Myths and Legends

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

Love Leading the Pilgrim Sculpture

Love Leading the Pilgrim Sculpture 800 600 Simon O'Rourke

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

 

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

 

Meet the Client

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

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

 

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

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

 

About Biddulph Old Hall

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

The Link with Burne-Jones

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

The angel in Simon’s Love Leading the Pilgrim sculpture

 

Further Connections Between Burne-Jones and Biddulph Old Hall.

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

Commissioning Love Leading the Pilgrim

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

 

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

 

Creating Love Leading the Pilgrim

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

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

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

However, what matters most is what the client thinks…

 

love leading the pilgrim by simon o'rourke.

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

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

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

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

an abstract chainsaw carving sculpture: Dance with the Devil

An Abstract Chainsaw Carving Sculpture

An Abstract Chainsaw Carving Sculpture 450 600 Simon O'Rourke

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

 

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

About the Tree

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

 

woman's face hidden within an abstract chainsaw carving sculpture

 

About the Subject

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

 

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

Creating an Illusion

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

 

an abstract chainsaw carving sculpture of bacchus

The figures are only intended to be seen from certain angles

What Makes This an Abstract Chainsaw Carving Sculpture?

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

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

 

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

 

What Happens With the New Growth?

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

 

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

An Abstract Chainsaw Carving Sculpture: Final Thoughts

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

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

Chainsaw and Brush Giant Hand of Vyrnwy Prints

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

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

What is Chainsaw and Brush?!

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

 

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

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

 

How Did Chainsaw and Brush Begin?

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

 

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

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

Future  Chainsaw and Brush Collaborations

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

 

dragon of bethesda sculpture by simon o'rourke

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

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

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

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

chainsaw and brush logo

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

 

But What is the Giant Hand of Vyrnwy?

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

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

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

 

The Giant Hand of Vyrnwy stands in the Lake Vyrnwy estate

Simon and the Giant Hand of Vyrnwy…

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

 

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

Chainsaw and Brush Giant Hand of Vyrnwy Final Thoughts

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

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

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

Romance-Themed Sculptures: A Valentine’s Blog

Romance-Themed Sculptures: A Valentine’s Blog 150 150 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.

 

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.