Human Form

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

2022 Sandringham Cup Winner

2022 Sandringham Cup Winner 600 600 Simon O'Rourke

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

 

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

Simon receiving the 2022 Sandringham cup winner’s cup.

 

Sandringham Cup

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

Choosing a Subject for the 2022 Sandringham Cup

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

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

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

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

 

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

Understanding ‘Ascension’ (2022 Sandringham Cup Winner)

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

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

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

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

Tips for Other Carvers

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

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

In Simon’s words:

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

Final thoughts on the 2022 Sandringham Cup

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

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

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

 

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

The 2022 Sandringham Cup competitors.

 

Where is ‘Ascension’ Now?

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

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

 

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

Simon with his 2022 Sandringham Cup winner, Ascension

And Finally…

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

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

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

A Hand Between Sky and Earth Sculpture

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

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

 

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

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

 

Earth Day 2022

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

A Hand Between Sky and Earth Sculpture: How It Began

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

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

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

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

 

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

Working on A Hand Between Sky and Earth sculpture in Allai

 

The Message Behind A Hand Between Sky and Earth Scultpure

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

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

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

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

 

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

Responses To A Hand Between Sky and Earth Sculpture

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

Visiting A Hand Between Sky and Earth Sculpture

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

With one of our hosts in Allai

 

Other Environmental Considerations

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

What does that look like?

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

Final Thoughts

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

What changes have you been working on?

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

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

 

close up of the angel's head and shoulders from Simon O'Rourke's Love Leading the Pilgrim Sculpture

Love Leading the Pilgrim Sculpture

Love Leading the Pilgrim Sculpture 800 600 Simon O'Rourke

This week Simon installed his Love Leading the Pilgrim sculpture at Biddulph Old Hall. It’s been popular on social media, so we wanted to share more about the sculpture and the story behind it. It’s fascinating! A big thank you to client Brian Vowles for his input on the blog this week.

 

Simon O'Rourke's chainsaw carving sculptures based on 'Love Leading the Pilgrim' by Burne-Jones. An angel is holding our a hand to help a hooded figure who is stretching their arm to meet them. The figures are surrounded by ruined buildings and wild garden.

 

Meet the Client

Regular readers of this blog will realise they’ve met this client before. Several years ago Simon made a sculpture based on a Bateman painting, The Pool of Bethesda. The sculpture was commissioned by the current owners of Biddulph Old Hall near Stok-on-Trent, and it was featured as a case study in Simon’s blog about the value of a chainsaw carving sculpture for historic property and is one of his most popular pieces.

Towards the end of the blog, Nigel shared that they were delighted with the angel and were saving up to commission a sculpture based on Love Leading the Pilgrim. So needless to say, this sculpture has been a long time in the making!

 

love leading the pilgrim, a painting by edward burne jones depicting and angel leading a hooded pilgrim through wilderness

Love Leading the Pilgrim by Edward Burne-Jones, the inspiration for Simon’s Love Leading the Pilgrim Sculpture.

 

About Biddulph Old Hall

Biddulph Old Hall is an ideal setting for these very classical sculptures. Originally a mansion constructed 1530-1580, it came under siege by Parliamentarians in 1644. Later owners added other structures in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, but nobody rebuilt the original mansion. Its upstanding ruins remain to this day.

The Biddulph family sold the property to James Bateman in 1861, and his son Robert lived in the habitable part until his death in 1922.

For those wondering about the subjects of both sculptures, this is where the link comes in!

Robert Bateman was the leader of a group of second-generation Pre-Raphaelite artists.  As the owner and resident,  he painted most of his best-known paintings in the studio at Biddulph Old Hall. This included The Pool of Bethesda; the inspiration for Simon’s first sculpture.

 

the picture is divided in two, one side showing the robert bateman painting 'the pool of bethesda'. The other side shows Simon O'Rourke's chainsaw carved sculpture based on the painting.

Simon’s Angel at the Pool of Bethesda and the Bateman painting it’s based on.

 

The Link with Burne-Jones

So how did the clients get from Bateman to Burne-Jones? Bear with us!

We know the artist Edward Burne-Jones was an inspiration to and influence on Bateman throughout his career. It appears that inspiration also extended beyond the canvas! One of Bateman’s projects was creating a romantic garden among the ruins of the mansion. That garden was essentially a ‘Briar-Rose’ garden, reminiscent of The Legend of the Briar Rose by Burne-Jones.

 

love leading the pilgrim sculpture by simon o'rourke. it sits among ruins of a mansion and greenery

 

Fast forward to the 21st century… Brian and Nigel found images of Bateman’s garden and wanted to recreate the same ambience in their garden design. The garden they’ve created replicates the style and wildness of that garden, but without slavishly following Bateman’s planting. Largely because the plans no longer exist!

There’s a small courtyard among the mansion ruins, and Nigel and Brian wanted to commemorate the completion of the restoration with a sculpture in the centre.
With all the connections between Bateman, Burne-Jones, and the garden, Burne-Jones’s magnificent paintings ‘Love Leading the Pilgrim’ was a fitting choice for the sculpture.

 

close up of the angel's head and shoulders from Simon O'Rourke's Love Leading the Pilgrim Sculpture

The angel in Simon’s Love Leading the Pilgrim sculpture

 

Further Connections Between Burne-Jones and Biddulph Old Hall.

This next paragraph is for those who love ‘it’s a small world’ coincidences and connections!

As Brian and Nigel were researching the painting, they came across a tapestry in the William Morris Museum. It was designed by Burne-Jones and features the same subject of Love leading the Pilgrim. That tapestry was then turned into an embroidery kit by Morris & Co.

In a massive coincidence, Nigel’s great, great, great Aunt (Lady Margaret Bell) bought the kit and embroidered it for her home! Another family connection they hadn’t known about!

 

Burne Jones Love Leading the Pilgrim Tapestry  photographed at the william morris museum

The Burne-Jones tapestry Nigel and Brian discovered during their research.

 

Commissioning Love Leading the Pilgrim

After years of saving and waiting, Nigel and Brian were finally able to commission the sculpture in September 2021. Sadly Nigel passed away not long after they had commissioned the piece. So now the finished sculpture is dedicated “not only to Robert and Caroline, but also to Nigel’s legendary vision, and to celebrate his life and the magnificent restoration of Biddulph Old Hall that he inspired.”

 

the pilgrim sculpture from love leading the pilgrim by simon o'rourke

 

Creating Love Leading the Pilgrim

Every commission comes with its joys and its challenges. For Simon, as well as being able to create something that honoured the history of the place, he found it fun to create something based on the painting. It gave him plenty of opportunities to create in a style he loves, and use his drapey skills to the max!

Social media comments have been SO encouraging with one follower commenting…

The subtleties of gesture and expression couldn’t be topped in any medium – and you’ve done it in wood!

However, what matters most is what the client thinks…

 

love leading the pilgrim by simon o'rourke.

Simon’s skill in transcribing the 2-D image from the painted canvas into a vibrant, sinuous and arresting sculpture is quite awe-inspiring. Nigel and I always had confidence that Simon would do the commission justice, but it is a triumph beyond my wildest dreams. It is such a fitting memorial, not only to Robert & Caroline but also to Nigel, whose passion for this place could not be better envisaged than in these two statues. They epitomise the struggles we faced together as we sought to restore Biddulph Old Hall and its gardens and grounds, and could not be more perfect.

As we mentioned earlier, massive thanks go to Brian for his assistance with this blog. He’s a wealth of information and although we couldn’t include all the story or details, it was a fascinating read.

If you would like to know more about Biddulph Old Hall, there are many articles around. We especially enjoyed THIS ONE in House and Garden though.

As always, if you would like to commission a sculpture for your home, business or community, contact Simon using the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/.

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

Susanna Wesley Sculpture

Susanna Wesley Sculpture 450 600 Simon O'Rourke

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

 

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

On-site at East Finchley Methodist Church

Background to the Susanna Wesley Sculpture

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

 

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

The bare cedar in the ground of East Finchley Methodist Church

Susanna Wesley: An Unusual Subject?

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

 

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

Why a Susanna Wesley Sculpture?

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

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

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

 

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

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

More Than Just a Sculpture

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

 

Creating the Susanna Wesley Sculpture

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

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

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

 

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

 

Watch this Space

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

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

 

susanna wesley sculpture

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

Crohn’s Inspired Sculpture

Crohn’s Inspired Sculpture 416 600 Simon O'Rourke

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

 

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

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

 

The Story Behind the Garden

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Using Art to Raise Awareness

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

Commissioning and Awareness-Raising Sculpture

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

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

 

bill badger sculpture and bench in simon o'rourke's workshop

Bill Badger Sculpture and Bench

Bill Badger Sculpture and Bench 450 600 Simon O'Rourke

Did you see our hint on Wednesday about the sculpture for today’s blog? We showed the legs and asked people on social media to guess who/what it was. There were some great answers! Your guesses included Charlie Chaplin, Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, Bilbo Baggins and even Postman Pat! Somebody came close with Rupert Bear, but the correct answer is a Bill Badger sculpture and bench.

 

original sketch by simon o'rourke of rupert bear sitting on a bench

An initial sketch for the Bill Badger sculpture and bench commission

 

Commissioning the Bill Badger Sculpture and Bench

The clients who commissioned this bench are fans of Rupert Bear, a comic book star and franchise that began in the Daily Express in 1920. For those of us who grew up with him, it’s hard to believe he’s over 100! Simon’s clients have a collection of garden figures featuring Rupert and friends, and the only one they didn’t have was Bill Badger.

Last year they found Simon on his website, and subsequently commissioned him to create Mary and Joseph to stand outside their church at Christmas. They were so impressed with his work that they asked him about Bill! Previously, they’d seen another bench on the website with a seated character and liked the idea of combing the bench and sculpture. They talked it through with Simon and he sent a drawing which they said was just what they wanted.

 

bill badger sculpture and bench made of oak by simon o'rourke. Bill sits on one end. The bench is in a workshop and surrounded by sawdust

Creating the Bill Badger Sculpture

Simon created the oak sculpture and bench in his workshop. The bench was a lovely commission for him; fun, and a little bit different to other subjects he’s created. It touches on his background in children’s illustration but was also a favourite growing up. In fact, he has memories of reading the Rupert stories as a child. And even then the illustrations fascinated him. Anything that took him out of the real world and sparked his imagination with adventures was good in his eyes, and The Rupert stories did just that!

oak sculpture of bill badger sits on an oak bench in a workshop

 

More Thoughts on Making Bill Badger

The commission represented a slightly different challenge to his usual sculptures. Unlike many that are all animal or all human, the Nutwood characters have human bodies and proportions with animal heads!

That idea of normal human bodies with animal heads and the style of the characters created by Mary Tourtel always interested Simon. Especially as there were normal humans in the stories too!

Looking back, Simon recognises there are some questionable depictions of people from different countries (which would have been considered normal at the time), and this is something he is sensitive to when he thinks about classic children’s literature, and how he recreates characters or scenes. However, in general, Rupert Bear is a lovely classic, and it was fun to recreate Rupert’s fun-loving, optimistic best friend, Bill.

 

bill badger sculpture and bench in simon o'rourke's workshop

The Client’s Verdict and Final Thoughts

It’s always nice when Simon enjoys a commission or when it presents something new or interesting for him. What matters most though is the client’s opinion!
In this case, they are delighted with the Bill Badger sculpture and bench. When asked to comment, they shared with us that
“The finished bench is just fabulous and has pride of place in our garden and is much admired by our visitors.”

If you would like to commission a sculpture, contact Simon using the form on www.treecarving.co.uk/contact and he will be in touch to talk details!

 

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

WWII Soldier Memorial Sculpture

WWII Soldier Memorial Sculpture 450 600 Simon O'Rourke

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

 

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

 

Background to the WWII Soldier Memorial Sculpture

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

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

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

 

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

From Commission to Installation

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

 

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

 

Things to Consider Regarding the Installation of a Chainsaw Carving Sculpture

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

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

 

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

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

Creating the WWII Memorial Soldier Sculpture

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

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

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

 

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

The soldier in process outside Simon’s workshop

Telling the WWII Soldier’s Story

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

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

 

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

 

 

The Installed WWII Soldier Memorial Sculpture

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

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

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

 

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

Final Thoughts

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

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

simon o rourke and his oak lady chainsaw carving sculpture for liverpool hospitals charity.

A Chainsaw Carving Sculpture for Liverpool Hospitals Charity

A Chainsaw Carving Sculpture for Liverpool Hospitals Charity 450 600 Simon O'Rourke

This week Simon and Liz donated a chainsaw carving sculpture for Liverpool Hospitals Charity. It will be auctioned off at their annual ball next week to raise money for the incredible work of Liverpool Hospitals. And some good news for our blog readers is, you don’t have to be at the ball to bid! So you too could own this lovely oak sculpture while contributing to a great cause. Keep reading to find out more about the charity, the event, and Simon’s sculpture…

 

simon o rourke and his oak lady chainsaw carving sculpture for liverpool hospitals charity.

Simon and his oak lady chainsaw carving sculpture with Lauren Evans from the Liverpool Hospitals Charity

 

About the Liverpool Hospitals Charity

Liverpool Hospitals Charity is the registered charity for the Liverpool University Foundation Hospitals Trust, which includes The Royal, Aintree and Broadgreen Hospitals. Each year they run events and facilitate fundraising to:

  • provide the latest state-of-the-art equipment which helps achieve the best possible outcomes for patientsand
  • create an environment that gives the best experience for patients and families.

Simon originally hails from Liverpool. So, as well as the hospitals doing amazing work worth supporting (especially during the pandemic), there is a personal connection with the city and hospital. That link means it’s fantastic to be in a position to help the charity in its fundraising goals.

 

simon o'rourke with his chainsaw carving sculptures of the beatles on the liverpool pierhead

Simon is a Liverpool native and often participates in events in the city

 

About the University Hospitals Charity Ball

The ball is an annual fixture in the charity’s calendar, and their biggest, most prestigious event. In fact, some of you may remember it from our blog about previous sculptures Simon has donated. This year the ball takes place on Friday 1st October in Liverpool’s Titanic Hotel.

Guests this year will enjoy a variety of entertainment including, the only and only Pete Price, Deana Walmsey from The Voice and magic from Andrew Dean. There will be music from a live band (Up All Night) and a chance to win big at the casino tables. As well as all that there will, of course, be an opportunity to bid on Simon’s Oak Lady sculpture!

To find out more or book tickets, visit www.rlbuht.nhs.uk/r-charity/events/liverpool-university-hospitals-charity-ball/

 

Liver bird by simon o'rourke

Simon has previously donated two Liver Bird sculptures to the charity

About the Chainsaw Carving Sculpture for Liverpool Hospitals Charity

The sculpture is a unique ‘Lady in Oak’ carved by Simon, and he and Liz hope bidders love this sculpture as much as they do. She’s an early edition to their gallery collection and one that evokes very happy memories of a very special time in their lives. She has an air of sophistication and will add a touch of class to any home, business or garden.

The piece would normally be commissioned at £1200

There will be a live auction at the ball, but the good news is that you can also bid on the sculpture by emailing [email protected].

 

a selection of chainsaw carving sculpture

Part of Simon’s gallery adorned for a Christmas Fundraiser.

 

Chainsaw Carving Sculpture for Liverpool Hospitals: Final Thoughts

Over the years Simon’s sculptures have helped raised thousands for Liverpool hospitals. It’s a partnership he and Liz value, so it’s great to be able to support them.

To the University Liverpool Hospitals Team:

Good luck! And we hope the sculpture helps you meet (or surpass!) your fundraising goals!

For everyone interested in the Oak Lady sculpture:

Happy bidding! She’s a beautiful piece and we hope you dig deep for this great cause!

And lastly, to the new owner:

Congratulations, and thank you for bidding! We hope you enjoy her!

If you are interested in your own sculpture or want to chat with Simon about how he can help your charity raise funds, please contact him via www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/

 

an abstract chainsaw carving sculpture: Dance with the Devil

An Abstract Chainsaw Carving Sculpture

An Abstract Chainsaw Carving Sculpture 450 600 Simon O'Rourke

Earlier this month Simon had the opportunity to create an abstract chainsaw carving sculpture. It’s a little different to his usual style, so we thought we’d share a little more in this blog. Don’t forget to leave a comment to let us know what you think!

 

an abstract chainsaw carving sculpture by simon o'rourke  hidien within the branches of an oak tree

About the Tree

One of the things Simon loves about his work is being able to give life back to dead trees in the form of art. In this case though, it is about extending the life of the tree.
The sculpture is within an old oak tree that’s been decaying over time. Its roots are undermined by a stream, and over time, the tree will no longer be viable. However, reduction will lengthen its life a little. And if a tree must be reduced, why not do it with style… and a sculpture?!

 

woman's face hidden within an abstract chainsaw carving sculpture

 

About the Subject

The client originally gave Simon the theme “Dance with the Devil”. Simon has created figures within the branches to convey that theme. It’s perhaps more reminiscent of a dryad and Dionysus (Bacchus in Roman culture) than typical portrayals of the devil.  As well as the main figures, he’s created some hidden elements in the tree too: twisted monsters and hidden faces.

 

close up of a woman's face carved into an oak branch

Creating an Illusion

The main figures are a bit of an optical illusion that can only be seen from one angle. There’s one sweet spot especially, where they really stand out. From other angles, they look like a dead tree which is what Simon and the client wanted.

 

an abstract chainsaw carving sculpture of bacchus

The figures are only intended to be seen from certain angles

What Makes This an Abstract Chainsaw Carving Sculpture?

Simon often carves in an impressionist style. So what is it that makes this abstract?
Abstract art makes no attempt to represent an accurate depiction of visual reality. Rather, it uses shapes, colours, forms and gestural marks to achieve its effect.

In the case of this sculpture, the idea of dance or movement is created by the shapes of the branches rather than an actual scene with clear characters. The faces are carved within the branches and don’t have anatomically accurate bodies. The entire piece is about creating an impression rather than an obvious depiction.

 

close up of an abstract chainsaw carving sculpture of bacchus by simon o'rourke

 

What Happens With the New Growth?

We’ve mentioned before that as they’re made from wood, all of Simon’s sculptures will change over time. It’s even more true in this case, as the tree is still growing beneath the sculpture! That will definitely change the appearance over time, as with any environmental art. Simon has created several sculptures on this estate (including the Oak Maiden, Oak Father, and Hydra) and will return in the future. When he does, he will see how the tree is growing, and how the sculpture looks because of those changes. At that point, he may add some more figures or ‘tweak’ some of the shapes. Watch this space to see what happens!

 

an abstract chainsaw carving sculpture in an oak tree depicts greek mythological figures in a dance

An Abstract Chainsaw Carving Sculpture: Final Thoughts

It’s always nice as an artist to have a fresh challenge! What do you think of Simon’s abstract sculpture? And what do you see in the branches? Drop us a comment and let us know!

And, as always, use the contact form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/ if you would like to commission your own sculpture.

Chainsaw and Brush Giant Hand of Vyrnwy Prints

Chainsaw and Brush Giant Hand of Vyrnwy Prints 150 150 Simon O'Rourke

This week on social media, we were excited to launch Simon’s latest collaboration: Chainsaw and Brush. In this week’s blog, we share what it’s all about, and how it began. We’ll also share (importantly!), how you can purchase Chainsaw and Brush art for your home.

What is Chainsaw and Brush?!

At its most basic, Chainsaw and Brush is a collaboration between artist Amanda Waldron and Simon. Amanda is an incredible artist, who will be painting a select number of Simon’s sculptures. Prints of those paintings will be available for sale through Chainsaw and Brush.

 

Chainsaw and Brush Giant Hand of Vyrnwy prints lying on a table

Amanda Waldron’s stunning depiction of the Giant Hand of Vyrnwy sculpture by Simon O’Rourke

 

How Did Chainsaw and Brush Begin?

The lovely Jon Babb contacted Simon, and asked permission for Amanda to paint the famous ‘Giant Hand of Vyrnwy‘. Fast forward a few weeks and…. Mind. Blown!!!
The painting was PERFECT!
In Liz’s words: “This painting was EVERYTHING I’d ever imagined it would be to represent with brush, my husband’s phenomenal sculptures!
Just like that, Chainsaw and Brush began!

 

chainsaw and brush Giant hand of vyrnwy prints shown next to the giant hand sculpture

Amanda’s painting next to a photo of Simon O’Rourke’s Giant Hand of Vyrnwy

Future  Chainsaw and Brush Collaborations

They’re starting off with limited edition prints of Amanda’s fantastic painting of the Giant Hand of Vyrnwy. This edition of A3 bamboo prints will have only 200 prints, so you know you are buying something exclusive!
More paintings will follow, including the ‘Dragon of Bethesda’ which made national news in 2019.

 

dragon of bethesda sculpture by simon o'rourke

Simon’s Dragon of Bethesda is the next sculpture Amanda will be painting as part of the Chainsaw and Brush collaboration

How Can I Buy One of the Chainsaw and Brush Giant Hand of Vyrnwy Prints?

In time Chainsaw and Brush will have several social and web channels. At the moment, they can be found on Facebook at www.facebook.com/chainsawbrush. To buy a print (framed or unframed) you can message them through that page or email Liz at [email protected]. Simon and Amanda both sign the prints and they also come with a certificate of authenticity.

Don’t forget to give the page a ‘like’ to see more phenomenal work as it is released!

chainsaw and brush logo

Look out for the Chainsaw and Brush logo and give them a follow!

 

But What is the Giant Hand of Vyrnwy?

This is probably a good time to talk about the Giant Hand of Vyrnwy for anyone who is new to this blog!

The Giant Hand of Vyrnwy is one of Simon’s best known and most profound sculptures. It is also ten years old this year, so the release of limited edition prints is a lovely anniversary celebration.

The Giant Hand of Vyrnwy was commissioned in 2011 to transform a storm-damaged tree at the Lake Vyrnwy estate. Once 209′ tall, it had to be felled to only 50′. The Forestry Commission wanted it turned into a memorial to the tree it had once been…

 

The Giant Hand of Vyrnwy stands in the Lake Vyrnwy estate

Simon and the Giant Hand of Vyrnwy…

Simon’s sculpture conveys a powerful message. The tree stands in an area of the estate called The Giants of Vyrnwy. He took inspiration from this and came up with the idea of a hand reaching for the sky. That reaching hand is the tree’s final attempt to reach the sky. He wanted to show the hand stretching and straining; fighting to reach its full height. This is why Simon highlighted veins and creases, and why there is visible tension and power in the hand. It reflects a battle against not only the elements but also the damage humans have done.

 

chainsaw and brush giant hand of vyrnwy prints are based on this image of the sculpture

Chainsaw and Brush Giant Hand of Vyrnwy Final Thoughts

The Giant Hand of Vyrnwy is a beautiful and profound sculpture, and Amanda’s painting has certainly done justice to that, and to the beautiful surroundings.
We’re looking forward to seeing her future paintings, and to you being able to take home a piece of Simon’s work in this way!

Please send any Chainsaw and Brush enquiries to [email protected]
All chainsaw carving commissions/enquiries are welcome via www.treecarving.co.uk/contact.