oak sculpture

Wellington Heath Jubilee Sculpture

Wellington Heath Jubilee Sculpture 426 600 Simon O'Rourke

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

 

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

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

Background to the Wellington Heath Jubilee Sculpture

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

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

Details in the Wellington Heath Jubilee Sculpture

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

Creating the Wellington Heath Jubilee Sculpture

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

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

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

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

Swallow details in the sculpture

The Finished Piece

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

 

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

Simon with the finished Wellington Heath Jubilee Sculpture.

 

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

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

 

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/.

bill badger sculpture and bench in simon o'rourke's workshop

Bill Badger Sculpture and Bench

Bill Badger Sculpture and Bench 450 600 Simon O'Rourke

Did you see our hint on Wednesday about the sculpture for today’s blog? We showed the legs and asked people on social media to guess who/what it was. There were some great answers! Your guesses included Charlie Chaplin, Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, Bilbo Baggins and even Postman Pat! Somebody came close with Rupert Bear, but the correct answer is a Bill Badger sculpture and bench.

 

original sketch by simon o'rourke of rupert bear sitting on a bench

An initial sketch for the Bill Badger sculpture and bench commission

 

Commissioning the Bill Badger Sculpture and Bench

The clients who commissioned this bench are fans of Rupert Bear, a comic book star and franchise that began in the Daily Express in 1920. For those of us who grew up with him, it’s hard to believe he’s over 100! Simon’s clients have a collection of garden figures featuring Rupert and friends, and the only one they didn’t have was Bill Badger.

Last year they found Simon on his website, and subsequently commissioned him to create Mary and Joseph to stand outside their church at Christmas. They were so impressed with his work that they asked him about Bill! Previously, they’d seen another bench on the website with a seated character and liked the idea of combing the bench and sculpture. They talked it through with Simon and he sent a drawing which they said was just what they wanted.

 

bill badger sculpture and bench made of oak by simon o'rourke. Bill sits on one end. The bench is in a workshop and surrounded by sawdust

Creating the Bill Badger Sculpture

Simon created the oak sculpture and bench in his workshop. The bench was a lovely commission for him; fun, and a little bit different to other subjects he’s created. It touches on his background in children’s illustration but was also a favourite growing up. In fact, he has memories of reading the Rupert stories as a child. And even then the illustrations fascinated him. Anything that took him out of the real world and sparked his imagination with adventures was good in his eyes, and The Rupert stories did just that!

oak sculpture of bill badger sits on an oak bench in a workshop

 

More Thoughts on Making Bill Badger

The commission represented a slightly different challenge to his usual sculptures. Unlike many that are all animal or all human, the Nutwood characters have human bodies and proportions with animal heads!

That idea of normal human bodies with animal heads and the style of the characters created by Mary Tourtel always interested Simon. Especially as there were normal humans in the stories too!

Looking back, Simon recognises there are some questionable depictions of people from different countries (which would have been considered normal at the time), and this is something he is sensitive to when he thinks about classic children’s literature, and how he recreates characters or scenes. However, in general, Rupert Bear is a lovely classic, and it was fun to recreate Rupert’s fun-loving, optimistic best friend, Bill.

 

bill badger sculpture and bench in simon o'rourke's workshop

The Client’s Verdict and Final Thoughts

It’s always nice when Simon enjoys a commission or when it presents something new or interesting for him. What matters most though is the client’s opinion!
In this case, they are delighted with the Bill Badger sculpture and bench. When asked to comment, they shared with us that
“The finished bench is just fabulous and has pride of place in our garden and is much admired by our visitors.”

If you would like to commission a sculpture, contact Simon using the form on www.treecarving.co.uk/contact and he will be in touch to talk details!

 

wooden sculpture of Fudge the daschund, protagonist of the Lower Farm Sculpture Trail

Lower Farm Sculpture Trail

Lower Farm Sculpture Trail 551 600 Simon O'Rourke

In this week’s blog, we’re doing something a little different! Usually, the blog is about finished sculptures. This week though, we invite you to a sneaky peek of a work in progress. Keep reading to find out about one of Simon’s current projects; the Lower Farm Sculpture Trail…

 

Lower Farm holiday cottages courtyard view. The site of the lower farm sculpture trail

Lower Farm holiday cottages, site of the Lower Farm Sculpture Trail

About Lower Farm Holiday Cottages and the Idea for a Trail

Lower Farm Holiday Cottages are located in Picton, Cheshire. They were originally farm buildings, converted and now run as holiday cottages by Matt and Rachel. When their daughter Olivia turned one, doctors confirmed she was born with a hole in her heart. Alder Hey Children’s Hospital gave her exceptional care and repaired the hole, offering her a bright healthy future. Matt and Rachel were overwhelmed with what the hospital did for them so they offered a family holiday in one of their holiday cottages as a fundraiser raffle for Alder Hey.

To their amazement, the raffle raised £7336! They then had the idea of doing something that would hopefully generate a steady donation stream for the hospital. They’ve always admired and appreciated Simon’s work and always wanted to have something of his, but didn’t have any trees suitable for carving. Then the idea hit them though to do a trail or hunt around the orchard from timber Simon would source. The sculptures would have a common theme, and form a trail or ‘hunt’ that guests could enjoy during their stay. All guests have free access to the trail during their stay, and they simply ask for voluntary donations for Alder Hey Children’s Charity from guests who would like to support the cause.

 

Double bed with brick wall beind and wooden beams. Bedroom at Lower Farm Holiday Cottages

One of the beautiful bedrooms at Lower Farm

Commissioning the Lower Farm Sculpture Trail

 Matt and Rachel contacted Simon and instantly got the feeling he was very passionate about his work. He talked them through his and Liz’s background which included writing children’s storybooks. In that 30-minute phone call, the idea was born!

Simon and Liz visited the holiday cottages to get a feel for the place, and everyone agreed it would be a fantastic base for a sculpture trail and children’s book incorporating their daughter Olivia, pet dog Fudge and the wild farm animals that visit regularly.

Liz and Simon got to work with input from Rachel, Matt, Olivia and some close family friends. After a few edits, the team settled on their children’s story for the trail, all about Fudge’s evening adventure.

 

A young girl holding her pet dachshund Fudge. He is the cntral character of the Lower Farm Sculpture Trail

Matt and Rachel’s daughter Olivia with Fudge, the main character in their sculpture trail

 

Current Progress on the Trail

The story is now complete, and Simon is creating scenes and characters in the workshop. Once they are all finished, he will install them around the property to form the trail. Keep scrolling for a sneak preview of Fudge, Sid the Squirrel, and the Shetland Pony!

Matt and Rachel have visited the workshop and have “seen first-hand the passion and effort he [Simon] puts into every piece”.

They’re delighted with what they’ve seen so far, and thankfully, they are both satisfied they came to the right place and found the right team to make their vision a reality!

wooden sculpture of Fudge the daschund, protagonist of the Lower Farm Sculpture Trail

Fudge the Dachshund: protagonist of the Lower Farm Sculpture Trail

Viewing the Lower Farm Sculpture Trail

The trail is in a private garden and therefore only available for guests and invited visitors. But!  If you want to stay at one of their cottages you book via www.facebook.com/lowerfarmholidaycottages or www.lowerfarmpicton.co.uk. Alternatively, bookings can be made via Sykes holiday cottages.

Can’t wait for the finished trail? No problem!

Simon has created a mini carved bug hunt while the Fudge trail is in process! Based on an activity sheet created by Matt and Rachel’s talented friend Emma Glaysher, participants can hunt for six (larger-than-life!) bugs hidden around the orchard. Each bug has an assigned letter, and at the end the letters can be unjumbled to spell one of the Lower Farm Holiday Cottages animals.

 

a bug and inscription from Simon O'Rourke's mini bug trail at Lower Farm Holiday Cottages

One of the bugs in the ‘mini trail’ at Lower Farm Holiday Cottages

 

Beyond the Trail

And while Simon is busy carving, Liz continues to plan and dream with Matt and Rachel.

The couple loved the story about Fudge. They felt “Liz [did] an exceptional job of listening to [their] ideas and creatively writing a children’s bedtime story that is beyond what [they] ever hoped for”. This has led to a second project for the four…

Matt Rachel, Simon and Liz all share a dream of turning Fudge Gets Locked Out into a book which they will sell to raise funds for both Alder Hey Children’s hospital and Dementia UK – another cause close to Simon and Liz’s hearts.

Watch this space for the book release and sale details!

 

Fudge and Sid oak sculptures in a workshop. both are characters from lower farm sculpture trail

Fudge meets Sid the Squirrel in Simon’s workshop!

 

Final Thoughts About Sculpture Trails

Both couples are VERY excited about this trail, and the possibility of a book. We hope you’ll love it too once we share the finished sculptures.

Matt and Rachel are using the trail for fundraising, but a sculpture trail can be just as valuable for business revenue. If you’re thinking about a trail for your business or community, why not read our blog Why Commission a Sculpture Trail? Or make a ‘virtual visit’ to one of his other trails? Just click on the link below to view each one.

Fforest Fawr Trail

Meadow Park Trail

Page’s Wood Trails

shetland pony from the lower farm sculpture trail on the back of a truck

This shetland pony is one of the characters Fudge meets in the Lower Farm Sculpture trail

Settled on having your very own trail? Contact Simon via the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/ .

simon o rourke and his oak lady chainsaw carving sculpture for liverpool hospitals charity.

A Chainsaw Carving Sculpture for Liverpool Hospitals Charity

A Chainsaw Carving Sculpture for Liverpool Hospitals Charity 450 600 Simon O'Rourke

This week Simon and Liz donated a chainsaw carving sculpture for Liverpool Hospitals Charity. It will be auctioned off at their annual ball next week to raise money for the incredible work of Liverpool Hospitals. And some good news for our blog readers is, you don’t have to be at the ball to bid! So you too could own this lovely oak sculpture while contributing to a great cause. Keep reading to find out more about the charity, the event, and Simon’s sculpture…

 

simon o rourke and his oak lady chainsaw carving sculpture for liverpool hospitals charity.

Simon and his oak lady chainsaw carving sculpture with Lauren Evans from the Liverpool Hospitals Charity

 

About the Liverpool Hospitals Charity

Liverpool Hospitals Charity is the registered charity for the Liverpool University Foundation Hospitals Trust, which includes The Royal, Aintree and Broadgreen Hospitals. Each year they run events and facilitate fundraising to:

  • provide the latest state-of-the-art equipment which helps achieve the best possible outcomes for patientsand
  • create an environment that gives the best experience for patients and families.

Simon originally hails from Liverpool. So, as well as the hospitals doing amazing work worth supporting (especially during the pandemic), there is a personal connection with the city and hospital. That link means it’s fantastic to be in a position to help the charity in its fundraising goals.

 

simon o'rourke with his chainsaw carving sculptures of the beatles on the liverpool pierhead

Simon is a Liverpool native and often participates in events in the city

 

About the University Hospitals Charity Ball

The ball is an annual fixture in the charity’s calendar, and their biggest, most prestigious event. In fact, some of you may remember it from our blog about previous sculptures Simon has donated. This year the ball takes place on Friday 1st October in Liverpool’s Titanic Hotel.

Guests this year will enjoy a variety of entertainment including, the only and only Pete Price, Deana Walmsey from The Voice and magic from Andrew Dean. There will be music from a live band (Up All Night) and a chance to win big at the casino tables. As well as all that there will, of course, be an opportunity to bid on Simon’s Oak Lady sculpture!

To find out more or book tickets, visit www.rlbuht.nhs.uk/r-charity/events/liverpool-university-hospitals-charity-ball/

 

Liver bird by simon o'rourke

Simon has previously donated two Liver Bird sculptures to the charity

About the Chainsaw Carving Sculpture for Liverpool Hospitals Charity

The sculpture is a unique ‘Lady in Oak’ carved by Simon, and he and Liz hope bidders love this sculpture as much as they do. She’s an early edition to their gallery collection and one that evokes very happy memories of a very special time in their lives. She has an air of sophistication and will add a touch of class to any home, business or garden.

The piece would normally be commissioned at £1200

There will be a live auction at the ball, but the good news is that you can also bid on the sculpture by emailing [email protected].

 

a selection of chainsaw carving sculpture

Part of Simon’s gallery adorned for a Christmas Fundraiser.

 

Chainsaw Carving Sculpture for Liverpool Hospitals: Final Thoughts

Over the years Simon’s sculptures have helped raised thousands for Liverpool hospitals. It’s a partnership he and Liz value, so it’s great to be able to support them.

To the University Liverpool Hospitals Team:

Good luck! And we hope the sculpture helps you meet (or surpass!) your fundraising goals!

For everyone interested in the Oak Lady sculpture:

Happy bidding! She’s a beautiful piece and we hope you dig deep for this great cause!

And lastly, to the new owner:

Congratulations, and thank you for bidding! We hope you enjoy her!

If you are interested in your own sculpture or want to chat with Simon about how he can help your charity raise funds, please contact him via 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.

Simon o'rourke working on a carved throne with jungle patterns at zandsculpturenfestijn, one of his top chainsaw carving events

Top Chainsaw Carving Events

Top Chainsaw Carving Events 481 600 Simon O'Rourke

When there isn’t a global pandemic, summer is chainsaw carving event season! There are lots of great events around, and lots of reasons to go and visit. In our blog ‘Tips for Getting Started in Chainsaw Carving‘, Simon recommended watching other artists carve as a way of learning and growing in your art. Even if you have no desire to pick up a chainsaw, watching artists at work is inspirational. They can make a fun day out for a family too, as there is usually plenty to see. And so this week, we bring you a selection of some of Simon’s top chainsaw carving events…

 

simon o'rourke stands next to a horse carving holding a chainsaw at the arb show 2019, one of his top chainsaw carving events

Simon with a speed carve at the Arb Show in 2019

No 1: HuskyCup

Huskycup is one of the major events in the chainsaw carving calendar. It takes place in Blockhausen, Germany each year, and features some of the world’s best chainsaw carvers. In the past, it was a competition (Simon won or placed several times – see the HuskyCup through the years blog for his pieces), but now runs as a demonstration event. There’s carving, good food, good community and beautiful German scenery to enjoy. Definitely a ‘must-visit’ for chainsaw carving fans! Visit www.blockhausencup.de to find out more.

 

Water Dragon by Keiji Kidokoro and Simon O'Rourke Huskycup 2019 one of the top chainsaw carving events

Water Dragon by Simon and Keiji Kidokoro at Huskycup 2019

 

No 2: Holz Flori & Friends Chainsaw Carving Weekend

The next of our top chainsaw carving events is also in Germany, this time Großgölitz. Every couple of years German chainsaw carving champion Florian Lindner invites other artists to come to an exhibition event.  The event also features speed carving competitions and an entertainment program with music, as well as some surprises. The last time Simon was there he made this fantastic moon hare conducting a Zodiac orchestra, which you can read about on our Skulptur Rabatz blog. Keep up to date on the latest Holz Flori and Friends plans at www.holz-flori.de.

 

top chainsaw carving events include holz flor and friends. photo shows a scene from that event including a moon hare sculpture by simon o'rourke

Simon’s moon hare created at Skulptur Rabatz Chainsaw Carving weekend, 2019

 

No 3: Zandsculpturenfestijn

The third of Simon’s top chainsaw carving events also features sand sculptures! Every year, the village of Garderen, Netherlands, opens an exhibition of sand sculptures, but also features a chainsaw carving event. Even if you can’t see the live carving, the exhibit is well worth a visit. As well as the art, there are beautiful grounds,  a lovely restaurant, accommodation and shopping. This year the theme is WWII and the exhibit is open until October. Visit www.zandsculpturen.nl for details.

 

Simon o'rourke working on a carved throne with jungle patterns at zandsculpturenfestijn, one of his top chainsaw carving events

Simon at work on the Jungle Throne during Zandsculpturenfestijn 2019

 

No 4: English Open Chainsaw Carving Competition

Simon has been a regular at the English Open Chainsaw Carving competition for many years. It takes place over the August bank holiday, and Simon has not just competed regularly, but also won several times! One of those victories was with Hemlock the Dragon in 2015, photographed below. It takes place during the Cheshire Game and Country Fair, which has LOTS happening, so it’s worth planning on being there for the weekend. Although not uniquely about chainsaws, there’s so much to enjoy, it’s easy to see why we’ve included it in top chainsaw carving events!

This year covid regulations have kept away international competitors, but that’s led to an exciting twist on THIS WEEKEND’S event! Organiser Mark Earp has invited new up and coming British carvers to take part, so you have an opportunity to spot some new talent. Simon may actually collaborate with some of them in future, and recommends watching out for James Elliot and Mike Jones.
Find out more at www.livingheritagecountryshows.com/cheshire-game-country.

P.S. Hemlock is sometimes available for hire as an attraction for events! He needs some TLC at the moment but will be back in action soon.

a couple in wedding attire sit on a chainsaw carved dragon

Hemlock at a wedding in 2018

No 5: Woodfest

The final suggestion for our top chainsaw carving events is Woodfest Country Show. It takes place in Wales and is a 3 day festival of Wood, country and rural activities, crafts and trade stands. Like the English Open, it is much more than chainsaw carving and is definitely family-friendly. Activities and stands range from those with an environmental focus to pole climbing and axe racing, so there’s definitely a lot of variety, all focused around wood. As well as competing, Simon has also exhibited and done demonstrations as an ambassador for Stihl in the past. Fun, educational, inspirational, and all in the beautiful Welsh outdoors.
Keep an eye on www.facebook.com/woodfestcountryshow for news about Woodfest 2022.

 

Tips for chainsaw carving in the sun. Photo shows simon o'rourke wearing protective headgear, carving a female sculpture from wood using a stihl chainsaw.

Simon carving in the sun at Woodfest 2017

 

Visiting Top Chainsaw Carving Events

Although we love chainsaw carving events, it’s worth mentioning that they can be noisy, and hot! So if you’re visiting, make sure you bring a water bottle (or two!) and sunscreen. If you think you might need a break from the noise of dozens of power tools, take something for your ears too! And if Simon is around, definitely come and watch, say hi, and tag him in your photos!

To book Simon for an event or commission a sculpture, contact him via www.treecarving.co.uk/contact.

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.

 

Photo shows a man carving a sculpture from a tree trunk. He is standing in a tall cherry picker. Equipment like this is one of the Things to Consider When You Commission an On-Site Chainsaw Carving Sculpture

Things to Consider When You Commission an On-Site Chainsaw Carving Sculpture

Things to Consider When You Commission an On-Site Chainsaw Carving Sculpture 450 600 Simon O'Rourke

A chainsaw carving sculpture can be a great addition to your home or business. It’s a lovely way to give life back to a tree that is dead, diseased or dangerous. As well as being a beautiful piece of art in its own right, it can also add value to your attraction or home. However, there are lots of practical considerations to think about if you want to commission an on-site chainsaw carving sculpture. When you contact Simon, he will ask for details and photos to help him plan. This blog is to help you think about those considerations, to help make the process as smooth as possible.

Simon can travel to your home or business to create a sculpture from a standing tree.

 

Things to Consider When You Commission an On-Site Chainsaw Carving Sculpture: Simon’s Workspace

Ideally, Simon needs 2-3m space around the tree stump to be able to move easily and approach the sculpture from the best angle. If it’s possible to clear this space, it’s really helpful for him. However, don’t worry if this isn’t possible. If the tree stump is against a fence or something similar and he doesn’t have this space, it doesn’t mean he can’t do it – it’s just good for him to know in advance.

When thinking about the workspace it’s also worth remembering that sometimes some large pieces of timber can come down off the tree. For this reason, we suggest moving anything valuable from the area before Simon comes to set up. Nobody wants a smashed table or squashed prize-winning begonias!

oak maiden sculpture in process

This photo of the Oak Maiden in process shows the size of branches Simon sometimes has to remove

 

Things to Consider When You Commission an On-Site Chainsaw Carving Sculpture: Spectator Space

It’s FASCINATING to watch Simon carve! It can be tempting to want to get as close to the action as possible, and if your sculpture is for a community, inviting people to watch may even be part of generating support for the commission. However, it can also be dangerous to get too close! If you do want to watch (or invite others), you will need to make sure there is a 6m space between Simon and the next closest human being!

Crowds watching ice carving for Wrexham Museum

Crowds watch Simon from a safe distance outside Wrexham Museum*

 

Things to Consider When You Commission an On-Site Chainsaw Carving Sculpture: Access for Equipment

All Simon’s equipment can be carried, so in some ways distance from parking to the site doesn’t matter. BUT! Some of it is quite heavy. If you are able to make a way for him to park as close as possible to the place he will be carving, it is incredibly helpful.

Simon will also ask you for photos of his access to the site from the parking spot – especially if he needs to use scaffolding or a cherry picker. This is because slopes or other obstacles may change the equipment he needs to hire. He may also need to find a creative way of getting it to the site. This happened this week in fact, getting this cherry picker to the carving site…

Photo shows a man carving a sculpture from a tree trunk. He is standing in a tall cherry picker. Equipment like this is one of the Things to Consider When You Commission an On-Site Chainsaw Carving Sculpture

Simon’s colleague Paul working in a cherry picker for an on site carving

 

Things to Consider When You Commission an On-Site Chainsaw Carving Sculpture: Additional Equipment

And while we’ve mentioned cherry pickers, let’s talk additional equipment!

Simon has his own platforms which enable him to carve a sculpture up to 2.5m without hiring extra equipment. For anything taller than that though, he will need to use scaffolding or a cherry picker. He will arrange it all, so don’t worry about suddenly having to become an expert in this area! As the client though, it’s worth knowing that this will impact the cost of the commission. It may also impact the time needed too. For example, the scaffolding for the Spirit of Ecstasy sculpture took a day to assemble!

Again, Simon will ask you for photos not just of the tree, but of the surrounding ground to help him arrange the best and safest equipment for the job.

Work in Progress: Spirit of Ecstasy by Simon O'Rourke

This photo of work in progress on The Spirit of Ecstasy allow you to see suitable timber size and access for an onsite carving, as well as the scaffolding needed.

Things to Consider When You Commission an On-Site Chainsaw Carving Sculpture: Clean Up!

Chainsaw carving is messy! As you can imagine, there is a LOT of sawdust as well as chunks of tree. Simon is happy to do that tidy-up. However, this means paying for his time, so it’s generally better for the client to handle this part themselves. If you’re commissioning a sculpture, make sure you include time and energy for this clean up before you invite people over for an unveiling!

ThA sculpture of an ent in a monkey puzzle tree trunk. It is surrounded by sawdust. Clean up of this mess is a factor to consider whren you Commission an On-Site Chainsaw Carving Sculpture

The Ent at Poulton Hall surrounded by sawdust! It’s important to be prepared for this, and budget time and energy for cleaning up

 

Things to Consider When You Commission an On-Site Chainsaw Carving Sculpture: Power supply

Simon will generally come armed with fully charged batteries, petrol etc for his chainsaws and olfi video equipment. It can be helpful though, if possible, to give him access to a plug socket or two by running an extension cable through a window.

Simon O'Rourke's giant hand of vyrnwy surrounded by scaffolding. Scaffolding hire is one of the things to consider when you commission a chainsaw sculpture

Simon’s Giant Hand of Vyrnwy before the scaffolding was taken down.

Things to Consider When You Commission an On-Site Chainsaw Carving Sculpture: Final Thoughts

We hope this helps you understand the kind of information Simon will ask for (and why) when you commission and on-site chainsaw carving sculpture. Of course, we missed out that providing copious amounts of tea, coffee and the odd jammy dodger never go amiss either!

If you’re thinking of commissioning a sculpture, we recommend reading this blog about the suitability of your tree first. It may also be helpful to read this blog about commissioning a sculpture too.

To contact Simon about a commission, use the contact form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/. We look forward to hearing from you!

Sculptures for world book day by Simon O'Rourke. An Owl sits on top of a tower of books in a 'totem pole' style sculpture.

Sculptures for World Book Day

Sculptures for World Book Day 400 600 Simon O'Rourke

If you have school-aged children you will know next Thursday is World Book Day. We’ve actually heard it might be the most dreaded day of the school year!!! Based on all the Facebook posts of the last-minute scrambling to find a costume, we that could easily be true!
Costume-panic aside though, the mission of World Book Day is fantastic. Reading for pleasure is the single biggest indicator of a child’s future success – more than their family circumstances, their parents’ educational background or their income. And so to engage with the day and celebrate, we wanted to share a selection of literature-related sculptures for world book day…

sculptures for world book day: learning to fly by Simon O'Rourke depicts a child about to soar standing on top of a tower of books

“Learning to Fly” clearly reflects the message and mission of World Book Day

Sculptures for World Book Day: Learning to Fly

This sculpture wasn’t commissioned specifically for World Book Day. However, it does reflect their message well. The child is standing on top of a tower of books, ready to fly which clearly depicts the potential we have to achieve when we have a solid foundation of reading for pleasure.

Our next sculpture has a similar message. In this case though, it is an owl sitting on the book tower though. Owls have long been associated with wisdom and learning, so it subtly reminds us of the wisdom we gain through reading.

Sculptures like this are great for libraries, nurseries, schools etc. Children often struggle to engage with reading, especially in this age of technology. However, gentle but powerful visual reminders like this can capture their attention (more so than an adult telling them!) and reinforce the message that reading is beneficial.

Sculptures for world book day by Simon O'Rourke. An Owl sits on top of a tower of books in a 'totem pole' style sculpture.

Owls are often a symbol for wisdom

Sculptures for World Book Day: Children’s Classics

Of course, you may prefer your World Book Day commission to reflect a favourite book or character. Simon has created many literary-themed sculptures over the years, including some beautiful children’s classics. Who can resist a cute Peter Rabbit (from the Beatrix Potter classics) or Hans Christian Andersen’s beautiful Little Mermaid?

Sculptures for world book day by simon o'rourke. The Little Mermaid from the Hans Christian Andersen classic.

The Little Mermaid is a much-loved children’s classic.

 

Oak sculpture of Peter Rabbit by Simon O'Rourke

Most children in the UK are familiar with Beatrix Potter Tales of Peter Rabbit

Sculptures for World Book Day: Modern Classics

Perhaps modern classics are more your thing. In which case, Simon has you covered! This Charlie and the Chocolate Factory booth was made for Cardiff’s Steak of the Art. It features many of the key characters from the Roald Dahl classic including Charlie, Oompa Loompa’s and the main man, Willy Wonka. How many references can you find?

Will wonka restaurant booth by simon o'rourke

How many ‘Charlie and the Chocolate Factory’ references can you find in this restaurant booth?

Sculptures for World Book Day: Trails

Sculpture trails are a brilliant and fun way to convey information and attract people to your venue. Books are rich with characters and events so it’s easy to tie a trail in with World Book Day – or reading in general. Or perhaps you want to celebrate an author who lived in your home town and draw visitors. to the area. Simply choose the book or author, and Simon can create a series of sculptures to be installed around the venue or town. One such trail in his portfolio is his Alice in Wonderland series created for a location in Scotland. The full series has ten sculptures, but here’s four to whet your appetite!
A trail like this is a great year-round attraction, but could become a key part of your World Book Day events and activities.

sculptures for world book day: alice in wonderland series by simon o'rourke

Sculptures for World Book Day: All-Age Classics

Over the years Simon has also created some incredible sculptures of characters from literary classics enjoyed by all ages, which could also become a feature of a World Book Day activity. When we think of classic books that all generations can enjoy, one of the first to come to mind has to be Tolkien’s Hobbit and Lord of the Rings. In fact,vital they rank at 12 and 7 respectively in the top 25 best selling books of all times. It’s no wonder then that Simon’s Lord of the Rings sculptures have also been incredibly popular when we’ve shared them.

Gollum and the Monkey Puzzle Ent are both more recent sculptures that can be viewed by the public at Poulton Hall when it is open. Radagast the Brown was a private commission, which is all the more reason to share it here so you can enjoy it too!

sculptures for world book day: gollum by simon o'rourke

Gollum is one of the characters in the classic Middle Earth series by Tolkien

 

Monkey Puzzle Ent sculpture by simon o'rourke

The Ent are a race of treefolk in the Tolkien Middle Earth books

 

radagast the brown. a sculpture in fir by simon o'rourke

This sculpture of Radagast the Brown gave new life to a diseased tree

Sculptures for World Book Day: Upcoming Sculptures

If you read our new year blog, you’ll know Simon has some more exciting literature-related commissions coming up this year. We can’t wait to share them with you! And we hope that they will somehow play a part in encouraging reading for pleasure as the sculpture prompts reading or re-reading of the book.
But we’d love to know…. who are your favourite literary characters, and which would you like to see Simon create?

As always, if you would like to see one of them realised, contact Simon via the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/

open book by simon o'rourke

Sculptures for World Book Day: Final Thoughts

Lastly, reading is SO vital in reaching our full potential, but sadly access to good books is a privilege many are denied – even in the UK! So if you are interested in the valuable work of World Book Day you can find out more about getting involved at https://www.worldbookday.com/about-us/how-can-you-get-involved/. Whether you’re a teacher looking for resources for class, a parent thinking of ways to engage your children busy, or just somebody who would like to make reading more accessible for others, there’s something for you!