tv sculptures

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

Bill Badger Sculpture and Bench

Bill Badger Sculpture and Bench 450 600 Simon O'Rourke

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

 

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

An initial sketch for the Bill Badger sculpture and bench commission

 

Commissioning the Bill Badger Sculpture and Bench

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

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

 

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

Creating the Bill Badger Sculpture

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

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

 

More Thoughts on Making Bill Badger

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

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

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

 

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

The Client’s Verdict and Final Thoughts

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

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

 

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!

Game of thrones sculpture: photo shows the dragon eggs on the left, and the eggs being held in the casket made by simon o'rourke on the right

Game of Thrones Sculpture – Two Years On

Game of Thrones Sculpture – Two Years On 1024 576 Simon O'Rourke

In January 2019 Simon revealed what was one of his most exciting projects at that stage in his career: The Dragon Casket for HBO’s Game of Thrones. We shared about the project at the time in our For the Throne blog. It’s fun to revisit projects though, so this week we revisit the Game of Thrones sculpture, two years on….

Game of thrones sculpture by simon o'rourke. A casket reminiscent of a dragon mouth, containing three dragon eggs

Simon’s Game of Throne’s sculpture was part of the advertising for season eight of HBO’s Game of Thrones

The Brief

Simon’s Game of Thrones sculpture was part of the advertising for the eighth season of HBO’s hit show Game of Thrones. The company gave select artists from around the world props from the show. Each artist then created something around that prop. Viewers were also invited to share their fan art in a campaign known as #ForTheThrone. Simon received the dragon eggs given to Daenery as a wedding gift, and created a casket to hold them. To see his reaction as he unpacked them, watch the video below…

The Design

When Simon created the casket, he had a few practical considerations to take into account. This included the eggs sitting securely, the casket standing without support, and being transportable. As well as being functional, his goal was to also create something that was beautiful and told a story…

Artist simon o'rourke, his wife Liz and dog kneel either side of his game of thrones sculpture; a dragon-mouth egg casket

Symbolism in the Sculpture

Simon’s skill and a lovely piece of yew ensured the sculpture was practical, striking and beautiful. There were a few things that Simon did too that created a sense of story…

Incorporating Elements of Dragon Anatomy

Viewers know that dragons are an important part of Game of Thrones. Using dragon anatomy in the design (primarily wings, teeth and scaly texture) reflected this – as well as the fact the eggs themselves were dragon eggs.

Simon O'Rourke using a chainsaw to create his game of thrones sculpture: a dragon egg casket

Simon at work creating the dragon wings that shroud the eggs

Mismatched Teeth

The mismatched teeth serve several purposes. They help hold the eggs in place which was essential for safe travel! Missing teeth and the texture give a sense of something ancient. The asymmetry also makes it feel edgy – dangerous even – and uncomfortable.

close up of the mismatched dragon teeth on simon o'rourke's game of thrones sculpture: a dragon casket for holding and carrying dragon eggs

The mismatched and broken teeth convey a sense of danger

Ash Wood Poles

Simon chose to use poles to transport the casket. This was not only functional, but the fact it was then carried by four people heightened the sense that this was important, valuable cargo.

Yew Wood

Although this wasn’t intentional, Simon also realised that the markings and colour of the yew he used to make it were reminiscent of Daenerys’ hair! Not intentional, but it added to the overall impact of the sculpture!

simon o'rourke's dragon casket (game of thrones sculpture)

Experiencing the Sculpture

In the TV show, the eggs are not just viewed. Their appearance and the sense of mystery surrounding them invites people to touch them. Each person then experiences something different. For example, Daenerys is the only one who can sense something living inside them.
Simon wanted to create something similar with this sculpture, and did this largely with texture. Things like the smooth wings emerging from the rough bark left with it’s natural markings, contrasting again with the dragon’s mouth, invite touch. The uneven texture and natural curves and knots means each person who touches it will also experience something different – just like the eggs.

open mouth of simon o'rourke's egg casket (game of thrones sculpture)

The contrasting textures invite people to explore the sculpture through touch

Simon’s Reflection

At the time, Simon was extremely honoured and excited to be taking part in this campaign, along with artists including Jeff Soto, Robert Ball, and Eva Eskelinen. In thinking about the Game of Thrones sculpture now, two years on, and the response people had, Simon and his wife Liz feel just as honoured…

“[we were] just so humbled for Simon’s work to get the responses it did and humbled at how many people love Simon’s work and follow him on our social media platforms. It inspires him to keep going, knowing how much people appreciate his art and his creativity and passion for what he does.”

Game of thrones sculpture: photo shows the dragon eggs on the left, and the eggs being held in the casket made by simon o'rourke on the right

Always New!

One of the things with revisiting art, is that there is always something new to see or experience. In looking back at this Game of Thrones sculpture, what stood out to you that was different this time? Let us know in the comments.

We hope you enjoyed looking back at this landmark project with us. And, as always, if you would like to chat with Simon about your own commission, contact us using the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/.

 

 

Home Is Where The Art Is

Home Is Where The Art Is 2448 2448 Simon O'Rourke

Recently Simon was asked to take part in the BBC’s Home is Where the Art is.  In each episode, three artists compete to win a commission from a mystery buyer. Simon tells us a little more about his experience.

Nick Knowles promotes Home is Where the Art is

Home is Where the Art is on BBC One

What is Home is Where The Art Is?

The three artists met at the buyer’s house and received a brief and a budget. Each artist then produced a sketch to meet that brief. Simon competed against a stainless steel sculptor and an acrylic pet portrait painter in his episode. Three very different mediums! Their brief was to create something that captured both the spirit and the form of the buyer’s beloved horse, ‘Dragon’.

Simon O'Rourke with Nick Knowles and the horse sculpture he created for Home is Where the Art is

With presenter, Nick Knowles and his final piece

Simon Tells All!

Simon says of this process:
“We all got to snoop around the buyer’s house to get a feel for the kind of things they might like. We also got to meet Dragon, which gave us all a flavour of his temperament and form. Each of us went away after this and were asked to come up with a two minute pitch, which was filmed at a studio in Manchester. The buyer then chose two artists to create the artwork they had pitched, and come back in a few weeks to present the artwork to the buyer. The buyer would then choose one to buy!   Nick Knowles is the host of the show, and made us feel really comfortable. The buyer threw a couple of curveballs in by asking if any of us would be happy to change our designs!”

Simon was one of the two artists chosen to compete. He took around eight hours to carve a representation of Dragon out of cedar as his entry, capturing not only his form but his movement and character.

Simon O'Rourkes final piece for Home is Where the Art is

‘Dragon’

The Results Are In!

Now that we won’t be revealing any spoilers, we can announce that sadly, Simon didn’t win.
Simon is extremely gracious in his defeat though. He says: “The buyer Delyse had a really difficult time choosing between us, but I feel she made a great choice. I would have chosen Claire’s work!”

‘Dragon’

Not only is it a privilege to be invited to take part in something like this, but even the name of the horse has tied in with our ‘year of the dragon’ here at Simon O’Rourke Tree Carving!

Making Dragon

If you would like a portrait of your pet, Simon is available at [email protected] to chat about your commission. 

For The Throne

For The Throne 150 150 Simon O'Rourke
For the Throne!

Toward the end of last year, Simon received one of his most exciting projects to date. He was invited to take part in HBO’s For the Throne (#forthethrone) campaign, to promote season eight of Game of Thrones.

The Campaign

18 artists from around the world were selected by HBO. Each artist was given an original prop from the Game of Thrones series, and were given a brief to create something around that prop.

The Arrival of the Eggs

Simon was given the three dragon eggs that were given to Daenerys as a wedding gift. Not only was it awe-inspiring to be able to see and hold in person such an iconic object, they were also inspiring as pieces of art in themselves. They had detailed scaly texture and amazing ombre, blended metallic colouring – things that aren’t obvious on screen.  Incredible to think of the time, skill and artistry that goes into even tiny props!

Simon’s task was to create a new casket for the eggs that would be both functional and aesthetically pleasing. It also had to fit with the era and location of the series. Watch this video to see Simon receiving the eggs!

Opening the dragon eggs from HBO

Simon has had lots of experience of the years in carving dragons of all scales and for all projects. This meant he had LOTS of ideas for shape, texture, and details. However, he also had to consider some practicalities.

The Practical Requirements
  • The casket had to actually be large enough to hold all three eggs.
  • It needed to be able to open and close without damaging the eggs.
  • The eggs had to be securely so they could withstand travel (both on and off screen)
  • The casket needed to be weatherproof, as in the series, it would have needed to withstand various weather conditions.
  • It needed to have some way of being transportable.
  • It needed to sit on a flat surface, or have some additional stand that would enable it to do so.

The open dragon mouth lid

The Design Process

With those practicalities in place, Simon could then consider more aesthetic details.

The concept was the first thing to get right. My first idea was to include dragon-like wings shrouding the eggs, but moved on to a skull because I felt it would look more impressive. After hearing the dragon skull idea would clash with another design I moved back to my original thought and explored the shroud idea. I went through several design ideas about what to include. Whether or not to put a dragons eye in the design, or a representation of a head? I settled on a simple organic looking lid that opened like a bread bin. It was inspired by a real mixture of Nature, Alien, Star Wars and of course Game of Thrones! The almost Alien egg like texture is also representative of dragon scales. The mismatched teeth give it a slight feel of Saarlach from Star Wars with a hint of alligator!”

Showing the texture and details of the mouth

The Casket Created

Simon made the casket from yew, which had some beautiful markings and colouring.  An added bonus was that this colouring and texture was reminiscent of Danerys’ hair!
Seemingly random Dragon teeth throughout the interior hold the eggs securely in place. Their random placement, irregular shape, and rough texture lend the feel of danger or uncertainty. There is also an organic, unsymmetrical feel to the lid which snaps shut to protect and hide the eggs: “Like a mutated dragon”. All this heightens the sense of danger.

Although they create caution, the scales and the misshaping of the teeth also invite touch – just like the eggs themselves. Just as the eggs are experienced differently in the series,  (Daenerys is the only one who feels life within them), each person will experience or focus on something slightly different as they are drawn to feel the texture of the casket.

Finished project with the lid closed to hide the eggs

More Artistic Details

Abstract dragon wings shroud the dragon’s mouth. This casing further protects the eggs, and perfectly exhibits the grain of the wood. The smooth finish is contrast to the scales of the inner shell and the rippled texture of the outer wood. Finally, “the ash wood carrying poles were a functional and useful addition, as well as giving an impression of a very valuable cargo, needing two or four slaves to bear the precious gift! I [Simon] chose stainless steel rings to thread the poles through as the shiny steel is a real compliment to the natural material of the wood.”

Image taken from HBO For the Throne campaign, ‘The fire collection’.


When asked about the biggest challenge, Simon told us it was difficult  “getting a lid mechanism to cover the eggs when closed, sit nicely on the edges of the wings, and not touch the eggs when opening and closing“.
In retrospect however, we wonder if the greater challenge was keeping such an exciting project secret until now!

Get Involved!

This campaign isn’t just for professionals though! HBO would love to see other work inspired by the series. They’re inviting artists to post their work on social media. When you post, just include the hashtag #forthethrone and your work might be included!

Vanquis Viking Advert

Vanquis Viking Advert 150 150 Simon O'Rourke

Earlier this year we were asked to create a carving of a Game of Thrones style character emerging from a log. We later found out it was for the Vanquis Viking Advert. Maybe some of you have seen it?
I was so busy I enlisted the help of my apprentice, Paul from Ossum Tree Carving, to help me. Thankfully he did a great job! You can read more about that process in our Vanquis Viking Advert case study.

Having delivered it to the back of beyond (somewhere in Betws Y Coed), the following day this advert was filmed!

 

 

Coast and Country TV Appearance

Coast and Country TV Appearance 150 150 Simon O'Rourke

I was in episode two of the new series of Coast and Country!


“Coast and Country”
is a Welsh TV program on ITV. My episode aired on Monday night. If you’re in the UK, you can watch it here – my segment starts at about sixteen and a half minutes in. It was great to take part!

coast and country image from ITV

And, in other news, Tattybogle has finally been unveiled in Caia Woods! You can read the article about that on The Leader website, here.

Tattybogle the Scarecrow by Simon O'Rourke