symbolism

The Giant Hand of Vyrnwy

The Giant Hand of Vyrnwy 1703 2560 Simon O'Rourke

In 2011 Simon carved what would become known as The Giant Hand of Vyrnwy. Simon wasn’t very well known at the time, and social media was only just in its early days. The hand gained some press coverage and attention, but it faded quite quickly. Recently pictures of the hand were re-shared on Facebook and Twitter, and it’s gone viral! Simon is getting lots of shares, comments and questions, which is incredible. Many people have never heard the story behind the sculpture though, so we thought we would revisit the story behind the Giant Hand of Vyrnwy.

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

The Giant Hand of Vrynwy: About Vyrnwy

The history of Vyrnwy itself is controversial. Viewers of ‘The Crown’ may have heard it mentioned recently in season three of the popular Netflix show when Prince Charles visits the home of his language teacher in Aberyswyth. The topic is clearly painful, and it’s suggested that the Prince was deeply moved by the story.
Years on, less people are aware of its past, and nowadays the area is now known for its beauty and wildlife. And no wonder! It’s just on the edge of The Snowdonia National Park, set in the middle of the beautiful Berwyn Mountains. There is a 24,000 acre RSPB Reserve, with viewpoints and hides around the Lake to observe the amazing variety of birds and scenery, and lots of opportunities for walks, cycle rides, and adventure activities.

Simon O'roruke kneels in front of a giant hand carved into a tree trunk. He is using an angle grinder to add texture to the sculptire 'The GIant Hand of Vyrnwy'

Simon at work on the hand in 2011

The Giant Hand of Vyrnwy: The Commission

Simon’s commission to create the hand came about in a very roundabout way. One evening he watched an episode of Countryfile that featured Wales’ tallest tree. He learned it was damaged and needed to be felled. He then heard elsewehere that they were leaving a 50ft stump, and were looking to convert it into a piece of art. It seemed like a great opportunity, not just to create a sculpture, but to create something with a message. After a bit of research, he connected with the Forestry Commission and was given the brief for the project. He added his proposal to those from the other artists, and waited…

Picture shows scaffolding surround a tree stump. It is in the process of ebing carved into a giant hand by artist simon o'rourke. The piece is now known at the giant hand or vyrnwy

Simon’s Vision

Simon’s vision for the tree, was for it to not just be a sculpture, but for it to be an environmental statement in its own right. Having learned that the tree had been known as one of the ‘Giants of Vyrnwy’, Simon was inspired to create a giant hand.
He wanted it to be coming out of the earth, and reaching upwards; making one last attempt to reach the sky. He wanted to show the hand stretching and straining; fighting to reach its full height. This is why Simon highlighted veins and creases, and why there is visible tension and power in the hand. It reflects a battle against not only the elements, but also damage humans have done.
The changes in colour and tone of the wood have emphasised those features, so the sculpture tells its story more loudly now than when it was made.

close up view of the giant hand of vyrnwy, showing creases and veins and stretch in the hand

This close up shows the details Simon added to reflect the strain of the tree’s final reach for the sky.

The Giant Hand of Vyrnwy: Creating the Sculpture

Simon started work on the hand in October 2011, and it was definitely a challenge! Even today, it is the largest-scale work he has completed! In photos, it can be difficult to really understand the scale of the sculpture. The sculpture is also viewed from 30′ away too, so although up close the size is impressive, it can be hard to appreciate.
To help give some context, Simon used a scale of 1:10 when he worked out the size and proportions. This means that the length of the hand from wrist to fingertip is around 2.25m. Or 90″ in ‘old money’!!! An average male in the UK is 1.75cm (69″), so the hand itself is nearly 50% taller than the average person!

The wrist is the entire width of the original stump, and the hand is carved in the top. Simon did need to add onto the stump too, to create the thumb and little finger stretching beyond the width of the wrist.

View from below the giant hand of vyrnwy looking up towards the sky

Viewing the hand from below helps give a sense of the scale, as well as showing the details like popping veins

Revisiting the Giant Hand of Vyrnwy: Simon’s Final Thoughts

Winning this commission was an amazing opportunity for Simon. Not just as an artist, but also as someone who wanted to share an environmental message. That message seems even more poignant now in 2020 when we are even more aware of climate change. Simon believes that the environmental factor is partly why the hand has had more attention lately.
His hope is that the juxtaposition of a hand coming from the tree stump will cause people to think about our connection and relationship with the earth. That being witness to the tree’s battle for growth will cause us to think. That we will be conscious of the footprint we leave behind. And that we will remember our duty of care for the planet.

Listen to more from Simon himself here:

Revisiting the Giant Hand of Vyrnwy: Your Thoughts!

Over the years since he made the hand, Simon has heard many comments from people who were moved by the sculpture. Thank you to those who have taken time to write or comment. We appreciate all the feedback.
Simon is always interested to hear about the impact of his work. And so, we want to invite you to share your story!
If you have seen the hand in person, or via social media, would you take a few moments to let us know what you think? Not just a like or a share, great as they are!
What did it say to you? How did it make you feel? What message did you take from it?
Let us know by emailing Simon on [email protected], or through his Facebook, Instagram or Twitter.

And for now, enjoy a few more of these little-shared photos of the Giant Hand of Vyrnwy…

Viewing Our Lady of Pen Llyn

Viewing Our Lady of Pen Llyn 150 150 Simon O'Rourke
Our Lady of Pen Llyn

One of the beautiful things about art, is that while the artist may have a vision or message, it speaks to people in different ways as they view. Our recent sculpture Our Lady of Pen Llyn is no different, so we wanted to share some thoughts others have had, and invite you to comment too.

Our Lady of Pen Llyn displayed at St Peter's, Pwllheli

Our Lady of Pen Llyn displayed at St Peter’s, Pwllheli

 

Reflecting On The Sculpture

One viewer has commented on the serenity of her expression, and a kind of wisdom and depth in her eyes.
Father Huw Bryant (the man behind the redevelopment project that led to the commission) has shared some of his thoughts in the statue description found at the church:

“One of the main features of the statue is Mary’s open handed pose. The Open Hand Image represents a hand open to give, as well as open to receive. Mary gave herself fully to the will of God, and she received the Holy Spirit. She gave the world her Son on the cross and she received the consolation of Joy in the resurrection. She lived with those hands open, open in trust, open in faith. Something we can emulate, to live with open hands, to not only give, but to receive as well. Out of living with open hands comes fresh new growth.  Living with open hands is an expression of an open mind, open heart, and open will.  Not only does living with open hands bring forth beauty but it is also the source of the passion of compassion. The flames of love are not stifled but are fanned into all-consuming, all-embracing, all-inclusive, unconditional love.”

Here her open hands are more visible

A Fountain of Grace

He adds:

Another feature worth contemplating is the plinth which is carved from Welsh Oak. It is designed to represent a fountain on which Mary sits. This is a representation of the Holy Well on Uwchmynydd and links to the vision of her, unique to that place. The fountain is that fountain of grace which Mary unlocks for us through her Yes to God as she bares our Christ into the world. A fountain, like that well on Uwchmynydd which is open for us today, for all to drink from it’s pure waters and thirst no more.”

Close up of the plinth mentioned by Father Huw

Of course, photos often don’t do justice to a piece of art. For those who would like a better visual, but can’t see the statue during her tour, our friends at Public-Art UK have created this fantastic 3D image for you to see.

We’d love to hear your thoughts about our sculpture, and what aspects speak most to you. Why not leave us a comment below?

 

 

Happy New Year

Happy New Year 150 150 Simon O'Rourke
Happy New Year!

Happy New Year and welcome to 2019 to all our readers!

We enjoyed a lovely Christmas with family, friends, birthday celebrations and some travel. Settling back into the workshop, our work for 2019 began this week with this eagle coming in to land.

What’s On in 2019

As this new year takes flight (see what we did there?!), it has been exciting to meet as a team and look forward to the exciting projects it holds. We look forward to sharing them with you in the weeks to come. Look out for pet portraits, woodland trails (including some story writing!), beautiful gifts and commissions for homes and gardens, competitions, demonstrations, and more.

We are delighted about a pitch that was won this week (to be revealed in the coming weeks) as well as one particular extra-exciting completed project which we will be able to share with you later in the year. As always, we are thankful to all our customers and supporters for making this adventure possible.

Theme for the Year

We also have a bit of a theme to announce. The Chinese calendar may say it’s the Year of the Pig, but here at treecarving.co.uk it’s The Year of the Dragon! We can’t say for sure what that looks like without giving away some pretty big spoilers, but you will definitely spot several dragons as 2019 progresses!

Some New Year Wishes

Returning to our first project of the year, in many traditions and cultures, the eagle represents:

  • Strength
  • Courage
  • Hope
  • Resilience
  • Healing
  • Vision
  • Rising above problems

and the ability to soar to heights that others are unable to reach.

However your new year started, we would like to wish all of our customers and supporters all of those things the eagle represents in this year to come, as well as the confidence and strength of the eagle to reach heights you never thought possible.