An Elephant and Calf Sculpture in Cypress

Last Friday was World Elephant Day which made it the perfect day for unveiling one of my latest pieces: An elephant and calf sculpture in Cypress. The sculpture is popular among my social media followers, so I thought I’d share a bit about the story. Thanks to my client for their help with this blog.

Finished elephant and calf sculpture

About the Tree

My client contacted me to ask about creating a sculpture in a Cypress trunk. The tree had become unwell and needed felling, but they didn’t want to get rid of it completely. They wanted to keep something of the history of the tree/garden in situ, and hoped to turn it into a sculpture.

My client found me after searching online, not realising I had already done some carvings in their village. In her own words,  “After scrolling through his previous work on his web page as well as Instagram, I didn’t hesitate to get in touch.”

Thankfully, Cypress is pretty durable (see my blog What is the Best Wood for a Sculpture? for suitable trees for carving) and the stump was big enough (the smallest it can be is 30cm (approx 12″) diameter or 1000mm (39″)), so a sculpture was a possibility!

The cypress trunk before it became an elephant and calf sculpture.

Choosing a Subject

Choosing a subject for a sculpture can be challenging, especially as it will be there a LONG time! It’s important to find a subject that has enduring meaning or has been a long-time love. Unless you want a reminder of the time you went through one of the slightly bizarre fads we all have in our pasts!

My client and her husband have always had an affinity for elephants and Africa. They also wanted a sculpture that represented the importance of family and love, so an elephant was a natural choice. They’ve shared that they hope that just as elephants are often evocative of family, loyalty, strength, steadiness, and wisdom, their cypress elephant and calf sculpture will “spur [them] along in their strength, protection and wisdom for all the challenges ahead!” What a lovely picture!

Proposed design for the sculpture.

Creating the Elephant and Calf Sculpture

Having settled on the design, I travelled to my client’s house to get to work. Fittingly, as we were in the middle of a heatwave, it felt like Africa as I was carving! Incidentally, if you’re new to chainsaw carving and thinking of carving on a hot day, I have a blog with some tips for chainsaw carving in the sun.

One of the things I enjoy about carving on-site is that the client is able to see the process and watch their sculpture emerge from the timber. Clients often enjoy it too, and this lady and her husband were no different:

Having Simon work at our home was a magical experience. It was such a privilege to see him work and be able to pop out every couple of hours to see the incredible transformation happening.”

Working with the Wood

As a natural, living material, wood can be unpredictable. I love the challenge of working with its knots and grain and cracks and shapes rather than trying to conform it to my pre-existing idea. This particular cypress tree had a bit of a new challenge for me though – it split into branches quite low down.

If I carved only in the solid piece before it split, the finished sculpture would have been too short or too small. I’ve been admiring the work of David Popa recently though and I like the way he creates single shapes or images across multiple pieces ( click HERE for a favourite example), so I took some inspiration from him and carved the sculpture across multiple stems.

The finished result seems to feel more organic somehow – fitting for both the material and the subject.

Chainsaw Carving Tip!

It was important for me to get a sense of the elephant’s skin, and also the character. Elephants are so majestic, steady, beautiful animals, and they seem to carry maturity or wisdom. Much of this is conveyed in the eyes, so I needed to get the expression right. I found the Milwaukee Tools multicutter  paired with the saburrtooth small flame bit was perfect for creating the right shape and depth for the eye.

Elephant and Calf Sculpture: Client Testimonial

The elephant and calf sculpture was a lovely commission. It has captured a lot of attention on social media, but he most important thing though, is what the client thinks. When asked, she told us:

“We are so thrilled with the new additions to the family. Simon’s talent is awe-inspiring and what a lovely thing to do for the enjoyment of both our and future generations.”

And I’m delighted that they love the sculpture! Hopefully, it will bring them (and their family and friends!) joy for years to come.

If you want to commission your own sculpture, contact me using the form at

I’d love to hear from you!