Wildlife

Fforest Fawr Woodland Sculpture Trail

Fforest Fawr Woodland Sculpture Trail 150 150 Simon O'Rourke

We’ve had some beautiful weather this week – perfect for a woodland walk! With Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland still in lockdown though, we know that for many of us, that isn’t an option. And so, once again, we decided to bring the woods to you! This week we visit Tongwynlais, in South Wales, and the Fforest Fawr Woodland Sculpture trail….

Castell Coch viewed through fforest fawr

Castell Coch and Fforest Fawr

About Fforest Fawr Woodland Sculpture Trail

Fforest Fawr is a beautiful woodland close to Castell Coch and a short walk from the centre of Tongwynlais. As well as beautiful woodland, it has trails for cycling and walking and a tea shop that serves delicious Bara Brith.
There was also sculpture trail to attract and encourage visitors. As it was deteriorating, Natural Resources Wales commissioned Simon to create a new trail, which was installed in April 2018. All the sculptures are made from a Giant Redwood which was removed from Oswestry as it was dying, and posing a threat to the public. A perfect repurposing of a stunning resource!

Tree carving chainsaw artist simon o'rourke photographed with the redwood lynx from the fforest fawr woodland sculpture trail he created

Simon photographed with the lynx

Fforest Fawr Woodland Sculpture Trail: The Message

The commission from Natural Resources Wales asked for a trail that was engaging for families with young children. It was to make it have an educational aspect, and to be appealing to a broad range of ages as well. With that in mind, Simon returned to his illustrator roots. He wanted to give it a storybook feel which would encourage people to walk the whole thing, and so a new poem was born.

This is not unusual for Simon, as you will know if you read our blogs about Meadow Park and Page’s Wood.
Usually though, the trails focus on the current inhabitants of that area. However, in the case of the Fforest Fawr woodland sculpture trail, Simon also wanted to draw attention to what we  have lost……

close up of a redwood tree carving of a forest lynx from simon o'rourke's fforest fawr woodland sculpture trail

Close up of the lynx in the fforest fawr woodland sculpture trail

Past meets Present

Simon’s created story in poem form, about the wildlife that not only lives in the forest, but also species that are no longer there. The trail then ends with a call to action, encouraging the viewer to look after the woodland.
The aim of the trail is to make the viewer aware of what was there before, but also to highlight the need to preserve what is there now.

Bilingual Challenges!

The English form of the poem is in rhyming couplets which makes it fun and memorable for younger viewers. Translation always proves a challenge though. The Welsh translation isn’t in poetry form, but still conveys the feel, and – most importantly – the message of the story Simon and Liz wrote. 

Local press articles about the trail show it was very well received. We think you’ll like it too!
The concept sketches with the poem read as a beautiful children’s story book in themselves, so we have included those for you as well. We hope you enjoy them as much as the sculptures!

And so, without further ado, join us on a walk through the Fforest Fawr Woodland Sculpture Trail!

Introductory Sculpture:

In Fforest Fawr, deep, and green,
There’s so much to discover, so much to be seen,
All kinds of creatures, great and small,
And wonderful trees, towering and tall!

Yn nyfnder a gwyrddni Fforest Fawr,
mae cymaint i’w ddarganfod… Cymaint i’w weld:
Pob math o greaduriaid, – mawr a bach,
a choedydd rhyfeddol, – tyrog a thal!

Simple redwood sculpture of trees as part of simon o'rourke's tree carving chainsaw art woodland sculpture trail in fforest fawr

 

A Forest Timeline

On the path we see wonders in the forest today
But there are stories and treasures along the way!
There were creatures living here in the past, you’ll see,
Let’s take a walk, back through history!

Heddiw, ar y llwybr, gwelwn ryfeddodau yn y fforest.
Ond, mae storïau a thrysorau ar hyd y ffordd!
Cewch weld bod creaduriaid yn byw yma yn y gorffennol.
Gadewch inni fynd am dro…yn ôl drwy hanes!

 

timeline from fforest fawr woodland sculpture trail carved from redwood, featuring wolf, lynx and pine marten

 

A Red Squirrel

A long time ago, in the tops of tall trees,
Leaping and climbing on branches and leaves,
A long fuzzy tail, and nimble toes,
It’s a little red squirrel, with a little pink nose!

Amser maith yn ôl, – ar ben prennau uchel,
yn neidio a dringo ar ganghennau a dail,
wele gynffon hir, grychiog, a bysedd traed heini
wiwer goch fechan, – gyda thrwyn bach pinc!

A redwood bench with red squirrel details as part of fforest fawr woodland sculpture trail

 

The Brown Otter

Diving in rivers and hunting for fish,
A long, strong tail that goes swish, swish, swish!
Swimming through reeds, and with barely a splash,
It’s a sleek brown otter, that’s gone in a flash!

Yn plymio mewn afonydd ac yn hela pysgod, –
cynffon gref, hir sy’n siffrwd, siffrwd, siffrwd!
Yn nofio drwy gorsennau, – a phrin dynnu sylw, –
dyfrgi brown llyfn ydyw… ddiflanna mewn fflach!

 

A European Lynx

Crouching in the tall tall grass so green,
Silently stalking its prey, unseen,
The tufts on its ears, and the piercing eyes
It’s a European lynx! With its eyes on the prize!

Yng nghwrcwd yn y glaswellt tal, tal mor wyrdd, –
nas gwelir, – yn dawel ddilyn ei ysglyfaeth,
y cudynnau ar ei glustiau a’r llygaid treiddgar…
wele Lyncs Ewropeaidd, – a’i lygaid ar y wobr!

Fforest Fawr woodland sculpture trail by Simon O'Rourke: european lynx

 

A Red Deer

In the woodland we see a majestic sight,
With smooth red fur and a tail so white.
Velvety antlers that reach for the skies
It’s a stunning red deer, with big brown eyes!

Yn y goedlan, gwelwn olygfa urddasol
gyda ffwr coch llyfn, cynffon mor wen,
a chyrn melfedaidd sy’n cyrraedd i’r awyr…
Carw coch syfrdanol ydyw, – â llygaid mawr brown!

Simon O'Rourkes fforest fawr woodland sculpture trail: A Red Deer. Lifesized, created with chainsaws from redwood

 

The European Wolf

Hunting in packs, on the woodland floors,
Through forest and field, and across the moors,
Grey shaggy fur from its head to its paws,
It’s a European wolf, with strong, strong jaws!

Yn hela mewn cnudoedd ar loriau’r goedlan,
drwy fforest a chae, ac ar draws y rhosydd,
wele ffwr blewog, llwyd o’i ben i’w bawennau, –
blaidd Ewropeaidd, – gyda genau cryf, cryf.

fforest fawr woodland sculpture trail by simon o'rourke: european wolf

 

A Pine Marten

Hiding in old hollow trees, out of sight,
Climbing, and running, and hunting at night,
With soft sleek fur, and sharp little claws,
It’s a pine marten, foraging on the forest floor!

Yn cuddio mewn hen goed gwag, – allan o’r golwg, –
yn dringo a rhedeg ac yn hela’r nos, –
gyda ffwr graenus, llyfn, a chrafangau bach miniog…
wele Fela’r Coed, – yn casglu porthiant ar lawr y fforest!

Fforest Fawr Woodland Sculpture Trail by Simon O'Rourke: Pine Marten

 

Devil’s Coach Horse Beetle

Crawling in leaves, and black as night,
With spindly legs, and jaws that bite.
When it raises its tail, you’d better beware,
Devil’s Coach Horse beetle leaves a stink in the air!

Yn ymlusgo mewn dail, a chyn ddued â’r nos,
Gyda choesau main, a genau sy’n brathu, –
gwell ichi ochel pan gwyd ei chynffon:
Mae Chwilen Gnoi yn gadael drewdod yn yr awyr!

 

Wildlife Still Present in the Forest

These creatures are gone from the forest now
But the ones who live here today can be found!
There’s badgers and dormice and buzzards I’ve heard,
Goshawks, owls, and other woodland birds!

Mae’r creaduriaid hyn wedi mynd o’r fforest ‘nawr,
ond, gellir dod o hyd i’r rhai sy’n byw yma heddiw!
Clywais fod moch daear a llygod daear a boncathod,
gwyddweilch, tylluanod ac adar y goedlan eraill.

 

 

A Final Call to Action

We’ve learned about creatures from times gone by,
And the ones living here, that walk, and that fly.
Fforest Fawr is a beautiful place as we’ve seen,
Help us to keep it tidy and clean!


‘Rydym wedi dysgu am greaduriaid o’r amseroedd a fu
a’r rhai sy’n byw yma, – sy’n cerdded ac sy’n hedfan.
Fel y gwelsom, mae Fforest Fawr yn le hardd.
Rhowch help inni i’w chadw yn daclus a glân!

Mike James, Woodland Manager from Natural Resources Wales said:

“We hope people will enjoy our new sculpture trail and the woodland characters will bring to life the story of the forest, its wildlife, and its history. And with the story comes a strong message – the importance of looking after our environment and our forest so the wildlife which currently live there can continue to thrive for years to come.”

We hope you enjoyed the tour through Fforest Fawr Woodland Sculpture trail, and feel inspired to do your part in ensuring we will still be enjoying the wildlife we see round us for decades to come – and beyond!

chainsaw art/tree carver simon o'rourke photogrpahed with a redwood red deer he carved for fforest fawr woodland sculpture trail

Commissioning a Woodland Sculpture Trail

If you are involved with managing or maintaining and green area, and would like an educational sculpture trail, you can find out more about prices, concept etc by reading our Page’s Wood Case Study.
To chat to Simon about details, email us via https://www.treecarving.co.uk/contact/

We’re looking forward to hearing from you!

 

 

Woodland Sculpture Trail: Pages Wood

Woodland Sculpture Trail: Pages Wood 150 150 Simon O'Rourke

Welcome back to our woodland sculpture trail series!

If you read our blogs about the Pages Wood commission, and the Meadow Park woodland sculpture trail, you will know that sculpture trails are a great way to encourage people to get outside. They also encourage engagement with the environment and its care – something Simon and Liz are both passionate about. At the moment, we obviously can’t get out to enjoy our beautiful woodlands and parks, so we thought we would bring them to you!

Last time we visited the Wirral and Meadow Park. This week we take you to revisit the Pages Wood sculpture trail….

Verity Vole by Simon O'Rourke, part of the Page's Wood sculpture trail

Verity Vole, the second protagonist at the Page’s Wood sculpture trail

About Pages Wood

Pages Wood is the Forestry Commission’s largest site in Thames Chase and home to 100,000 trees. The wood offers 6.5km of walking and cycling paths and 2.2km of bridlepaths. This valley of green space offers excellent views as well as a rich mosaic of habitats for wildlife – all reflected in Simon’s sculptures.

Extensive views, an excellent path network, developing woodlands, and (of course) Simon’s woodland sculpture trail  all make Pages Wood a “must-visit” site – either for some brisk exercise or just simple relaxation.

As with Meadow Park, Simon and Liz wrote a story to engage the viewer. The trail follows the adventures of Horatio Hedgehog and Verity Vole as they meet other animals in the forest.

Verity Vole Woodland Sculpture Trail

This is Verity! She wanders through Pages Wood, and teaches about the friends she meets through verse, and the visual of the sculpture. See how many of the animals you recognise and knew inhabited the south east of England.

Original Woodland sculpture trail concept sketch by simon o'rourke, Verity Vole

Verity Vole by Simon O'Rourke, part of the Page's Wood sculpture trail

Verity Vole, the second protagonist at the Page’s Wood sculpture trail

 

dragonfly bench concept sketch by simon o'rourke for pages wood woodland sculpture trail

 

 

 

 

What do you think? Did Verity teach you anything new? And which was your favourite sculpture from her story?

Horatio Hedgehog Woodland Sculpture Trail

Next we have Horatio! You can scroll through and follow him on his adventure, not only as he meets his woodland friends, but also from his concept sketch to fully installed sculpture!

 

 

 

 

hedgehog and badger tree carving sculpture by simon o'rourke from pages wood woodland sculpture trail

 

 

Horatio Hedgehog meets Squirrel at Page's Wood Sculpture Trail by Simon O'Rourke

 

Horatio Hedgehog meets a fox at Page's Wood. By Simon O'Rourke.

We love that each trail ends with a bench so people can sit and relax and enjoy being in our great British outdoors. It also gives time to ponder on anything they learned it the trail. Our hope is that when Simon makes a woodland sculpture trail, it isn’t just fun to look at, but actually inspires people to action too.

If you are involved in running a local conservation area, and would like to consider adding an educational sculpture trail, why not check out the Meadow Park Case Study on on website for ideas and information?

To talk more about specifics, email Simon on [email protected] Can’t wait to hear from you!

Ruby Meets a Squirrel woodland sculpture trails by simon o'rourke

Woodland Sculpture Trails: Meadow Park

Woodland Sculpture Trails: Meadow Park 2000 2000 Simon O'Rourke

Over the years Simon has created several Woodland Sculpture Trails. As we can’t easily go out and access our beautiful woodlands during lockdown, we thought we would bring them to you! Over the next few blogs we will share Simon’s Woodland Sculpture Trails so you can see them at home. And maybe once lockdown is over, you will feel inspired to go and see them for yourselves. We’ll also include some of the story behind their creation.
The first in our series, is Meadow Park, Ellesmere Port.

Original concept sketch of Ruby the Owl from meadow park woodland sculpture trails by simon o'rourke

Original sketch of Ruby the Owl

About Meadow Park

Meadow Park is a green space in the North West of England, on The Wirral.  The Friends of Meadow Park have been working on improving the space since 2013. Their vision is to involve local residents in improving the space and making it a centre for recreation, education and practical conservation.  If you read our previous blog about Simon’s woodland sculpture trails, you’ll know this vision is something that is shared by him and his wife Liz. In fact, Liz is a qualified forest school teacher!
The idea for the sculpture trail was part of their improvements to the area. Simon worked on the project in the latter half of 2017, and the whole thing was installed in December of that year.

Ruby meets an adder from Meadow Park woodland sculpture trail by simon o'rourke

Wildlife Education

One of the goals when Simon creates woodland sculpture trails is to raise awareness of local wildlife. In the case of Meadow Park, he did this through story form.
Using stories actively encourages the viewer to follow the whole trail and brings about a connection to the wildlife through characterisation. It also aids the educational content, helping families with young children to engage with the message.
And so, to aid with that, he and Liz created Ruby the Owl.

The Meadow Park Woodland Sculpture trail follows Ruby as she explores the area and looks for a place to call home. Along the way she meets other animals in their habitat, creating a delightful range of characters, akin to classics such as Watership Down, Animals of Farthing Wood or Wind in the Willows.

Ruby the Owl by Simon O'Rourke

Ruby the owl is searching for a home.
Looking for a place to call her own.
We’re sure you can help, we have no doubt,
Can you join her and seek it out?

Ruby’s Adventures

Ruby has proved very popular with the local population as well as visitors from further afield. However, she also had a few adventures that Simon and Liz didn’t author! After the successful opening of the trail, Ruby clearly caught the eye of some local thieves. She disappeared one night, and even made it on the local Television news! Thankfully Ruby was returned, and she was reinstalled in her home not long after.

And so, grab a cup of tea or coffee (maybe make it in a flask to make it seem authentic?!), and join us as we take you round the rest of the Meadow Park Sculpture Trail, along with the original sketch……

Ruby Meets an Adder
owl meets adder woodland sculpture by simon o'rourke

Along the path in the long long grass,
An adder slithered and wriggled past.
Is this my home? Said the owl with a frown,
I can’t stay here, it’s too low down!

Encounter with a Squirrel

Original sketch for ruby meets a squirrel by simon o'rourke

Ruby Meets a Squirrel woodland sculpture trails by simon o'rourke

Tree carving sculpture of ruby the owl and a squirrel

In the fork of a tree is a leafy drey,
And a sleek little squirrel, furry and grey.
Is this my home? It’s a cosy little ball,
But I can’t fit my head in, it’s far too small!

 

 

 

Meeting the Bat!

Bat sculpture from meadow park sculpture trail by simon o'rourke, original concept sketch

Ruby and the Fox

Owl and fox tree carving sculpture by simon o'rourke

By the roots of a tree, in a hole in the ground, A fox with a bushy red tail is found Is this my home? Lined with soil and bark? I don’t like it here, it’s much too dark!

Meeting the Toad

Original concept sketch ruby and the toad simon o'rourke

On the edge of the brook, in an old wet log
A fat warty toad looks at home in the bog.
Is this my home? It looks a bit grimy,
I can’t live here, it’s far too slimy!

A Heron Along the Way

Heron meets ruby the owl in one of simon o'rourke's woodland sculpture trails

Here’s a pond with reeds and trees
And a tall tall Heron, with knobbly knees
Is this my home? It’s not too flashy,
The watery pond is too wet and splashy!

Ruby and the Rabbits

Concept sketch by simon o'rourke for ruby the owl meeting the rabbits

Here’s a warren with holes and furrows
With Rabbits a plenty, making long long burrows.
Is this my home? It seems quite handy…
But the long long tunnels are far too sandy!

Then Ruby Finds her Home

original concept sketch from meadow park woodland sculpture trail by simon o'rourke of all the animals gathered together

Here’s a hole in a hollow tree
Out of the rain and lined with dry leaves.
Is this my home? Yes yes, You’ll see,
It’s warm, and dry and perfect for me!

As you can see, in the final sculpture where Ruby finds her home, Simon cleverly incorporated all the characters.

And they all lived happily ever after?

Well, that’s something that we, as humans get to decide for them in many ways. Our hope is that through trails like these we are able to encourage people to engage with their environment in positive ways. We hope that the characterisation makes the wildlife more real to them. Then, in turn, they will become part of a movement that helps sustain and not plunder the earth.

We hope you enjoyed this virtual tour of Meadow Park Sculpture Trail. Next week in our Woodland Sculpture Trails series, we will take you to Page’s Wood in the South East of England.

Until then, enjoy the outdoors in your area, whilst also staying safe.

A Bespoke Tawny Owl Sculpture

A Bespoke Tawny Owl Sculpture 150 150 Simon O'Rourke

One of the things that Simon was known for early on in his career was carving owls! Although he prefers human form, his attention to form, story, structure and detail mean he has created some incredible owls over the years. Some of them have become famous in their own right too, such a Ruby the owl. She’s part of Meadow Park sculpture trail on the Wirral and was actually stolen and – amazingly – returned! This week we look at Simon’s most recent example: a bespoke tawny owl sculpture that will be installed in Pocklington, Yorkshire.

A bespoke tawny owl by Simon O'Rourke for the town of Pocklington, Yorks

The Commission

This bespoke tawny owl is for public display in the town of Pocklington. When it was originally commissioned, the clients came to Simon with an existing Horse Chestnut stump. Their hope was that the owl could be carved from that. However, Simon advised them that it would be unsuitable as Horse Chestnut rots quickly. Instead, they decided to have the owl carved from oak, and to mount it upon the original stump.

To create the owl, Simon paid careful attention to the shape, size and proportions of the owl. He also imitated perfectly the way the feathers fall, and how the lengths and appearance vary on the different body parts. We can see clearly the fluffier chest and legs compared with the sleek, defined tails and wings.

bespoke tawny owl and original by Simon O'Rourke
As the Sculpture Ages….

Wood changes over the years. That means a commission such as this bespoke tawny owl will weather and gradually change in appearance. When Simon creates a sculpture, he takes into account how it will crack in future. This is important, so he can carve in a way that although the appearance will change, the structure will still be sound.
The face below is a perfect example of this. It has small cracks appearing but retains its structure and shape – and will for decades to come!

Face by Simon O'Rourke

Changing and Protecting Colour

Another aspect of this changing appearance that Simon considers, is the colour. All wood will change colour as it ages and is bleached by the sun. Once that happens, the only way to get the colour back is to sand it or re-finish the surface. Long-lasting woods such as oak and sweet chestnut weather nicely and last well without any finish. This means this bespoke tawny owl sculpture didn’t need any additional treatment.

For some sculptures, the bleaching and aging adds to the beauty and aesthetic of the sculpture. Maybe it is part of a forest trail and it needs to blend in with the environment. In other cases, the nature or setting of the sculpture lends itself to the aging process. The Angel at the Pool of Bethesda (included in our review of the decade) is a perfect example of this. It is based on an old painting, and sits in a Biddulph Old Hall, a historic property. The sculpture was left untreated so it would bleach naturally in the sun, and age to fit in with its environment. We love the way it looks two years on….

Angel at the pool of bethesda by simon o'rourke at biddulph old hall

Angel at the pool of bethesda by simon o'rourke at biddulph old hall

Recommended Treatment

The bespoke tawny owl sculpture is made of oak, so didn’t need treatment. However, if you do want to retain colour of the original sculpture, decking oil applied every 4 months will do this. It acts mostly as a weather proofer, allowing the sculpture to keep its original colour. It also offers UV protection, and has an additional bonus of containing mould inhibitors too. Unlike most other weatherproofing options, the oil is a good choice as it allows the wood to breathe. Over the years Simon has number of different brands . While he doesn’t necessarily have a favourite, he always buys from  www.restexpress.co.uk and recommends them as a supplier.

In addition, if the wood needs an initial treatment of wood preserver, he applies that before the oil. The preserver soaks in like water and prevents surface growth of mould and fungi.

barn owl by simon o'rourke

A Sculpture for Life!

Whenever Simon creates a sculpture, he considers the future appearance and carves and treats so it will last. However, if you do have damage or something that needs re-working, Simon is available for repair, upkeep and restoration. Contact him on [email protected] whether to talk about upkeep of a current sculpture, or a new commission.

Into the 20’s – A Review of the Decade

Into the 20’s – A Review of the Decade 150 150 Simon O'Rourke

As we start a new decade, we’ve been reflecting on the many changes that have happened personally and professionally over the last ten years. Professionally, it’s been a great decade with some fantastic opportunities and commissions. We’ve also met some amazing people and seen some wonderful places along the way. Before we move forward into the 20’s, we thought we would bring you our ‘review of the decade’. And, as we do, let us wish you a Happy New Year from all at Tree Carving.

Simon O'Rourke Game of Thrones Egg Carrier carving

Simon and Liz O’Rourke wish you a happy new year (and decade) on behalf of the Tree Carving team.

Review of the Decade: 2010

As we looked back, we could definitely see we didn’t use social media as much! And the technology we used definitely didn’t produce the kind of photos and videos we do today! But here is a look back at two competition pieces from that year, both taking second place. Neptune from the English Open Chainsaw competition, and a traditional miner from the Huskycup.
A quick glimpse at Simon’s awards shows that this was a good decade for competition, placing in most things he entered and winning seven awards. However, when it comes to competitions Simon says:
“Competitive sculpture has taught me a lot about completing work to a deadline. I have competed all over the world and although I have placed highly in many events, the most important thing to me is being happy with my own work.”

Neptune by Simon O'Rourke as featured in his review of the decade

Simon O'Rourke second place huskycup 2010

Review of the Decade: 2011

Two of the projects we chose as highlights from 2011 are The Giant Hand of Vrynwy, and the Somerset Tree.

At 50′ tall, it was no wonder the hand caught the attention of the local press, as you can see in the article by The Leader newspaper. Simon’s inspiration for the hand came from the name for the woodland area, which made reference to giants. Creating something on this scale reminded Simon how small we are compared to some of the living organisms on this planet. He described the experience as being very humbling!

Giant hand by Simon O'Rourke

The next project although tall still, was a little smaller in scale! Simon was commissioned by the Museum of Somerset to create this stunning tree for their new museum. Sourced from local wood, it stands proudly in the museum where it tells some of the area’s 400 million year history.

Tree of Somerset by Simon O'Rourke

Review of the decade: Tree of Somerset by Simon O'Rourke

Review of the Decade: 2012

Another Huskycup entry! This time, the sculpture of “Christian and Mary”. Simon worked on this piece as part of ‘Team Europe’ with Tommy Craggs and Michael Tamoszus. They placed fourth overall, with some tough competition from a great bunch of talented artists. As we had a quick glimpse back at the Facebook album of the event it was lovely to be reminded of the support, encouragement and lovely comments.

Christian & Martha Huskycup 2012 by O'Rourke, Cloggs and Tamoszus

Review of the decade: Christian & Martha Huskycup 2012 by O'Rourke, Cloggs and Tamoszus

fourth place Huskycup 2012 by O'Rourke, Cloggs and Tamoszus

Review of the Decade: 2013

For our 2013 highlight, we chose something a little different. During that year Simon created this incredible Alice in Wonderland booth for Steak of the Art in Bristol. Their vision is for the restaurant to be an ever-changing art gallery that compliments their delicious menu. As you can see from the photos in the case study Simon wrote, his booth more than fits their vision. Every single character is its own work of art, and with so much to see, although the piece doesn’t change, there is something new to notice each time you sit within it. Here we get a reflection of the changing technology too, with this timelapse video of its making!

Alice in Wonderland booth at Steak of the Art by Simon O'Rourke (a review of the decade)

Alice in Wonderland booth by Simon O'Rourke, Steak of the Art

Alice in Wonderland booth by Simon O'Rourke, Steak of the Art

Review of the Decade: 2014

2014 saw us receive a lot of publicity for two ‘guardians’.

The first was created for the ‘Pawtraits‘ series by Maria Slough, and was actually named ‘The Guardian‘. The series featured people photographed alongside animals that had impacted their lives, and Simon was brought in to create a piece to be used for the portrait of Virginia McKenna. Understandably, the actress wasn’t too keen on reclining on a real lion – hence Simon stepping in with The Guardian! As McKenna was so impressed with his work, Simon was later commissioned to sculpt a lion cub for the Born Free Foundation charity auction, a charity McKenna established. As well as the photos below, you can click HERE to see a timelapse of The Guardian being made.

 

The Guardian by Simon O'Rourke

Maria Slough Pawtrait Virginia McKenna featuring lion by Simon O'Rourke

Photograph copyright of Maria Slough from the Pawtraits Series

The other ‘guardian’ created by Simon that year is just as iconic. Phil and Leah from Wahoo Group wanted to harness the power of social media and do something novel to help sell their home. Thinking completely outside of the box (no baked cookies here!) they commissioned a sculpture of…..Batman!

The caped crusader sat on top of their home where it gained attention from both local and global news outlets, and helped the couple find tenants for their property.

Wooden Batman carving by Simon O'Rourke

Wooden Batman carving by Simon O'Rourke

Batman by Simon O'Rourke and St Giles Church Wrexham

As one of Simon’s strengths is Human Form, we also couldn’t resist throwing in this sculpture of Scottish explorer, Mungo Park. He was commissioned for a pub in the explorer’s hometown of Peebles, and sits on this bench for passers by to enjoy.

Review of the decade 2014 Mungo Park

 

 

Review of the decade 2014 Mungo Park

Review of the Decade: 2015

2015 was the year when Simon won the English Open Chainsaw Competition with Hemlock the Dragon.

Since then Hemlock has made countless appearances around the country, including at a wedding! Hemlock has recently had some repair work on the wings, and is ready to meet the public again. If you are interested in hiring Hemlock for your event, just email us on [email protected]

Hemlock the Dragon English Open Chainsaw Competition 2015 by Simon O'Rourke

Review of the Decade: 2016

2016’s highlight is another Huskycup Flashback: Viking Raid.

As well as the Viking Raid Case Study Simon wrote, we also have a blog about Viking Raid for those who want to know more. As we mentioned in our Huskycup 2019 blog, 2016 was actually the last year Huskycup was a competition. It meant Simon was the last ever Huskycup champion, as Viking Raid took first place. What a way to end the competition for him! Although it is no longer a competition, Simon continues to participate, and it is something of a highlight each year.

In 2016 Simon also became an affiliate of Olfi. We love their action cameras, and how they’ve transformed what we’re able to share with you through timelapse videos. Find out more in our Olfi blog!

Viking Raid at Huskycup 2016 by Simon o'Rourke

 

 

Viking Raid at Huskycup 2016 by Simon o'Rourke

 

Review of the Decade: 2017

2017’s highlight is from Liverpool. Simon created a tribute to The Beatles by carving life size figures of the Fab Four live along the dockside over a weekend. You can read more about the event in our Global Beatles Day Blog, and keep scrolling to enjoy our flashback photos and video.

2017 was also the year Simon began being sponsored by Stihl. Not only do they manufacture quality equipment, but it was something of a ‘full circle’ for Si, as his very first chainsaw experience was using Stihl equipment.

 

Beatles at the Liverpool dockside by Simon O'Rourke

 

Nearly done!!

Posted by Simon O'Rourke – Tree Carving on Monday, 28 August 2017

 Review of the Decade: 2018

As Simon says in his case study about the Spirit of Ecstasy, this was one of his most challenging sculptures to date.
You may remember from our Spirit of Ecstasy blog, that Simon recreated the Rolls Royce icon for an enthusiast to give new life and purpose to a beautiful oak tree which had died. Despite the challenges, the finished piece was faithful to the Rolls Royce concept, graceful and simply stunning. We hope you enjoy the finished result as much as we (and most importantly, the client!) did.

Spirit of Ecstasy by Simon O'Rourke

 

 

Review of the Decade: 2019

In our new year blog at the start of last year, we told you 2019 would be our ‘year of the dragon’. We weren’t wrong! Over the year Simon created seven new dragon-related carvings, including an ice dragon in our local town.
It all started off with The Dragon of Bethesda. It sits in an arboretum in North Wales after the landowner commissioned Simon to create something spectacular from a fallen tree. Y Ddraig Derw was featured in national media, and we are still overwhelmed by the encouraging response from so many people to the piece.

Dragon of Bethesda by Simon O'Rourke

 

Our other dragon highlight from the year, is this stunning casket created for HBO’s Game of Thrones.

Game of Thrones egg props Simon O'Rourke

Simon was commissioned by HBO as part of a wider project where artists re-imagined original props from the show. He received these beautiful dragon eggs, and created the casket for them to sit in. You can remind yourself of the whole project and process in our Game of Thrones blog.

Again, we were amazed, thankful and VERY encouraged by all the positive comments we received.

This is also the year Simon became an affiliate for ManpaTools. Their angle grinders especially have taken some of his texture and detail to a whole new level.

Simon O'Rourke casket Game of Thrones Season Eight

Moving into 2020, Simon has also become an affiliate for Saburrtooth. With quality tools and equipment from Stihl, Manpa and Saburr, Simon’s talent and creativity, and the continued support of all our amazing clients and co-workers, we look forward to what the next decade – the roaring 20’s – will hold.

We hope you enjoyed our Review of the Decade. We definitely loved seeing some of these pieces afresh as we looked back.
As always, if you have a project in mind, email us on [email protected]

Trees for Kids Sculpture at Maes Y Pant

Trees for Kids Sculpture at Maes Y Pant 150 150 Simon O'Rourke

One of Simon’s pieces that caught people’s attention recently was a little boy, kneeling to plant a tree. The Trees for Kids sculpture was commissioned by a local community association, and unveiled during their Trees for Kids event.

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

About Maes Y Pant

Maes Y Pant is a 70 acre forest on the outskirts of Wrexham.
The site is open to the public, but the land is actually owned and managed by a community association. It is a conservation area, recreation area and also sustains itself with soft lumber sales. Regular readers will remember that Simon and some our our affiliates have produced other sculptures on the site, including Stanley, and the children’s fort.

Trees for Kids sculpture by Simon O'Rourke in progress at the workshop

Trees for Kids sculpture in progress at the workshop

Trees for Kids

This particular commission was part of Trees for Kids, an event which was both sociable and educational. There was opportunity to explore the forest, as well as a story teller, stalls, and face painting. The HACK horse sanctuary brought a pony, and there were also educational stands to raise awareness of the importance of woodlands and taking care of the environment. The highlight of the day though, was planting saplings.

The Commission.

Each child who took part was able to plant a sapling to help sustain the forest. It’s easy to see how Simon’s sculpture tied in with such an event! One aspect that isn’t so easy to see though, is that like the forest around it, this sculpture will also grow and change!

What? How?!

Trees for Kids sculpture with rowan sapling. Simon O'Rourke for Maes Y Pant

With the planted sapling at Maes Y Pant

Growing and Changing

If you look closely at the photo above, you will notice what looks like a thick stick between his hands. That’s actually a Rowan sapling! In time, as well as gaining height, the tree trunk will broaden to fill his hands. The little boy was secured in the ground with a substantial foundation. This means that as the tree grows it will grow at a slight angle, giving room for the roots to establish. The community group will also manage and trim the tree so visitors will always have a good view of the sculpture.

Always a Story Teller

The boy is carved from Welsh Oak. The tree is native to the area, adding to the sense that the boy ‘belongs’. He makes a sweet addition to the forest. We love the look of concentration as he focuses on what he is planting! His haircut and outfit also seem to hint at a past age, and evoke memories of kids playing outside, and enjoying the outdoors.

We hope that the children (and adults!) who visit the area will be motivated to preserve not just this beautiful local area, but also our wider environment.

To commission Simon for your own special occasion, email us on [email protected]

Those Autumn Leaves – Enjoying The Changing Season

Those Autumn Leaves – Enjoying The Changing Season 150 150 Simon O'Rourke
“Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.”

In this quote Albert Camus describes beautifully the stunning displays of colour that we see at this time of year. From September, the trees around us change to display rich golds, fiery reds and warm oranges. Whether we mourn the loss of summer or enjoy the change of season, none of us can deny that Autumn leaves are glorious, and we think September and October are the perfect time to get outside and enjoy that beauty. The temperature hasn’t dropped too much, and the nights are not too dark yet. Plus, there’s the added bonus of being able to find fruits and berries to take home! If you fancy enjoying the outdoors this Autumn, then why not plan to follow one of Simon’s forest trails?

Stanley by Simon O'Rourke as Marford Quarry

Stanley, one of Simon’s sculptures along the trail at Marford Quarry

Sculpture Trails

Over the years, Simon has completed several ‘sculpture trails’ throughout the UK. Typically these add points of interest to the walk and give information about the local area. Usually the sculptures themselves reflect the environment, such as this lynx found in Fforest Fawr. Although the lynx, and wolf that make part of that trail are rarely seen any more, it is not that long ago that they roamed that part of South Wales.

Fforest Fawr Lynx by Simon O'Rourke

Fforest Fawr Lynx by Simon O’Rourke

Close up of Lynx at Fforest Fawr by Simon O'Rourke

Close up of the face of the lynx at Fforest Fawr

Pages Wood

Another example of these forest sculpture trails that Simon has created are the two in Page’s Wood. He and his wife Liz wrote a story that followed an animal character along each trail. Each sculpture showed an encounter with another animal resident of the woodland, and the story with each gave information about that animal. The trails have been so popular, that he will be back later this year to make some additions and tweaks!

Horatio Hedgehog meets Squirrel at Page's Wood Sculpture Trail by Simon O'Rourke

Horatio Hedgehog meets Squirrel at Page’s Wood Sculpture Trail

Those Autumn Leaves

While you’re out enjoying these trails, have you ever wondered why it is that the leaves are changing colour and falling though?
We have! And as we love all things ‘tree’ and forest, we thought we’d share a couple of random Autumn tree facts while reminding you of some of the forest trail animals you could go and see.

Wolf by Simon O'Rourke at Fforest Fawr

Howling wolf at Fforest Fawr

The Wonder of Nature

Fact One:
Trees don’t ‘lose’ their leaves, they actually actively shed them to ensure their survival! Find out more here.

Fact Two:
Trees can sense the shortening days, and that’s how they know when to begin shedding leaves

Red Deer at Fforest Fawr by Simon O'Rourke

Red Deer at Fforest Fawr

Fact Three:
Leaves change colour as the tree absorbs all the nutrients out of the leaf and stores it for winter. A little like an animal eating well and stashing food to prepare for hibernation!

Fact Four:
The colour of a tree’s ‘Autumn leaves’ depends on what other pigments the tree has. For example, hickories, aspen and some maples have a lot of carotenoids so they turn golden colours. Oaks and Dogwoods have a lot of anthocyanins so they turn russets and browns.

Verity Vole by Simon O'Rourke, part of the Page's Wood sculpture trail

Verity Vole, the second protagonist at the Page’s Wood sculpture trail

Fact Five
Nature is amazing, so it is no surprise that though leaves fall, they still have an important role. As they decompose, their nutrients trickle into the soil and feed future generations of plant and animal life. Quite likely, fallen Autumn leaves are essential not just for the survival of the individual tree, but for whole forests!
This means that you need not militantly rake up every fallen leaf.
In fact, leaving them on the ground is actually a helpful thing for other wildlife.

Horatio Hedgehog meets a fox at Page's Wood. By Simon O'Rourke.

Horatio Hedgehog meets a fox at Page’s Wood

What other fun facts do you know about Autumn? Why not drop us a comment and share some of your favourites.

If you enjoyed our tree facts and want to know more, Liz also teaches forest school and can be booked ofr regular or ‘one off’ sessions. Contact her at [email protected]

Don’t forget, that if you are out and about at one of Simon’s scultpure trails, use the hashtag #simonorouke or tag us using our Facebook page  (@simonorourketreecarving)or Instagram Account (@simonorourke)

Arb Show 2019

Arb Show 2019 150 150 Simon O'Rourke

Every year in May, the Aboricultural Association runs its flag ship event: The Arb Show. It describes itself as being “A celebration of the science of trees”, and Arb Show 2019 definitely lives up to that!

Simon & Stihl

This year the main sponsor for the event was Stihl – who also sponsor Simon! They had a large exhibit at the event, and Simon was invited to take part. Over the two days he performed demonstrations of chain saw carving, and met with people to talk about his art.

Stihl Exhibit at The Arb Show 2019

Simon at the Stihl Exhibit, Arb Show 2019

Demonstration Time!

Simon carved two pieces over the two days, while talking people through his process. He used Stihl’s new MS500i chainsaw for the first time to make the first piece; a horse’s head. Looking at the finished piece (can you believe that was a speed carve?!), we’d say it’s a hit!

Simon O'Rourke with the finished speed carve horse

Simon with the finished speed carve horse

Arb Show 2019 Auction

At the end of each day the pieces were auctioned off for the charity Greenfingers, which creates gardens and respite spaces for children in hospice care across the UK. Thank you to the winning bidders, and we hope you enjoy your sculptures!

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If you’re thinking of coming to check out one of Simon’s demonstrations in future, we thoroughly recommend The Arb Show.

The venue (The National Arboretum), is actually worth a visit at any time of the year. However, during The Arb Show, you can also enjoy exhibits from companies who work with trees in a whole range of ways.

Stihl Exhibit at The Arb Show 2019

Stihl Exhibit at The Arb Show 2019

Beyond the Carving

Exhibitors range from manufacturers of equipment for people working in forestry to conservation groups, from forest schools to artists using trees. Tree surgeons, tree carvers, timber processors and even tree climbers also come along to enjoy the show! In fact, it is also home to the 3ATC open climbing competition!

As well as the expected food stands, there is also entertainment and the opportunity to try your own hand at some of the timber sports – or even axe throwing!

With camping on site for those who want to spend both days enjoying the show, maybe we’ll see you next year?

A Dutch Jungle Throne!

A Dutch Jungle Throne! 150 150 Simon O'Rourke
The Setting

Every year the village of Garderen (Netherlands) is proud to be home to Zandsculpturenfestijn. It describes itself as  ‘Europe’s most beautiful sand sculpture park’  and has won several regional tourist awards. As well as sand sculpture, the outdoor part of the exhibit also features wooden carvings, completed each summer. Simon was invited to contribute again this year, and was excited to take part. This is the setting for this week’s featured sculpture: A Dutch Jungle Throne.

Simon working on his exhibit – easily identifiable by his Stihl clothing!

A Jungle Throne

The theme for the year (‘Journey Round the World’) gave a LOT of scope for the artists to create. With such an open title, they were free to sculpt natural wonders, architecture, people or animals. The artists who were there at the same time as Simon though all focused on nature, and created animal carvings. Wanting to help build a united exhibit, Simon decided to also focus on animals in his piece. As this wasn’t a commission where he had to replicate one specific animal, he decided to stretch himself and try something a little different, inspired by one of the indoor sand pieces.

The exhibit in question was a huge jungle scene with lots of different animals. Simon set himself the challenge of creating something similar which would feature lots of different animals. The result? A hollowed-out seat featuring not one or two animals, but 34! A ‘Jungle Throne’ fit for even King Louis, Jungle Book’s “King of the Swingers”!

The finished 'Jungle Throne'

The finished ‘Jungle Throne’

The Beginning….

Simon had a few ideas, but the decision about the final piece was settled by the piece of wood itself! Nick Lumb of Acorn Furniture (where Simon began his carving work) recently said that one of the enjoyable things with working with wood is that you never reach the end of learning about it. Other materials behave a specific way under a specific set of conditions. However, wood is different every time – you never know fully what you will get  until you begin to cut. In this instance, Simon discovered some defects in the centre, so decided to hollow out the timber, and the concept of a ‘seat’ was born!

Two different angles showing the animals in the jungle throne

Two different angles showing the animals in the jungle throne

Jungle Seat by Simon O'Rourke at Zandsculpturenfestijn

Two more angles showing the animals in the jungle seat

The Details

Creating 3d, realistic animals like this is no easy task. Simon had to find a way to create depth when the piece of wood didn’t allow for large, dramatic shapes. The effectiveness of the piece is all down to deep relief cuts to create the shapes of the animals and foliage, with much more shallow cuts and markings to create the outstanding details, such as the smile in the eyes of the sloth, or the slightly grumpy crocodile as well as the varying textures of fur, feather and scales.

Close up of the sloth and crocodile in the Jungle Seat by Simon O'Rourke

Close up of the sloth and crocodile

Much as we love them, photos of all 34 animals would be a bit much for one blog post. Why don’t you take a look at them here and let us know your favourite? You can also watch this video (posted below for those who can see it) to see Simon’s own thoughts about the seat too!

Simon is available for events around the world. If you would like to invite him to your tree carving event, contact [email protected]

 

Earth Day 2019

Earth Day 2019 700 400 Simon O'Rourke
,Honouring Earth Day 2019

We’re marking Earth Day 2019, by talking about one of Earth’s (and Tree Carving’s!) most vital resources: Trees!

Trees are the biggest plants on the planet. They give us oxygen, store carbon, stabilise the soil and give life to the world’s wildlife. They are also the material that forms the basis for everything that Simon produces , whether life size human form commission, furniture, or accessories (have you ever seen his bowties?!)

Carving a dragon into a fallen tree

Carving a dragon into a fallen tree

Why Tree Carving?

Simon definitely hadn’t planned on tree carving as a career. After A levels, he began a degree in illustration. He actually hoped and planned to be a freelance illustrator of children’s books. After graduation however, he took a job with Acorn Arbor Care as a tree surgeon. The idea was, this would give him an income while he built up his illustration portfolio. And so, at this time he began working with chainsaws. In fact, the first saw Simon used was made by Stihl, . In one of those ‘full circle’ kind of stories, they are now his current sponsors!

Realising he could be creative as well as practical with a chain saw, Simon tried his hand at carving. There was something special for him in discovering that “such a potentially destructive tool can be used to create beauty”. After that discover, the rest – as they say – is history!

As well as the appeal of the chain saw, the wood itself is full of appeal. Part of this is in its ever-changing nature, which then shapes the finished product, beyond Simon’s first idea. He can plan a piece with detailed sketches and have an idea of what he wants it to look like. However it has to evolve a lot once the carving actually begins. The grain dictates where the natural strength of the timber is and can give so much inspiration for the shape of a sculpture. Every tree is unique and you never know what you’re going to find when you cut into a piece.

 

The timber used for this carving of a shire horse. The natural grain enhances the texture and shape of the horse.

The timber used for this carving of a shire horse. The natural grain enhances the texture and shape of the horse.

Sourcing Wood Responsibly

On Earth Day 2019  when we are thinking about preserving the world’s resources, it is also natural to be wondering where all this wood is coming from. Is tree carving damaging to the environment?

Far from it. Tree carving is one of the more sustainable mediums for sculpture. Working with a natural material means that although it weathers well, eventually it will degrade, as all wood does. At this point, it is returned to the earth – no land or ocean filling here!
In addition, Simon uses trees that have either fallen naturally, or trees that have become dangerous or diseased. Most importantly, he always uses wood that has come from a sustainable managed location. This includes domestic housing and managed forests and woodlands. One example of this which went viral earlier this year, is his carving ‘ ‘The Dragon of Bethesda‘. This dragon commission actually came about because of an arboretum owner wishing to do something with a storm-damaged fallen tree.

The Dragon of Bethesda, before and after

The Dragon of Bethesda, before and after

Forest Education

As lovers of the outdoors and environmentally aware citizens, Simon and his wife Liz enjoy the opportunities that they get to educate others too about the resources we have and how to take care of them through their work. Whether it takes the form of educational captions on a nature trail commission, sharing their hearts in interviews, or through Liz’s role as a forest school teacher, their appreciation for the world around them is clear, and not only do they model responsible use of the world’s resources as individuals and businesses, but they also inspire others to do the same.

Liz at a forest school session. They even recycle the re-purposed wood, using off-cuts from scupltures for classroom supplies like these wood chips!

Liz at a forest school session. They even recycle the repurposed wood, using off-cuts from sculptures for classroom supplies like these wood chips!

You can talk to us about Simon tranforming your own damaged or fallen trees at [email protected]