Tree Carving

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…

How long will my wood sculpture last? Picture shows side by side photos of a stylised woman's face sculpture to show the aging process. Photo one is warm, with lots of yellow and orange tones. The second has much more depth and is more grey in tone.

FAQs: How Long Will My Wood Sculpture Last?

FAQs: How Long Will My Wood Sculpture Last? 2560 2560 Simon O'Rourke

Diary of a chainsaw carver – The ticking clock…

No this isn’t about actual clocks, although Simon did create a working longcase clock once!! This is actually about a question Simon is often asked: How will my wood sculpture age?
And it’s a very valid question. They say time waits for no man, and it certainly doesn’t hang around when it comes to how long wood lasts outdoors! When Simon is asked how long a sculpture will last, he usually has a two word answer: “it depends!”

How long will my wood sculpture last? Photo shows a wooden sculpture of a grandfather clock, turning an ashy grey colour. There are no signs of splits or cracks.

The grandfather clock made by Simon, now turning an ashy grey colour

How Long Will My Wood Sculpture Last: Structure of the Sculpture

One factor which determines how long your wood sculpture will last is the wood. Basically, different wood lasts for different lengths of time. And this differs again depending on the environment it’s in! Honestly, there are really no definite answers! With any of the factors creating numerous fluctuations in longevity, it’s not an exact science. This means although Simon may have an idea, there are no definite answers.

So which timber should you choose? Understanding that this much uncertainty means Simon only has personal experience and information from others to draw on, his conclusion is that Oak, Cedar, Redwood, Cypress, and Sweet Chestnut are among the longest lasting available timbers in this country. So he usually uses those for sculptures, although they are not the only possibilities.

You can expect an untreated sculpture made from any of these timbers to look weathered within a year to two years, and will still keep its shape and structure for a good 20 years or so. Given the fact that we still see solid Oak beams on the exterior of Tudor houses, I think it would last for over 100 years, and still have its shape, although the weather would have worn down the detail on the exterior!

How long will my wood sculpture last? Photo shows a comparison of a redwood sculpture two years on. The sculpture is the brown otter in Fforest Fawr. In the first the wood is a warm, vivid red colour. After two years it is fully in tact, but the shadows appear deeper and it is turning a deep brown with cold tones.

This side by side shows a redwood sculpture in Fforest Fawr after about two years of being exposed to the elements.

How Long Will my Wood Sculpture Last: Colour

When Simon creates sculptures, he doesn’t usually add colour. This is because it will wear away eventually and detail that was painted on would be lost. Rather, he loves to over-exaggerate depth and form in his work to create contrast using shadow. This will stand the test of time and still work as a sculpture in decades to come. In fact, often as the wood changes colour, the shadows appear to deepen, and the sculpture is more striking.

All this said, creating something that lasts forever isn’t his goal. He loves the look of weathered wood and feels that the aging process is part of the creativity and part of the art. Environmental artists like   Andy Goldsworthy share this sentiment. Although it has to be said that Simon’s sculptures last MUCH longer – some Goldsworthy pieces change the instant the wind or tide changes!

This example shows how this Redwood face sculpture has taken on a different feel having been bleached by the sun and worn by the wind! Although always impressive, the sculpture is now striking. Just look at that pupil!

How long will my wood sculpture last? Picture shows side by side photos of a stylised woman's face sculpture to show the aging process. Photo one is warm, with lots of yellow and orange tones. The second has much more depth and is more grey in tone.

This photo of one of Simon’s face sculptures shows some of the colour changes that take place over time.

How Long Will My Wood Sculpture Last: Telling A Story

Wood is always evolving, whether in life or death. The growth rings in wood tell their own history. As time passes, each growth ring becomes more prominent, as the faster-grown spring wood wears away quicker than the slower grown summer wood.

We often do so much to preserve art and keep it behind glass for future generations, but isn’t a reflection of a natural material. Life is fragile and temporary, and aging is a natural and beautiful process which we need to embrace, not fight.

Wood sculptures, like ourselves, will weather and deteriorate over time, but every split, knot, and wrinkle tells a story!

How long will my wood sculpture last? Photo shows Simon's European Lynx in fforest fawr. At two years old, it is now a deep reddish-brown.

The European Lynx in Fforest Fawr.

Your Own Sculpture.

If you would like to commission a sculpture, contact Simon via www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/
He would love to hear from you!

Thank you to My Tongwynlais for the updated photos of the sculpture trail.

face of the gollum sculpture at poulton hall by simon o'rourke

Process of Creating the Gollum Sculpture

Process of Creating the Gollum Sculpture 1368 1824 Simon O'Rourke

Over the last few weeks we posted photos on social media of a Gollum sculpture Simon created. Thank you to those of you who left kind comments. It’s always encouraging to hear and see you enjoying Simon’s pieces. As always, there were questions about how to see it in real life, and about how Simon made it. And so, in this week’s blog we walk you through the process of creating the Gollum sculpture.

Sculpture of Gollum carved into a standing tree trunk, surrounded by the gardens at Poulton Hall. Sculpture is the work of chainsaw carving artist Simon O'Rourke

About the Sculpture

Regular readers will remember that in July Simon created an Ent sculpture from a Monkey Puzzle trunk in the grounds of Poulton Hall;  the seat of the Lancelyn-Green family. The father of the current incumbent was Roger Lancelyn Green – well known author, member of The Inklings, and friend of J R R Tolkien. This connection was the inspiration for a Lord of the Rings sculpture, which ties in with some of the other sculptures in the ground which are also based on Fastasy Literature.
As well as the standing monkey puzzle stump, there was a good, workable piece of the monkey puzzle trunk left over. It was perfect for creating another Lord of the Rings sculpture for the grounds of the hall. In this case Simon created something better known: Gollum.

3m tall scultpure of an Ent, created from the stump of a monkey puzzle tree by chainsaw artist Simon o'Rourke

The Ent at Poulton Hall

Process of Creating the Gollum Sculpture: Evaluating the Timber

The first thing Simon does when he starts a sculpture, is evaluate the timber. There are a few things he looks out for. However the first is definitely looking at what is useable, and where there is rot. For those who are interested, Simon explains a bit more in this video about different kinds of rot. For those who prefer to read, we also have this blog explaining the difference between white and brown rot.
In the case of this stump, it looked pretty nasty on the outside, but had some good, solid timber on the inside.

The process of creating the gollum sculpture step one. Simon evaluates the wood. Photo shows a large stump of monkey puzzle tree lying horizontally on the ground. It appears to be rotten. A chainsaw sits on the top.

The monkey puzzle stump Simon used to create the Gollum sculpture.

Simon also has to evaluate the timber from an artistic perspective. Using his original sketches as a guide, he has to imagine the figure within the stump. This includes thinking about the position of the figure, and what sections can be used. He pays attention to any visible branches, knots and other characteristics that he can use to help give shape to the figure. He also needs to find the point at which he wants the head to sit. From there he can work out the size and proportions.

The process of creating the gollum sculpture: photo shows SImon O'Rourke's original sketches of the sculpture. It shows the face from three angles, and two full length sketches of the sculpture.

Simon’s original sketches for the Gollum sculpture.

 

Process of Creating the Gollum Sculpture: Removing Large Facets

The next part of Simon’s process as he created the Gollum sculpture was to remove large pieces of the wood and outline the basic figure of Gollum. For this, he will use a ‘meaty’ chainsaw like the Stihl MS500i. It’s well suited to harvesting and processing large timber, but also makes easy work of this part of creating a sculpture!
Simon will still consider the original sketch, but at this point may need to change or adapt certain parts. As we have said before, wood is unpredictable. At this stage he may find pockets of rot, cracks and knots as he strips back the timber. All of these may mean needing to alter angles or even change a pose.
In Simon’s own words, this stage of the process is all about “working into the wood and working with it”.

The process of creating the gollum sculpture: photo shows simon o'rourke using a chainsaw to remove large pieces of wood from the trunk of a monkey puzzle tree. he wears stihl clothing and uses a chainsaw. a figure is beginning to emerge in the top half or the timber.

This part of the process is when Simon discovers problems or characteristics which will determine the basic figure of a sculpture

Process of Creating the Gollum Sculpture: Whittling Down the Figure

The next stage in the process of creating Gollum was whittling down the basic figure so the pose and proportions were correct. Most human form sculptures have specific fixed points and proportions that need to be considered at this stage. There is sometimes a formula for working those out, for example, The Golden Ratio. In the case of Gollum though, he is almost a caricature with certain features in very different proportion to a typical human. So in creating something like Gollum, Simon had to forget normal proportions and ratios.
Things he had to particularly consider were Gollum’s large head in comparison with his much skinnier body and limbs!

process of creating the gollum sculpture: photo shows a very basic outline of gollum carved into a tree trunk. there are no details such as fingers, face or clothing

It’s important to get the basic shape of the body correct at this point before details are added

It’s important for Simon to get this right at this stage. If he began working on details like facial features before this is done, it would be easy to make a mistake that can’t be corrected once the wood is removed. In particular, an anatomically correct head shape gives Simon the reference points to begin adding facial features.

process of creating the gollum sculpture: photo shows simon o'rourke using a chainsaw to create the head shape of gollum's head from a monkey puzzle stump

Process of Creating the Gollum Sculpture: Creating the Face

Once Simon is happy with the shape and pose, he can begin working on the facial features. One of Simon’s strengths as an artist is that his work always tells a story and invites the viewer to participate. The face is a key part in that. And that means Simon always needs to have a back-story in mind which will determine the facial expression. In the case of the Gollum sculpture, Simon wanted to go for a look of surprise. The sculpture is more reminiscent of Gollum’s alter-ego, Smeagal. He has just caught a fish which he is about to eat, and is caught off guard by someone or something disturbing him. The moment Simon captures in this sculpture is when Gollum turns to face the thing that has disturbed him, surprise on his face.

Surprisingly, at this stage, Simon doesn’t usually switch to smaller tools yet, and will still use a chainsaw! He is still able to create a lot of detail just by using a smaller chainsaw (such as the Stihl MSA 200c) and a smaller blade.

process of creating the gollum sculpture: simon o'roruke uses a stihl msa200c chainsaw to add facial features to the sculpture

Simon uses the Stihl MSA 200c to add facial features to Gollum

Process of Creating the Gollum Sculpture: Refining the Facial Detail

The final stage of creating a sculpture is to refine the details on the face – and indeed the rest of the sculpture. At this point Simon will use a Milwaukee angle grinder with Manpatools multicutter or Saburrtooth burr bits. The latter are especially great for adding shape and texture. For those who are interested in finding out more about how to use these tools, we have a blog about Simon’s favourite burr bits and how he uses them HERE. We also have a blog about the Manpatools tools he favours HERE.

Simon O'Rourke uses saburrtooth burr bits and a milwaukee angle grinder to add texture to the face of a Gollum sculpture

Simon will often use these smaller tools to get into small nooks and crannies and create small, deep features. The gaps in Gollum’s teeth in the photo above are a great example of this.
Unlike visual art where there are different tones and colours that can be used, Simon is dependant on different depths of cut creating shadows which create the illusion of shape and texture. This means that at this stage he may need to exaggerate some cuts and create depths or gaps that are deeper than they would be in real life. Examples of this in the Gollum sculpture are the eyes, toes, and the tunic.

close up of the face of the gollum sculpture created by chainsaw artist simon o'rourke

The Eyes

In the case of the eyes, Simon used the eye bit to create a deep cavity, where our eyes would usually be a ball shape. He left wood in place, and so created the illusion of a pupil.

close up of the toes on simon o'rourke's gollum sculpture.

The Toes

We can also see this exaggerated cut in the toes. Simon has created much deeper cuts than we actually have if we examine our bare feet. The shadow this creates help give the impression of five distinct digits. If he didn’t do this, the viewer would have only the impression of a foot rather than a realistic representation.

process of creating the gollum sculpture: close up of the tunic shows the exaggerated cuts simon uses to create shadow

The Tunic

The final example of these exaggerated cuts is the tunic, photographed above. In reality, this tunic would lie flat against Gollum’s legs. Simon, however, has made a deep cut along the edge of the tunic, which creates a thicker edge to the tunic, several centimetres removed from the leg underneath. This trick is what allows us to see that Gollum is indeed wearing clothing! Without that exaggerated gap and with no difference in the colour between the body and clothing, we wouldn’t be able to see the clothing from a distance.

process of creating the gollum sculpture: close up of simon o'rourke using a saburr tooth eye bit to create the cavity that will be gollum's eye

Process of Creating the Gollum Sculpture: Knowing When to Finish

The final stage of creating a sculpture is refining the rest of the sculpture. This may include texture or folds in clothing, wrinkles in the skin or the fold of an elbow or knee. At this point though, the key part in the process is…. knowing when to finish!

Simon – like most artists – is committed to excellence. In a quest for perfection though, it can be easy to ‘over do’ it. There will always be small tweaks and refinements that can be made. However, Simon has to consider that those things may actually take away from a sculpture of this nature.
Simon also can’t rely on ‘am I happy with this?’ to determine if something is finished. Like most artists, he can be over critical and see flaws or things he would do differently next time, so that point may never come!

And so, at this point, Simon will be asking is the pose correct? Are all the proportions correct? Is the overall effect as it should be?
Yes?
Then the sculpture is finished!
And in the case of Gollum, we hope you agree that it’s another fantastic piece.

gollum sculpture by simon o'rouke

Sculpture of Gollum carved into a standing tree trunk, surrounded by the gardens at Poulton Hall. Sculpture is the work of chainsaw carving artist Simon O'Rourke

Any Questions?

If you have any questions about Simon’s process as an artist, we would love to answer them! You can contact Simon through his Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or by filling out the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/.
That form is also the contact if you would like to commission your own sculpture.

Lastly, if you would like to see Simon creating this sculpture and hear his own thoughts on the process, we will have a video on Simon’s YouTube channel soon. Watch this space!

 

 

What to do with a diseased tree? SImon O'Rourke created this sculpture of a dragon emerging from a tree trunk out of an ash killed by ash dieback

What To Do With A Diseased Tree

What To Do With A Diseased Tree 1368 1824 Simon O'Rourke

Trees contribute massively to a landscape’s value, so it’s important to take care of them. In fact, if you have a tree you suspect may be diseased and need some help, you can read this blog about how to deal with the most common tree diseases. However, sometimes there is nothing that can be done to treat a tree. At this point, lots of people wonder what they should do with a diseased tree. Cutting back or removing the tree are the most obvious options. You could also consider giving life back to the tree though, and turn it into a beautiful piece of art!

Wooden sculpture of radagast the brown from The Hobbit. Created by Simon O'Rourke from a diseased tree

Radagast was created to give life back to a diseased tree

Simon loves to transform trees that are dead or diseased into wonderful sculptures. In fact, his most recent creation (an emerging dragon) was one such project. He created the dragon from a standing tree trunk of a tree that had died from ash dieback.

What to do with a diseased tree? SImon O'Rourke created this sculpture of a dragon emerging from a tree trunk out of an ash killed by ash dieback

This diseased tree was transformed into this beautiful dragon

About Ash Dieback

Ash dieback is sadly extremely common and will kill around 80% of ash trees across the UK. It can affect trees of any age, and unlike some diseases, they can fight back and recover. However, repeated infection over years will eventually kill the tree. Research is being done, and it is thought that in the next fifty or so years, trees in the UK may have developed a tolerance so ash dieback won’t be the same threat to the environment.
Thankfully there are a few steps we can take to reduce its spread until then.
The Woodland Trust recommends these simple measures to help reduce the spread

  • Clean your shoes before and after visiting a wood.
  • Avoid taking cuttings or plant material from the countryside.
  • Wash your car or bike wheels to remove mud or plant matter.
    what to do with a diseased tree? Simon O'roruke created a stunning dragon nech and head emerging from a standing tree trunk of an ash killed by ash dieback

What To Do With a Diseased Tree: Reporting

If we notice signs of a diseased tree, we should also make a report to the Tree Alert service. The service has been established to gather information about the health of the nation’s trees, woodlands and forests. Reporting is fairly straightforward, and you can find out more at https://www.forestresearch.gov.uk/tools-and-resources/tree-alert/what-do-you-need-make-your-report/.

view looking down on a sculpture of a dragon emerging from a tree trunk. Sculpture is by artist simon o'rourke and transformed a tree killed by ash dieback into a piece of art

What To Do With A Diseased Tree: New Life

Obviously, there are times when treatment measures are not enough, and a tree will succumb to disease.

At that point the most common option is removal. For that, we recommend talking to a good arborist, such as Treetech. However, as this emerging dragon shows, there is another option for a diseased tree. Depending on the spread of disease and the size of the tree, Simon may be able to give it new life and turn it into a sculpture that reflects your hobbies, passions, or location. One example of this is the Radagast the Brown sculpture which was created from a blue atlas cedar infected with sirococcus.

life sized sculpture of radagast the brown, a wizard from Lord of the Rings. He is in a garden and surrounded by greenery. He is carved into the trunk of a tree killed by sirococcus.

Is My Tree Suitable For a Sculpture?

Although we would love for every tree to be able to be given new life, not every tree is going to be suitable for a chainsaw carving sculpture. The biggest factors are the spread of the disease, and the size of the tree. If you are wondering if a sculpture from your diseased tree may be possible, a good place to start is this blog we wrote about the suitability of your tree. If it meets the criteria for size, the next step would be to contact Simon via www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/.

Although Simon is always happy to make suggestions for a subject based on the shapes he sees, it’s a good idea if you have some ideas in mind too. You can see the range of his work in his Facebook Photos or his website portfolio for some inspiration.

More Sculptures From Diseased Trees

We thought that a blog about what to do with a diseased tree wouldn’t be complete though without visiting some of Simon’s other sculptures that came about this way…

what to do with a diseased tree? photo shows an elm trunk transformed into a sculpture of a ghostly lady, standing in the grounds of marbury park

What To Do With a Diseased Tree: The Marbury Lady

The Marbury Lady in Cheshire was commissioned as a result of a diseased tree. Sadly, saline poisoning damaged or killed many trees in Marbury Park. For this sculpture, Simon researched the story of the Marbury Lady and transformed the dead tree into a stunning sculpture that reflects local folklore. Now the tree is not only a beautiful piece of art, but it also adds to the life of the park as people visit to see it, and it tells some of the story of the location. What a great turnaround!

Close up of a sculpture of a female face, covered by strips of veil. Sculpture is the Marvury lady by simon o'roruke

The ‘ghost’ side of The Marbury Lady

What To Do With a Diseased Tree: The Poulton Hall Ent

Our next transformed diseased tree is a Monkey Puzzle in the grounds of Poulton Hall, Bebington. Earlier this year Simon turned the tree into an Ent from Lord of the Rings, and it has definitely been popular with his social media followers.
Aracurius the Ent (as he is known!) is one of many sculptures on the estate that are based on fantasy literature. This theme came about through the link with The Inklings, and reflects a passion of one of the previous residents.

So, if you are wondering what to do with a diseased tree, thinking about a subject that ties in with a theme already in your home or garden is a great start. Perhaps it’s wildlife. Maybe you live in a coastal town, so something nautical would be more fitting. Maybe you already have garden ornaments you could tie it in with. Whatever you choose, turning your diseased tree into a sculpture in keeping with that theme can only add to your home.

3m tall monkey puzzle tree trunk transformed into a sculpture on an ent from lord of the rings by simon o'rourke

The ent is a fabulous addition to the fantasy sculptures at Poulton Hall

What To Do With a Diseased Tree: Fforest Fawr Trail

In 2018 Simon created a sculpture trail for Fforest Fawr in South Wales. Regular readers of our blog or followers on social media will know some of the sculptures well. The trail is based on local wildlife (present and extinct) and includes a wolf, lynx, deer, and even a beetle among others. What many people don’t know though, is that the timber came from a diseased tree!

The tree was originally a redwood in Oswestry town centre. It was diseased and dying, and became a danger to the public. The only option at that point was removal. Far from being a loss though, that tree went on to be part of a wonderful trail in beautiful woodland.

Now, many people get to enjoy the sculptures as works of art. The trail is also educational though and teaches how we can better protect our environment. Viewers are challenged and taught to be better stewards of the land. So hopefully out of the death of that redwood tree, many others will live!

So perhaps you don’t want a sculpture on your own property. It may be possible though for your diseased tree to be removed, and used elsewhere.

Either way, it’s great to see something that was dead or damaged transformed into something beautiful.

what to do with a diseased tree? this sculpture of a red deer was made from a dead redwood

A diseased redwood tree was the source of timber fo the red deer in Fforest Fawr

What To Do With a Diseased Tree: Final Thoughts

We hope you see that there are endless possibilities for a tree that is diseased to have new life. If you have such a tree, Simon would love to hear from you via www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/.
He’d love to be part of transforming its story.

However, just like sickness in humans, there is a lot we can do to help protect our environment from disease. If you would like to know more about caring for trees, and preventing disease, we recommend visiting https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/plant-trees/advice/care/ for some great advice from The Woodland Trust. Between us, we can all be part of keeping our woodlands healthy!

tips for carving big cats: a large sculpture of a roaring lion shows the importance of accurate proportions when sculpting.

Tips for Carving Big Cats

Tips for Carving Big Cats 720 960 Simon O'Rourke

As a sculptor, there are certain subjects that Simon is known for, and often asked to create. Fictional characters and dragons are definitely in the top two. Another popular subject for sculptures is the lion. In fact, any big cat!
Over the years Simon has created many sculptures of big cats, including lions, tigers and cheetahs. A couple of those sculptures that people have especially enjoyed include The Guardian and the Sri Lankan Lion. Carving the same subject allows for a lot of learning and refining. Since Simon recently created the lion family photographed below, we thought we would share some of his tips for carving big cats…

Tips for carving big cats by simon o'rourke. Photo shows a lion family Simon created from two separate tree trunks. One shows a male lion twisted to look in the direction of the second trunk which shows a lioness climbing down the trunk to reach a cub.

A lion family diptych Simon created this year

Tips for Carving Big Cats: Research

The starting point for a realistic sculpture of a big cat, is research. The goal of that research is to understand the underlying structure of the animal. That includes the skeleton, how the muscles lie (and where), and how each individual body part is formed. For example, understanding the paws is an area of study in itself. This is important because the proportions of the animal are dictated by its skeleton and muscles. They also dictate what positions the big cat may be in, and the shape we see on the outside.
Other research includes things like texture and direction of the fur and how it contrasts between different parts of the body.
If you are looking for a good basic tutor, Deviant Art has a big cat blog series that is worth checking out.
Once you have a good understanding of anatomy, you can move forward with your sculpture.

tips for carving big cats: a large sculpture of a roaring lion shows the importance of accurate proportions when sculpting.

The skeleton abnd muscle structure determin the proportions and shape of the sculpture.

Tips for Carving Big Cats: Determining a Realistic Pose

Understanding the underlying structure of a big cat allows you to move forward into creating your sculpture. It’s important to consider what your big cat is doing; what’s the story behind the sculpture? Once you have a sense of the story, you can create the basic shape of the animal.
At this point there is sometimes a plot twist or two as Simon discovers cracks or cavities in the wood.
That was the case with the male lion. However, that cavity meant Simon moved the position of the legs slightly, which ultimately created more drama and a sense of story. So don’t worry if you have a surprise or two! With some creative thinking (whilst still considering the basic skeleton and muscle structure) a re-think can actually be a blessing in disguise!

A tree carving by chainsaw artist simon o'rourke. The photo shows a large male lion with his front paws on a pile of rocks. He is twisted to glance over his shoulder. This realistic pose is one of simon's tips for carving big cats.

How realistic that pose will appear is determined not just by the basic shape, but also by emphasis. Simon will often use the tip of a bar to emphasise an indent, curve or a flap of skin. These are the things that help to show which muscles are flexed or relaxed, and where the pose is causing the animal to stretch. They also show the size and shape of the muscles which help to give Simon’s big cat sculptures their sense of strength and power.

a chainsaw carving or a lion in process in a workshop.

This photo of the lion in process shows where Simon is choosing to emphasise specific dips, flaps and twists, such as the flank.

Tips for Carving Big Cats: Keep Looking at Your Reference

Especially with big sculptures, being right on top of the sculpture while you carve can mean you lose a sense of perspective. This means it’s important to keep stepping back and looking at your sculpture. Check the proportions. And always check it against your reference for the animal, whether that’s your rough sketches or a series of animal photos. This principle isn’t unique to big cats. Simon often also talks about the importance of this in carving faces which you can read more about in this blog about the golden ratio.

close up of a lion cub carved into a tree trunk by simon o'rourke

Tips for Carving Big Cats: Adding Texture

Once you are happy with the shape of your sculpture, you can begin to add details and texture. Those details are key in conveying the story of a sculpture. For example, in what direction are the eyes looking? If the mouth is open, is the nose smooth showing a more relaxed animal, or is it wrinkled in a snarl?

At this point, Simon will often use something like the Manpatools multicutter. In this video Simon uses the triangle cutter head effectively to create this striking Sri Lankan lion mane.

At this stage, Simon often also uses his favourite range of Saburrtooth burr bits to create texture. They are especially useful for smaller details like claws, eyes, nose, mouth and ears. However, they can also add subtle rounded shapes like cheeks, or the shape of a paw. They really make a big difference and help take his sculptures to a whole new level!

Tips for carving big cats: SImon O'Rourke uses a saburrtooth flame burr bit to create texture on a lion's face

Tips for Carving Big Cats: Practice Makes Perfect

Simon’s final tip is true of everything. If your first big cats aren’t what you want, don’t give up. Practice is are really the biggest factor in improving your big cat sculptures. It really is true that practice makes perfect!

Friday ramblings about my thought process while carving big cats!!

Posted by Simon O'Rourke – Tree Carving on Friday, 21 August 2020

Your Own Big Cat Sculpture

Do you have a favourite of the big cat sculptures Simon has made? Drop us a comment and let us know!
And if you would like to commission your own big cat sculpture, contact us via the form on www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/
We’re looking forward to hearing from you!

a roraring lion carved by simon o'rourke

 

 

an example of brown rot on a piece of timber as part os simon o'rourke's blog on the difference between brown rot and white rot

All About Wood: The Difference Between Brown and White Rot

All About Wood: The Difference Between Brown and White Rot 533 358 Simon O'Rourke

Welcome to our blog and vlog series ‘All About Wood’.
In this series Simon will be answering some of the questions we receive about timber. Essentially, he’ll talk about how wood behaves. That is, how it reacts to different environments, the longevity, how it cracks etc. He is often asked about these things, and rightly so! As well as being fascinating, they all impact the life of a sculpture, so it’s good to research before commissioning.
In this first part of this educational series, Simon shares more about rot, specifically the difference between brown and white rot.

Aging, not Rotting:

Simon is often asked how long a sculpture will last. And the honest answer is, that nobody knows! There is no exact science, although this blog we found gives some idea about wood durability.

A sculpture will begin to age quite early on, especially if exposed to all weather conditions. However this is very different from rotting. Aging adds different tones and highlights, increases the depth of the shadows, and overall, enhances the sculpture. If you are interested, you can read more in our blog about choosing a bronze of wooden sculpture.

Wood or Bronze Sculpture: A side-by-side photo shows the same wooden sculpture of a stylised woman's face years apart. Photo one is warm and smooth. Photo two has taken on rich, grey hues, and the weatherted wood now has the character of a real face

Side by side photos like this show that the aging process enhances the depth and beauty of a sculpture

Heartwood and Sapwood

Rot is something very different, and something Simon needs to be very aware of.

In the video above though, Simon begins with some simple tree anatomy. He first explains the difference between heart wood and sap wood:

Sapwood is the tree’s pipeline for water moving up to the leaves, and in very simple terms, is new wood. It is essentially the part of the tree that was growing most recently. As newer rings of sapwood are laid down, inner cells lose their vitality and turn to heartwood.

Heartwood is the central, supporting pillar of the tree. Although dead, it will not decay or lose strength while the outer layers are still intact. At this point the timber is actually hollow, needlelike cellulose fibers bound together by a chemical glue called lignin. And di you know that when cellulose and lignin combine to make timber, it can be as strong as steel?! For example,  a piece of timber 12″ long and 1″ by 2″ in cross section can support a weight of twenty tons! This is the part that Simon usually uses to create his sculptures.

cross section of a tree trunk showing the heartwood and sapwood

The Difference Between Brown and White Rot: White Rot

In the video above, Simon highlights where the outer edges of the cedar are already beginning to rot. In this specific case, the lignin (the part that brings the rigidity) is rotting away, leaving only the cellulose. This means the timber is beginning to get soft and fibrous and it now peels away easily. This kind of rot means the timber simply won’t take shape or hold its shape if it did – meaning Simon can’t carve a sculpture in wood affected by white rot. It would also degrade extremely quickly, which is one difference between brown and white rot.

The Difference Between Brown and White Rot: picture shows a piece of timber which has become fibrous, soft and stringy. It peels away easily. This is an example of white rot

The Difference Between Brown and White Rot: Brown Rot

The other major type of rot in trees (and something to look out for in selecting or working with timber) is a brown rot. In white rot, the lignin has rotted away. In the major difference between brown rot and white rot, in brown rot, it is the cellulose that has rotted away. This means the soft flexible fibres in the timber are gone, leaving something much more rigid. You’re left with a hard, sometimes sharp, biscuit-like, crumby texture. In fact, one of its other names is ‘Biscuit Rot’!
However, although it will take shape better than timber affected by white rot, it is still not suitable for sculpting.

an example of brown rot on a piece of timber as part os simon o'rourke's blog on the difference between brown rot and white rot

Any Questions?

We hope you’ve found this blog about basic tree anatomy and the difference between brown rot and white rot to be informative. Over the next few months we’ll be looking at lots of other aspects of how timber behaves in our ‘All About Wood’ series.
If you have questions you would like answering, reach us via our Facebook page or at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/ and your question could feature in our series!

FAQs: Favourite Tools for Carving Faces

FAQs: Favourite Tools for Carving Faces 2048 2047 Simon O'Rourke

People often ask what tools Simon uses to create sculptures. Sometimes that’s hobbyists and professionals, keen to learn from fellow artists. Sometimes it’s from people watching Simon carve live. People are often amazed to find out the chainsaws are the same tools used by tree surgeons!
When it comes to chainsaw, Simon has a long-standing relationship with Stihl. In fact, that relationship actually goes back to the very first time he used a chainsaw! Their quality and functionality make them a firm favourite. However, Simon also uses other powertools to refine his work. In this blog we will talk about his favourite tools for carving faces.

3m tree trunk in the process of being carved into a sculpture of a woman. She is surrounded by scaffolding, and two stihl chainsaws used for carving are photographed in front of the work in progress. Sculpture is the Marbury Lady by Simon O'Rourke, and the photograph is to show his favourite tools for carving faces.

Simon’s preferred chainsaws are Stihl, for their quality, innovation, and functionality.

 

Favourite Tools for Carving Faces: Saburrtooth Bits

In recent years, Simon has been using Saburrtooth Burr Bits to refine and detail his faces. They have become some of his favourite tools for carving faces especially, and an essential part of his kit. Each of the different shapes come in various sizes and levels of coarseness and can be bought separately or in complete kits. They really help take faces to a whole other level, whether that be the shape and structure or texture.

a close up of Billy Houliston's face carved in oak by simon o'rourke. The face is coarsely textured and demonstrates the impact of some of Simon's favourite tools for carving faces

The texture on the face of Billy Houliston was created with a large flame bit, extra coarse

1: Large Extra Coarse Flame Bit

The first of Simon’s favourite tools for carving faces is the large flame bit, in extra coarse. It’s often the first of the smaller tools that Simon uses to create faces. It’s not only great for shaping, but also leaves the fantastic textured finish seen in sculptures like The Queen of the South footballers.

extra coarse large flame bit by saburrtooth, which is one of Simon O'Rourke's favourite tools for carving faces

Extra coarse large flame bit by Saburrtooth.

 

This particular bit is extremely versatile, has all kinds of uses when carving faces. Simon uses it to shape the corner of the eyes, form the bridge of the nose, and create the outline of the eye sockets. It’s also his tool of choice for the shaping underneath the chin, down the side of the mouth, and other gentle creases. This photo of it in action on the face of The Marbury Lady Sculpture again demonstrates the great texture it creates.

close up of a sculpture in process. the sculpture is a female face created by simon o'rourke and her face is being detailed using a daburrtooth flame bit, one of Simon's favourite tools for carving faces.

The extra coarse large flame bit in action on The Marbuty Lady

2: Large Coarse Taper Bit

Just like the flame bit, it’s obvious how the taper bit got its name! Like the flame bit, this taper is also essential in Simon’s kit.

coarse taper bit made by saburrtooth. photo demonostrates simon o'rourkes favourite tools for carving faces

One of the saburrtooth large taper bits in coarse grit

It’s another extremely versatile tool, and has two main uses depending on which side is used. Simon uses the point to shape the corners of the eyes, in both animal and human faces. It can also be used for the nostrils or lip line. As the tip is still quite wide, there won’t be very strong definition in these facial features yet, but it’s a useful starting point.
The other benefit comes from the flat side which is amazing for creating outlines and rounded shapes.

Although it may seem counter-intuitive to use a flat edge for rounded features, the flat edge is definitely superior for creating convex curves, such as cheeks. The forehead, cheeks, neck and chin on Our Lady of Pen Llyn are perfect examples of curves you can create with this tool.

life size sculpture of a young female carved from oak by Simon O'Rourke

Simon often uses the flat side of the large taper bit for gentle convex curves like the cheeks, forehead and chin on Our Lady of Penllyn

3: Small Flame Bit

The next of Simon’s favourite tools for carving faces is (in his words) “a brilliant little tool“. It’s the small flame bit, and as with all the bits, comes in a variety of grains from fine to extra coarse.

small flame bit by saburrtooth. photo is included to show one of simon o'rourke's favourite tools for carving faces.

One of the small flame bits by Saburrtooth

When sculpting human form, Simon can’t rely on some on colour to create expression and shape. This means he has to create a realistic appearance, life, and expression through the shape and crucially,  differing depths of ‘cuts’.
This bit has a fine tip which can create a finer, deeper cut to refine the face. Some of the applications would be cleaner, clearer nostrils and lips than the taper bit. Simon also used this bit for fine curves and creases, laughter lines, eyebrows, and other creases in the skin caused by movement of the subject. This kind of detail is especially useful for sculptures which will be seen up close, such as the Ayrton Senna bust. Creating something this realistic out of wood replies heavily on the kind of fine, deep lines that the small flame bit creates.

a wood carved bust of F1 driver Ayrton senna in the workshop of creator Simon O'Rourke

close up of simon o'rourke using a fine taper bit to shape the face of a female sculpture. the bit is one of his favourite tools for carving faces.

Fine taper in action on Simon’s Oak Maiden

4: Extra Fine Taper Bit

The fourth of Simon’s favourite tools for carving faces is the extra fine taper. This is used with a small rotary tool, such as a dremel.

Extra fine taper bit by saburrtooth, one of simon o'rourkes favourite tools for carving faces

Extra fine taper bit

If you watch the video on Simon’s Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/p/CEVNCZ6jGFW/, you will see this is an extremely thin bit. And thin, fine bits, create thin, fine details! Simon uses this bit for features like creating lines inside of eyelids for a sharper line and more emphasis. He also uses it for the top of eyelids and between the lips. But basically, it is ideal for anywhere you want to create a sharp, fine line.
As you can see, working with these smaller powertools means getting up close and personal with the sculpture! Being right on top of the sculpture can make it hard to get a real sense of what you are creating though. With that in mind, if you are using these tools, be sure to step back often to check. It’s also important when you do that, to assess your piece from multiple angles.

Sculptor Simon O'Rourke carving a wooden fairy at the Englihs Open CHainsaw competition

Some details require getting up close and personal!

5: Eye Bit

There’s a reason the eye bit has its name! With two flat edges moving to round, it’s shaped like a human eye. And – unsurprisingly – is another useful tool for sculpting eyes!

Eye bit by Saburrtooth

Example of an eye bit from the Saburrtooth range

The video below shows it best, but Simon uses this bit for shaping the eye when it is on its side. He also uses the point to emphasise the corners. Either way, it’s another of his favourite tools for carving faces as it provides great results.

Not Just For Humans!

Our examples so far of sculptures made with these favourite saburrtooth bits have all been human form. Although Simon’s favourite subject to sculpt is human form, he is also known for his amazing fantasy and wildlife sculptures. If you haven’t seen any by the way, why not check out the range of his portfolio at https://www.treecarving.co.uk/portfolio/ or follow on Instagram or Facebook?
But back to favourite tools!
In the same way that the bits we talked about today can be used for human faces, Simon also uses them when sculpting features on animal carvings. This Sri Lankan Lion sculpture shows how effective these bits are for creating those same textures and lines in fur!

a large coarse flame bit is being used by simon o'rourke to create texture in the mane of a lion sculpture

Large coarse flame bit in action on a lion sculpture

How Do You Use Yours?

We’re sure that tools this versatile have many more applications too. Why not drop us a comment with your favourite bits and how you use them? We’d love to hear from you, and it’s important to learn from other artists. Maybe you picked up some tips? Leave us a comment and photo of what you made – we’d love to see your work!

That just about finishes today’s blog, which we hope you found helpful in helping you select tools for your own projects. Before we go through, we couldn’t resist sharing one last sculpture featuring details created with some of Simon’s favourite tools for carving faces. This one is Radagast the Brown from Lord of the Rings, and we just love the texture and lines in the beard and wisened face that help depict Tolkien’s character so perfectly.

radagast the brown from Lord of the Rings carved in wood by simon o'rourke

As always, if you feel inspired by some of the sculptures in this blog and would like to commission your own, contact us through the form on www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/.

 

Face of the ent tree sculpture by simon o'rourke in Poulton Hall gardens

Monkey Puzzle Ent Tree Sculpture

Monkey Puzzle Ent Tree Sculpture 1920 2560 Simon O'Rourke

Simon spent the week working in the grounds of Poulton Hall, Bebington. Thankfully the weather cooperated for this outdoor project! Over four days of carving Simon transformed a monkey puzzle tree into this fantastic Ent tree sculpture…

ent tree sculpture by simon o'rourke. carved into a standing monkey puzzle tree outside poulton hall

Um, what’s an Ent Tree Sculpture?!

For those who are wondering, Ent are one of Tolkien’s literary creations. So this week’s sculpture would have fit perfectly in the literary fan art blog we posted a few weeks ago! The Ent feature in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings and are one of the oldest races of Middle Earth. They are described as shepherds and protectors of the trees. They are tree-like in appearance and take on the appearance of the trees they guard. Although we don’t often think of a ‘tree person’ as being a fearsome warrior, “Their punches can crumple iron like tin, and they can tear apart solid rock-like bread crusts.”!

front view of the ent tree sculpture by simon o'rourke at poulton hall

So, why an Ent tree sculpture?!

The choice of an Ent has a special story…
The sculpture is in the grounds of Poulton Hall, which is the ancestral home of the Lancelyn Green family. The present incumbent, or squire, is the 32nd lord of the manor of Poulton Lancelyn and Lower Bebington.  His father 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 friends with J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis, who was an occasional visitor to Poulton. The Inklings praised the value of narrative in fiction and encouraged the writing of fantasy. Many aspects of the grounds have been inspired by imaginative literature.

blue plaque stating roger lancelyn green lived in poulton hall, bebington

The Poulton Hall Gardens

There are several different gardens at Poulton Hall, all of them stunning in their own way. They are open a few times a year, usually in aid of a charity. The walled gardens are also available for private functions such as weddings, tea parties, musical performances, and exhibitions. Details for opening are on their website www.poultonhall.co.uk/GardenOpenings/ if you would like to visit.

Each garden has a slightly different flavour as you can discover at www.poultonhall.co.uk/TheGardens.  The entrance to the walled gardens is intended to make you think you are entering a world of make-believe. Simon’s sculpture is not the only reference to fantasy and literature in the grounds. Other sculptures include a Jabberwock  (from Lewis Carroll’s poem Jabberwocky, in his book Through the Looking Glass) a Viking head, a Robin Hood, an Excalibur, and a Storyteller’s Chair.

This historic link with Tolkien and the property already having the sense of a fantasy garden meant a literary fantasy character was a natural choice for this latest addition.  The Ent not only fit the literary-fantasy theme but is also much more unusual than more commonly seen sculptures of fairies, wizards, and mythological animals. It has the benefit too of blending more naturally with the surrounding gardens than other human or animal subjects. And so, whilst an unusual choice, the Ent is perfect for Poulton Hall.

Face of the ent tree sculpture by simon o'rourke in Poulton Hall gardens

The Character of the Ent Tree Sculpture

As the Ent are moving, talking fictional beings with personalities, it was important that Simon first decide who this particular Ent is before he started carving. These all inform the pose, texture, expression – and more – of a sculpture. In this case, Simon was carving a Monkey Puzzle tree, and so Aracaurius the Ent was born! The name comes from the Latin name for the tree: aracauria Araucana. Aracaurius the Ent tree sculpture is 5m tall and has an affinity for the local wildlife. There’s a fox, a rabbit in his hand, an owl perched on his left hand, an angry stoat, a squirrel, a woodpecker, and a hidden mouse!

the fox at the foot of the ent tree sculpture by simon o'rourke at poulton hall

The fox at the foot of the Ent

 

Squirrel in the trunk of the ent tree sculpture by simon o'rourke

The squirrel peeping out from the leg of the ent tree sculpture

Depicting a Monkey Puzzle Ent

One of the features we mentioned of the Ent, is that they take on the features of the tree they protect. In this case, a monkey puzzle tree. The monkey puzzle tree is an evergreen with long, spiky branches. Simon captures this in the long vertical cuts down the length of the Ent.

close up of the ent tree sculpture by simon o'rourke, focusing on the rabbit in its left hand

Close up of the rabbit and the long vertical texture that suggests the long spiky coniferous branches of the monkey puzzle tree.

Monkey Puzzle trees also have a distinctive, leathery, pointy leaf. Simon has created variation in the texture of the ent tree sculpture by creating patches where the leaves are growing. This also hints at the evolutionary transformation of the Ent where it gradually takes on more and more of the characteristics of the tree it is guarding.

 

rear view of the ent tree sculpture by simon o'rourke, showing the leaf and trunk detail

Rearview of the Ent showing the monkey puzzle leaves

A Face That Tells a Story

An important part of anthropomorphising objects is the face. There have to be believable details that blend the object/animal with human features. A glimpse at the face shows that this gentleman is an older Ent, with wise eyes, and a hint of compassion.

ent sculpture by simon o'rourke at poulton hall

More Details

It’s amazing to think about the number of details that go into creating something like the Ent tree sculpture. For example, look at the shoulder. That ‘point’ makes all the difference in convincing the viewer the Ent is a ‘tree person’ and not human. Drop that shoulder, and it immediately becomes ‘too human’, and less organic. The arms need to have enough irregularities to appear as a branch and not a human arm.  Attention to details like this as well as the phenomenal texture are what makes this Ent so striking and convincing.

And speaking of details, we have to share the rest of those animals hiding about the Ent’s person!

woodpecker and owl in simon o'rourke's ent sculpture

View of the Ent showing the woodpecker and owl

The Process of Making the Ent Tree Sculpture

As always, it is fascinating to watch Simon at work. On this project the Stihl MS500i did a LOT of work! It’s a meaty saw with the best power-to-weight ratio on the market, and the simplest operation. It’s perfectly suited to arboriculture or sculpting large pieces of timber. Although a 5m Ent may not be what what Stihl had in mind when they developed the product!

When it came to texture and larger details, the battery powered saws by Stihl were invaluable. They allow for much more movement round the tree, are more lightweight, so easier to get into some of those angles.

As we have said before too, the saburrtooth burrs are a gamechanger for facial details! For eyes like this, there has to be quite a deep cut to create the shadow needed for the eyes to hold their expression, and to be seen from further away. This last part is especially important on something large scale. The burrs are perfect for creating these smaller, deep, details.

We’ll have a timelapse of the whole process ready soon, but until then, you can see Simon in action on day one of the project.

 

Over to You!

If you were going to commission a literary fantasy sculpture what would you choose? Would it be Middle Earth, Narnia, Discworld, Camelot, Neverland, Ga’hoole? Or something else? The possibilities are endless and can lead to a truly unique and beautiful piece of sustainable art.

Before we sign off, we need to give a shout out to JB Platform Hire. Great to work with, and it’s their cherry picker that enabled me to carve and get video like this one…

If you have an idea, contact us using the form on www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/ and Simon will get back to you to chat about ideas, details, and costs.

 

life size wood carving of a knight on a rearing horse by simon orourke.Sculpture is part of a sculpture trail in Northampton.

Why Commission a Sculpture Trail?

Why Commission a Sculpture Trail? 540 810 Simon O'Rourke

Autumn is the perfect time to get out into nature and visit one of Simon’s woodland sculpture trails. The reds and ambers of the leaves are stunning anyway, but they add a perfect touch of art and drama to his sculptures. If you need convincing, why not take a peek in our blogs about his trails at Meadow Park, Page’s Wood, or Fforest Fawr?
These are all woodland sculpture trails with a wildlife theme. But did you know there are many more applications for a sculpture trail? Read on to find out some reasons why your community, business, or charity could benefit by commissioning a sculpture trail…

 

wooden carved owl sitting on a tree stump. The Owl is from Simon O'Rourke's woodland sculpture trail in Meadow Park.

Ruby the Owl, from Simon’s Meadow Park sculpture trail

Why Commission a Sculpture Trail: Education

A sculpture trail is a great way to educate visitors about the purpose and history of your site. This is one of the reasons Simon and his wife Liz get excited about a woodland sculpture trail commission. They are passionate about nature and the environment, and about educating others. Liz is even a qualified Forest School teacher!
In the case of the woodland sculpture trails, they created characters and poetry for each sculpture which gave snippets of information about the environment and wildlife. Each trail ends with a call to action for the viewer.
Giving information in this way is more likely to engage families with young children. It also makes it more memorable for all ages, which is always a bonus!

picture shows the original sketch for a wooden bench designed by simon o'rourke for the page's wood sculpture trail

One of the original sketches and poetry for Page’s Wood Sculpture Trail

This concept of educational snippets is easily adapted to any business or local area – it’s not just for woodland! Sculptures could reflect events in the life of an individual or a town. Or they could be or based on characters from a specific book or film associated with the place or person. There’s truly no limit!
We’re living in a season where Covid regulations make it harder for people to go inside museums and other attractions to view their educational content, so an outdoor sculpture trail is a great way to bring that content outdoors.
One example of this is where Simon helped create a sculpture trail of knights in Northampton…

 

life size wood carving of a knight on a rearing horse by simon orourke.Sculpture is part of a sculpture trail in Northampton.

One of the knights Simon made as a collaboration with other artists for the Northampton Knight Trail

Why Commission a Sculpture Trail: Tourist Attraction

Another reason to consider commissioning a sculpture trail is that the trail could become a tourist attraction in and of itself. Whilst people have come to see the trail, they will then often visit the rest of the site. If they are in the area they are also likely to visit local shops, restaurants, etc, and therefore stimulate the local economy. If you are a small town with no other especially marketable points, a sculpture trail around the town could be the perfect way to draw people to the area. There is just something about the novelty of a chainsaw-carved sculpture that attracts people! They are drawn to it for selfies or post photos of the sculpture alone. As visitors post these on social media, the attraction gets free publicity. More visitors AND free publicity… sounds like a great deal!!!

Review of the decade 2014 Mungo Park

Portrait of Mungo Park – perfect to sit next to and snap a selfie!

An example of this in action would be Simon’s Dragon of Bethesda. The dragon was a private commission, but it happened to be visible from the road. People began to post photos, and it got so much attention, it made the BBC news! Local newspapers around the country picked up the story, and police even had to ask people not to slow down to get photos! This was a total accident, as it was never intended for public viewing – but it does show the power of art to draw people to a place!

wooden carved dragon with outstretched wings by simon o rourke.

The Dragon of Bethesda became an accidental tourist attraction!

Why Commission a Sculpture Trail: Covid Safe!

We already hinted at this reason to invest in a sculpture trail for your attraction. Right now many attractions are struggling to remain open, as they can’t allow the numbers into the building that are needed to remain solvent. An outdoor sculpture trail in the grounds of a venue are much safer and allow for more visitors. If budget or permanence is an issue, why not take an example from Erddig National Trust?
A few years ago, they commissioned an ‘apple trail’ for their Autumn season. Simon carved smaller apples in the style of Halloween pumpkins. Those apples were then placed around the grounds at Erddig, and visitors could follow the Erddig Apple Trail.
A trail like this can easily be turned into a family activity. Simply create maps or ‘treasure hunt sheets’, and off you go! You could even add a reward at the end as a reminder of their visit or an educational point.

a wooden apple is carved to look like a halloween pumpkin. part of the erddig apple sculpture trail by simon o rourke

One of the apples Simon created for the Erddig Apple Trail

 

Why Commission a Sculpture Trail: Double the Fundraising!

OK, so here we’re actually going to mention a few reasons to commission a sculpture trail for your venue. They have the benefit of being as permanent or temporary as you want. This means you could set up a trail for a specific season, such as an elf trail to lead a Christmas Santa Grotto. Or what about an egg or bunny trail for Easter?
But what to do with the sculptures if you don’t want to repeat the event?
What about an auction for your charity, venue, or association? In the past auctions of Simon’s work have raised anything from hundreds to thousands of pounds for charities. This means a sculpture trail has double the potential – bringing people in for the original event, and fundraising afterward!

Wooden sculpture of Queen of Hearts on her throne by Simon O Rourke. Sculpture is part of a sculpture trail in Scotland

Queen of Hearts from Simons Alice in Wonderland trail

 

Why Commission a Sculpture Trail: For Art’s Sake!

There are several other reasons we could give for a sculpture trail, but we’re going to leave it with this one: art for art’s sake! One of the many lessons we learned from lockdown is the value of the arts. People turned to music, craft, and many other hobbies that serve no utilitarian function. In the early days especially, people found respite in things of beauty around them. Photos on social media showed highlights of permitted outdoor exercise time included discovering a beautiful old building, gate, or statue in their town that they had never noticed. A sculpture trail at your venue may serve no other purpose than adding something beautiful, creative, and inspirational for people to enjoy. And that’s OK. Call us biased, but we think that is reason enough to commission a sculpture trail!

Fforest Fawr Sculpture Trail Lynx by Simon O'Rourke

Fforest Fawr Sculpture Trail Lynx

Choosing a Theme for Your Sculpture Trail

So now you’ve thought about some of the reasons to commission a sculpture trail, what theme will you choose?

The possibilities really are endless. However, some of the most popular sculptures Simon has made include fairies, wizards, and dragons. And even an Ent! These ‘fantasy’ figures will always attract people to your trail. Movies and books like the Narnia series, Harry Potter, and Lord of the Rings capture the imaginations of all generations. That makes them a great theme for a trail.

Another consideration is the historical context of a place. Chester, Bath, or York would be perfect for a trail of Roman Centurions for example. Similarly, a former monastery commissioned a series of monks that sit beautifully in the grounds.

monk by simon o rourke

One of the monks of Monksbridge

You could also think about any local people of prominence. For example, anywhere in Stratford-Upon-Avon would be a great location for some Shakespearian figures.

Finally, what festivals do you hold, and what season is it? Christmas could see an elf, reindeer, or snowman trail. Harvest is perfect for carved pumpkins.

Basically, the only limit is your imagination!

10' wooden fairy sculpture by simon o rourke

A private commission, but a fairy trail of any size could be a fun addition to any woodland space

Commission Your Sculpture Trail

Are you feeling inspired? If you would like to commission a sculpture trail, then contact us via www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/
We’re excited to hear your ideas and how we can help enhance your venues, events, communities, and attractions!

 

Wood logos and emblems by simon o'rourke. A large piece of timber stands horizontally with the logo for BIFOR carved inti it by simon o'rourke

Wood Logos and Emblems

Wood Logos and Emblems 2048 1158 Simon O'Rourke

This week on Twitter we posted a flashback to the time Simon created this fantastic logo for Olfi. We started thinking about other wood logos and emblems Simon has made. We had fun looking back, so decided to share some in this blog. Who knows, maybe you’ll feel inspired for your own company or organisation! Oh! Full story about the Olfi logo and Simon’s partnership with them right HERE!

Free-standing Sculptures

Some of the logos and emblems Simon has made, have been free standing sculptures. These are usually large and indicate an entrance or building. We feel it’s especially worth considering a wooden sculpture if your building is in a wooded or green environment. The sculpture is much more sympathetic to its surroundings than something metal or plastic, and much more pleasing to the viewer. It’s also a more environmentally friendly option as Simon sources his timber from trees that have died or had to be removed or cut back for other reasons.

Wood logos and emblems by SImon O'Rourke: RSPB COnway. Four planks of wood stand around 4' tall with a bird and RSBP burned onto them. Three men stand behind the sign.

This RSPB sign is our first example of Simon’s free-standing wood logos and emblems. The sustainability of word ties in with the organisation’s ethos, and it looks great against the background of this reserve. A wooden sculpture – even a logo! – actually makes a nice feature for people to stand next to and photograph themselves when they visit. Which in turn makes for more publicity for your organisation when people share their photos online. Makes it a bit of a win on many levels!

simon o'rourke kneels in front of a large piece of timber and uses a chainsaw to carve the logo for BIFOR into the wood

Simon working to create a sign for the Institute of Forest Research at the University of Birmingham.

Wood logos and emblems by simon o'rourke. A large piece of timber stands horizontally with the logo for BIFOR carved inti it by simon o'rourke

National Emblems

Maybe you don’t want your name on a sign, but want something that still captures something of who you are or what you do. Here we have a couple of very different examples that show there really are wooden logos and emblems for everyone!!!

Our first example is this redwood carving of the Prince of Wales Feathers. Although it is English in origin, it has become synonymous with Wales and all things Welsh.  So much so, the Rugby fans among you will recognise it as the emblem on the national kits.

This particular emblem sculpture was for a housing development in North Wales. The words ‘Ich dien’ on the emblem mean ‘I serve’ (replaced with WRU on the rugby kits!). That made it even more fitting for this housing development which used to be an army barracks. And as someone once asked about the colour, no it didn’t stay pink!!! Redwood is a pink-ish red when it is first cut down and carved. Over time though, it turns a rich, deep brown. For examples, this article on Tongwnlais.com about my Fforest Ffawr Woodland Sculpture Trail has some lovely photographs of aging redwood sculptures.

Wood logos and emblems: 6' redwood carving of prince of wales feathers by Simon O'Rourke.

Local Logos

Our next examples are two of Simon’s charity fundraising pieces. You can read more in our blog ‘A New Bird in Town‘, but basically they were made to auction off at fundraising events for R Charity – the charity for The Royal Liverpool Hospitals. Local symbols like this can make great pieces for an office or garden, whether at home or for the community. When a sculptures represents the area the way these do, it’s also more likely to hold meaning and capture attention if you are looking for a piece for your own fundraiser. If you have a fundraiser coming up, why not chat to Simon via www.treecarving.com/contact/ and see if something similar could be what you need?

Two wooden sculptures of liverbirds are shown side by side. Sculptures are one of the wood logos and emblems made by Simon O'Rourke

Patrotic Art

Our next example of wood logos and emblems is this stunning Sri Lankan lion sculpture. It was commissioned as a combined birthday-retirement gift – and what an incredible gift!
You may (understandably!) be wondering how it ties in with wood logos and emblems. However, if you look closely, the lion is holding a sword – like the lion on the Sri Lankan flag!
Obviously the lion looks a little different to the one depicted on the flag! However, bringing a flag to life like this is a lovely way to honour/reflect your heritage in a piece of art. Another similar option could be to commission a sculpture of your national or regional flower, animal, or bird. Definitely lots of ways to bring a logo or emblem to life through sculpture!

My client and her husband with Singha the lionA Derby 

Spirit of Ecstasy

One of the largest wood logos and emblems Simon has made is this sculpture of The Spirit of Ecstasy. For those unfamiliar with the figure, she is the figurine found atop Rolls Royce cars. Simon created her for an enthusiast, and she makes a striking addition to the garden.
Just like the lion, she shows that a logo or emblem can still be a beautiful piece of art. It also shows again, that sculptures of logos and emblems aren’t just for places of business. Perhaps a Ferrari enthusiast in your life would like a prancing horse sculpture? Or maybe someone in your life is a fan of a sports team and you’d like something based on that? An owl for a Sheffield Wednesday fan? A Derby County ram? Whatever the hobby or interest, we’re sure there’s a way of turning it into a beautiful sculpture…

Spirit of Ecstasy by Simon O'Rourke

Spirit of Ecstasy by Simon O’Rourke

Wall Signs

Perhaps a sculpture isn’t quite for you. Another alternative would be a wall hanging, such as this lovely bespoke sign for the Joshua Tree project.

bespoke sign for the Joshua Tree centre by simon o'rourke

Many businesses, charities, community groups, churches and individuals look to have some kind of signage. Again, a wooden logo, emblem or signage makes a great environmentally-friendly/sustainable option compared to some of the alternatives. If you have a logo, this can be the entire sign (as with the Joshua Tree) or could be a much smaller reference, such as this company sign below.

wood logos and emblems by simon o'rourke : sample wall hanging with the letter R carved into a corner and the rest blank for engraving a name or phrase

As you may remember, Simon also has a background in illustration. This means that he is also able to create beautiful and unique illustrations on wooden wall hangings. These could be incorporated into a sign for a home and could range from portraits of the residents to something that reflects the surroundings. How great would this cow be on an entrance sign to a farm or homestead?

illustrated wooden wall hanging by simon o'rourke

Your Own Wood Logos and Emblems

Whatever your company, community group, team or passion, we’re pretty sure there’s something Simon can create to meet your need! Whether you want a sculpture to reflect a company, country or activity or want specific signage, we welcome your inquiries.
Fill out the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/ and Simon will be in touch to discuss ideas and details. We look forward to hearing from you!