design

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

 

Y Ddraig Derw: An Adventure Worth Telling

Y Ddraig Derw: An Adventure Worth Telling 150 150 Simon O'Rourke

IT SIMPLY ISN’T AN ADVENTURE WORTH TELLING IF THERE AREN’T ANY DRAGONS

A quick internet search shows nobody really knows who said this any more (it was attributed to J R R Tolkien for a long time), but it seems it still holds true that there is just something about a dragon story which captures imagination, and keeps being retold – especially here in Wales, where dragons have been linked with the identity of the nation since the 7th century!

Having shared already that the year has a bit of ‘dragon’ theme for us, last week saw us working on a dragon sculpture which was carved on location in beautiful North Wales: ‘Y Ddraig Derw‘ (The Oak Dragon).
Even in process, our latest dragon captured the attention and hearts of people who saw it in person and online, and since then we have been overwhelmed by the positive messages we’ve received, the volume of shares online, and the number of people choosing to re-tell the story of this carving. Even the Daily Post  and BBC reported our story! We’re grateful and humbled by it all, but also delighted so many of you have already been able to enjoy our Dragon of Bethesda.

THE COMMISSION

Several years ago, a 200 year old oak split, and half that fell was lying across a rock.  Sometimes in carving, we find the tree and sometimes the tree finds us! In this case it was the latter. The type of tree, the length, positioning and its 30″ diameter meant this was a piece of timber begging to be carved! The commission itself came from the owner of the arboretum close to Bangor, Dr Alofs.

 

 

THE CARVE

Y Ddraig Derw took six days to complete, making the most of the hours of daylight that we had. It was carved entirely on-site which also meant a good work out, as we had decided to create a ‘full dragon’, which meant carrying pieces up to use for the wings and legs! With wood that large and heavy, the process of incorporating them into the sculpture isn’t easy, but with patience and team work, we got there! The first few days focused on the head and then the shape and movement in the body, with the last two focused on texture and details. For those who would like to see more of the process, we uploaded video like this one during the week on our Facebook page.

THE FINISHED PIECE

The finished sculpture is about 25′ long, and overlooks the road. With its craning head and open mouth, it looks like a guard dragon, roaring over those who would seek to enter its territory! Although it is on private land, there are a few public footpaths nearby for viewing, and it is visible from the southbound A5 between the first and second exits.

VISTING THE DRAGON

Although Y Ddraig Derw is visible from the road, it’s in a bit of a tricky spot to stop for photos. We’d love for you to see him in person, but encourage you all to do it safely please! For exact location and tips for parking, please visit THIS POST on our Facebook page (it’s public, so you don’t need Facebook to see it).

Thank you once again for all the kind words and encouragement, and to those of you who have also shared photos – it’s always great to hear from you, and to see you enjoying our pieces.

PS For those of you who can’t get to this dragon, why not have one of our dragons come to you? Hemlock the Dragon is available for hire for shows, weddings, parties etc, and is always a big hit!

 

Photos of Y Ddraig Derw at night are taken by local photographer Derfel Owen and used with permission

Taking Flight

Taking Flight 150 150 Simon O'Rourke

Happy New Year to all our readers!

After a lovely Christmas with family, friends, birthday celebrations and some travel, our work for 2019 started by completing this carving of an eagle coming in to land.

As this new year takes flight (see what we did there?!), it has been exciting to meet as a team and look forward to the exciting projects it holds, and we look forward to sharing them with you in the weeks to come. Look out for pet portraits, woodland trails (including some story writing!), beautiful gifts and commissions for homes and gardens, competitions, demonstrations, and more. We are delighted about a pitch that was won this week (to be revealed in the coming weeks) as well as one particular extra-exciting completed project which we will be able to share with you later in the year, and – as always – we are thankful to all our customers and supporters for making this adventure possible.

Returning to our first project of the year, in many traditions and cultures, the eagle represents:

  • Strength
  • Courage
  • Hope
  • Resilience
  • Healing
  • Vision
  • Rising above problems

and the ability to soar to heights that others are unable to reach.

However your new year started, we would like to wish all of our customers and supporters all of those things the eagle represents in this year to come, as well as the confidence and strength of the eagle to reach heights you never thought possible.

Vintage Cricketer…

Vintage Cricketer… 150 150 Simon O'Rourke

This was a commission for a company called ‘Hopkins Homes’  for their recent housing development.

 

It was a really fun project to work on and I really enjoyed making him! Glad to say the customer was really really happy too!

 

 

‘Spirit of Ecstasy’

‘Spirit of Ecstasy’ 150 150 Simon O'Rourke

The Spirit Of Ecstasy….

This was Simon’s most challenging piece to date yet… ‘The Spirit Of Ecstasy’, the Rolls Royce figurine found on the bonnet of some Rolls Royce cars.

The project took 6 days and was created for a private garden in Oxted near London.

Simon found the project incredibly technically difficult, but was really pleased with how the Sculpture finally turned out.

 

 

Forest Fawr trail installed!

Forest Fawr trail installed! 150 150 Simon O'Rourke

Today saw the wild beasts of Cardiff, finally installed into their final resting place in Forest Fawr after many months of hard work and planning by all involved.

The trail was focussed around animals that populated the forest in the past.

Here’s a few pictures of the animals we made for the trail, including Wolf, Lynx, Red Deer, and Pine Marten.

 

Ruby the Owl!

Ruby the Owl! 150 150 Simon O'Rourke

This week we installed an entire sculpture trail!!

This isn’t just any sculpture trail, it follows a story as you move from one sculpture to another.

I was commissioned by the Friends Of Meadow Park to create a sculpture trail, funded by Tesco Bags Funding!

I decided to write a unique children’s story and illustrate it with carvings. The story is in poem form and follows the story of Ruby the owl, looking for the perfect home!

It went down very well and plans are afoot to produce a children’s book to accompany the trail.

This

 

November gets going with a bang!!!

November gets going with a bang!!! 150 150 Simon O'Rourke

Well, what a month so far and we are only 2 weeks in!

The month started with Simon and Dan finishing off the Oak Plinth that Dan made and Simon engraved, for the Senydd in Cardiff….

….Now that it’s actually there and installed and it’s had it’s big reveal we can actually talk about it publicly! 🙂

Basically, we were asked as a company to create a wooden plinth for a beautiful chair that was generously being donated by some students in Flanders, Belguim, as a gift to the Senydd, to celebrate the life of, Hedd Wyn, a Welsh-language poet who was killed on the first day of the Battle of Passchendaele during World War I. He was posthumously awarded the bard’s chair at the 1917 National Eisteddfod, and it was felt fitting to make a chair from Oak found at the site where he fell 100 years ago.

The plinth was being made made from some Oak sleepers, found in the grounds of Hedd Wyn’s historical family home in Trawsfynydd, North West Wales, and we were honoured to be approached by the National Trust to make the plinth for the chair to sit on at the Senydd.

Needless to say all went well and Dan and Simon did a wonderful job.

Here is a picture of Dan enjoying the unveiling of the chair and plinth at the Senydd last week.

The other very exciting thing for November so far has been the wonderful Story trail that Simon has written and created for a community group in Ellesmere Port.

The story for the trail was written by Simon a couple of months ago, and once approved by the group, made into a stunning wooden trail that you can follow around the woodland.

The grand unveiling for the trail is on Saturday 25th November in the afternoon and people are very welcome to attend and to even lend a hand with tree planting if they so wish!

Please contact Andy, the group co-ordinator on the Facebook page below for more details.

https://www.facebook.com/meadow.park.942

That’s all for now, but details of where you can see Simon carving over the next few weeks up until Christmas are available here:

https://www.treecarving.co.uk/public-carving-dates-november-and-december-2017/

Have a fab few weeks everybody and we’ll be back soon with some Ho Ho Ho! 🙂

ONLY 40 SLEEPS TO GO!!! So get those Christmas orders in quick! 🙂

Simon, Liz, Dan and team at Simon O’Rourke Ltd.

Autumnal fun!

Autumnal fun! 150 150 Simon O'Rourke

The wonderful fruits of the season are upon us, and boy have we been enjoying them!

September saw us heading down to London for Landscape 2017,  our very first landscape and design trade show. That was really good fun and we made some good contacts.

October has been busy making an apple trail for Erddig house, Wrexham,  where Simon’s ‘Artist in Residency’ is going very well indeed, and he has also been making a large bespoke sculpture trail for a community group on the Wirral that he has written the actual story for.

This colourful month has also had Dan making some stunning Oak table legs for our new friends at Concrete designs in Cheshire, and Simon and I attending the Llangollen food festival,  where the general public got to ride Hemlock the Dragon in aid of the Welsh Air Ambulance service,  and others registered to take part in the first official Welsh pumpkin carving championships that Simon proudly precided over.

Winner to be announced on Halloween!

Other exciting news is that our Shop page is now LIVE on our website, and so you can now see all the fab items we have for sale in our mezzanine gallery at the workshop!!

Off now for a very well earned few days rest whilst Dan holds the fort!

More adventures soon!

 

 

 

 

A crazy Summer!

A crazy Summer! 150 150 Simon O'Rourke

Well after the craziness of RHS Tatton, you would have thought that we might have put our feet up a little bit and had a rest…… Nothing could be farther from the truth! After the success of Tatton, we then embarked on the ‘Fab Four’ project and the ‘Ark’ exhibition in Liverpool and Chester respectively. Needless to say that the Beatles sculptures went down very well indeed in their home city, and much fun was had at Chester Cathedral making junk and nature sculptures with the families who signed up to the free workshops that were put on as part of the ‘Ark’ sculpture exhibition which is actually still on until October 10th.

Ark Exhibition

Following all of that is now the Landscape 2017 expo in London, www.landscapeshow.co.uk/, and then the Llangollen food festival, www.llangollenfoodfestival.com/, as well as lots and lots of exciting and varied projects in between times! Phew! 🙂

The Beatles Sculptures are still currently up for auction… we believe! There was a high bid of £15,000 put in a week or so ago and we are just waiting to hear if this is the final bid or whether someone else may still pip this current bidder to the post! All monies from the sale of the Beatles Sculptures are going to the very worthwhile Variety Club Children’s Charity GB.

Any more bids over £15k to @pierheadvillageliverpool please via their facebook page, thank you!

We’ll be back again soon with more updates from our crazy world!

Liz, Si and Dan 🙂IMG_9494  beatles complete