Memorial sculpture

Wellington Heath Jubilee Sculpture

Wellington Heath Jubilee Sculpture 426 600 Simon O'Rourke

What else could we blog about on this Jubilee weekend, but the Wellington Heath Jubilee sculpture?!
As the BBC reported, the sculpture actually commemorates not just one, but two jubilee celebrations. A doubly suitable subject for this weekend’s blog!

 

wellington heath jubilee sculpture. a tree trunk with wildlife carved into it and a bird of prey carved on top by simon o'rourke. There is a road in the background and a dog to the right

Poppy gives her seal of approval to the Wellington Heath Jubilee Sculpture!

Background to the Wellington Heath Jubilee Sculpture

How exactly does this one sculpture commemorate two royal jubilees?
The oak tree was initially planted in 1897 to celebrate Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee (60 years). Sadly, it died about two years ago. The parish council wanted to turn it into something meaningful rather, and suggested something to mark Queen Elizabeth’s platinum jubilee.The villages jumped at the suggestion, and so the idea was born! When they contacted Simon, the story and history behind it captured his attention – as well as the chance to create a large public piece in a lovely village!

close up of the bird of prey that features at the top of Simon O'Rourke's wellington heath jubilee sculpture, a collage of local wildlife carved into the trunk of a dead oak tree

Details in the Wellington Heath Jubilee Sculpture

The sculpture is one of Simon’s ‘Wildlife Pillars’ that have been proving quite popular recently with followers on social media. In fact, wildlife has been one of his most requested subjects, whether individual animals, pillars like this one, or his trails at Meadow Park, Fforest Fawr, Page’s Wood and Picton. There’s no room for boredom though! Wildlife is an infinitely varied, beautiful theme and Simon loves to explore the textures and shapes that make up the forms of animals.
chainsaw carver simon o'rourke stands to the left of an oak tree trunk and is carving into it with a stihl chainsaw. He wears a powercap ear, airway and eye protection.

Simon O’Rourke at work on the Wellington Heath Jubilee sculpture

For this pillar, Simon’s brief was to include animals from the local area. In particular, the client wanted a large bird of prey at the top, which they decided would be a red kite.

The only anomaly is a small monkey!
The story behind this is that Wellington Heath is (perhaps a little bizarrely!) known locally as monkey island. Once you know that, the monkey makes much more sense!
A close up of a carving in a tree trunk by simon o'rourke. the carving is a small monkey peering over the top of a banner that wraps around the trunk

This monkey detail is a fun nod at the history/former reputation of Wellington Heath

As well as the wildlife, the sculpture features a scroll. As well as giving it a more regal feel, it reads VR 1897 – EIIR 2022, reminding people of the occasion behind the sculpture.

 

two men stand either side of a tree trunk that has been carved into a sculpture featuring wildlife and a scroll. The photo shows the scroll that reads VR 1897 - EIIR 2022

Peter Constantine and David Darwood were both involved in commissioning the jubilee sculpture. The banner gives a regal touch as well as showing what it commemorates. Photo credit: BBC

 

Creating the Wellington Heath Jubilee Sculpture

The Wellington Heath Jubilee sculpture took about five days to create, including assembling and taking down the scaffolding. As is typical of using a natural material, the tree threw Simon some surprises!

There was a surprising patch of rot in the top section which he had to work around. That meant changing the position of the kite, and adding the second wing rather than using two existing branch stubs as planned.
a red kite carved into the top of an old oak tree trunk

The Kite at the top of the Wellington Heath Jubilee sculpture had to be reworked due to rot

There were also pockets of rot in old branch wounds around the tree. Simon was able to hollow those out though to leave nesting spaces for birds and bats in the hope that the local wildlife will still find the tree a useful place!
Finally,  another challenge was the number of nails he hit! Over the years the tree had been used as a local place for nailing notices.  Metal fragments are NOT a chainsaw’s friend, so this meant Simon spent a lot of time sharpening the chainsaws!!!
swallow details in the wellington heath jubilee sculpture

Swallow details in the sculpture

The Finished Piece

The final sculpture stands around 5m tall and is hopefully something people will enjoy for many more years. We’re sure that when it was planted, nobody envisioned that one day it would become this sculpture (after all, chainsaws at the time were very basic and only used for surgery!) but it’s nice to think they would also be proud of it.

 

chainsaw artist simon o'rourke stands next to the finished wellington heath jubilee sculpture. the piece is a variety of local wildlife carved into a 5m tall trunk from a dead oak tree.

Simon with the finished Wellington Heath Jubilee Sculpture.

 

It’s not too late to commission a jubilee sculpture for your own community!

If you’re interested, please contact Simon via www.treecarving.co.uk/contact and we look forward to hearing your ideas!

 

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

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.

close up of a pair of robins carved into a cedar bench.

Robin Memorial Bench

Robin Memorial Bench 800 600 Simon O'Rourke

COntacSimon often receives commissions for memorial sculptures. One of his most popular sculptures last year was a beautiful memorial for a young lady named Robyn. Recently he received a commission for another robin-themed memorial, this time a robin memorial bench…

 

a robin memorial bench carved in cedar in front of a brick wall

Robin Memorial Bench: The Brief

Simon’s brief for this commission was to create a bench to commemorate the client’s husband, Robin. Beyond that, it was simply to include a robin, and the name Rob. With such a simple brief, were several directions Simon could go. In chatting more with the client, he discovered she likes natural forms, climbing plants, and organic designs, so he set out to create something that would also reflect this.

 

robin memorial bench carved in cedar by simon o'rourke. it sits in front of a red brick wall on a tarmac surface

Robin Memorial Bench: The Design

Simon created the ends to look like old bricks covered in ivy (scroll through the next section for photo). This is reminiscent of much of the old ruins found in Ty Mawr Country Park, where his client was a ranger. He included a pair of robins together which gave a sense of symmetry. It also creates a feeling of a shared life, and the two still being together.

 

close up of a pair of robins carved into a cedar bench.

 

Robin Memorial Bench: Creating the Bench

Simon made the bench out of cedar, one of the top five woods he recommends for a chainsaw carving sculpture. Although the design itself wasn’t complex, it’s always a challenge creating a bench to sit straight and level. When the back and seat are 3 inches thick it’s difficult to make it sit right, especially when it’s being installed on a slight incline!

Simon used a little bit of water-based spray stain in a natural brown colour, and then flap sanded strategically to give highlights. He then used Osmo UV exterior oil to enhance the lovely natural colour, clarify the grain, and give some weather resistance. Another coat of oil every six months will keep it looking great!

 

close up of the sides of robin memorial bench by simon o'rourke. the sides are created to look like brick with ivy growing up them

 

Robin Memorial Bench: Testimonial

As with any sculpture, the most important thing is how the client feels about the final product. This is especially true when its purpose is commemorating a loved one. And in the case of this bench, Simon made something that the client is delighted with. She shares:

“Simon has created a bench for my garden in memory of my much-loved husband Robin. It reflects the sandstone walls in our garden and the ivy creeping over the walls with two lovely robins on the back. I love it and Robin would have loved it too. Thank you Si”

 

the name 'rob' is carved into the back of a cedar bench featuring two robins on the back. it is part of the robin memorial bench created by chainsaw artist Simon o'rourke

The client asked for Simon to include her husband’s name on the memorial bench

Your Own Memorial Sculpture

Having a beautiful and meaningful visual piece can be an important part of the grieving and healing process. As such, Simon always regards it as a privilege to create a sculpture that helps clients remember their loved ones.  Contact Simon via the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/ to commission a memorial for someone special to you or your community.

Two life size sculptures of women carved from oak, standing on a balcony at Prestatyn Hillside Shelter. They are two of Simon O'Rourke's public tree carving sculptures to see this bank holiday weekend

Eight Tree Carving Sculptures to See this Bank Holiday Weekend

Eight Tree Carving Sculptures to See this Bank Holiday Weekend 1024 600 Simon O'Rourke

It’s bank holiday weekend which means an extra day for relaxing. With reasonable weather predicted, why not get out and enjoy some of our British outdoors or attractions? And if you wanted to take in some public art while you’re out, here are eight of Simon’s tree carving sculptures to see this bank holiday weekend…

the giant hand of vrynwy by simon o'rourke. Photograph is taken at night and shows an illuminated 50ft hand sculpture surrounded by woodland

The Giant Hand of Vrynwy by night by Gareth Williamson

One: Giant Hand of Vyrnwy

The first of our sculptures to see this bank holiday weekend is the Giant Hand of Vyrnwy. The hand has taken the social media world by storm, and it’s even more impressive in real life. Standing at 50ft tall and surrounded by trails through the stunning Welsh countryside, you won’t be disappointed by your visit. Plan your trip at www.lake-vyrnwy.com.

giant hand of vyrnwy. one of simon o'rourke's public sculptures to see this bank holiday weekend

Two: Dragon of Bethesda

Technically, the Dragon of Bethesda is on private land. However, it’s viewable from public areas – but please don’t block the driveway next to the layby when you park! If you’re travelling through Snowdonia, it’s worth a look for sure. Find the dragon at 53°11’40.6″N 4°04’42.4″W or https://maps.google.com/?q=53.194613,-4.078445.

Simon O'Rourke's dragon of bethesda, one of his public tree carving sculptures to see this bank holiday weekend

Three: Prestatyn Hillside Shelter Walkers

You get two in one for our third suggestion of tree carving sculptures to see this bank holiday weekend! The sculptures are installed at the Prestatyn Hillside shelter and represent the era the shelter was built, and the Offa’s Dyke National trail. And the view is simply incredible! Definitely worth the walk up the hill. All the links you need to plan a visit (map, public transport, parking etc) are at www.haveagrandtour.co.uk/take-five-for-a-view-across-prestatyn.

Two life size sculptures of women carved from oak, standing on a balcony at Prestatyn Hillside Shelter. They are two of Simon O'Rourke's public tree carving sculptures to see this bank holiday weekend

Number Four: Maes Y Pant Boy Sculpture

Maes y Pant is a lovely woodland close to Wrexham, ideal for a walk and with the bonus that dogs are welcome! Simon and his team actually have a few pieces there, including the Maes Y Pant fort and Gwyddion the Wizard. However, we feel the highlight is the young boy planting a tree. Plan your visit at www.maes-y-pant.com.

Trees for Kids 'Boy Planting Sapling' sculpture by Simon O'Rourke

Number Five: The Shakespeare Seat at Poulton Hall

This Shakespeare Seat is one of Simon’s most recent pieces. As well as this piece, Poulton Hall is also home to his Ent and Gollum sculptures as well as several pieces by other artists. Although the gardens are only open on select weekends, this weekend happens one of them! Book your visit at www.poultonhall.co.uk/GardenOpenings.html.

A client sits on on the bespoke shakespeare seat at poulton hall. It appears as if she is in conversation with a life size sculpture of William Shakespeare by Simon O'Rourke

Simon positioned Shakespeare to sit as if in conversation with anyone who sits with him

Number Six: The Highclere Airman

The sixth of Simon’s tree carving sculptures to see this bank holiday weekend is the Airman sculpture at Highclere Castle. Something for Downton Abbey, history and architecture fans all in one place! Plan your visit and book your tickets at www.highclerecastle.co.uk.

Highclere Castle Airman by Simon O'Rourke

Number Seven: Marbury Lady Sculpture

The Marbury Lady is our seventh suggestion of tree carving sculptures to see this bank holiday weekend. She cuts an impressive (and ghostly!) figure at Marbury Country Park in Northwich. The park is free although the pool does have an admission fee. And it’s another one that allows dogs! Find out more about the various trails and plan your visit at www.visitcheshire.com/things-to-do/marbury-country-park-and-outdoor-pool-p32091.

Number Eight: Woodland Sculpture Trails

If one sculpture leaves you wanting to see more, our final suggestion for tree carving sculptures to see this weekend is just what you want! Simon has created sculpture trails at Page’s Wood, Meadow Park and Fforest Fawr. Each of the trails features multiple sculptures based on local wildlife, tells a story and encourages conservation.

Click on the links below to plan your visit to each:
Page’s Wood Woodland Sculpture Trail
Meadow Park Woodland Sculpture Trail
Fforest Fawr Woodland Sculpture Trail

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

This wolf forms part of the Fforest Fawr trail.

Share Your Experience!

Whatever you do this weekend, we hope you have fun, feel refreshed and stay safe. And if you do visit one of Simon’s sculptures, please share your experience! Tag Simon in your photos on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter and tell us what you thought. It’s always great to hear from you!

And if you feel inspired and want your own sculpture, contact Simon via the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact.

 

Memorial sculpture for Robyn by Simon O'Rourke

A Memorial Sculpture for Robyn

A Memorial Sculpture for Robyn 1824 1368 Simon O'Rourke

In our blogs,  the perfect portrait sculpture for you part one and part two, we mentioned commissioning a portrait as a memorial. This week we would like to share a memorial portrait Simon recently created. In fact, it was Simon’s first piece after lockdown began to lift. Thank you to the family for allowing us to write about this memorial aculpture for Robyn.

A memorial sculpture for Robyn carved by Simon O'Rourke depicting a young girl as a fairy with a robin on her open hand

The Commission

Several years ago, Simon received a commission to create a sculpture for a local High School, in memorial of a young student who had tragically passed away. The family were touched by the way the sculpture captured their daughter’s character, even though Simon had never met her. More specifically, they were moved by the way Simon’s portrayal of Robyn captured her loving and caring nature. A

Memorial sculpture for Robyn, carved in oak, depicting a young girl reading a book

Simon’s original memorial for Robyn

Any death of a young person is difficult. However, for this family, there were also questions that took several years to settle. Thankfully they were recently able to find closure and resolution.
To mark the ending of this horrendous time in their lives they wanted to celebrate Robyn’s life. They also wanted to do something that would help eradicate the legal battle which had prevented them from being able to grieve their beautiful daughter. And so, when they moved house, they created a garden that would honour and remember her. Remembering the original memorial scultpure for Robyn that Simon had created, they commissioned a portrait for their garden.

 

memorial sculpture for robyn by simon o'rourke in process. picture depicts a metal stool with a very basic outline carved in oak of a young girl sitting, woth a robin on her outstretched hand

The memorial sculpture for Robyn underway in Simon’s garden

Creating the Memorial Sculpture for Robyn

Although the commission was small in scale compared to many Simon has undertaken (have you seen the Giant Hand of Vrynwy or the Marbury Lady?!), in some ways, it was a big undertaking.
Ensuring a memorial sculpture captures and reflects the person is SO important as it is often a key part of the grieving process, and impacts the way the person will be remembered. Simon understands this, and takes time to ‘get to know’ the person through photos and conversation. He is then able to create a memorial sculpture that is truly honouring to the person.

In the case of Robyn, she was a caring, and loving young lady. The many cards the family received after losing her showed them how respected and valued she was for being a good friend. This sculpture shows Robyn at peace, and serene. It also reflects that caring and gentle nature through her body language and relationship with the robin on her hand.

close up of the face of the oak memoral sculpture for robyn by simon o'rourke. a young girls face is shown in an oak carving with a serene expression

Working from Home

Simon didn’t just face creative challenges with this sculpture. There was also the very real practical challenge of …… LOCKDOWN!

Health and safety of all the team is important to Simon and Liz. So, like many of the population, Simon had to work from home! Also like many of the population, that meant learning to deal with new interruptions (like the dog moving the video camera) and new distractions (a beautiful garden to tend) In case you didn’t catch them on our Facebook page, here are some of the videos of the memorial sculpture for Robyn in progress….

Back on the chainsaw after 8 weeks! It's been good for me to have a break though …

Posted by Simon O'Rourke – Tree Carving on Wednesday, 20 May 2020

What a scorcher!

Posted by Simon O'Rourke – Tree Carving on Wednesday, 20 May 2020

The Finished Sculpture

As you can see in the videos, Simon used his Stihl cordless chainsaws for the bulk of the carving. He then used Saburrtooth bits to add details and texture. The memorial sculpture for Robyn is oak, which means it is sturdy and stands up well to the chainsaws! It also means it is durable, and will withstand wind and rain – essential for an outdoor sculpture. Oak tends to pull out more brown hues than blacks or greys. This means as the sculpture ages, it will both deepen in colour and become much ‘warmer’ in tone.  This video shows the finished piece from several different angles.

 

Here's a little video to show a different angle!

Posted by Simon O'Rourke – Tree Carving on Friday, 22 May 2020

Testimonial

Simon received a lot of lovely feedback on social media when he originally shared the picture of the memorial for Robyn. Thank you to those who commented! The most important thing though is that the client is happy…..

I do need to thank you for undertaking the carving. As soon as I saw it I was so moved. It is beautful and I thank you for creating a carving in remembrance of Robyn

It is ALWAYS humbling to receive such lovely comments. Even more so when the piece marks the ending of something as challenging as these clients have walked through. Being a part of the healing journey for clients is truly an honour. We think Robyn looks beautiful in the garden created in her memory, and we hope this sculpture will bring the family joy for years and years to come.

Photo provided by client and used with permission.

Commissioning Your Own Memorial Sculpture

If you would like to commission a sculpture in memorial of a loved one, Simon would love to hear from you. Visit us on http://www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/ to connect.

Ayrton Senna Tribute Sculpture

Ayrton Senna Tribute Sculpture 150 150 Simon O'Rourke

When we think about ‘celebrity deaths’ over the last 25 years, many tragic or difficult stories come to mind. We think of many phenomenally talented individuals where we lament the loss, and the potential unfulfilled. None more so than Brazilian F1 driver, Ayrton Senna.
2019 marked 25 years since his tragic death at the San Marino Grand Prix. Anniversary tributes appeared in the media over the year, and caught Simon’s attention as he remembered ‘F1’s darkest weekend‘. Fascinated by Senna’s character and story, Simon decided to create his own memorial to the legend: this Ayrton Senna Tribute Sculpture.

Ayrton Senna Tribute sculpture by Simon O'Rourke

Choosing the Timber

Simon wanted the sculpture to not only look like a fitting tribute, but to also reflect, tell or share some of Senna’s story. For that reason, he took his time selecting the wood.

Eventually he found a piece of oak through a local farmer that he decided was perfect. However, it wasn’t just the size and shape that made it ‘the one’. Simon was looking for a piece of timber which had shared some of its lifetime with Senna himself.

Knowing the date this particular oak was felled meant Simon could count the growth rings and find the piece of timber that was alive and growing during Senna’s lifetime. This led to a unique feature on his Ayrton Senna tribute sculpture. Simon has marked out on Senna’s shoulder the growth rings for 1960-1994; the 34 years of Senna’s life.

growth rings for senna's lifetime marked on the ayrton senna tribute sculpture by simon o'rourke

Reflecting Character

When Simon carves a real person, his concern is not just for the physical features – although that is immensely important to him. He is also concerned about reflecting the character of the person. That meant Simon had to get to know afresh the character he had seen on screen as a teenager. Books, photographs, interviews, articles and documentaries helped re-introduce Simon to the person of Ayrton Senna.
It became clear that Senna was charismatic but also enigmatic, thoughtful and pensive.
He was sensible and intentional – but also playful.
It was these qualities which, ironically, meant Senna was chosen to head up a group of drivers dedicated to making the sport to make it safer, the weekend of his death.
Simon chose to reflect these characteristics by giving his  Ayrton Senna tribute sculpture a serene posture and gaze, but with a real twinkle in his eye.

Simon o'Rourke working on the eyes of his Ayrton Senna tribute sculpture

Working on getting that twinkle and expression right

Ayrton Senna by Simon O'Rourke in progress

Sculpting the Face

As we talked about in our blog about the golden ratio, sculpting faces is always a challenge. It is always so much harder too when Simon can’t meet the person. As Simon says:
“It’s always difficult working from photos. You’re constantly having to evaluate the structure of the face based on multiple light sources and camera lens distortion. Two photos of the same person can look vastly different. You have to understand the structure of the human face to make those decisions on depth and form.”

It’s clear the time spent studying, measuring and re-evaluating has paid off though, as the likeness to images of Senna is uncanny, and the sculpture is instantly recognisable as the Brazilian legend.

Images of Ayrton Senna in the workshop of Simon O'Rourke

Some of the images Simon worked from for his Ayrton Senna tribute sculpture

Finished Ayrton Senna tribute sculpture in the workshop by simon o'rourke

The finished piece in the workshop

On Display

Unlike many of Simon’s pieces, this Senna homage was a passion project rather than a specific commission. Thanks to the Wahoo Group and Real Five Networking though, rather than remain in the workshop, the sculpture is currently available for the public to view. Their support and connections meant that in December, the sculpture is now being exhibited at Mews of Mayfair; a beautiful restaurant and bar in Mayfair. If you’re visiting London, why not book yourselves in for a delicious meal and take a look? We’d love it if you got any photos or selfies with the sculpture if you could tag us too!

Bust of Ayrton Senna by Simon O'Rourke

Continuing a Legacy

During his lifetime Senna was dedicated to far more than just being the best in his sport. He also had a passion and felt a sense of responsibility to use his position to better the lives of children in his native Brazil. As such, he was also a philanthropist, the creator of Senninha, and had talked with his sister before his final trip to Italy about creating a charity. His sister honoured that conversation, and has built the Ayrton Senna Foundation.

Keeping in that spirit, Simon has chosen to sell this Ayrton Senna tribute sculpture in a sealed bid auction. A significant portion of the winning bid will then be donated to the Grand Prix Trust. This charity provides support for Formula 1’s helping team personnel, trackside or factory-based, to put their lives back on track when things go wrong. We believe from all the research into Senna’s life that this would be a cause that he himself would have been behind.

You can place you bid by visiting www.treecarving.co.uk/senna/  where there is an online bidding form at the bottom of the article.

 

Heroes at Highclere

Heroes at Highclere 150 150 Simon O'Rourke

We’re sure you can’t have missed that this week was the anniversary of 9/11. Certainly my social media feeds were full of people paying tribute to all the servicemen and law enforcement (human and canine!) who had willingly sacrificed their wellbeing, and even lives, to try and save others.
Whilst it is always sad to remember, it is also a beautiful thing to pay respect and honour, and here at Simon O’Rourke Tree Carving, we were honoured to pay tribute ourselves last weekend to another group of servicemen: The Heroes at Highclere.

Centenary Celebrations

For readers outside the UK who may not have had the same media exposure, September 1918 marked the beginning of the end of the First World War. This would culminate in the Armistice two months later. In this centenary year, as a country we are taking time to honour the men and women who have selflessly served our nation. This fantastic event was one of many  that will happen over this year, and we are glad to have paid a part.

The Downton Connection

The Earl and Countess of Carnarvon of Highclere Castle (many of you will recognise it as ‘Downton Abbey’), chose to open their grounds for “Heroes at Highclere”: a charity weekend, honouring  those who have served and fundraising for charities related to our armed forces.  The reason we were there was because part of the weekend was the unveiling of a sculpture Simon created….

Visiting Highclere

It was an incredible experience to be there in person at Highclere during the event. As well as getting to unveil the sculpture, we were also able to take time to enjoy the exhibitions, planes, food, good weather and wonderful atmosphere. We also met and talked with the families of the brave soldiers who lost their lives when their planes came down on and around the Highclere estate during World War 2. It is always a privilege to receive a commission with this level of meaning. Even more so this time because it is housed in such a beautiful, prominent, and iconic setting as the Highclere Estate!!

Memorial Benches

As well as the airman sculpture, Daniel, our carpenter and workshop manager, did a beautiful job of creating 3 benches based on the tail plane of a P38 aircraft; one of the types of aircraft that crash landed on the Highclere estate during World War two.

He thoughtfully designed the benches in a way that he could incorporate some pieces of shrapnel from the plane. So they were protected, he was going to encase them in clear acrylic tubing, which would be the legs. Sadly there wasn’t any suitable shrapnel from this plane available at the time, so he used small pieces of shrapnel from the B17 aircraft instead.

This actually ended up being the perfect combination. Partly because meant it included more of the planes that had crashed on the estate. In turn, this meant more of the families felt represented in the tribute. On the day of the unveiling we actually met the family of the pilot of the B17 who had sadly died in the crash. They were visibly moved seeing their family’s history displayed in this way. It was humbling to meet them and we felt honoured that they loved the benches.

 

A Wonderful Weekend

As well as the joy of seeing the completed pieces in their new home, and the fun of being able to take part in the heroes weekend, participating in this way also leaves us humbled and thankful for the men, women and animals in our armed forces and law enforcement. We hope that others who visit the castle and see our Airman and benches, will not only enjoy the artistry, but also take a moment to pause and reflect on their significance…

 

You can see the airman on the lawns overlooking ‘Heaven’s Gate’ at Highclere Castle for the foreseeable future. (Admission charges apply, please see the Highclere website for details)

 

Custom Carvings for Emotional Events

Custom Carvings for Emotional Events 150 150 Simon O'Rourke

I carve statues, signs, jewelry, and everything in between.  There’s carving for fun projects, competitions, and demonstrations. I also do custom carvings for emotional events. There’s a good variety, and balance to my current commissions. I think that’s best exemplified through these two pieces:

An elephant, in ash, as a memorial for a young lad killed in a motorbike accident. The carving actually holds his ashes, inside.

Custom Carvings for Emotional Events 1

And then there’s this! It’s a set of three Wallace and Gromit themed sculptures that brought tears to a birthday girl’s eyes! A very different reason for crying to the elephant!

Custom Carvings for Emotional Events 2

It really is a privilege, to do the job I do. I’m thankful I get to spread a little happiness, beauty, and comfort through art.