Tale of Two Carvings 150 150 Simon O'Rourke

If you follow us on social media, you’ll know it’s been a busy week for Simon.

The first half of the week saw us traveling to Putgarten, Germany where Simon was commissioned to create a sculpture of Svantevit, the four headed Slavic god of war, fertility and abundance. This particular representation of the deity is 3 metres tall and made of oak, which will weather into a beautiful silvery grey over the coming weeks, months and years. It has the typical four heads (that are said to represent seeing the four corners of the earth, or all four seasons depending on the source) and features two of the symbols important for Svantevit in local mythology: his horn and sword.

 

Putgarten is a wonderful centre of creativity, and a recent count estimated 70 sculptures on display and/or available to buy. If you would like to know more, visit their website by clicking here – and before you have to dig out that German dictionary from your schooldays, don’t forget google can do the translating for you!

 

 

 

The second half of the week saw us return to APF 2018; the UKs largest forestry, woodland, arboricultural, fencing and biofuel exhibtion. This year there were over 320 exhibitors and 22000 visitors over the three days, creating a buzz far beyond the noise of the chainsaws!

As regulars at this event, it was great to reconnect with old friends, as well as having the privilege of being a demonstrator and competitor.

 

During the speed carving demonstrations, Simon worked on a wolf, and was cheered on by another of his creations – Squishy!

Later, 25 of the top wood carvers in Europe competed against each other in the A W Jenkinson & Tilhill Forestry European Chainsaw Carving Championship, where each had to produce a sculpture from a 1 tonne piece of timber. Simon used this as an opportunity to bring into reality a project he had been visualising for a while; a beautiful representation of a female face, making use of both long smooth lines for her smooth skin tone, and areas of more intense texture and detail to create lips, eyes and hair. Whilst she didn’t place in this year’s competition, we have had lots of lovely comments in person , and on social media, and it is wonderful to have the opportunity to create something after thinking about it for some time.

For anybody interested, two of the pieces mentioned in this post are available for sale: the lady, and of course, Simon’s cheerleader, Squishy! You can reach us via the contact page if you are interested in any of these pieces for your home, work place, garden, charity fundraiser – or wherever you can visualise it!