monk

life size wood carving of a knight on a rearing horse by simon orourke.Sculpture is part of a sculpture trail in Northampton.

Why Commission a Sculpture Trail?

Why Commission a Sculpture Trail? 540 810 Simon O'Rourke

Autumn is the perfect time to get out into nature and visit one of Simon’s woodland sculpture trails. The reds and ambers of the leaves are stunning anyway, but they add a perfect touch of art and drama to his sculptures. If you need convincing, why not take a peek in our blogs about his trails at Meadow Park, Page’s Wood, or Fforest Fawr?
These are all woodland sculpture trails with a wildlife theme. But did you know there are many more applications for a sculpture trail? Read on to find out some reasons why your community, business, or charity could benefit by commissioning a sculpture trail…

 

wooden carved owl sitting on a tree stump. The Owl is from Simon O'Rourke's woodland sculpture trail in Meadow Park.

Ruby the Owl, from Simon’s Meadow Park sculpture trail

Why Commission a Sculpture Trail: Education

A sculpture trail is a great way to educate visitors about the purpose and history of your site. This is one of the reasons Simon and his wife Liz get excited about a woodland sculpture trail commission. They are passionate about nature and the environment, and about educating others. Liz is even a qualified Forest School teacher!
In the case of the woodland sculpture trails, they created characters and poetry for each sculpture which gave snippets of information about the environment and wildlife. Each trail ends with a call to action for the viewer.
Giving information in this way is more likely to engage families with young children. It also makes it more memorable for all ages, which is always a bonus!

picture shows the original sketch for a wooden bench designed by simon o'rourke for the page's wood sculpture trail

One of the original sketches and poetry for Page’s Wood Sculpture Trail

This concept of educational snippets is easily adapted to any business or local area – it’s not just for woodland! Sculptures could reflect events in the life of an individual or a town. Or they could be or based on characters from a specific book or film associated with the place or person. There’s truly no limit!
We’re living in a season where Covid regulations make it harder for people to go inside museums and other attractions to view their educational content, so an outdoor sculpture trail is a great way to bring that content outdoors.
One example of this is where Simon helped create a sculpture trail of knights in Northampton…

 

life size wood carving of a knight on a rearing horse by simon orourke.Sculpture is part of a sculpture trail in Northampton.

One of the knights Simon made as a collaboration with other artists for the Northampton Knight Trail

Why Commission a Sculpture Trail: Tourist Attraction

Another reason to consider commissioning a sculpture trail is that the trail could become a tourist attraction in and of itself. Whilst people have come to see the trail, they will then often visit the rest of the site. If they are in the area they are also likely to visit local shops, restaurants, etc, and therefore stimulate the local economy. If you are a small town with no other especially marketable points, a sculpture trail around the town could be the perfect way to draw people to the area. There is just something about the novelty of a chainsaw-carved sculpture that attracts people! They are drawn to it for selfies or post photos of the sculpture alone. As visitors post these on social media, the attraction gets free publicity. More visitors AND free publicity… sounds like a great deal!!!

Review of the decade 2014 Mungo Park

Portrait of Mungo Park – perfect to sit next to and snap a selfie!

An example of this in action would be Simon’s Dragon of Bethesda. The dragon was a private commission, but it happened to be visible from the road. People began to post photos, and it got so much attention, it made the BBC news! Local newspapers around the country picked up the story, and police even had to ask people not to slow down to get photos! This was a total accident, as it was never intended for public viewing – but it does show the power of art to draw people to a place!

wooden carved dragon with outstretched wings by simon o rourke.

The Dragon of Bethesda became an accidental tourist attraction!

Why Commission a Sculpture Trail: Covid Safe!

We already hinted at this reason to invest in a sculpture trail for your attraction. Right now many attractions are struggling to remain open, as they can’t allow the numbers into the building that are needed to remain solvent. An outdoor sculpture trail in the grounds of a venue are much safer and allow for more visitors. If budget or permanence is an issue, why not take an example from Erddig National Trust?
A few years ago, they commissioned an ‘apple trail’ for their Autumn season. Simon carved smaller apples in the style of Halloween pumpkins. Those apples were then placed around the grounds at Erddig, and visitors could follow the Erddig Apple Trail.
A trail like this can easily be turned into a family activity. Simply create maps or ‘treasure hunt sheets’, and off you go! You could even add a reward at the end as a reminder of their visit or an educational point.

a wooden apple is carved to look like a halloween pumpkin. part of the erddig apple sculpture trail by simon o rourke

One of the apples Simon created for the Erddig Apple Trail

 

Why Commission a Sculpture Trail: Double the Fundraising!

OK, so here we’re actually going to mention a few reasons to commission a sculpture trail for your venue. They have the benefit of being as permanent or temporary as you want. This means you could set up a trail for a specific season, such as an elf trail to lead a Christmas Santa Grotto. Or what about an egg or bunny trail for Easter?
But what to do with the sculptures if you don’t want to repeat the event?
What about an auction for your charity, venue, or association? In the past auctions of Simon’s work have raised anything from hundreds to thousands of pounds for charities. This means a sculpture trail has double the potential – bringing people in for the original event, and fundraising afterward!

Wooden sculpture of Queen of Hearts on her throne by Simon O Rourke. Sculpture is part of a sculpture trail in Scotland

Queen of Hearts from Simons Alice in Wonderland trail

 

Why Commission a Sculpture Trail: For Art’s Sake!

There are several other reasons we could give for a sculpture trail, but we’re going to leave it with this one: art for art’s sake! One of the many lessons we learned from lockdown is the value of the arts. People turned to music, craft, and many other hobbies that serve no utilitarian function. In the early days especially, people found respite in things of beauty around them. Photos on social media showed highlights of permitted outdoor exercise time included discovering a beautiful old building, gate, or statue in their town that they had never noticed. A sculpture trail at your venue may serve no other purpose than adding something beautiful, creative, and inspirational for people to enjoy. And that’s OK. Call us biased, but we think that is reason enough to commission a sculpture trail!

Fforest Fawr Sculpture Trail Lynx by Simon O'Rourke

Fforest Fawr Sculpture Trail Lynx

Choosing a Theme for Your Sculpture Trail

So now you’ve thought about some of the reasons to commission a sculpture trail, what theme will you choose?

The possibilities really are endless. However, some of the most popular sculptures Simon has made include fairies, wizards, and dragons. And even an Ent! These ‘fantasy’ figures will always attract people to your trail. Movies and books like the Narnia series, Harry Potter, and Lord of the Rings capture the imaginations of all generations. That makes them a great theme for a trail.

Another consideration is the historical context of a place. Chester, Bath, or York would be perfect for a trail of Roman Centurions for example. Similarly, a former monastery commissioned a series of monks that sit beautifully in the grounds.

monk by simon o rourke

One of the monks of Monksbridge

You could also think about any local people of prominence. For example, anywhere in Stratford-Upon-Avon would be a great location for some Shakespearian figures.

Finally, what festivals do you hold, and what season is it? Christmas could see an elf, reindeer, or snowman trail. Harvest is perfect for carved pumpkins.

Basically, the only limit is your imagination!

10' wooden fairy sculpture by simon o rourke

A private commission, but a fairy trail of any size could be a fun addition to any woodland space

Commission Your Sculpture Trail

Are you feeling inspired? If you would like to commission a sculpture trail, then contact us via www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/
We’re excited to hear your ideas and how we can help enhance your venues, events, communities, and attractions!

 

moving wood sculpture of a dragon by simon o'rourke

English Open Chainsaw Competition Entries Through the Years

English Open Chainsaw Competition Entries Through the Years 1160 770 Simon O'Rourke

Can you believe it’s already the August bank holiday weekend?! Time is definitely doing funny things! This weekend is a landmark in the Chainsaw Carving calendar, as it’s normally the English Open Chainsaw Competition. The competition is part of the Cheshire Game and Country Fair, and Simon has taken part many times over the last decade or so. Things are obviously a bit different this year, but we thought we’d mark the occasion by revisiting some of his English Open Chainsaw Competition Entries…

scene from english open chainsaw competition 2019

Where it all Began…

Simon first took part in the competition in 2004, and it was a key event in his career. It was his first competition, and he won third place. This helped prompt him to make a career from creating chainsaw-carved wood sculptures. After making that decision, he and his wife Liz set up Tree Carving in 2005… and the rest is history!

The 2004 Sculpture:

Despite being his first competition piece, the first of Simon’s English open chainsaw competition entries not only took third place but also gained national attention. At the end of the competition, artists can choose to auction off their pieces.  During that auction, Simon’s “Sleeping Girl” caught the attention of one of the Sandringham estate managers. Their bid won, and his sculpture was installed at the Queen’s Norfolk estate later that year. Not bad for a first-timer! National news networks picked up the story, which also helped as Simon began his carving career.

Unfortunately there aren’t many photos of this sculpture which proved to be such a landmark in Simon’s career. So, please forgive us the poor resolution of this photo! We promise the photos get better in the rest of the blog! If anyone is visiting the estate and gets a better photo, we would love it if you shared it and tagged us!

english open chainsaw entries by simon o'rourke: 2004 sleeping girl. A sleeping girl is carved onto a horzontal log

 

English Open Chainsaw Competition Entries: 2007

Simon has had a great deal of success at the English Open. In 2007 he created this whimsical fairy sitting on a mushroom. Although Simon’s style has evolved since then, and his sculptures become much more detailed, we can already see his ability to tell a story and create life-like human form sculptures. Judges also admired this piece and he placed first!

wooden sculpture of a fairy sitting on top of a mushroom, with woods in the background. the fairy is one of simon o'rourkes english open chainsaw competition entries from 2007

English Open Chainsaw Competition Entries: 2009

In 2008 and 2009 Simon also won first place with his Neptune sculpture. And once again, he demonstrated his skill at creating stunning human form sculptures.  We can already see much more of the texture that has become part of Simon’s signature style. His facial expression and details perfectly depict this wisened god of the sea, and that physique definitely reflects the power he is said to have.

 

english open chainsaw competition entries by simon o'rourke. Photo shows simon standing with a 10' sculpture of neptune carved onto a treek trunk

 

english open chainsaw competition entries by simon o'rourke. Photo shows simon standing with a 10' sculpture of neptune carved onto a treek trunk

 

English Open Chainsaw Competition Entries: 2010-2013

As Simon’s awards page shows, 2010-2013 were also good years for him at the English Open. He placed in the top two each year that he entered. By now he and Liz were a definite part of the tree carving community – one of the fun aspects of taking part in events and competitions.

The nature of chainsaw carving means many pieces are often on a very large scale. Some of Simon’s largest pieces have been the Marbury Lady and the Giant Hand of Vyrnwy. His 2013 entry wasn’t as large as these, but this giant bust definitely showed he could work on a large scale!

giant wood bust of a female. one of simon o'rourke's english open chainsaw competition entries

English Open Chainsaw Entries: 2014

During some competitions, Simon is able to take the opportunity to work on a commission. He may need to refine it later but is able to complete what he can during the time allocated for the competition. 2014 was one of those times. During the competition, Simon created this sculpture of Brother Francis. How special for a client to be able to say their sculpture is award-winning! The piece ‘only’ placed third, but the client was delighted, and this monk looks amazing installed among the trees, enjoying a moment of quiet contemplation.

life size sculpture of a monk sitting against a tree. Carved by simon o'rourke as one of his english open chainsaw competition entries

 

English Open Chainsaw Competition Entries: 2015

2015 was a winning year for Simon. He took first place with his incredible moving dragon sculpture. The detail is incredible with the scaly texture and attention to detail like the teeth and eyes. The movement was also a real novelty, and took Simon’s skill and creativity to the next level.

moving wood dragon sculpture

Hemlock today!

The sculpture didn’t sell at auction, but that turned out to be a good thing. Simon made some refinements to the sculpture and Hemlock was born! Hemlock has since travelled around the UK and is always a hit wherever she goes. She has helped to raise money for Clatterbridge Hospital and other causes, has taken part at ComicCon, and has even been part of a wedding! It’s true! She makes a great photo opportunity and is regularly treated to a dragon spa at the workshop (ie maintenance and repair!) to make sure she always looks her best at your events.

There is no doubt either that Hemlock played a big part in earning Simon his reputation for carving fantastic dragons. Since then he has gone on to create other incredible award-winning, viral dragon sculptures such as The Dragon of Bethesda, the egg casket from Game of Thrones, the yew dragon tower, and most recently, the fire-breathing dragon for The Dragon Tower that appeared on George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces.

To book Hemlock for your event (anyone thinking about a dragon-pulled Santa sleigh this year?!) email us using the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/, and we’ll be in touch!

moving wood sculpture of a dragon by simon o'rourke

 

English Open Chainsaw Competition Entries: 2019

Moving on to 2019, and the English Open was another great year for Simon. He took part in the ‘combo’ competition. This meant creating two sculptures over the three days, one made with only a chainsaw, and the other using any power tools.

His chainsaw-only sculpture was this beautiful, intricate fairy that took second place. You can see the range of Stihl chainsaws he used in the background!

Fairy carved by Simon O'Rourke at the English open Chainsaw Competition

The ‘full power’ event meant Simon could also use his favourite Manpa angle grinder and Saburrtooth bits. He created this angel who is looking truly serene. She doesn’t look at all like she’s been surrounded by chainsaw noise and sawdust for two days!!! She shows all of Simon’s trademark movement in her clothing, and attention to detail in the face. And, as always, Simon tells a story with this sculpture and invites the viewer into this moment of serenity with her. The judges loved her too, and she took first place.

Angel carved by Simon O'Rourke at the English Open Chainsaw Carving Competition

The angel which took first place in the ‘full power’ event

 

Future Events?

Right now we don’t know when the next event or competition will take place. As you all know, the world and regulations about public events change constantly. Competitions and events are usually a big part of Simon’s summer though. They go beyond an opportunity to carve and are usually a brilliant time to connect with other artists and gain more inspiration, knowledge, and skills. We find some of them actually make for a fantastic day out too for observers, such as Huskycup or the WoodFest.  We’ve definitely missed them this year, although a change is nice too.

However! Simon does still have some space in his calendar later this year for outdoor events, such as ice carving demonstrations at Christmas, or even something ‘autumn-themed’ for your October half term event. Although the large scale events can’t happen, there are still ways to include and enjoy a live demonstration. Email us at [email protected] or use the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/ to ask about ideas and availability.