tourist attraction

close up of the palm of simon o'rourke's wooden A Hand Between Sky and Earth sculpture in Allai

A Hand Between Sky and Earth Sculpture

A Hand Between Sky and Earth Sculpture 450 600 Simon O'Rourke

Today is Earth Day 2022 so I’m going to share one of my most recent sculptures with an environmental message: A Hand Between Sky and Earth.

 

Simon O'Rourke standing next to a tree that he will carve into the sculpture A Hand Between Sky and Earth The tree is around five times his height and has a white building in the background to the left and a few shorter trees to the right.

Simon with the tree that would become A Hand Between Sky and Earth sculpture

 

Earth Day 2022

Before I jump into the story of the A Hand Between Sky and Earth sculpture, what is Earth Day? And why is it relevant?

Earth Day is an annual event on April 22 to demonstrate support for environmental protection. It includes a wide range of events coordinated globally by EarthDay.org, and focuses on raising awareness and mobilising people to do their part in caring for the environment.

Care for the environment is something close to my heart. That’s why it’s always great to receive a commission for a project like A Hand Between Sky and Earth or The Giant Hand of Vyrnwy where I can use art to convey a message about caring for our planet.

 

Initial sketch for A Hand Between Sky and Earth. The photo of the tree is faded and a hand sketched sculpture of a hand is overlaid so clients could see what it would look like.

One of the initial sketches for A Hand Between Sky and Earth

 

A Hand Between Sky and Earth Sculpture: How It Began

Back in November, I had an enquiry about a sculpture on Sardinia. A tree in the village of Allai had become dangerous and needed to be cut down. The council didn’t want to cut it down completely and hoped I could transform it into a work of art.

They shared how they believe trees represent a natural resource of great significance. They’d researched their options and believed this was a good way to “save” the tree at the same time as embellishing and enhancing it. In the words of the client:

We love nature, we have lots of respect for our vegetation and probably your same love can help us to preserve our trees but in a different amazing way.

As well as preserving the tree, the sculpture was to serve the dual purpose of (hopefully!) becoming a tourist attraction.
New life for the tree, and increased benefit for the village!
Definitely a meaningful commission!

 

simon o'rourke stands in a cherry picker and uses a chainsaw to carve a sculpture into an standing tree trunk. in the background there is a white building.

Working on A Hand Between Sky and Earth sculpture in Allai

 

The Message Behind A Hand Between Sky and Earth Scultpure

The sculpture I created needed to be something that would capture the imagination and draw people to see it, but also needed to reflect the preservation aspect of the commission. Although the initial enquiry asked about wildlife sculptures, after some conversation, we settled on an outstretched hand. Something reaching between the material to the spiritual world that, like the Giant Hand of Vyrnwy, also represented the struggle of the tree to reach the sky.

To me, the hand is fitting as hands are a way to connect with the earth. They’re how we touch rocks, the earth and the trees. With our hands, we work the earth to grow food or build.

My sculpture is a symbol of this tactile connection with the world. It’s also a reminder that we use our hands to steward it, and the sculpture invites us to take care of it.

The hand position can be seen as an extension to gently touch or make a statement. The slightly straightened finger is meant to suggest a gentle command or complaint. ”

 

simon o'rourke's A Hand Between Sky and Earth Sculpture

Responses To A Hand Between Sky and Earth Sculpture

It’s only been a couple of weeks since finishing the commission, and the sculpture is already serving its purpose.

The municipal council are delighted with the finished sculpture. They describe it as “A symbolic work for a community, a careful warning to safeguard a territory that does not want to give up [but rather] fights for a prosperous and luxuriant future, with trust, determination and an obstinate love for the surrounding nature“.

 

close up of the palm of simon o'rourke's wooden A Hand Between Sky and Earth sculpture in Allai

 

One local lady who saw the sculpture being created was inspired to write a poem where she describes it as

A hand reaching out to the sky
like a cry for help to God
to save the planet and its ruin
that gradually falls into oblivion.”
Pina Frongia
the back of the hand on simon o'rourkes A Hand Between Sky and Earth sculpture. the only background is a grey-ish sky. lots of wood grain is visible in the hand

Visiting A Hand Between Sky and Earth Sculpture

Others on social media have been asking how they can go and see the sculpture, fulfilling its second role of helping to bring tourists to the area and strengthen the economy. It’s great both purposes are being fulfilled so soon!
If you are one of the people who would like to visit, it’s SO easy to find using What3words!
Either open the app and search for ///hangdog.candlestick.precocious or just click here.
And after experiencing the wonderful food, weather, scenery and hospitality in Allai (thanks to our new friends we met there!), Liz and I definitely recommend a holiday on Sardinia!
simon o'rourke and a female stand beneath the sculpture A Hand Between Sky and Earth, a giant hand carved into a standing tree trunk about 20ft tall.

With one of our hosts in Allai

 

Other Environmental Considerations

Of course, it isn’t enough to just create art that challenges people to care for the earth, helpful as art can be in communicating an important message. I’m also aware of the potential environmental cost of chainsaw carving and minimise impact where I can.

What does that look like?

First, I never carve or cut down a healthy tree for sculpture. Rather, use trees that have died or need to be felled due to disease, damage, or danger to people/places and give life back to them as art.

 

screenshot of simon o'rourke's instagram account showing he is a member of titan treecycle initiative

Members of Treecycle display ‘Titan Treecycle Member’ on their social media accounts.

 

I’m also part of Titan Treecycle. This is an initiative that encourages chainsaw artists to plant trees to replace the ones they use. Although the timber I use has never come from healthy trees, I’m aware that chainsaw carving impacts the environment in other ways. For example, travel for commissions or events, emissions from our tools. So I joined the initiative to offset my carbon footprint, not just replace the wood I use.

If you’re looking for a chainsaw artist for a commission, Titan Chainsaw Carving on Instagram is a great place to find artists, and then check that they display  “Treecycle Member” in their profile.

 

a white tiled building in the background. in front is the hand between sky and earth sculpture by simon o'rourke; a giant hand carved into the top of a tree trunk

 

Final Thoughts

It’s obviously exciting as an artist to be able to create art that challenges people to think about the environment. It’s great to post about it on Earth Day too. My hope though is that our thoughts and actions go far beyond this one day, that care for the earth becomes second nature to us all, and that we can all gradually make slow, sustainable changes that help preserve our incredible planet.

What changes have you been working on?

As always, if you are interested in a sculpture for your home, business, or community, fill out the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact.

If you’re interested in watching the creation of A Hand Between Sky and Earth, check out the video below too!

 

marbury lady sculpture by simon o'rourke and the what3words location cook.breath.gangs. the sculpture will be part of Simon O'Rourke's what3words chainsaw carving trail

What3Words Chainsaw Carving Trail

What3Words Chainsaw Carving Trail 600 600 Simon O'Rourke

This week a representative from What3Words approached Simon to ask about using images of the Giant Hand of Vyrnwy, sharing its location with their followers. Of course, the answer was yes! Simon already uses What3Words as part of his work, and has found it extremely helpful. And as soon as they contacted him, something clicked and another idea was born…

 

image showing people sitting in a park. the what3words location is displayed.

Image from what3words

What is What3Words?

Before we talk about the what3words Chainsaw Carving Trail though, let us introduce what3words! For those who haven’t heard of it, what3words is a geocode system. It’s different to anything else out there because it assigns a three-word code to every 3m square of land. That means you can easily share and save precise locations using the website or app – No long GPS codes, and no vague addresses! It’s currently being used for e-commerce and delivery, navigation, emergencies and so much more, and has some massive benefits…

 

Benefits of Using What3Words

As we said, many industries are using what3words. As it directs you to a location within a 3m square of where you need to be, it is much more efficient than a vague address when dealing with roadside telegraph poles, sections of railway track, water pipes, and more. It is set up for voice input and even works when you have no data. All of this combined means it also has massive health and safety benefits, which is how Simon currently uses the app.

 

chainsaw artist simon o'rourke in a cherry picker next to a tall tree carving of a mythical tree woman.

Simon often works alone on large estates and parks and can easily share his exact location using What3Words

 

How Simon Uses What3Words

As you know from our health and safety and chainsaw basics blogs, safety is hugely important to Simon. He’s found that giving what3words locations for his worksite is a way of enhancing his safety practice:

“The accuracy makes any communication much clearer, giving clients, public, and emergency services exact locations”

Imagine you are working on a National Trust property or stately home, such as when he created the Ent, Gollum, and Shakespeare Seat sculptures at Poulton Hall, or the Airman at Highclere. The grounds are huge, and should there be an emergency (or even someone coming with some refreshments!) it can be difficult to explain exactly where to find him. This can cause frustration or even dangerous delays.

By giving a what3words location, people can see EXACTLY where he is working.

 

marbury lady sculpture by simon o'rourke and the what3words location cook.breath.gangs. the sculpture will be part of Simon O'Rourke's what3words chainsaw carving trail

The Marbury Lady sculpture and her exact location using the what3words app

 

Creating a What3Words Chainsaw Carving Trail

Now you know about the app and all its benefits, you’ve probably guessed where we’re going with the what3words chainsaw carving trail!

People often ask where they can see Simon’s sculptures. Sometimes this is easy to explain, as in most residential addresses. Sometimes it’s much harder as they are in a large area, such as the Giant Hand of Vyrnwy at the Vyrnwy Estate. Or perhaps they are visible from a long road like the Dragon of Bethesda on the A5.

Having been prompted by the contact from what3words, we’ve realised it would be really good to extend Simon’s use of what3words, and to share locations of public sculptures.

 

picture of the giant hand of vyrnwy sculpture labelled with its what3words chainsaw carving trail location: incline.lingering.pose

The Giant Hand of Vyrnwy will be much easier to find using this geocode!

 

How Can I do the What3Words Chainsaw Carving Trail?

At the moment the what3words chainsaw carving trail is in progress. But in the next week or so we will have a link set up which gives the locations of some of Simon’s most-requested sculptures. In time we will add to it, so it’s more comprehensive. In future, people will be able to easily see multiple sculptures within a reasonable distance of each other to visit. Or even plan a national road trip! It’s entirely up to you! The map will be visible in the browser or the app.

Until then, look out on social media for both Simon and what3words and we’ll be releasing some of the locations.

It’s exciting to see technology being used collaboratively to make it easier for people to experience Simon’s pieces!

 

photo of O'Rourke's dragon of bethesda sculpture labelled with its what3words chainsaw carving trail code: rumble.wink.meanders

Now drivers can see exactly where the dragon is coming up on the A5 and hopefully there’ll be fewer sudden stoppages!

Final Thoughts on the What3Words Chainsaw Carving Trail

It’s great not just to be using this app for health and safety, but also to allow easier access to art. And to be raising awareness of the app! It has huge potential, and has already saved lives, which is awesome! Thank you to Alice at what3words for the email this week that prompted the trail!

 

photo of simon o'rourke's wwii soldier in workington park. it is labelled with its what3words chainsawcarving trail location: nail.pine.dime

Simon’s WWII soldier is easy to locate in Workington using what3words.

 

If you would like to contact Simon, please use the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact.

 

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/ .

Chainsaw and Brush Giant Hand of Vyrnwy Prints

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

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

What is Chainsaw and Brush?!

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

 

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

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

 

How Did Chainsaw and Brush Begin?

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

 

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

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

Future  Chainsaw and Brush Collaborations

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

 

dragon of bethesda sculpture by simon o'rourke

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

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

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

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

chainsaw and brush logo

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

 

But What is the Giant Hand of Vyrnwy?

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

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

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

 

The Giant Hand of Vyrnwy stands in the Lake Vyrnwy estate

Simon and the Giant Hand of Vyrnwy…

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

 

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

Chainsaw and Brush Giant Hand of Vyrnwy Final Thoughts

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

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

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.

Creating a sculpture trail. Photo shows a collection of oak woodland animals on a workshop floor ready to be transported.

Creating a Sculpture Trail Part One: Proposal and Preparation

Creating a Sculpture Trail Part One: Proposal and Preparation 800 600 Simon O'Rourke

In the blog “Why is Art Expensive?”, we explained there is a lot of work that goes into creating a sculpture. That work goes far beyond carving, and may even need to be completed before a commission is confirmed. That is especially the case when Simon bids for a commission, rather than someone approaching him. In this series we walk you through the process of creating a sculpture trail, starting from the point Simon either has an interest in a project or has been invited to submit a bid…

 

Creating a sculpture trail. Photo shows a collection of oak woodland animals on a workshop floor ready to be transported.

The Page’s Wood sculpture trail sculptures ready to be transported.

 

Creating a Sculpture Trail Task One: Understanding the Brief

The first task for Simon is to understand fully what the project entails. This includes not just the artistic/aesthetic elements, but also technical considerations too. And this isn’t just something for his own understanding. Simon will create a document for potential clients outlining his understanding of the brief, and explaining how his design meets the requirements.

That document will include the sketches of the sculptures themselves. It will also explain how/why they tie in with Simon’s interpretation of the brief, any story that goes with the sculptures, technical aspects (such as measurements), environmental impact, any measures to ensure longevity, and maintenance. At this stage, Simon will have also researched any relevant history/associations of the client/venue/locale. That research informs his design, and he’ll also outline those connections in this proposal.

 

part of a proposal from simon o'rourke for a sculpture trail. the bidding process is the first stage of creating a sculpture trail

Extract from a sculpture trail bid Simon submitted but didn’t win

 

Creating a Sculpture Trail Task Two: Costing

At this stage, Simon will also need to work out the costs of the trail. Like coming up with the concept, design, and explanation, this can be very time consuming and may involve Simon getting multiple quotes before he can calculate costs. The final cost however is an important factor in a client selecting a bid. This means it can’t wait until after he gets the commission.  Simon must complete the work before he knows if he will get the job.

The quote includes the cost of site visits prior to the trail being made, as well as materials and labour to make the sculpture. Simon will calculate transport and installation, including any equipment hire needed at this stage. Finally, it also includes the cost of any extra materials, such as bolts or bobbins for installing the sculptures. Although it is more work for Simon (especially as he may not actually receive the commission), it offers a much better experience for the client, knowing that what they pay covers everything.

 

sample from a bid for a sculpture trail, part of simon o'rourkes process in creating a sculpture trail

Another example of a page from a proposal for a sculpture trail

 

Creating a Sculpture Trail Task Three: Health and Safety and Method

At this stage, Simon waits to hear if the client accepts his proposal. He may already have put a couple of day’s work into the proposal itself as well as time to create some initial designs/sketches. Especially if he produced additional documentation, such as proving the chain of custody on the timber he will use. This is an important part of his commitment to sustainability, which may also be a part of the brief.

If Simon gets the job, at this stage he will finalise the designs, but also has MORE documentation to produce! As you’ll know from our Acton Safety blog, Simon takes health and safety seriously. This isn’t just about checking a few boxes to meet requirements. Rather it is part of his ethos to always create the safest possible working environment for his wellbeing, and that of his employees.

Before he can begin any sculpture trail, he completes a risk assessment and a method statement which details how and where the sculptures will be made.

Page one of a 12 page risk assessment for creating a sculpture trail

The first page of a 12-page risk assessment for the Fforest Fawr sculpture trail.

 

Creating a Sculpture Trail Task Four: The Legal Bit!

Once all of the above is in place, Simon and the client can finally exchange a contract for the sculpture trail. It might sound boring, but it’s essential for running a business well! Although sculpture trails are a great way to create revenue, they are definitely a big financial investment. Having a clear, well written, and comprehensive contract means that all Simon’s clients can feel certain as they move forward, reassured about what they will be receiving, when, and how.

extract from Simon O'Rourke's proposal for fforest fawr, part of the process of creating a sculpture trail

An extract from the proposal for Fforest Fawr sculpture trail, showing the sculpture and accompanying story.

 

Creating a Sculpture Trail Task Five: Making the Trail!

Now the documentation and design are completed, both parties are protected, the project is well set out, and expectations are clear. The client can look forward to owning some amazing, sustainable art, and Simon can get excited about carving! This means….it’s time to carve! But that’s a story for another blog! Follow the blog for notifications to see when Part Two is published where we’ll talk about creating the trail itself.

 

Chainsaw artist Simon o'rourke and his apprentice Paul Ossum in a workshop creating a sculpture trail with chainsaws.

Simon and Paul in the workshop, working on a sculpture trail together

Final Thoughts

It would be lovely as an artist to sit around and create all day. However, that isn’t the reality for most artists. We hope this blog has given you some insight into the process of creating a sculpture trail. Or, more accurately, of the work that goes into a proposal that may actually never come to fruition. And that it also gives you an idea of the process if you yourself are interested in commissioning a sculpture trail!

If you would like to know more, invite Simon to bid on a project, or commission your own sculpture, contact him at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/. We look forward to hearing from you!

tips for chainsaw carving in the sun: wear a powered air filter mask so it passes air across your face. in the photo simon o'rourke is carving an angel wearing such a mask.

Tips for Chainsaw Carving in the Sun

Tips for Chainsaw Carving in the Sun 800 600 Simon O'Rourke

One of the things Simon loves about his work is that he gets to spend a lot of time outdoors. However, carving in all weather does come with its challenges! So today we want to share some tips for chainsaw carving in the sun…

 

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. Photo credit: Andy Grady.

 

#1: Stay Hydrated.

Hydration is always the most important factor when we’re in the sun. And chainsaw carving is no different! With so many great environmentally-friendly water bottle options around at the moment, and even some fun options for hydration backpacks with a straw, there’s no excuse not to drink water throughout the day.

 

Simon O'Rourke carving a wood sculpture of the god Svantevit in Putgarten, Germany

Another sunny carving day creating Svantevit in Putgarten, Germany

 

#2: Invest in Weather-Appropriate Clothing

The next of our tips for chainsaw carving in the sun is clothing. We’ve all heard it said that there is no bad weather, just the wrong clothes. How true that is! Simon is fortunate that he isn’t climbing, so can wear class A trousers, and favours the Stihl Advance X Light. However, many chainsaw trousers have vents in the legs these days, so it should be easy to find a pair that works for you.

 

Tips for chainsaw carving in the sun: wear appropriate trousers like the stihl advance x light. front and rear view pictures. black trousers with logo on side

Simon favours these Advance X-Light trousers made by Stihl. Photos from the Stihl website.

 

#3: Wear Appropriate PPE

Not all PPE is made equally! So the third of our tips for chainsaw carving in the sun is to find appropriate PPE for all weathers. For example, the JSP Powercap (or a similar powered air filter mask) can be good as it constantly passes filtered air across your face.

 

tips for chainsaw carving in the sun: wear a powered air filter mask so it passes air across your face. in the photo simon o'rourke is carving an angel wearing such a mask.

Simon wearing the powercap while he carves in Germany in 2019

 

#4: Create Shelter

The photo of Simon carving in Germany leads nicely to the fourth of our tips for chainsaw carving in the sun: create a place of shelter if you can. Sunstroke is no joke for anyone, at any time. But it’s definitely not a good idea to combine dizziness and nausea with a chainsaw! Using a canopy can help avoid this danger, like the ones used at the Huskycup pictures below. These can be purchased at any outdoor store.

 

chainsaw carver simon o'rourke stands with two men dressed in traditional german mining uniform, and their portraits carved out of oak. Behind them is a Stihl canopy.

The Stihl canopy behind Simon is ideal for avoiding the direct glare of the sun

 

#5: Take Regular Breaks

And the last of our tips is to put down the chainsaw! Taking regular breaks gives you a chance to cool down, but it also allows you to take a look at your sculpture from different angles, which is really important for keeping the proportions looking good.

simon o'rourke carving an old German miner at the Huskycup

Simon at the Huskycup in 2018

More About Health and Safety

If you would like to know more about chainsaw carving safety, make sure you follow this blog (or any of my social media channels) so you receive notifications about future blogs on this topic. As we mentioned in the tips for getting started in chainsaw carving blog, it can also be good to talk to experts. Simon has invested in the services of Acton Health and Safety to advise and help keep him compliant with safety codes and laws, and we wholeheartedly recommend them.

And lastly, while we’re talking about carving in the sun, if you would like to book Simon for live carving or demonstration at an outdoor event, or talk to him about a commission, please email him via the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/. We’re looking forward to hearing from you!

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Photo Credit: The Dragon Tower

 

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

Photo Credit: The Dragon Tower

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

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

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

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

 

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

Photo Credit: The Dragon Tower

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

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

 

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

Photo Credit: The Dragon Tower

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

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!

Narnia Beaver Den Sculptures

Narnia Beaver Den Sculptures 150 150 Simon O'Rourke

Last weekend Simon travelled down to Oxford to install his fairy sculpture and work on a lovely new commission for the Narnia Tree House. These Narnia beaver den sculptures are sure to delight anyone who is a fan of C S Lewis’ classic tales…

 

whimsical fairy on a swing wood sculpture by chainsaw artist simon o'rourke

This whimsical fairy is one of several sculptures commissioned for the Narnia Tree House

 

About the Narnia Treehouse

We couldn’t talk about the sculptures though, without first explaining a little about the clients and their property. Simon’s client, Yaz, and his partner own a property bordering the house once lived in by author C S Lewis. The beautiful woodland surrounding both houses would undoubtedly have been some of Lewis’ inspiration for the woodland in his classic series, The Chronicles of Narnia.

Wanting to create a venue they could use for family gatherings and parties, Yaz and his partner built an incredible treehouse on their property among that woodland. And so the Narnia Treehouse was born! Over time they began to host events and let it out for overnight stays, with the income going towards Congenital Anaemia Network, a charity founded by Yaz’ partner (Dr Roy) who, as a haematologist, found that there was little support available for those who suffer from these rare inherited disorders.

 

narnia treehouse, oxford

The Narnia Treehouse

 

Finding Simon

Prior to finding Simon, the clients had worked with a number of other chainsaw artists including the very talented Matthew Crabb who designed a Mr Tumnus sculpture.
When the clients found a photo of an angel sculpture on the web and wanted a similar one commissioned, Mathew immediately recognised it as one of Simon’s and recommended him.
In time, the couple also wanted to add more sculptures to further the Narnian feel and enhance the experience people have when visiting.
With his background in children’s illustration and a love for fantasy fiction like Lord of the Rings, Simon turned out to be a great fit for their project.

 

narnia beaver den sculptures by simon o'rourke

The Process

Yaz had several ideas for sculptures. These included the fairy on the swing and a throne.
The fairy is a whimsical sculpture appropriate for any fantasy woodland. And the throne Simon created is reminiscent of the throne belonging to Jadis the White Witch in The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.

Upon hearing the Narnia connection, Simon also brought the idea of the Beavers’ den. There can be some back and forth between Simon and a client when it comes to settling on a design (as we talk about in this blog about how to commission a sculpture) but Yaz can testify the process from commissioning to finished product was smooth.

a throne made out of wood by chainsaw artist simon o'rourke. it is surrounded by woodland and is part of the narnia beaver den sculptures series at narnia treehouse, oxford

The throne Simon created for The Narnia Treehouse

 

An On-site Carve

Sometimes it makes more sense for Simon to create a piece in his workshop and install it at a later date. That was the case with the fairy. Sometimes, it’s necessary or more practical for Simon to carve on site. As it was with the throne and Narnia beaver den sculptures. This is obviously the case when carving into a standing piece of timber but also makes sense when the client is providing the timber from their own land as Yaz did.

There are a few things that you may need to do for an on-site carve, which we talk about in our blog “Things to consider when you commission an onsite chainsaw carving sculpture”. One advantage though if this is the case is getting to watch Simon work! Most people who have watched find it fascinating. These particular clients were also shocked at how incredibly quick it was!

 

Narnia beaver den sculptures by simon o'rourke: Mrs Beaver

The Finished Narnia Beaver Den Sculptures

The finished scene shows Mr and Mrs Beaver sitting around their table, with empty seats ready for hosting the Pevensie children. Or modern-day human visitors to the treehouse who would like a photo with them!!! Unless of course, you fancy yourself as more of a Queen, in which case there’s the throne! The beavers are wonderfully sweet and the expressions Simon gave them perfectly reflect the gentle and kind characters C S Lewis created. And, importantly, the family all love them!

 

mrs beaver, an oak sculpture from simon o'rourke's narnia beaver den sculptures scene

Visiting the Narnia Treehouse

One of the blessings of Simon’s work is that as a team we get to meet lots of different people with lots of different stories, passions and interests. Yaz is incredibly creative and it was so fun to see such a beautiful property born out of something as simple as a family treehouse. As someone with a rare disease themself, one of our team was also encouraged by the way this family have been using their home to benefit people with rare haematological conditions. The family are currently taking a break from letting the treehouse, but you can watch out for future openings by following them at www.instagram.com/narniatreehouse/. We warn you though – you will fall in love with the property and start dreaming of your own version!

 

sideways view of the narnia beaver den sculptures by simon o'rourke. two beavers sit on tree trunk chairs around a table.

 

Commissioning Your Own Sculpture

If you would like to bring one of your favourite books to life with a sculpture, contact Simon via the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact and one of the team will be in touch!