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two people stand on scaffolding that surrounds a 20ft tree trunk carved into a susanna wesley sculpture

Susanna Wesley Sculpture

Susanna Wesley Sculpture 450 600 Simon O'Rourke

inIf you follow Simon on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, you’ll know he’s had a big project this week. He’s been down in East Finchley working on a sculpture for East Finchley Methodist Church. We’ll have more to share soon, but for this week, let us introduce you to his Susanna Wesley sculpture…

 

Simon O'Rourke at work on his susanna wesley sculpture. a 20ft tree is surrounded by scaffolding with a church in the background. the trunk is partially carved into a portrait of susanna wesley

On-site at East Finchley Methodist Church

Background to the Susanna Wesley Sculpture

The Susanna Wesley sculpture was commissioned by East Finchley Methodist Church. The London church celebrates its bicentennial year this year, and they were keen to mark the occasion. They had a 20ft red cedar that had stood bare for over four years and decided to turn it from an eyesore into art…

 

a 20ft bare tree trunk stands to the left of a red brick church. shops and a road are in the background. the tree is the 'before' of simon o'rourke's susanna wesley sculpture

The bare cedar in the ground of East Finchley Methodist Church

Susanna Wesley: An Unusual Subject?

When we asked people to guess who the sculpture might be, we had several guesses at various saints and even Jesus! Nobody guessed Susanna Wesley though, so why a sculpture of someone who didn’t seem an obvious choice? Who was Susanna Wesley and what’s the connection with the church?

 

susanna wesley sculpture carved in 20ft cedar trunk by simon o'rourke

Why a Susanna Wesley Sculpture?

Susanna Wesley is known as called ‘The Mother of Methodism’. This is primarily because the Methodist movement was founded by two of her sons (John and Charles Wesley). However, more than this, she was part of the movement herself…

It is said that she attracted crowds of local people to her family services on Sunday afternoons. Senior church steward Jane Ray said “The bare branches looked to us like Susanna’s welcoming outstretched arms and we are excited to see Simon bringing this vision to life”. And so, the church chose to commission a sculpture of Susanna Wesley.

This is a perfect example of how a sculpture can point towards and share something of the story of a community.

 

two people stand on scaffolding that surrounds a 20ft tree trunk carved into a susanna wesley sculpture

Simon with church steward, Jane. Photo Credit: Graham Chestney

More Than Just a Sculpture

The sculpture isn’t the only thing the church is doing. It’s actually part of a larger garden renovation. The church is transforming the garden into an area for children and adults to come, as well as a new soft play area. They hope that, in the spirit of Susanna Wesley, the community will feel welcomed to their church through this area.

 

Creating the Susanna Wesley Sculpture

Simon had a busy few days working on the sculpture. As well as the portrait of Susanna Wesley, there are some lovely details. Simon created organic shapes, adding texture to the bark below the portrait. Animals also hide among the leaves.

It’s been lovely to see the excitement and anticipation for the sculpture. The church filmed and photographed the entire project, and a local primary school also visited the site and met Simon.

Fascinated, the students even took away a momento! It was a strange sight, but they worked together to take a 20ft strip of bark back to the school with them!

 

eight people walk on an urban street carring a 20f strip of tree bark

 

Watch this Space

We’re excited to share more in the next few weeks. For now though, we hope you enjoyed this quick introduction to Simon’s Susanna Wesley sculpture.

Are you considering a sculpture for your community, home or business?
Contact Simon using the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact.

 

susanna wesley sculpture

crohn's inspired sculpture of a man with head in hands reflecting despair

Crohn’s Inspired Sculpture

Crohn’s Inspired Sculpture 416 600 Simon O'Rourke

Next week is Crohn’s and Colitis Awareness Week in the UK (1st – 7th Dec 2021). Their theme is ‘Your Story Matters’ and Crohn’s and Colitis UK are encouraging everyone to share their story; patients, carers, supporters, nurses – anyone with a connection.
Back in 2017, Simon created a Crohn’s inspired sculpture for an award-winning charity garden at RHS Tatton Park. We haven’t shared the story on here, so we thought this week would be a good time to blog about the Crohn’s inspired sculpture, and hopefully raise awareness of the disease.

 

Eight people stand in a garden with their hands raised. The garden is part of RHS Tatton Park 2017 and the people were all helped create it

Simon with the others involved in the Crohn’s Inspired Garden at RHS Tatton Park 2017

 

The Story Behind the Garden

The person behind the Crohn’s garden was passionate amateur gardener, Denise Shields. After her son had a near-fatal Crohn’s relapse, she felt inspired to create a garden to tell his story and raise awareness of his condition. RHS flower shows have a variety of charity gardens each year and many others that tell a story. Named “Facing Fear: Finding Hope”, this one took the viewer on a journey beginning with the fear a patient faces at diagnosis. As the viewer walked through the garden, there were elements that portrayed the emotional and physical highs and lows. Walking through the garden finally took the viewer to a sculpture representing hope. To read more about the garden itself on the RHS website, click HERE.

The garden received praise from both visitors and judges. It even received an award!

 

view through a garden to a redwood chair. the chair is a crohn's inspired sculpture by artist simon o'rourke. it depicts a person with their head in their hands, in physical and emotional pain

The walkway through the garden to Simon’s Crohn’s inspired sculpture.

Simon’s Crohn’s Inspired Sculpture: “Alone”

Simon’s commission was for a sculpture/chair that would represent the Crohns’ patient at diagnosis. He made this poignant chair named “Alone” and it’s fitting in so many ways:

  • The head in arms shows the despair, disappointment and sadness many people feel at receiving the diagnosis of a chronic disease that will forever influence how they live.
  • The person in this sculpture is physically alone. And the reality is that no matter how strong a community the person is in, there is a massive amount related to Crohn’s that they will walk through alone.
  • The posture also clearly reflects a sense of isolation and protection – even though the anatomy is broken by the hollowed-out chair.  This is because many patients with Crohn’s talk about feeling isolated. Isolated because their condition can lead to missing out on Community and socialising. Isolated because people don’t understand the condition that is so central to their lives. And isolated because, as an “invisible illness“, the ‘outside world’ often has no idea about the physical pain, difficulties and constant mental load a Crohn’s patient carries.

 

crohn's inspired sculpture of a man with head in hands reflecting despair

 

More about “Alone”: A Crohn’s inspired Sculpture

Then there is the hollowed-out anatomy that creates the chair. It is hard not to relate it to being where our intestines are found – the part of the body Crohn’s impacts.

Being “hollow” is also fitting. Diseases like Crohn’s can be hard in and of themselves. Treatments and management can be hard. Side effects can be hard. The social, financial, dietary, and occupational effects can be hard. All these can leave patients feeling “Like a shell of themselves“, or “hollow” like the sculpture.

Thankfully that isn’t where the Crohn’s patient has to remain, and it isn’t where the garden finished. And while Denise wanted people to know about the difficulties of the disease, she also wanted people to know and be encouraged that there is hope to be found.

 

Simon O'rourke standing next to his crohn's inspired sculpture. the sculpture depicts a person with their head in their hands atop a hollowed out stomach that makes a chair

 

Using Art to Raise Awareness

If you have followed for a while, you’ll know that Simon and Liz frequently contribute and raise funds for causes that improve patient lives. They also love when a commission helps someone raise money over a longer time for one of those causes, such as the latest sculpture trail in Picton. Being an artist also gives Simon the opportunity to raise awareness of specific topics. It is always a privilege to be asked to give voice to passion, purpose or cause.

 

The team behind the Facing Fear: Finding Hope garden with Denise and her son, Callum. It was a privilege for Simon to work with them to tell part of Callum’s story.

With this kind of awareness-raising commission, Simon will always look to learn more about the person and impact so he can accurately tell a story. As with all his commissions, he will listen to your story and your experience as well as your ideas and preferences for a sculpture. From there he will create sketches for you of his initial ideas which you can work with him to refine. Sometimes he will create your sculpture on-site if it will use a standing trunk. Other times he will create the sculpture in the studio and then deliver and install the sculpture.

Whatever the process, Simon will make it easy every step of the way, and is knowledgeable about and helpful with practicalities as well as the artistic process.

 

 

Commissioning and Awareness-Raising Sculpture

Just as his story-telling abilities can greatly enhance a business, they can also greatly enhance sharing your story. We use the phrase “A picture tells a thousand words” for a reason! In the case of this sculpture (and garden) people were definitely moved and impacted as they ‘experienced’ Callum’s story told through garden design. If you have a story to tell and would like Simon to do it with a sculpture, contact him via www.treecarving.co.uk/contact and he will be in touch!

And, this Crohn’s and Colitis awareness week, if you are looking for support, don’t be alone! Crohn’s and Colitis UK. has resources for patients, carers and supporters.

 

Head and shoulders of o'Rourke's chainsaw carving sculpture of a WWII soldier

WWII Soldier Memorial Sculpture

WWII Soldier Memorial Sculpture 450 600 Simon O'Rourke

As the country silences itself at 11am today, Workington has a new WWII soldier memorial sculpture to commemorate those who gave their lives in military service. The unveiling took place on Poppy Day, as you may have seen on BBC or ITV. Simon and Liz were also there today (Remembrance Sunday) to see the sculpture installed in its new home during the traditional laying of the wreath…

 

WWII Soldier Memorial Sculpture by Simon O'Rourke in Vulcan Park, Workington

 

Background to the WWII Soldier Memorial Sculpture

Workington Town Council commissioned the WWII soldier after talking for many years about having a VE/VJ day statue to memorialise all those who lost their lives to war. After deciding to go ahead with the statue, the process of commissioning an artist began.

They looked online for a number of different artists who could produce what they were looking for.  After finding a few artists who seemed suitable, the council invited them to submit costs and design ideas.  These then went to their Culture Committee who chose Simon’s design because of both appearance and the sentiment behind it.

If you are considering a sculpture for your community, this is often the first stage of seeing that vision realised.

 

Waist up view of Simon O'Rourke's WWII soldier memorial sculpture

From Commission to Installation

Many people don’t realise there can be many steps from commissioning a sculpture to having it installed. One aspect of this is the aesthetic. Simon will go back and forth with a client to ensure they are happy with the design. Another aspect is the practicalities of installing a sculpture such as transport, preparing the site etc. And then there are the legalities…

 

A gentleman reads the plaque by Simon O'Rourke's soldier sculpture in vulcan park

 

Things to Consider Regarding the Installation of a Chainsaw Carving Sculpture

It’s sometimes necessary to gain permission to install a sculpture. There may be licensing to consider. This can seem intimidating and may cause delays to the installation. However, as Workington Council discovered, Simon has excellent knowledge and understanding of this part of the process and is able to assist clients which makes it much easier.

When asked about the process of commission and installing the sculpture, a spokesperson for the council testified:
“It has been a joy working with Simon. The process has taken a lot longer than any of us thought it would with planning permissions, consultations and then COVID, but throughout everything Simon has been patient, professional and a pleasure to work with.”

 

Members of the military and the mayor with simon o'rourke's WWII soldier memorial sculpture

Representatives from the army, Royal British Legion, town council, and public attended the unveiling ceremony

Creating the WWII Memorial Soldier Sculpture

Simon created the sculpture in his workshop over several weeks. This sculpture is a great example of working with the wood and placing the sculpture wisely so inevitable cracks are not problematic.

In this case, Simon cut the log and created the sculpture using the front part. If he had carved it in the centre of the timber (which is often instinctual), the cracks will be in the middle of the soldier, and potentially split him in half!!!

By moving the sculpture to the front half, the centre of the log became the soldier’s back. In this way, the cracks will appear vertically in his back and enhance the movement of the fabric of his coat. This will not only preserve the facial details but also means the sculpture is much more stable.

 

Work in process. A chainsaw carving WWII sculpture surrounded by scaffolding and countryside

The soldier in process outside Simon’s workshop

Telling the WWII Soldier’s Story

As you will know if you are a regular follower of Simon’s work, his sculptures always tell a story and invite viewers into a moment with many possibilities. He leaves possibilities and every viewer will experience the sculpture differently. In the case of this WWII soldier memorial sculpture, we can see the soldier has already experienced the hardship of war. He stands with a hand on his heart, as posture we often associate with pride and patriotism. But there is also a slight slump in his posture. The heaviness in his eyes is obvious as he gazes at something the viewer can’t see. And poignantly, a single tear flows down his face (photographed above).

So what’s his story? As the viewer, you are free to engage and imagine. But one thing that is clear is the heaviness and hardship and pain of war.

 

wood sculpture by simon o'rourke. a single tear falls down the cheek of a WWII soldier memorial sculpture

 

 

The Installed WWII Soldier Memorial Sculpture

Now the sculpture has been delivered and installed, the clients are delighted:

“We could not be happier with how the finished piece has turned out. The statue itself, the fence surrounding the area and the plaque just finish the area off beautifully, and the feedback from residents has been so positive”.

He’s installed in Vulcan Park, Workington, and can be viewed at any time during the park’s opening hours.

 

Head and shoulders of o'Rourke's chainsaw carving sculpture of a WWII soldier

Final Thoughts

We hope this blog has not only introduced you to Simon’s WWII soldier memorial sculpture, but also given you some insight into what happens behind the scenes when a sculpture is commissioned. If you would like a memorial sculpture for your community (or any sculpture!), contact Simon using the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact.

If you’re interested in seeing other military memorial sculptures made by Simon, you could check out his WWI Soldier blog (also featuring some of his poppy sculptures) by clicking HERE, or his Highclere Castle Airman blog by clicking HERE.

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.

the prestatyn walker sculptures with bushes in the background

How The Prestatyn Walker Sculpture Could Help Rejuvenate a Town

How The Prestatyn Walker Sculpture Could Help Rejuvenate a Town 600 600 Simon O'Rourke

We’ve blogged before about the power of a sculpture to increase tourism and revenue. Friends of Prestatyn Railway Station had the same thought when they commissioned the Prestatyn Walker sculpture. This week’s blog shares the story behind that sculpture…

 

Prestatyn Walker sculpture photographed at Simon O'Rourke's workshop. The sculpture is a male hiker leaning on a signpost. In the background there are fields.

Prestatyn Walker Sculpture Story: Walkers Are Welcome

Prestatyn was the first town in Wales to be awarded ‘Walkers are Welcome‘ status. Two of Wales’ most significant routes (the Offa’s Dyke trail and the Welsh coastal path) pass through the coastal town,and locals have worked to create a welcoming town with attractions and amenities. However, in a survey, around 1/3 of people were unaware of this. Locals saw the need to change this, especially as the beach brings trade to the town for a short season in the year, but walking had the potential to generate year-round income…

 

the prestatyn walker sculpture on the disused platform at Prestatyn Station. A railway bridge is visible in the background.

Prestatyn Walker Sculpture Story: Prestatyn Railway Station

Around 22 million passengers a year travel through Prestatyn Station, so Friends of Prestatyn Railway Sation felt they had a role to play in attracting more walkers to the town. And so they set to work! The group began to improve the appearance of the station to make it more appealing to visitors. As their ideas grew, they decided to commission a piece of artwork to install on a disused platform. Their goal was to tell a story and help convey the message that the town is associated with walking – thus attracting more visitors.

 

the prestatyn walker sculptures with bushes in the background

Prestatyn Walker Sculpture Story: Commissioning the Sculpture

The story is much longer than we can share in this blog. However, fast-forwarding through all the work and research, the group came to a point of inviting proposals from three artists for the sculpture. Simon’s proposal was a lovely tie-in with the message that walkers are welcome. The clothing made it immediately obvious that the sculpture was a ‘walker’/hiker. It was large enough to be seen from a passing train, the wood sculpture fits the aesthetic, and it immediately told the story the group wanted.

 

a group of people in orange safety vests srround a sculpture of a walker on a railway platform

 

Prestatyn Walker Sculpture Story: From Commission to Installation

The group faced a few hurdles with this project. If you’re thinking of commissioning something for a public area, it’s worth being aware that you can sometimes need to apply for permission. However, they gained sponsorship to cover the cost and persevered with the red tape. And this week, Simon and a team installed the sculpture on the disused platform! (If you have five minutes, the video is below)

Thankfully, in all the challenges they faced working with Simon wasn’t one of them! Sherry Walker can attest that he was ‘excellent to work with’ and that they are delighted with the sculpture.
They now hope the council will extend the walkway to the side of the platform. This means in future, passers-by will see the sculpture with walkers in the background and people will immediately know that indeed walkers are welcome! And hopefully, it will, in turn, encourage more walking tourism to the town.

 

Your Own Story-Telling Sculpture

Has this inspired you to think about how a sculpture could help attract visitors to your town or attraction? If so, contact Simon at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/ to start a conversation. Even if you’re not 100% certain of what it might be, Simon often has excellent, creative ideas and would love to be a part of rejuvenating your community!

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

Eight Tree Carving Sculptures to See this Bank Holiday Weekend

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

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

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

The Giant Hand of Vrynwy by night by Gareth Williamson

One: Giant Hand of Vyrnwy

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

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

Two: Dragon of Bethesda

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

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

Three: Prestatyn Hillside Shelter Walkers

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

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

Number Four: Maes Y Pant Boy Sculpture

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

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

Number Five: The Shakespeare Seat at Poulton Hall

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

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

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

Number Six: The Highclere Airman

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

Highclere Castle Airman by Simon O'Rourke

Number Seven: Marbury Lady Sculpture

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

Number Eight: Woodland Sculpture Trails

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

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

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

This wolf forms part of the Fforest Fawr trail.

Share Your Experience!

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

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

 

Simon O'Rourke's Lews Castle Carriage Driver sitting in the antique cart at Lews Castle

Lews Castle Carriage Driver Sculpture

Lews Castle Carriage Driver Sculpture 450 600 Simon O'Rourke

This week Simon’s carriage driver sculpture arrived in its new home up in the Outer Hebrides. The commission is part of an upgrade/renovation to Lews Castle; a Victorian castle located in the town of Stornaway. The project has several components and is a lovely example of the community uniting to rejuvenate and improve the aesthetics of the town. Thank you to Janet Paterson for sharing some of the story for this week’s blog…

 

Simon O'Rourke's Lews Castle Carriage driver sculpture photographed in his workshop. The sculpture is a lifesize cedar sculpture of a bearded man posed as if driving a pony carriage

The carriage driver sculpture in Simon’s workshop

Lews Castle Carriage Driver Sculpture: Background to the Commission

During lockdown, the Western Isles Lottery Team undertook a project to upgrade ‘Miss Porter’, a horse sculpture that has been one of the town’s attractions since 1994. She could be found – along with a carriage – at the Lews Castle Porter’s Lodge, and was in need of some TLC. Sadly it turned out the original carriage was beyond repair. So, as well as restoring the horse sculpture, the team sourced an amazing replacement that dates back to 1898. Once the restoration was completed and installed, the team loved the result but felt the carriage was missing a driver. A local sculptor followed Simon on social media, and through that connection, the team reached out to commission a driver.

 

Miss Porter, the horse sculpture at Lews Castle, before the 2020 restoration. The horse is in need of paint work and repair.

Miss Porter with members of the Stornaway Amenity Trust before her restoration

Lews Castle Carriage Driver Sculpture: Creating the Sculpture

Simon sourced a suitable piece of oak for the sculpture so it would be hard-wearing and durable. It was easier and more cost-effective for Simon to create the sculpture in his workshop and ship the finished piece. This meant getting plenty of photos and measurements from the team to ensure the driver would not only look good but would also fit well in the carriage.
We’ve mentioned in this blog Things to Consider When You Commission an On-Site Chainsaw Carving Sculpture that Simon will sometimes need photos and details in advance. That can sound a bit overwhelming, but don’t worry. This client can testify that working with Simon was “simple and straightforward”, that the sculpture is “beautifully crafted to complement the period carriage”, and fits EXACTLY!

Simon O'Rourke's Lews Castle Carriage Driver sitting in the antique cart at Lews Castle

Lews Castle Carriage Driver Sculpture: Power of Community

This successful restoration/upgrade is a great example of how communities can come together to bring art to their locale. The Western Isles Lifestyle Lottery was created to raise funds for the regeneration of its many communities. They have now raised approx £240,000 for projects the length and breadth of the Western Isles. Amazing! The carriage driver is just one of many, many projects they have invested in. These projects not only make improvements for residents but have helped bring tourism and revenue to the area.
As well as the lottery funding, the team worked closely with local trusts and businesses to complete the upgrade.
If you have a similar project in mind for your locality, we definitely recommend utilising the power of community, as the team in Stornoway did. There are also some ideas for fundraising in our blog How to Raise Funds for a Tree Carving Sculpture.

 

lews castle carriage driver sculpture by simon o'rourke. sculpture is seated in an antique pony cart being drawn by a wooden sculpture of a horse

The finished horse, carriage and driver installed by the Porter’s Lodge in Stornoway

Lews Castle Carriage Driver Sculpture: Name the Driver

The finished sculpture has delighted the team. Simon captured exactly what they were looking for in the pose, clothes and character of the sculpture, and the whole project has been described as “a beautiful showpiece” by the lottery team’s secretary. And, in another act of community, they are holding a competition to allow local residents to name the drive. His face is definitely full of character, so he definitely can’t remain nameless! What would you name him? Leave us a comment with your suggestion!

Close up of the face of simon o'rourke's cedar carriage driver sculpture

A face with this character needs a name!

We hope you feel inspired by the story behind this sculpture and the way a community can come together to rejuvenate an area. As always, if you have an idea for a sculpture, contact Simon via the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/. 
We’re looking forward to hearing from you!

close up of the face of Simon O'Rourkes bespoke shakespeare seat at poulton hall

Bespoke Shakespeare Seat at Poulton Hall

Bespoke Shakespeare Seat at Poulton Hall 800 600 Simon O'Rourke

405 years ago today the world lost a literary legend, 52 years to the day that is is often recognised as being born. Who are we talking about? Britain’s very own bard, William Shakespeare.
To fit the occasion, this week’s blog is the story behind Simon’s bespoke Shakespeare seat at Poulton Hall…

close up of the face of Simon O'Rourkes bespoke shakespeare seat at poulton hall

Bespoke Shakespeare Seat: The Commission

This bespoke Shakespeare seat is installed at Poulton Hall, Bebington. It joins two of Simon’s other sculptures; the Monkey Puzzle Ent and Gollum. If you read either of the blogs about those sculptures, you will remember that the whole estate features literary-themed art.
Poulton Hall is the ancestral home of the Lancelyn Green family. The father of the present incumbent was Roger Lancelyn Green, the author of many well-known books about Robin Hood, King Arthur, Greek Heroes, Ancient Egypt, Norse Myths, Dragons, and all things imaginative and creative.  As one of the Oxford Inklings, Roger was also friends with J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis, who was an occasional visitor to Poulton. As a result, many aspects of the grounds have been inspired by imaginative literature.
Although Shakespeare is a departure from this fantasy literature genre, there is no doubt he fits right in among such a rich literary legacy.

Bespoke shakespeare seat at poulton hall in procee. artist simon o'rourke has outlined Shakespeare in the wood sitting. It is clear it is a person but only his top half has any details.

Work in progress on the bespoke Shakespeare seat at Poulton Hall

Bespoke Shakespeare Seat: The Design

The Shakespeare seat has been designed as both a beautiful portrait and a seat for visitors. When Simon takes on a commission like this, he is careful to ensure the seating is functional. He also gives his usual attention to the details in the sculpture to create a stunning feature for any private garden or public attraction. In this case, he has chosen to depict Shakespeare sitting on the bench. He has tilted the head to make it look as if Shakespeare has paused his writing to share a conversation with whoever sits with him. That twinkle in Shakespeare’s eye (seen in the first picture) makes it seem that the conversation was humorous!

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

Bespoke Shakespeare Seat: More Details

Shakespeare’s position and expression weren’t the only details that Simon thought out carefully. He researched clothing of the period to ensure the clothes and hair accurately showed the fashion of the day. He also discovered a historic disagreement too. It seems people can’t agree as to whether Shakespeare was left or right-handed! As you can see, Simon and the client settled on showing him writing with his right hand.
Although that may not seem important, for clients it matters that the portrait is an accurate reflection of the person.

Another lovely touch is the stack of books for seat legs. Rather than pick titles himself, he wanted the seat to fully reflect the passion and preferences of the client.

As with the decision about Shakespeare’s dominant hand, it may seem a little strange to dedicate so much time to tiny details. However, touches like this are what can really make a work stand out.
It also matters that the client is happy with Simon’s work, so any time there is a detail that is uncertain, Simon will work closely with the client who will make the final decision.

seat of a bench carved to look like a stack of books bearing titles of shakespeare plays. It is the leg of the bespoke shakespeare seat at poulton hall by simon o'rourke

The book titles were chosen by the client to reflect her passions and preferences.

 

Viewing the Bespoke Shakespeare Seat at Poulton Hall

People often ask if they can view Simon’s work. The good news is that it IS possible to see the bespoke Shakespeare seat and Simon’s other Poulton Hall sculptures! The estate opens on certain days of the year, usually in aid of charity. Both the home and gardens are stunning and worth a visit. In fact, novelist Nathaniel Hawthorne enjoyed them so much he even commented on “the fine lawns and the view of the Welsh hills out across the ha-ha or sunken fence”. They are also available to book for weddings. A perfect venue for any literature lovers! You can check the dates at http://www.poultonhall.co.uk/GardenOpenings.html if you are interested in paying a visit.

bench and sculpture of william shakespeare carved by artist simon o'rourke

The finished bespoke Shakespeare seat at Poulton Hall

 

Final Thoughts on the Bespoke Shakespeare Seat

This was one of Simon’s first jobs coming out of this year’s lockdown. It was a great one to start with though as he enjoyed carving it, and the client is delighted with the finished piece. It got us thinking though… if you were to sit and have a conversation with Shakespeare, what would you talk about?

As always, if you are interested in commissioning a sculpture like this for your own home or attraction, contact Simon via the form on www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/ We’re looking forward to hearing from you!

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