Artist Uses Chainsaw To Transform Damaged Tree Into Hand Reaching for the Sky

Hand Sculpture Reaching Towards the Sky

Artist Simon O’Rourke brings new meaning to a “palm tree” with his massive sculpture of a hand emerging from a tree stump. Titled Giant Hand of Vyrnwy, the piece measures 50 feet tall and transforms in front of your eyes. The base of the sculpture is a standard tree; but as you gaze upward, it begins to shed its bark and eventually becomes the smooth skin of the arm and ends with the gentle creases found in the palm and fingers. This transition, between rough and smooth, has a folkloric quality—as if a giant is trying to make its way onto Earth.

Giant Hand of Vyrnwy is carved into the formerly tallest tree in Wales. In fact, that’s why O’Rourke got to create the sculpture in the first place. The tree had been damaged by a storm and was going to be cut down, and the Natural Resource Wales was planning on commissioning an artist to carve it.

“I was really excited at the prospect of carving this giant and creating a memorial for such a well-known landmark,” O’Rourke explains. “I began researching the area and found the area of woodland that contained the tree was known as the Giants of Vyrnwy. This got me thinking and I decided on a giant hand, symbolizing the giants, and the tree’s last attempt to reach for the sky!”

To craft such an impressive piece required the right tools and a strong work ethic. “A scaffold was needed to make it safe to work on, and the terrain was such a difficult one that it took two days to erect the scaffold,” the artist recalls. “Six days of intense work followed using chainsaws and grinders. I needed to add two pieces for the thumb and little finger, as the tree wasn’t wide enough to form the whole hand.” Once complete, O’Rourke coated the sculpture in tung oil, which is a natural plant-based oil that’s safe for the environment.

Aside from being an incredible work of art, the process was a valuable reminder for O’Rourke. “I loved working on the hand sculpture, it reminded me just how small we are compared to some of the living organisms on this planet,” he says. “All in all, a humbling experience!”

Artist Simon O'Rourke used a chainsaw to carve a giant hand emerging from a tree stump.

Hand Sculpture Reaching Towards the Sky

Hand Sculpture Reaching Towards the Sky

Creating the piece was an intense process. O'Rourke worked in a scaffold and formed the hand over the course of six days.

Chainsaw Carving Artist Simon O'Rourke With Hand Sculpture

Chainsaw Carving Artist Simon O'Rourke With Hand Sculpture

Chainsaw Carving Artist Simon O'Rourke With Hand Sculpture

The sculpture is now near Lake Vyrnwy, a reservoir in Powys, Wales where everyone can enjoy it.


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Found this stunning sculpture whilst walking around the lake today. Incredible work by @simonorourke

A post shared by Adam George (@adam_george_photography) on

Simon O'Rourke:  Website | Facebook | Instagram

My Modern Met granted permission to feature photos by Simon O'Rourke.

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Sara Barnes

Sara Barnes is a Staff Editor at My Modern Met, Manager of My Modern Met Store, and co-host of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. As an illustrator and writer living in Seattle, she chronicles illustration, embroidery, and beyond through her blog Brown Paper Bag and Instagram @brwnpaperbag. She wrote a book about embroidery artist Sarah K. Benning titled 'Embroidered Life' that was published by Chronicle Books in 2019. Sara is a graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art. She earned her BFA in Illustration in 2008 and MFA in Illustration Practice in 2013.
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