Myths and Legends

redwoos sculpture of dragon mounted on wall of a house. he is breathing fire.

The Dragon Tower’s Fire-Breathing Dragon: Ten Fun Facts

The Dragon Tower’s Fire-Breathing Dragon: Ten Fun Facts 600 600 Simon O'Rourke

A year ago, George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces featured Simon and his fire-breathing dragon sculpture, Maggon. Maggon was commissioned by Guy and Tracey, the owners of The Dragon Tower; a holiday rental property at their home in North Wales. He was the finishing touch to an incredible and innovative renovation that even includes a folding bathroom! It was fantastic to create something that’s become so integral to their home and business.
One year on we contacted them to find out what it’s like living with a fire-breathing dragon. We loved what we heard!
Read on to find out ten fun facts that we learned about the dragon tower’s fire-breathing dragon…

 

george clark stands in front of a small stone building. The building has a redwood dragon mounted above the door. The dragon is breathing fire. Created by Simon O'rourke from redwood, his number three recommended best wood for a sculpture.

George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces featured Maggon the Fire Breathing Dragon in June 2020.

The Dragon Tower’s Fire-Breathing Dragon Fact One:
Kids Love Him!

Kids love Maggon! And in the way only kids can, they have some funny ways of finding language to describe what they experience. Apparently, he sounds like a hot air balloon!

The Dragon Tower’s Fire-Breathing Dragon Fact Two:
He’s An Alternative To Fireworks!

At New Year the village was locked down due to covid. This meant none of the usual firework displays. But that doesn’t matter when you own a fire-breathing dragon! Guy and Tracey fired him up at midnight for the village, using their sculpture to help foster community.

The Dragon Tower’s Fire-Breathing Dragon Fact Three:
He Toasts a Mean Marshmallow!

Guy and Tracey are often asked if Maggon cooks things. So they gave it a try!
And guess what?
It turns out that Maggon is the perfect marshmallow toaster – from a safe distance of course!
As Wales is the land of dragons, we can’t think of anything more perfect to be part of a Welsh holiday experience! How often do you get to say you ate a marshmallow cooked by a dragon?!

The Dragon Tower’s Fire-Breathing Dragon Fact Four:
He Gets More Handsome With Age!

As you know if you read this blog about how wood ages, Simon believes the natural ageing process of wood adds beauty and character to the sculpture. Thankfully, Maggon’s family feel the same! They describe him as being more handsome now than when he arrived. They also commented on how he has lightened in colour. In time he will not only lighten, but will take on more grey hues and complement beautifully the Welsh stone building.

The Dragon Tower’s Fire-Breathing Dragon Fact Five:
You Can Spot Shapes in His Flames

Some of us like to find shapes in clouds. But when you have a dragon, it’s more fun to spot shapes in his flames! Guy and Tracey have had some great photos of Maggon’s flames from guests. As you can see in the photo below, he can even make Mini-Maggons!

The Dragon Tower’s Fire-Breathing Dragon Fact Six:
Tracey Would Love to Write a Story About Him.

Simon loves to tell stories with his sculptures. However, he likes to leave the narrative open for some imagination. And so with a sculpture like Maggon, and clients that are so creative we can’t wait to read it and see what adventures they imagine he has had!
It’s worth noting too though, that if you’re a business owner, this is a great way to create revenue from your sculpture. Or you could incorporate a story into a sculpture trail.

 

The Dragon Tower's Fire-Breathing Dragon Maggon photographed breathing fire. The flame is shaped like a baby dragon.

Can you see Mini Maggon in the flame? Photo Credit: The Dragon Tower

The Dragon Tower’s Fire-Breathing Dragon Fact Seven:
He’s Forever Changing.

As wood changes over time, a chainsaw carving sculpture takes on a new look over time. Maggon is no different, and Guy and Tracey commented that he looks different every time they see him.
The material is also a work of art itself. Guy and Tracey have spotted a knot on his wing that looks like a love heart. We wonder if that will be part of the story when it’s written.

The Dragon Tower’s Fire-Breathing Dragon: Fact Eight
He’s A Dragon For All Seasons!

Guy and Tracey have had fun dressing Maggon for each season, and he even has his own sled to help deliver gifts at Christmas! Rain, shine, Christmas, Easter, Halloween… Maggon is part of it!

 

The Dragon Tower's Fire-Breathing Dragon wearing pink sunglasses. It's taken from an angle that makes him appear to recline in the sun

Photo Credit: The Dragon Tower

 

The Dragon Tower's Fire-Breathing Dragon at Christmas. He is pulling a sled and decorated with fairy lights

Photo Credit: The Dragon Tower

The Dragon Tower’s Fire-Breathing Dragon: Fact Nine
He’s Makes An Impact

Guy and Tracey give guests to The Dragon Tower a fiery welcome from Maggon. And their eyes light up each time! What customer doesn’t love a welcome like that? And what business owner doesn’t want that impact and fun as part of their guests’ experience?

The Dragon Tower’s Fire-Breathing Dragon: Fact Ten
“We’re known as The Ones With the Dragon”.

Our last fact leads us nicely to this. Maggon the fire-breathing dragon is a unique statement piece, and makes them stand out from everyone else. Even the locals know them as ‘The ones with the dragon’. It’s so important to have something unique as a business. Something you can be known for and that makes you stand out from the others.
Guy’s amazing folding bathroom would have done that alone. The gorgeous Welsh landscape and access to both North Wales and the North West of England we already strong selling points for The Dragon Tower. But Maggon has just added a little more to that, and given them something that both they and their guests can enjoy.

 

The Dragon Tower's Fire-Breathing Dragon mounted on the wall of The Dragon Tower; a stone bakehouse converted to a holiday let.

Photo Credit: The Dragon Tower

The Dragon Tower’s Fire-Breathing Dragon:
Closing Thoughts

A year after the program aired, it was lovely to hear from Guy and Tracey, and hear some of their thoughts about Maggon (you can catch that episode HERE if you missed it). It was so clear that Maggon the Dragon has not only become a vital part of their business, but also a much-loved part of family life. It’s a great example of how a sculpture can add value to both work and home at the same time. We also love seeing Maggon wearing his outfits and toasting marshmallows!
The Dragon Tower was always absolutely brilliant in its own right, and to be able to add something more to something like that has been a joy.

 

The Dragon Tower's Fire-breathing dragon photographed from underneath. He is holding a sign between his wings that says 'The Dragon Tower'. He is breathing fire.

Photo Credit: The Dragon Tower

If you feel inspired to commission a sculpture for your work or home, contact Simon using the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact and he’ll be in touch!

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.

 

Cheshire Life Magazine cover featuring The Marbury Lady sculpture by Simon O'Rourke

The Marbury Lady Revisited

The Marbury Lady Revisited 419 600 Simon O'Rourke

This month Cheshire Life magazine featured The Marbury Lady on its front cover. It was part of a feature on local photographer Alison Hamlin Hughes – AKA The (other!) Marbury Lady! Although the article wasn’t about Simon, many people have been interested in the sculpture. So, we thought we’d revisit the story behind the sculpture in this week’s blog…

 

Cheshire Life Magazine cover featuring The Marbury Lady sculpture by Simon O'Rourke

The March/April edition of Cheshire Life featuring Simon’s Marbury Lady sculpture

 

Marbury Lady Revisited: The Location

The Marbury Lady is found in Marbury Park, Northwich. Many of the features of the park date back to the days when it was a grand estate. Since then however, it has served many purposes including country club, Prisoner of War camp, and hostel. Nowadays it is an integral part of  Mersey Forest with a range of paths and trails.

 

Marbury Lady Sculpture by Simon O'Rourke

Marbury Lady Revisited: The Commission

The Marbury Lady sculpture had its roots (no pun intended) in the sad demise of an avenue of elms. A burst brine pipe had cause saline poisoning and many of the trees had died. The Friends of Anderton and Marbury who run the park decided to turn one of the stumps into a sculpture. An that’s where Simon comes in!

For those wondering about saline poisoning though, sadly it is very common in the UK. When a tree is exposed to too much salt, it blocks the flow of essential nutrients. In turn, the tree can no longer make chlorophyll. If like us, your high school science is a bit of a blur, that’s the green stuff plants use to turn sunlight into usable energy! A tree can be exposed to salt in many ways, including splashes from gritted/salted roads in winter.

Thankfully when spotted early enough, it can be reversed. For anyone who wants to know more, we recommend this Gardening Know How article on the topic. https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/garden-how-to/soil-fertilizers/reversing-soil-salinity.htm

 

The Lady of Marbury sculpture by Simon O'Rourke in process

At work on a sculpture. Acton Safety have helped ensure all site work is the safest it can be for Simon and the public.

 

Marbury Lady Revisited: The Design

The Marbury Lady sculpture is essentially a two-faced woman. Although it may seem an unusual choice, it makes sense if you are familiar with local history/folklore. The legend of the Marbury Lady dates back to the time Smith-Barry occupied the hall. It involves a romance with a mistress or housekeeper (versions vary) that he brought back from his travels overseas. It is said that she haunted the house after her death, and now the land. Even now there are reported sightings of a lady in a white veil, and well as tales of strange sounds and happenings. Whether you believe in ghost stories or not, she makes an interesting subject for a sculpture…

 

The Living depiction of The Marbury Lady by Simon O'Rourke

The Egyptian girl, portrayed as she was alive

 

Marbury Lady Revisited: The Two Faces

Simon decided to show The Marbury Lady in both her manifestations. One side of the sculpture shows a living woman. The reverse shows a ghostly face, shrouded in a shredded veil. On the ‘living’ side, her expression is calm, peaceful. On the reverse she appears more gaunt, and pained.

As well as carving her with two faces to reflect the story, Simon also did this because he wanted to encourage people not just to view the sculpture passively. He wanted physical engagement with the sculpture. He wanted people drawn into a story. In carving her this way, people have to physically move round to the other side of the sculpture to see the full story. And from there, there is room to interpret as the viewer chooses.

 

Simon O'Rourke creating the Lady of Marbury sculpture

The ghostly side of the Marbury Lady shows a gaunt, sad expression

Marbury Lady Revisited: The Response

The Marbuy Lady sculpture was one of Simon’s favourite sculptures to create. It was technically challenging and stretched him creatively and technically. You can read more about this in our original Marbury Lady blog.

At the time she was received well, and it was wonderful to hear comments from people who enjoyed the piece.

One year on, it’s great to see her still making an impact. Alison Hamlin Hughes has also created some coasters with different views of the sculpture, and there have been a lot of comments on her posts appreciating Simon’s work.

As an artist, it is the client’s opinion that is most important at the end of  the day. In the case of a public sculpture, there are a lot of opinions likely to come forth! When so many are so appreciative it isboth humbling, and rewarding. Especially in this difficult season of lockdowns, to be part of bringing joy and beauty into people’s lives is a privilege.

 

The Marbury Lady Revisited: A series of four coasters featuring photos of The Marbury Lady sculpture by Simon O'Rourke

These coasters of the Marbury Lady have been created by local photographer Alison Hamlin Hughes

 

Marbury Lady Revisited: Resurrected Life

It’s also fitting that we are talking about the Marbury Lady on Easter weekend. The whole message and theme of Easter is resurrection – life revived. Turning a dead tree into a work of art is a fantastic way to give life back to that tree.

If you have a tree that is diseased, dying or dangerous, it may be possible for Simon to transform and resurrect it in the same way he did with The Marbury Lady. We recommend reading our blog “Is My Tree Suitable for a Tree Carving Sculpture” as an initial ‘self-assessment’. If it looks like it might be, contact Simon using the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/.

And if you have photos of his sculptures, we’d love it if you tagged him so we can see them! It’s always fun to see people enjoying Simon’s sculptures, and we love to see how they are ageing – just like this photo by Alison Hamlin Hughes.

 

The Marbury Lady Revisited: Sunset photo of the Marbury Lady

It’s lovely to see sculptures appearing online.
PC: Alison Hamlin Hughes

wooden wedding rings superimposed in an archway of greenery. Simon O'Rourke made the rings. They are part of his wooden wearables range.

Romance-Themed Sculptures: A Valentine’s Blog

Romance-Themed Sculptures: A Valentine’s Blog 1296 1944 Simon O'Rourke

This Sunday is Valentine’s Day. We know not everybody is a fan of this festival of all things pink and glittery! But! Whether you are a romantic who loves indulging or a hater of the ‘Hallmark Holiday’, we hope you enjoy this Valentine’s blog featuring some of Simon’s romance-themed sculptures…

Romance-themed sculptures by Simon O'Rourke. A wooden sculpture of Beauty and the Beast dancing together.

Beauty and the Beast.

Romance-Themed Sculptures: Beauty and the Beast

For many people, Disney movies are one of their earliest exposures to ‘love stories’, and “Beauty and the Beast” is arguably one of the best-loved. Even therapists who usually find the problems in Disney relationships acknowledge this romance to be a positive example! And we think Simon’s sculpture of the famous duo captures the story perfectly. The gentle hand-holding, warm smiles and gazing into each other’s eyes shows a real sweetness and tenderness. A lovely depiction of the couple! And for those who enjoy watching Simon at work, we even have a timelapse:

Romance-Themed Sculptures: Lancelot and Guinevere

The next of our romance-themed sculptures is this event piece from 2010 of Lancelot and Guinevere. Their story is one of the most often-told love stories, with countless movies, TV shows, pieces of art and literature being dedicated to the couple. Even Tennyson wrote a poem based on their romance!
We believe that even if someone had never heard of them before, this sculpture tells a lot about their romance. Their eyes alone tell a story!
Simon named this sculpture ‘Forbidden Fruit’. As he carved, his goal was to convey that sense of forbidden romance. That’s why he depicted the characters beneath a fruit tree – a hint to the story of Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit in the book of Genesis.

Romance-themed sculptures by Simon O'Rourke. a wooden sculpture of lancelot and guinevere. She kneels at his feet as he gazes into her eyes.

Lancelot & Guinevere

Romance-Themed Sculptures: Romeo & Juliet

The third of our romance-themed sculptures is Shakespeare’s Star-Crossed Lovers: Romeo and Juliet.
Simon made this sculpture for Plas Coch holiday park many years ago.  The trees had grown to be entwined, so they were the perfect base for depicting this tragic pair.

romeo and juliet carved into two intertwined tree trunks. It is one of Simon O'Rourkes romance-themed sculptures.

Romeo and Juliet

As well as the couple themselves, Simon also engraved a quote from the famous play. That quote is split between the two trees, giving them another point of connection and the sense of the one belonging with the other…

This bud of love, by summer’s ripening breath, May prove a beauteous flower when next we meet.

Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet, act two, scene two

tree trunk engraved with a quote from Romeo and Juliet

 

Romance-Themed Sculptures: Wedding Rings

The last of our romance-themed sculptures is one of the classic symbols of enduring love: wedding rings.
We don’t often share Simon’s ‘wearables’, but as well as sculptures he used to make beautiful wearable wooden items such as bow ties, cufflinks, and these gorgeous wedding rings.

In many cultures, the simple wedding band is a sign of eternal love, and it’s typically made of precious metal to symbolise the precious nature of the relationship. However, with more people becoming concerned about how their metals are sourced, couples are beginning to look at other options.
These wooden rings are a beautiful alternative, whether you are concerned with sustainability, or just prefer something a bit different.

wooden wedding rings superimposed in an archway of greenery. Simon O'Rourke made the rings. They are part of his wooden wearables range.

Final Thoughts

And so we come to the end of our 2021 Valentine’s Blog, and our flashback to some of Simon’s romance-themed sculptures.
We hope that whether you are in a relationship or single that this weekend you will know you are valued, and loved. And whether you love or loathe the day itself, why not use it as an excuse for reaching out to a friend or loved one?

If you would like to commission a sculpture, please use the contact form on www.treecarving.co.uk/contact. We’re looking forward to hearing from you!

Chainsaw artist Simon O'Rourke putting finishing touches on a 3m sculpture of svantevit, the slavic god of war. Svantevit is one of his many sculptures of myths and legends.

Sculptures of Myths and Legends

Sculptures of Myths and Legends 1365 2048 Simon O'Rourke

Mythology and folk stories have been the subject of several sculptures Simon has made. Each time there is a challenge for Simon. He needs to create something recognisable and something that tells the well-known story. At the same time though, he also wants to bring something fresh or unique. Creating sculptures of myths and legends helps preserve a culture, and aids us in passing down the stories that shaped a nation. It’s a lovely thing to be part of!
In this week’s blog, we invite you to join us as we revisit some of the sculptures of myths and legends that Simon has made…

Close up of St Georg in the St George and the dragon sculpture by Simon O'Rourke. This is one of his many sculptures of myths and legends.

St George and the Dragon

St George and the Dragon is the most recent of Simon’s sculptures of myths and legends. The client had a stump in her garden and contacted Simon to see what he could make of it. Many sculptures of St George show him either doing battle with the dragon or victorious after the fight. The client didn’t want anything too macabre in her garden though – understandably!!! So, in this case, Simon depicts George before the battle. We see him standing in his armour with weapons ready, as the dragon creeps up the stump towards him. If you would like to know more about the choice of St George, or the process of making the sculpture, visit our St George and the Dragon blog.

Sculptures of myths and legends: a portrait of st george and the dragon are carved into a standing tree stump. The sculpture is surrounded by flowering shrubbery. carved by simon o'rourke.

Svantevit

The next of our sculptures of myths and legends takes us to Eastern Europe. Svantevit is the Slavic god of war, fertility, and abundance. It was created for the exhibition at Putgarten, Germany in 2018. With his four heads, he is immediately recognisable to people familiar with Slavic mythology. He is also carrying a horn and sword which are an important part of the stories of Svantevit. Simon makes his mark though with his detail in the faces and texture in the clothing. The drapery in the cape in particular adds some lovely movement to this 3m sculpture.

Chainsaw artist Simon O'Rourke putting finishing touches on a 3m sculpture of svantevit, the slavic god of war. Svantevit is one of his many sculptures of myths and legends.

The Hydra

The Hydra from 2019 is the next of our sculptures of myths and legends Simon has created. Initially, this sculpture was going to be a flock of birds or an animal rising from the ground. When Simon arrived on-site though he found the tree was unsuitable and chose to create the Hydra instead. The devil is definitely in the detail as they say with this one though. Look at all that scaly texture and the individual teeth! Definitely a legendary sculpture!!!

Hydra tree carving sculpture by Simon O'Rourke, one of his sculptures of myths and legends

Close up of the Hydra Heads. A private tree carving commission by Simon O'Rourke

Close up of the heads showing the detail and texture.

Lancelot and Guinevere

From Eastern Europe and Greece, we come much closer to home for the next of Simon’s sculptures of myths and legends: Lancelot and Guinevere.
Simon created this sculpture at an event in 2010, and it beautifully depicts the romance between the two characters. Even if we had never heard the story of Lancelot and Guinevere before, we get a sense of that story through the characters’ pose and facial details. Their eyes alone tell a story! Although not as textured as Simon’s later sculptures, we also love the hints of movement in the clothing which add to the realism.
Simon named this sculpture ‘Forbidden Fruit’. This sense of the romance being taboo or forbidden is enhanced by his choice to show the characters beneath a fruit tree, which hints at the story of Adam and Eve eating the forbidden fruit in the book of Genesis.

sculptures of myths and legends by simon o'rourke: guinevere kneeling at the feet of lancelot under a tree

Tegid Foel

Our next sculpture is another Welsh legend… Tegid Foel! Also known as ‘The Giant of Penllyn’!
Although the legend of Tegid Foel may be Welsh, he was created many miles away at Chetwynd International Chainsaw Carving Championship in 2012. Tegid Foel is the husband of Ceridwen in Welsh mythology. Funnily, the translation of his name into English would be ‘Tacitus the Bald’! Simon truly captures that description in this sculpture!
Just as Tegid Foel is a giant in Welsh mythology, this sculpture stands around 14′ tall. Simon carved him in separate parts and assembled him using scaffolding and a forklift truck. For anyone interested, Simon has an album documenting the process of creating Tegid Foel on Facebook. Just click HERE to see it. It also has close-up photos of details like the feet, belt, and hands. We definitely think it’s worth a look!


Sculptures of myths and legends: A giant sculpture of tegid foel by simon o'rourke.

Mabinogion Characters

Our last sculptures of myths and legends are also Welsh in origin. The Mabinogion is a compilation of Welsh stories, originally written in Middle Welsh. It’s thought they were compiled in the 12th Century but were passed down orally for years before that.
Back in 2010, Simon created sculptures of several of the characters in the Mabinogion (both human and animal) for a holiday park in Wales. There is something special about living and working in Wales, and being able to help preserve the history and culture of the nation in this way. Just like Tegid Foel, Simon added a full album of the Mabinogion on Facebook which you can visit HERE.
For now, we will just share these few.  The rougher ‘unfinished’ textures blend perfectly with the wooded surroundings. In Autumn they compliment the colours of the Welsh hills and woods, and in summer they contrast beautifully.

Sculptures of myths and legends: a triptych of wooden sculptures of characters from the mabinogion by simon o'rourke

Why Create Sculptures of Myths and Legends?

As we said, a sculpture of a local myth or legend helps us preserve culture. In generations past, we might have spent time telling local stories to one another or reading them for ourselves. The world has expanded massively though. Although this opens up new experiences and learning for us, which is fantastic, it is sometimes at the cost of losing something of our own history. Commissioning a sculpture that depicts local folklore can really help in sharing something of the history and culture with visitors and locals alike.

If you would like to commission your own sculpture of a myth or legend, contact us via the form on www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/ and Simon will be in touch!

Simon O'Rourke creating an oak maiden using Stihl battery chainsaw

Creating an Oak Maiden

Creating an Oak Maiden 720 960 Simon O'Rourke

There are two approaches to tree carving that Simon practices. The first is to design the piece, and then find timber suitable for the project. The three footballers that you may remember from last year are an example of this. In fact,  as you may remember from the Queen of the South Legends blog, completion was actually delayed because of sourcing timber after the original piece had a split.
The other approach is carving a standing stump. This means letting the tree dictate the design rather than the design dictate the timber. Sometimes the shape inspires the subject. Other times, it means making changes to the design along the way to accommodate the shape, size, twists turns and any surprises once the bark is stripped and Simon begins cutting. This was certainly the case with Simon’s latest project: creating an Oak Maiden.

Simon O'Rourke creating an oak maiden using Stihl battery chainsaw

 

Creating an Oak Maiden: The initial concept

This Oak Maiden looks incredible! However, she wasn’t actually what Simon had planned! The client who commissioned the hydra rising out of the ground, had asked Simon to look at another tree. There was an oak that had died and she wondered if it would make a good sculpture. When Simon first saw it, he could see female form. He also noticed the many branches at the top. Rather than cut these off, he imagined them to be a key part of the sculpture. And so, his initial concept was Medusa. The trunk could be transformed into a striking female form, and Simon imagined those undulating branches would make perfect ‘snake hair’. As a Greek mythological character, she would be a beautiful compliment too, to The Hydra. The client agreed, and Simon arrived at the start of last week expecting to create another Greek myth…..

Simon o'Rourke in the process of creating an oak maiden

Day one of creating an oak maiden. It’s easy to see why those branches suggested Medusa!

Creating an Oak Maiden: Change of plan!

Just as happened with The Hydra though (originally it was going to be a flock of birds or pterodactyls rising from the ground), once he began work, Simon realised that his original design wasn’t going to work. The branches at the top simply weren’t right, and he knew it would be better not to try and make them into snakes.

This flexibility and ability to respond to the timber is part of what makes Simon a great artist. Adapting his design to the work with the shape and features of the timber means creates sculptures which aren’t contrived. In fact, one comment on his Marbury Lady sculpture was that it seemed like she was always there in the timber, and Simon simply uncovered her.

An Oak Maiden by Simon O'Rourke

Creating an Oak Maiden: Adapting the Design

Adapting the design to work with the branches was an aesthetic decision. However, sometimes Simon also has to make changes because of practical reasons. This isn’t just about what he can see either. He also has to take into account what will happen to the timber as it ages. What may seem a small crack at the time for example, could cause massive damage to a sculpture later if he isn’t wise.

Another change in creating this oak maiden was because of one of these practical considerations. When we look at the oak maiden, her ‘crown’ appears bulkier to the left. In his ‘ideal’, Simon would have reduced some of that wood to create a more elegant or slimline look. However, there is a large amount of weight in the branches above it. This meant Simon faced the choice of losing some of that weight (and some of the rustic, organic, woodland feel to the character), or adapting his initial vision.

Simon O'Rourke Oak Maiden with moon

Close up showing the bulk of wood on the left

Creating an Oak Maiden: More Changes!

Simon chose to leave the wood on the left side of the face, to support the weight above it, and again demonstrated his skill at using challenges to create something even better! The extra wood became this fantastically textured crown instead, rather than being unnecessary bulk, it is now part of the story that Simon tells through sculpture. The weight and size is suggestive of a crown that now seems to enhance the status of this Oak Maiden. It reflects the strength and majesty of an oak tree, and conjures up an image of this Oak Maiden being a princess or queen among the woodland characters.

simon o'rourke in the process of creating an oak maiden with the stihl MS400

This photo gives a sense of the scale of the sculpture

Creating an Oak Maiden: Sculpting Human Form

One of the things that makes Simon’s human form sculptures so exceptional, is his attention to story and structure and how they create movement. We saw this with the Marbury Lady and Prestatyn Hiker that you may have spotted on Facebook or Instagram. The clothes in both showed the lines and wrinkles associated with being worn by a living, moving being rather than being hung static in a wardrobe. In this case particularly paid attention to the shape of the form underneath the cloth. For example, the skeleton, muscles, shape, size and position of the subject. Similarly to the Marbury lady, he also left raised wrinkles to imply a very thin material which skims the body.

Body of the Oak Maiden by Simon O'Rourke

Creating an Oak Maiden: The Tools!

It sometimes seems amazing to think that suck a beautiful thing can be created by something as destructive as a chainsaw! In the case of the Oak Maiden, Simon relied a lot on the Stihl MS400. Stihl’s MS400 is the first chainsaw  to make the change to a magnesium piston. This, and it’s “impressive power-to-weight ratio of 1.45 kilograms per kilowatt”, has made it much more ‘punchy’. Combined with the 20 inch Tsumara carving bar, Simon found  it worked really nicely for controlled shaping.
The Saburrtooth bits have fast become an essential on the job too. These are largely what Simon used for refining the face and hands, creating small areas like the eyes, and adding texture. Some of his favourites are the conical burr, and the large coarse flame bit. The small eye bit also helped create sharper lines and bring more expression to the eyes.

Face of an oak maiden by simon o'rourke

This nymph (or as we’ve been calling her, ‘Oak Maiden’) has definitely been a hit on social media. Most importantly though, the client loves her! The Oak Maiden may not have been the original plan, but Simon has created something even better and truly lovely, restoring life to this dead oak.

If you have a dead tree on your property, why not chat with Simon to see if he can imagine something in it? He loves to bring life back to dead or damaged trees, and can create you something completely unique. Contact him on [email protected] to talk about ideas and quotes.

 

Simon O'Rourke creating the Lady of Marbury sculpture

The Marbury Lady Sculpture

The Marbury Lady Sculpture 960 960 Simon O'Rourke

Those of you follow Simon on social media will have already seen his stunning Marbury Lady sculpture.
The sculpture is inspired by a ghost story associated with the former Marbury Estate. People in the area frequently claim to have seen this ghost, as she haunts the park. The most recent sighting is reported as being last year! Simon has carved many figures from books, moviesmyths and legends, but we think this is the first time he has carved a ghost!
We had another reason too for wanting to share her story. The Marbury Lady sculpture is carved from a  tree that died due to salt poisoning. We wanted to share a little more about it to highlight the issue, and hopefully help prevent unnecessary damage and death to other trees.

Simon O'Rourke's Marbury Lady sculpture viewed from the road

The Marbury Lady viewed from the road

The Location:

Marbury Hall was a country house in Marbury, near Northwich. Several houses existed on the site from the 13th century, which formed the seat of the Marbury, Barry and Smith-Barry families, until 1932, and the story behind the mysterious Marbury Lady is connected with James Smith Barry, who inherited the hall in 1787.
The buildings have all fallen into disrepair though and no longer exist on the site. It is now woodland known as Marbury Country Park. 

For any interested in visiting, it’s a great spot for a walk. You can wander along the mere with splendid views over the water to the church at Great Budworth, or explore the arboretum (the avenues of limes are quite well known) and community orchard. There is also a play area and swimming pool.

The park is cared for by The Friends of Anderton and Marbury (FOAM). They not only look after the park, but have a busy programme of walks, talks, conservation tasks and events. If you are thinking of visiting, it’s definitely worth checking out their website to see what they have happening. It was FOAM who commissioned the Lady of Marbury sculpture, after the death of several of their trees due to salt poisoning.

The Lady of Marbury sculpture by Simon O'Rourke in process

At work on the sculpture

Salt Poisoning

So what is salt poisoning?
Basically if a tree is exposed to too much sodium, it stops the flow of potassium and magnesium. In turn, this stops the tree making chlorophyll. For those who can’t remember their high school science, that’s the ‘green stuff’ needed by plants to turn light from the sun into energy (photosynthesis)! Salt is so effective n this, you can actually use it to intentionally kill a tree –  or any plant!

Salt damage is extremely common, especially in urban areas in the winter when we use salt to de-ice the roads. Spray from the roads hits the tree, as well as being absorbed/spread through running water, and melting ice and snow.

Early sign to watch out for are the edges of the leaves turning brown. At this point it is still possible to reverse damage and prevent death through leaching – basically just adding water to the soil. Good drainage is a key factor too in preventing and curing salt poisoning. If you need to know more, we found this helpful article on reducing the salinity of soil that you might find interesting.

In the case of Marbury Park, the trees were damaged by salt leaking from a split brine pipe.
However, rather than remove them, FOAM decided to give them new life, and commissioned Simon to create something….

Simon O'Rourke creating the Lady of Marbury sculpture

The Story of the Marbury Lady

FOAM wanted one of the damaged trees to represent something of the Marbury Park history. There are several ghost stories connected to the area, but the most well known locally are the variations of The Marbury Lady.

The version Simon chose to tell is of the Egyptian lady. Smith-Barry traveled extensively, and spent much of his time in Italy, Greece and the Levant. It is said that on one of his travels he met with a lovely Egyptian girl. He fell madly in love with her, and when he had to return to England, he told her he would send for her to follow him and make her his wife. As in all good romances though, there was a third person involved, and this is where stories begin to vary. Some say there was an arranged marriage, others a scandal with a housekeeper. Either way, Smith-Barry failed to send for his Egyptian lady…..

Marbury Lady Sculpture by Simon O'Rourke

The Story Continues…..

Some time later it is said that the Egyptian lady came to England. Again, stories vary at this point. Some say she worked as his housekeeper, others that he kept her as a mistress. They all agree though that she asked that when she died, her body be embalmed and kept in the hallway at Marbury Hall. When Smith-Barry died some years later, the family didn’t really want what they considered to be a mummy in a coffin! They arranged a burial, and moved the body to a nearby church. What they did not expect however, was the hauntings that would follow!

In the years (decades now!) that have followed, there have been reportings of sightings of a lady in a white veil, and well as tales of strange sounds and happenings. Whether you believe in ghost stories or not, she makes an interesting subject for a sculpture….

Simon’s Marbury Lady Sculpture

Simon decided to depict the Egyptian lady in his sculpture. However, always creative, he carved her as both a living person AND the ghost! He sculpted the face that faces the road to show the girl alive. Her face is smooth, her expression regal, and proud. The orchard view shows her eyes closed, hands clutching her chest, giving the story of her sad demise. Her face is also covered with fragments of veil which reflect the accounts of sightings of The Marbury Lady.
As well as depicting her in both life and death, Simon did this because he wanted to encourage people not just to view passively, but to physically engage with the sculpture. In carving her this way, people have to physically move round to the other side of the sculpture to see the full story.

The Living depiction of The Marbury Lady by Simon O'Rourke

 

The Marbury Lady, ghost side, Simon O'Rourke

The side depicting the ghostly Marbury Lady

A Test of Skill

Simon had been looking forward to this project ever since it was approved last year. She wasn’t without her challenges though. To begin with, their is the challenge of carving a standing stump, rather than a piece of timber in the workshop. With a piece of timber, it may be tricky to source another ‘perfect’ piece….but it can be done. With a standing stump that is being transformed, there is only one chance! No room for mistakes!

Behind the Veil

The other distinct challenge (and a first for Simon on a commission) was the veiling over the ghostly side. When painting or drawing, it is possible to draw the whole face, then ad the veil over the top. Even in sculpting with clay or similar, the veil is added. In the case of tree carving, Simon could only take away. That meant not only using technical skill and tool like the golden ratio to envision the correct proportions and expression, but being able to do so whilst also imagining where and how the veiling would fall, and taking into account having to leave that behind.

Tools of the Trade

As always, he cut as far down as he could with his larger Stihl chainsaws, before using manpatools angle grinder followed by the saburrtooth bits (especially the large flame bit) to finish the detail and texture. We’re sure you can imagine too, working at the top of all that scaffolding, the cordless saws with backpack for holding the battery pack (Stihl) were essential!

Looking at the finished sculpture though, you can see Simon rose to the challenges, and created something absolutely unique, relevant to the area, and enthralling for the viewer. Thank you to Filmage.co.uk for the video!

Here's the time lapse video of the Marbury Lady! Thanks to filmage.co.uk for the excellent editing!

Posted by Simon O'Rourke – Tree Carving on Wednesday, 5 February 2020

We think this is one of Simon’s best examples of sculpting female form, and certainly stands alongside his Spirit of Ecstasy, Angel at the Pool of Bethesda and Viking Raid. Which are your favourite of Simon’s female sculptures? Why not comment below and let us know?!

And, as always, if you have a damaged tree that you would like to breathe new life into, email [email protected] to talk about some possibilities.

The Great Resc-yew (rescue): Two Towers and a Dragon

The Great Resc-yew (rescue): Two Towers and a Dragon 150 150 Simon O'Rourke

Two Towers and a dragon.
Sorry, nothing to do with the movie! Although if you enjoy Tolkien, you could read our blog about Simon’s Lord of the Rings sculpture.
Rather these two towers and a dragon were straight from Simon’s imagination. As well as telling a story, they are actually also a happy ending in themselves! Read on to find out more about ‘the great resc-yew’…

Two towers and a dragon by Simon O'Rourke

The Resc-Yew Plan

These stunning sculptures began their life as yew trees (now the ‘rescue – rescyew puns make sense!) which had become problematic. Yew is a fascinating and beautiful wood which grows in all kinds of shapes and patterns. They are some of the oldest trees in the country, are great for making all kinds of things. This ranges from carving household objects and art to furniture. Most famously though, they have the reputation of making the best long bows! However, that wild beauty can sometimes cause problems for the landowners.
In this case, they were growing too close to the house.

Initially, the owners had the tops removed, but it turned out that wasn’t going to be a good long-term solution. Rather than remove them completely, they decided to turn them into a different kind of beautiful – a Simon O’Rourke sculpture! All projects have their points of fun and excitement, but one of the things Simon enjoys about this kind of commission is the sense of giving life and purpose back to something that had either died, was damaged, or could no longer remain as it was. Even better when it’s something as fun and unique as this fairytale sculpture!

Incidentally, if you have trees which are becoming problematic, read our blog about Treetech, a tree surgeon we work with and recommend to give you an evaluation!

The dragon from Two Towers and a Dragon by Simon O'Rourke

Creating the Sculptures

After chatting with the owners about what they would like, Simon went to work, employing not only his skill, but his creativity and imagination to create this scene from a story Tolkien or C S Lewis would be proud of!

Simon kept some of the bark to allow the trees to blend in more with the rest of the garden. This also adds age and authenticity to the towers, as if they are something from an long-ago, far away adventure. He created the initial shapes using Stihl chainsaws, then used his Manpa angle grinders and chainsaw bars, and Saburrtooth bits to create the details and added texture. The beautiful natural patterns within the yew combined with Simon’s deeper cuts that mark the stone and tiles, to create the feel of ancient stone towers that have been weathered over the years.

The Two Towers from Two towers and a dragon by simon o'rourke

Choose Your Own Adventure

One of the fun things about a sculpture like this, is it not only looks great, but sparks the imagination. This is something that is important to Simon in every sculpture he creates, and even shares in his biography that he wants “people to feel like they’ve experienced part of a story”

In this story, with the two towers and a dragon, the castle is under threat from the dragon. As we look at him, we see he is quietly watching, formulating his plan, and resting his wings, which although relaxed at this moment, are clearly powerful and large.

But what happens next?

Simon has set the scene and created a stunning piece of art, but the rest is up to you.
Can the towers withstand the attack?
Who or what is within them to attract the dragon?
Who will be victorious and how?

We think it would be wonderful to spend a summer’s evening in this garden – perhaps after a BBQ with a glass of your favourite drink in hand – inviting family and friends to tell the rest of the story. What do you think happens next? How would you end this great resc-yew story? Why not comment below and let us know!

As always, if you feel inspired by this week’s featured carving, you can talk to Simon about commissioning something unique for your home and garden. Contact us on [email protected].

Into the 20’s – A Review of the Decade

Into the 20’s – A Review of the Decade 150 150 Simon O'Rourke

As we start a new decade, we’ve been reflecting on the many changes that have happened personally and professionally over the last ten years. Professionally, it’s been a great decade with some fantastic opportunities and commissions. We’ve also met some amazing people and seen some wonderful places along the way. Before we move forward into the 20’s, we thought we would bring you our ‘review of the decade’. And, as we do, let us wish you a Happy New Year from all at Tree Carving.

Simon O'Rourke Game of Thrones Egg Carrier carving

Simon and Liz O’Rourke wish you a happy new year (and decade) on behalf of the Tree Carving team.

Review of the Decade: 2010

As we looked back, we could definitely see we didn’t use social media as much! And the technology we used definitely didn’t produce the kind of photos and videos we do today! But here is a look back at two competition pieces from that year, both taking second place. Neptune from the English Open Chainsaw competition, and a traditional miner from the Huskycup.
A quick glimpse at Simon’s awards shows that this was a good decade for competition, placing in most things he entered and winning seven awards. However, when it comes to competitions Simon says:
“Competitive sculpture has taught me a lot about completing work to a deadline. I have competed all over the world and although I have placed highly in many events, the most important thing to me is being happy with my own work.”

Neptune by Simon O'Rourke as featured in his review of the decade

Simon O'Rourke second place huskycup 2010

Review of the Decade: 2011

Two of the projects we chose as highlights from 2011 are The Giant Hand of Vrynwy, and the Somerset Tree.

At 50′ tall, it was no wonder the hand caught the attention of the local press, as you can see in the article by The Leader newspaper. Simon’s inspiration for the hand came from the name for the woodland area, which made reference to giants. Creating something on this scale reminded Simon how small we are compared to some of the living organisms on this planet. He described the experience as being very humbling!

Giant hand by Simon O'Rourke

The next project although tall still, was a little smaller in scale! Simon was commissioned by the Museum of Somerset to create this stunning tree for their new museum. Sourced from local wood, it stands proudly in the museum where it tells some of the area’s 400 million year history.

Tree of Somerset by Simon O'Rourke

Review of the decade: Tree of Somerset by Simon O'Rourke

Review of the Decade: 2012

Another Huskycup entry! This time, the sculpture of “Christian and Mary”. Simon worked on this piece as part of ‘Team Europe’ with Tommy Craggs and Michael Tamoszus. They placed fourth overall, with some tough competition from a great bunch of talented artists. As we had a quick glimpse back at the Facebook album of the event it was lovely to be reminded of the support, encouragement and lovely comments.

Christian & Martha Huskycup 2012 by O'Rourke, Cloggs and Tamoszus

Review of the decade: Christian & Martha Huskycup 2012 by O'Rourke, Cloggs and Tamoszus

fourth place Huskycup 2012 by O'Rourke, Cloggs and Tamoszus

Review of the Decade: 2013

For our 2013 highlight, we chose something a little different. During that year Simon created this incredible Alice in Wonderland booth for Steak of the Art in Bristol. Their vision is for the restaurant to be an ever-changing art gallery that compliments their delicious menu. As you can see from the photos in the case study Simon wrote, his booth more than fits their vision. Every single character is its own work of art, and with so much to see, although the piece doesn’t change, there is something new to notice each time you sit within it. Here we get a reflection of the changing technology too, with this timelapse video of its making!

Alice in Wonderland booth at Steak of the Art by Simon O'Rourke (a review of the decade)

Alice in Wonderland booth by Simon O'Rourke, Steak of the Art

Alice in Wonderland booth by Simon O'Rourke, Steak of the Art

Review of the Decade: 2014

2014 saw us receive a lot of publicity for two ‘guardians’.

The first was created for the ‘Pawtraits‘ series by Maria Slough, and was actually named ‘The Guardian‘. The series featured people photographed alongside animals that had impacted their lives, and Simon was brought in to create a piece to be used for the portrait of Virginia McKenna. Understandably, the actress wasn’t too keen on reclining on a real lion – hence Simon stepping in with The Guardian! As McKenna was so impressed with his work, Simon was later commissioned to sculpt a lion cub for the Born Free Foundation charity auction, a charity McKenna established. As well as the photos below, you can click HERE to see a timelapse of The Guardian being made.

 

The Guardian by Simon O'Rourke

Maria Slough Pawtrait Virginia McKenna featuring lion by Simon O'Rourke

Photograph copyright of Maria Slough from the Pawtraits Series

The other ‘guardian’ created by Simon that year is just as iconic. Phil and Leah from Wahoo Group wanted to harness the power of social media and do something novel to help sell their home. Thinking completely outside of the box (no baked cookies here!) they commissioned a sculpture of…..Batman!

The caped crusader sat on top of their home where it gained attention from both local and global news outlets, and helped the couple find tenants for their property.

Wooden Batman carving by Simon O'Rourke

Wooden Batman carving by Simon O'Rourke

Batman by Simon O'Rourke and St Giles Church Wrexham

As one of Simon’s strengths is Human Form, we also couldn’t resist throwing in this sculpture of Scottish explorer, Mungo Park. He was commissioned for a pub in the explorer’s hometown of Peebles, and sits on this bench for passers by to enjoy.

Review of the decade 2014 Mungo Park

 

 

Review of the decade 2014 Mungo Park

Review of the Decade: 2015

2015 was the year when Simon won the English Open Chainsaw Competition with Hemlock the Dragon.

Since then Hemlock has made countless appearances around the country, including at a wedding! Hemlock has recently had some repair work on the wings, and is ready to meet the public again. If you are interested in hiring Hemlock for your event, just email us on [email protected]

Hemlock the Dragon English Open Chainsaw Competition 2015 by Simon O'Rourke

Review of the Decade: 2016

2016’s highlight is another Huskycup Flashback: Viking Raid.

As well as the Viking Raid Case Study Simon wrote, we also have a blog about Viking Raid for those who want to know more. As we mentioned in our Huskycup 2019 blog, 2016 was actually the last year Huskycup was a competition. It meant Simon was the last ever Huskycup champion, as Viking Raid took first place. What a way to end the competition for him! Although it is no longer a competition, Simon continues to participate, and it is something of a highlight each year.

In 2016 Simon also became an affiliate of Olfi. We love their action cameras, and how they’ve transformed what we’re able to share with you through timelapse videos. Find out more in our Olfi blog!

Viking Raid at Huskycup 2016 by Simon o'Rourke

 

 

Viking Raid at Huskycup 2016 by Simon o'Rourke

 

Review of the Decade: 2017

2017’s highlight is from Liverpool. Simon created a tribute to The Beatles by carving life size figures of the Fab Four live along the dockside over a weekend. You can read more about the event in our Global Beatles Day Blog, and keep scrolling to enjoy our flashback photos and video.

2017 was also the year Simon began being sponsored by Stihl. Not only do they manufacture quality equipment, but it was something of a ‘full circle’ for Si, as his very first chainsaw experience was using Stihl equipment.

 

Beatles at the Liverpool dockside by Simon O'Rourke

 

Nearly done!!

Posted by Simon O'Rourke – Tree Carving on Monday, 28 August 2017

 Review of the Decade: 2018

As Simon says in his case study about the Spirit of Ecstasy, this was one of his most challenging sculptures to date.
You may remember from our Spirit of Ecstasy blog, that Simon recreated the Rolls Royce icon for an enthusiast to give new life and purpose to a beautiful oak tree which had died. Despite the challenges, the finished piece was faithful to the Rolls Royce concept, graceful and simply stunning. We hope you enjoy the finished result as much as we (and most importantly, the client!) did.

Spirit of Ecstasy by Simon O'Rourke

 

 

Review of the Decade: 2019

In our new year blog at the start of last year, we told you 2019 would be our ‘year of the dragon’. We weren’t wrong! Over the year Simon created seven new dragon-related carvings, including an ice dragon in our local town.
It all started off with The Dragon of Bethesda. It sits in an arboretum in North Wales after the landowner commissioned Simon to create something spectacular from a fallen tree. Y Ddraig Derw was featured in national media, and we are still overwhelmed by the encouraging response from so many people to the piece.

Dragon of Bethesda by Simon O'Rourke

 

Our other dragon highlight from the year, is this stunning casket created for HBO’s Game of Thrones.

Game of Thrones egg props Simon O'Rourke

Simon was commissioned by HBO as part of a wider project where artists re-imagined original props from the show. He received these beautiful dragon eggs, and created the casket for them to sit in. You can remind yourself of the whole project and process in our Game of Thrones blog.

Again, we were amazed, thankful and VERY encouraged by all the positive comments we received.

This is also the year Simon became an affiliate for ManpaTools. Their angle grinders especially have taken some of his texture and detail to a whole new level.

Simon O'Rourke casket Game of Thrones Season Eight

Moving into 2020, Simon has also become an affiliate for Saburrtooth. With quality tools and equipment from Stihl, Manpa and Saburr, Simon’s talent and creativity, and the continued support of all our amazing clients and co-workers, we look forward to what the next decade – the roaring 20’s – will hold.

We hope you enjoyed our Review of the Decade. We definitely loved seeing some of these pieces afresh as we looked back.
As always, if you have a project in mind, email us on [email protected]

Ice Carving for Wrexham Museum

Ice Carving for Wrexham Museum 150 150 Simon O'Rourke

Last night Simon was on ‘home territory’ as he took part in the annual Victorian Christmas market in Wrexham. Don’t worry though, he hasn’t traded his chainsaw for a stall and money pouch! Simon’s contribution to the evening was much cooler, if we do say so ourselves. He swapped timber for something much wetter, and did some ice carving for Wrexham Museum.

Crowds watching ice carving for Wrexham Museum

Outside Wrexham Museum*

About the Victorian Market

Wrexham’s Christmas Market has become one of the most eagerly awaited events in the town’s calendar and successfully attracts thousands of shoppers year after year.  This year there was a Victorian theme to the market with Punch and Judy shows throughout the day, and period street performers. The main feature though was 100 stalls from Queens Square right up to and inside St Giles’ Church.

Punch and Judy show at Wrexham Victorian Christmas Market

Punch & Judy on Hope Street

About Ice Carving for Christmas

To coincide with the event, Wrexham Museums also organised and hosted an event: Ice Carving for Christmas. As well as Simon’s ice carving, the museum was open for the public and people could do Christmas shopping in the gift shop and enjoy a hot chocolate or mulled wine in the cafe. Various school choirs performed, including Bryn Hafod Primary who sang in both Welsh and English, and Libby and Sign of the Times. As you can see from the first photo we shared, plenty of people came to enjoy the evening.

Crowds watching Simon O'Rourke Ice Carving for Wrexham Museum

Crowds watching Simon Ice Carving for Wrexham Museum*

Ice Carving for Wrexham Museum

If you read the blog we wrote a couple of weeks ago about the event (visit it here) then you’ll know Simon didn’t just complete one carving. The Ice carving for Wrexham Museum was actually a trail through the town. It began at St Giles church, where most of the market stalls were located, and ended at the Museum.

In the first location, Simon began by carving one block of ice, which was a clue as to what the final ice sculpture would be. People could then follow him to second location where he carved a second block, giving people a second clue.

They could then follow him to the museum where they could submit their guesses as to what his final carving would be, and any correct answers won a prize.

*spoiler alert*

For those who know that 2019 was a year full of dragons for us, it will come as no surprise that the final sculpture was this stunning dragon head.

It lives!! The dragon head, complete with smoke!!

Posted by Simon O'Rourke – Tree Carving on Thursday, 5 December 2019

Let us take you back though through the evening as the audience experienced it though…..

Setting up:

Working in the multiple areas gave Simon and Paul the first challenge of the night – getting all the equipment through the thousands of people attending the Victorian Market! They had everything loaded up on a cart, and the high vis jackets definitely helped them get noticed so the crowds could part a little. It definitely wasn’t the quickest or easiest transportation of equipment though!

Paul and Simon making their way through the crowds attending the market!

Simon O'Rourke safety jacket

Paul and Simon making their way through the crowds attending the market!

St Giles Location

The first location was St Giles church where Simon carved this stunning dragon’s eye. Standing it the crowd, it was fun to be able to hear people’s awe as they watched. Especially as the chain saw went all the way through the ice to carve the space that became the eye! Several people were also commenting on how clear the ice was. Many guessed correctly that we didn’t just freeze water from our hosepipe to make the blocks. Rather, they are especially made for events like this. There’s a science behind it, but you can actually do it at home! Read all about how crystal clear ice is made at Barschool.Net. We’re happiest to leave it to the professionals, but if you try it yourselves, let us know if it works!

As we have said before, it is the lighting that makes the difference when ice carving. This green lighting reflecting off the scales Simon created is definitely eerie and mysterious, which helped add to the sense of mystery and anticipation of what the final carving would be.

Viewers outside St Giles*

Early on in the work on the dragon’s eye

Simon O'Rourke working on an ice carving of a dragon's eye, Wrexham 2019

Adding textured to create the scales*

Dragon eye at Ice Carving for Wrexham by Simon O'Rourke

The finished dragon’s eye*

Henblas Square

The second location of the night was Henblas Square.
Here, as well as the general admiration of what Simon was doing, I could hear many more questions about the equipment.

“His hands must be freezing” was also a pretty common theme!

Unlike most people were thinking, Simon wasn’t using specialist ‘ice carving’ equipment. He used his faithful Stihl battery powered chainsaws (complete with the handy backpack you will have noticed for the battery packs) for most of the initial carving. This meant they were lightweight and didn’t need a power supply. Perfect for this kind of mobile evening. He also used his Manpa tools angle grinder, with burr bits by Saburrtooth. And, while we’re speaking of Saburrtooth, we’re excited to announce Simon will become one of their ambassadors in 2019!

It was nice to see so many people stay and watch the entire carve here. For a long time people were guessing it was going to be eagles, rather than (as you can see) this amazing dragon claw (clue number two)! It really is fascinating to watch, but the audience were also encouraged to stay by the unusually warm evening. After several nights of hard frost, it was 10°c! Although being a warmer night was helpful for the audience and shoppers, the warmer weather meant Simon had to carve extra fast as the ice was melting far more quickly that he’d hoped!

Simon O'Rourke ice carving: dragon claw

Simon o Rourke Ice Carving for Wrexham Museums 2019 Dragon Claw

The finished dragon claw, clue number two in the ice carving trail

The finished dragon claw, clue number two in the ice carving trail*

Wrexham Museum

The museum location was the longest of Simon’s carves, and he used six blocks of ice rather than the one that he used at the other locations. Even before he arrived, people were fascinated by the ice on the museum forecourt.

ice blocks for carving wrexham museum 2019

Blocks of ice waiting for carving!

Simon was challenged here not only by the ice melting in the warmer weather, but also an impressive wind. At one point the leaves spiraling in the air looked like a scene from The Wizard of Oz! It didn’t put people off watching though, and in some cases it was hard for parents to pry their children away.

Ice Carving for Wrexham museum 2019

Watching outside Wrexham Museum*

Simon o'Rourke ice carving dragon Wrexham 2019

Adding texture with an angle grinder

Simon O'Rourke adding detail to an ice carving dragon, Wrexham 2019

Adding detail to the dragon

One of the perks of Simon being on ‘home turf’ is being able to watch him. Another is being able to hear and see other people’s reactions. The audiences at all the locations were a mix of people who have followed Simon and his work for years, and others who had never even imagined creating something with a chainsaw!

“The precision is unbelievable”

“I’m so impressed with the talent and detail he is able to produce with a chainsaw”

“I’ve never seen anything like it before. It’s bold and beautiful”

“I was only going to stay ten minutes but once I started watching, I had to stay until the end”

“The detail is unbelievable”

“Stunning. Simply stunning”

We can’t help but agree! The lighting bouncing off the textured scales and the smoke  just made it perfect. Even still in process, it looked spectacular in the light.

Dragon Ice carving in process by Simon O'Rourke

The Finished Piece.

Thank you to Wrexham Museums for organising and hosting the event so well (and for the mulled wine the staff not wielding chainsaws enjoyed!). Thank you too to Shaine Bailey and Treetech for sponsoring the event. And to everybody who came and watched, shared on social media, and complimented Simon on his work. It’s lovely to be able to meet people, and to have such a lovely and encouraging audience. It’s also great to finish our year as it began, with a dragon that captured the attention and hearts of the people who saw it (read about the first dragon, Y Ddraig Derw here).

And so, we leave you with the finished piece for 2019’s Ice Carving for Christmas*:

Ice Carving for Wrexham Museum Christmas 2019 Finished dragon head by Simon O'Rourke

 

Dragon head in ice by Simon O'Rourke

Dragon head in ice by Simon O'Rourke

If you would like to book Simon for your event (ice or timber!) email us on [email protected] to talk about details.

*photo credit to Gareth Thomas from Wrexham Museums.