local artist

TV presneter George Clarkes standing in from of a small stone building with a wall mounted fire breathing dragon made from redwood by Simon O'Rourke

A Fire Breathing Dragon

A Fire Breathing Dragon 768 1033 Simon O'Rourke

This week Simon was featured on the series opener of Amazing Spaces. It was a great episode, featuring some spectacular architecture and engineering. Simon’s contribution? A 7ft fire breathing dragon!

The Clients

Local couple Guy and Tracey commissioned the fire breathing dragon. They were renovating a former bakehouse, and it was to be the finishing touch. When they approached Simon, he knew he couldn’t say no. He always loves a challenge, so a wall-mounted, fire breathing dragon was a project he couldn’t turn down!

TV presenter George Clarkes standing in from of a small stone building with a wall mounted fire breathing dragon made from redwood by Simon O'Rourke

George Clarke with the fire breathing dragon

The Building

The building itself is incredible. When Guy and Tracey bought their property, it came with a small stone building, which was a former bakehouse. Although it only measures around 3m x 2.5m, they had the idea to turn it into a little crash pad/den. A mini-house!
Space was obviously going to be an issue. Guy is a gifted engineer though and came up with an ingenious fix. In his own words:

“Your bathroom only needs to be big when you’re in it, so I figured you could have the whole bathroom wall moved across and stuck on the wall, and when you need it, pull it towards you to create the bathroom”

That’s right! Guy created a disappearing bathroom to maximise the space! George Clarke was so impressed, the property now ranks in his top three builds!

A Dream Holiday Home

Now finished, the property is a beautiful little getaway, ideal for a couple. Once lockdown is over, it will be available to rent via www.thedragontower.co.uk. If you are impressed with the creativity and engineering, you can also follow them on Twitter where they share more about the process.

fire breathing dragin made from redwood by simon o'rourke mounted on a small stone two storey building

The Story of Maggon the Dragon

The idea for Maggon the Fire Breathing Dragon came from Tracey. The fairytale look of the bakehouse captivated her, and she made a joke about needing a dragon to protect them. Tracey is also a big fan of children’s literature and illustration and had always wanted a piece of fantasy art. And so from there, the dragon commission was born! They also had the idea that he could breathe fire when the doorbell rang. Such a fun, and creative finishing touch to a creative and ingenious renovation!

Initially, they planned on making the dragon themselves. But then, they met Simon. His portfolio includes many incredible dragons, including the well-know Dragon of Bethesda. His background as an illustrator also tied in with Tracey’s love of children’s illustration. So all in all, he was the perfect fit for this commission.

redwood fire breathing dragon mounted on a small stone bake house in north wales

Making Maggon the Fire Breathing Dragon

Maggon is 7ft and made from a fallen redwood tree. The warm red colour is perfect for this property in North Wales, as it reflects the red dragon on our flag.
Nerd alert! In dry climates, redwood actually becomes a lighter-silvery tan shade if left to weather naturally. These clients needn’t worry though. In damp climates, redwood darkens, so the North Welsh weather will mean that lovely red colouring is retained for years to come.

Engineering Challenges!

The most obvious challenge for this commission was how to make it breathe fire! In this case, Guy had a plan, and Simon’s role was to create a cavity within the sculpture for the propane pipe. If you saw the episode you will have heard Tracey joking about the dragon breathing fire when the doorbell rings. So, for the curious among you.. yes, it is really connected to the doorbell! However, Guy and Tracey wanted to make the fire breathing dragon as environmentally friendly as possible. For this reason, they limit his ‘bursts’ using their own control box – which also helps limit accident potential! Health and Safety matters!

Another problem for Simon to think through was the installation. The dragon not only needed to breathe fire but was going to be mounted on the wall of the house – as if it was climbing towards the window. This meant keeping strictly within certain specifications so it would fit the space. It also meant Simon needed to create the dragon in sections so it would be easier to mount on the wall. Being able to visualise this and take account of it in the design is an essential aspect of larger projects.

More About Making a Fire Breathing Dragon

Simon used a few different Stihl chainsaws with various bars to create the main shape of the dragon. He also used these to begin to add a few cuts that give depth, and some of the more general shape and texture. No dragon is complete without scales though! Simon created the scales with the Manpa Tools Multicutter with a round cutter attachment. The friendly grin (we didn’t want Maggon scaring off guests!) and other facial details were created using Saburrtooth burrs.  The flame-shaped burr is an especially useful tool for these projects. You can see a bit of a ‘before and after’ in this photo, Tracey and Guy took in the workshop. Simon has created the main shape and some details with the chain saw, and begun to add the scales with the multi cutter around the dragon’s hind legs.

close up of a dragon tail made out of redwood

Although it took several days to create Maggon, you can watch the process in under a minute! What are your guesses for who the sculpture in the background will be?

Being on Amazing Spaces

As an artist, it is always an honour to have a piece featured on television. The focus of the show was the build itself, but Simon did also get to meet George Clarke on unveiling day, and enjoyed a good chat! He also loved seeing the build too:
It’s incredible what they’ve managed to do with such a small space! It was great to be involved and to add to a project like that.

chainsaw artist simon o'rourke with TV presente George Clarke. They are pictured in front of The Dragon Tower, a stone bake house converted to a guest house in NOrth Wales. Simon is holding a Stihl chainsaw

Simon with George Clarke and a trusty Stihl chainsaw!

What’s Your Fire Breathing Dragon?

Thank you to those who took the time to comment on social media. It is always lovely to hear from you, and we’re touched by all the great feedback.

If you have a rental property, a novelty piece of art is a GREAT way to make it stand out, and to attract attention – and gain business! If you have an idea for your home or rental property, why not have a chat with Simon? Contact us using the form on www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/ and someone will be in touch!

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Fforest Fawr Woodland Sculpture Trail

Fforest Fawr Woodland Sculpture Trail 150 150 Simon O'Rourke

We’ve had some beautiful weather this week – perfect for a woodland walk! With Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland still in lockdown though, we know that for many of us, that isn’t an option. And so, once again, we decided to bring the woods to you! This week we visit Tongwynlais, in South Wales, and the Fforest Fawr Woodland Sculpture trail….

Castell Coch viewed through fforest fawr

Castell Coch and Fforest Fawr

About Fforest Fawr Woodland Sculpture Trail

Fforest Fawr is a beautiful woodland close to Castell Coch and a short walk from the centre of Tongwynlais. As well as beautiful woodland, it has trails for cycling and walking and a tea shop that serves delicious Bara Brith.
There was also sculpture trail to attract and encourage visitors. As it was deteriorating, Natural Resources Wales commissioned Simon to create a new trail, which was installed in April 2018. All the sculptures are made from a Giant Redwood which was removed from Oswestry as it was dying, and posing a threat to the public. A perfect repurposing of a stunning resource!

Tree carving chainsaw artist simon o'rourke photographed with the redwood lynx from the fforest fawr woodland sculpture trail he created

Simon photographed with the lynx

Fforest Fawr Woodland Sculpture Trail: The Message

The commission from Natural Resources Wales asked for a trail that was engaging for families with young children. It was to make it have an educational aspect, and to be appealing to a broad range of ages as well. With that in mind, Simon returned to his illustrator roots. He wanted to give it a storybook feel which would encourage people to walk the whole thing, and so a new poem was born.

This is not unusual for Simon, as you will know if you read our blogs about Meadow Park and Page’s Wood.
Usually though, the trails focus on the current inhabitants of that area. However, in the case of the Fforest Fawr woodland sculpture trail, Simon also wanted to draw attention to what we  have lost……

close up of a redwood tree carving of a forest lynx from simon o'rourke's fforest fawr woodland sculpture trail

Close up of the lynx in the fforest fawr woodland sculpture trail

Past meets Present

Simon’s created story in poem form, about the wildlife that not only lives in the forest, but also species that are no longer there. The trail then ends with a call to action, encouraging the viewer to look after the woodland.
The aim of the trail is to make the viewer aware of what was there before, but also to highlight the need to preserve what is there now.

Bilingual Challenges!

The English form of the poem is in rhyming couplets which makes it fun and memorable for younger viewers. Translation always proves a challenge though. The Welsh translation isn’t in poetry form, but still conveys the feel, and – most importantly – the message of the story Simon and Liz wrote. 

Local press articles about the trail show it was very well received. We think you’ll like it too!
The concept sketches with the poem read as a beautiful children’s story book in themselves, so we have included those for you as well. We hope you enjoy them as much as the sculptures!

And so, without further ado, join us on a walk through the Fforest Fawr Woodland Sculpture Trail!

Introductory Sculpture:

In Fforest Fawr, deep, and green,
There’s so much to discover, so much to be seen,
All kinds of creatures, great and small,
And wonderful trees, towering and tall!

Yn nyfnder a gwyrddni Fforest Fawr,
mae cymaint i’w ddarganfod… Cymaint i’w weld:
Pob math o greaduriaid, – mawr a bach,
a choedydd rhyfeddol, – tyrog a thal!

Simple redwood sculpture of trees as part of simon o'rourke's tree carving chainsaw art woodland sculpture trail in fforest fawr

 

A Forest Timeline

On the path we see wonders in the forest today
But there are stories and treasures along the way!
There were creatures living here in the past, you’ll see,
Let’s take a walk, back through history!

Heddiw, ar y llwybr, gwelwn ryfeddodau yn y fforest.
Ond, mae storïau a thrysorau ar hyd y ffordd!
Cewch weld bod creaduriaid yn byw yma yn y gorffennol.
Gadewch inni fynd am dro…yn ôl drwy hanes!

 

timeline from fforest fawr woodland sculpture trail carved from redwood, featuring wolf, lynx and pine marten

 

A Red Squirrel

A long time ago, in the tops of tall trees,
Leaping and climbing on branches and leaves,
A long fuzzy tail, and nimble toes,
It’s a little red squirrel, with a little pink nose!

Amser maith yn ôl, – ar ben prennau uchel,
yn neidio a dringo ar ganghennau a dail,
wele gynffon hir, grychiog, a bysedd traed heini
wiwer goch fechan, – gyda thrwyn bach pinc!

A redwood bench with red squirrel details as part of fforest fawr woodland sculpture trail

 

The Brown Otter

Diving in rivers and hunting for fish,
A long, strong tail that goes swish, swish, swish!
Swimming through reeds, and with barely a splash,
It’s a sleek brown otter, that’s gone in a flash!

Yn plymio mewn afonydd ac yn hela pysgod, –
cynffon gref, hir sy’n siffrwd, siffrwd, siffrwd!
Yn nofio drwy gorsennau, – a phrin dynnu sylw, –
dyfrgi brown llyfn ydyw… ddiflanna mewn fflach!

 

A European Lynx

Crouching in the tall tall grass so green,
Silently stalking its prey, unseen,
The tufts on its ears, and the piercing eyes
It’s a European lynx! With its eyes on the prize!

Yng nghwrcwd yn y glaswellt tal, tal mor wyrdd, –
nas gwelir, – yn dawel ddilyn ei ysglyfaeth,
y cudynnau ar ei glustiau a’r llygaid treiddgar…
wele Lyncs Ewropeaidd, – a’i lygaid ar y wobr!

Fforest Fawr woodland sculpture trail by Simon O'Rourke: european lynx

 

A Red Deer

In the woodland we see a majestic sight,
With smooth red fur and a tail so white.
Velvety antlers that reach for the skies
It’s a stunning red deer, with big brown eyes!

Yn y goedlan, gwelwn olygfa urddasol
gyda ffwr coch llyfn, cynffon mor wen,
a chyrn melfedaidd sy’n cyrraedd i’r awyr…
Carw coch syfrdanol ydyw, – â llygaid mawr brown!

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

 

The European Wolf

Hunting in packs, on the woodland floors,
Through forest and field, and across the moors,
Grey shaggy fur from its head to its paws,
It’s a European wolf, with strong, strong jaws!

Yn hela mewn cnudoedd ar loriau’r goedlan,
drwy fforest a chae, ac ar draws y rhosydd,
wele ffwr blewog, llwyd o’i ben i’w bawennau, –
blaidd Ewropeaidd, – gyda genau cryf, cryf.

fforest fawr woodland sculpture trail by simon o'rourke: european wolf

 

A Pine Marten

Hiding in old hollow trees, out of sight,
Climbing, and running, and hunting at night,
With soft sleek fur, and sharp little claws,
It’s a pine marten, foraging on the forest floor!

Yn cuddio mewn hen goed gwag, – allan o’r golwg, –
yn dringo a rhedeg ac yn hela’r nos, –
gyda ffwr graenus, llyfn, a chrafangau bach miniog…
wele Fela’r Coed, – yn casglu porthiant ar lawr y fforest!

Fforest Fawr Woodland Sculpture Trail by Simon O'Rourke: Pine Marten

 

Devil’s Coach Horse Beetle

Crawling in leaves, and black as night,
With spindly legs, and jaws that bite.
When it raises its tail, you’d better beware,
Devil’s Coach Horse beetle leaves a stink in the air!

Yn ymlusgo mewn dail, a chyn ddued â’r nos,
Gyda choesau main, a genau sy’n brathu, –
gwell ichi ochel pan gwyd ei chynffon:
Mae Chwilen Gnoi yn gadael drewdod yn yr awyr!

 

Wildlife Still Present in the Forest

These creatures are gone from the forest now
But the ones who live here today can be found!
There’s badgers and dormice and buzzards I’ve heard,
Goshawks, owls, and other woodland birds!

Mae’r creaduriaid hyn wedi mynd o’r fforest ‘nawr,
ond, gellir dod o hyd i’r rhai sy’n byw yma heddiw!
Clywais fod moch daear a llygod daear a boncathod,
gwyddweilch, tylluanod ac adar y goedlan eraill.

 

 

A Final Call to Action

We’ve learned about creatures from times gone by,
And the ones living here, that walk, and that fly.
Fforest Fawr is a beautiful place as we’ve seen,
Help us to keep it tidy and clean!


‘Rydym wedi dysgu am greaduriaid o’r amseroedd a fu
a’r rhai sy’n byw yma, – sy’n cerdded ac sy’n hedfan.
Fel y gwelsom, mae Fforest Fawr yn le hardd.
Rhowch help inni i’w chadw yn daclus a glân!

Mike James, Woodland Manager from Natural Resources Wales said:

“We hope people will enjoy our new sculpture trail and the woodland characters will bring to life the story of the forest, its wildlife, and its history. And with the story comes a strong message – the importance of looking after our environment and our forest so the wildlife which currently live there can continue to thrive for years to come.”

We hope you enjoyed the tour through Fforest Fawr Woodland Sculpture trail, and feel inspired to do your part in ensuring we will still be enjoying the wildlife we see round us for decades to come – and beyond!

chainsaw art/tree carver simon o'rourke photogrpahed with a redwood red deer he carved for fforest fawr woodland sculpture trail

Commissioning a Woodland Sculpture Trail

If you are involved with managing or maintaining and green area, and would like an educational sculpture trail, you can find out more about prices, concept etc by reading our Page’s Wood Case Study.
To chat to Simon about details, email us via https://www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/

We’re looking forward to hearing from you!

 

 

Maes Y Pant Fort

Maes Y Pant Fort 700 400 Simon O'Rourke
Simon is the artist behind most of the work we get at www.treecarving.co.uk. However, we have a few affiliates who work with us on certain projects. We also recommend them to clients if Simon is not available for a commission. This week our blog features a project two of them worked on. The Maes Y Pant fort.

The fort at Maes Y Pant, Marford*

Maes Y Pant
Maes Y Pant is a former quarry, which is now a forested area run by local communities, local to us here in North Wales. It features woodland trails and a children’s play area, and is of particular interest to conservationists because of the unusual Bee Orchid which can be found there.  You can find Simon’s work in a few different places around the site. In fact, visitors are actually greeted by ‘Stanley’ at the entrance to the park. Pictured below, he is one of Simon’s older pieces.

Whilst it’s a privilege to be able to travel and see our work in places around the world, there is also something special about a local project that enables us more easily to see people enjoying it over the years.

Stanley greets guests at the entrance ***

The Commission

The brief for this project was to construct a play area and fort within a palisade for families to use, which would also reflect and portray the wildlife on the site. Our affiliates Nathan Woods and Daniel Barnes completed most of the work over nine days in Spring 2017. The fort is made from some of the commercial softwood crop that helps fund the site.  This was a great idea because it gave us affordable and easy-to-access source of timber. It also ensured that the finished project is totally sympathetic to its environment.

Welcome sign by Nathan Woods at the Maes Y Pant fort*

Finishing Touches
This then left Nathan with one day for detailing – the sign, carved weaponry, and the dragons on the see-saw. After all, what’s a fortress without some weapons?! These are all historical weapons such as bows and arrows and swords, which is in keeping with the historic aesthetic of a fort, and not only looks great, but helps encourage and inspire imaginative play in the children using the area.
We asked Nathan about the project.
“Thankfully the weather was unusually kind for the time of year and the work, whilst being ‘intensive’ went according to plan” – something that is never guaranteed carving at this time of year, and that we are ALWAYS thankful for when it happens!

Nathan’s weaponry detailing on individual posts in the fort*

Phase Two
The second phase was completed in January of this year. Nathan returned for two days to complete this wonderful bee totem pole, and a welcoming ladybird seat. These additions further reflect the local wildlife, and create a rest space so families can pause and enjoy the environment or watch their children play.

Bee totem pole and ladybird bench*

If you happen to be in the area, why not tag us in your photos? We love seeing you enjoy our work!

Local boys enjoying the fort this summer**

About Nathan
Nathan is a hugely experienced tree carver. He has worked for/with us for just over 10 years, over many different projects ranging from when we were just a tent in a frozen field to the current set-up! He is currently only available for work through Tree Carving.
About Dan
Daniel is a gifted carpenter and has worked with us for four-and-a-half years. He specialises in high quality, bespoke work and especially enjoys making and installing kitchens and doors, and creating furniture in its organic form. He is also available through Tree Carving.
* Photo credit Nathan Woods
** Photo credit Yvonne Ankers
*** Photo taken from Maes Y Pant website