Brilliant New Invertebrate Sculptures at Marford Quarry

This blog is a little different as I’m not going to be focusing on sculptures I’ve made! Rather, this week I’m sharing the brilliant new invertebrate sculptures at Marford Quarry created by my employee, Paul Edwards

Artists Simon O'Rourke and Paul Edwards using a winch to install a sculpture of an ashy mining bee at Marford Quarry

Introducing Paul!

Before I go any further though, let me introduce Paul properly!

Paul and I met by chance around ten years ago at an art fair. He was studying arboriculture and as part of the course, had to undertake work experience each year. He took a chance and asked if he could come and do a placement with me. I said yes, and it turned out to be a great decision for all of us!

After his placement Paul continued to help with onsite jobs and around the workshop. I then took him on as an apprentice where he developed his skills sculpting with power tools. Fast forward, and he now works as my assistant carving under the banner of the Studio of Simon O’Rourke. As well as helping me on big projects, Paul now undertakes his own projects too – like these brilliant invertebrate sculptures at Marford Quarry.

Sculpture Paul Edwards uses a Stihl chainsaw to carve a wood sculpture of the Welsh fleur de lys
Paul at work in the studio

Marford Quarry Invertebrates Brief

Now you’ve met Paul, back to Marford Quarry and the invertebrate sculptures!

Marford Quarry is a former quarry-turned-nature reserve just outside Wrexham. It’s managed by the North Wales Wildlife Trust, with grant funding and assistance from Wales Council for Voluntary Action and Natural Resources Wales.
In the years since it stopped being used as a quarry, nature has reclaimed the former industrial site and it’s become quite the oasis for invertebrates. Can you believe it’s now home to over 1000 species?! Some of those species are actually quite rare too, and you can’t find them anywhere else in Wales.

As part of a wider plan to engage more with visitors to the quarry, the trust commissioned a series of sculptures. As with lots of my woodland projects and sculpture trails, the sculptures are there to provide a point of interest for visitors, but also to educate about the local area and help guests appreciate the beauty and wonder of their surroundings.

A totem pole sculpture at the entrance to marford quarry. It is the first of a series of invertebrate sculptures at marford quarry

Meet the Invertebrate Sculptures at Marford Quarry

As you can imagine, with over 1000 resident invertebrates to choose from, it was no small task deciding which ones to make! Our clients decided to showcase species which nest in the unique habitats found at the quarry: standing dead wood and sun-soaked, sandy soils.

In the words of Jordan from North Wales Wildlife Trust:

The chosen species are particularly spectacular looking, and some have amazing life cycles… we have chosen an emerald-coloured beetle which loves sunny slopes, a gorgeous wasp which nests in dead wood, a charismatic bee which makes its nests in the sand, and a delicate-looking butterfly.

As well as individual sculputres of each of the chosen invertebrates, Paul created a totem pole featuring all four of the animals.

Carved totem pole featuring a variety of invertebrates found at marford quarry

Creating the Invertebrate Sculptures at Marford Quarry

So, what was the process for making these sculptures?

First, was bidding for the job, liasing with our clients, and settling on the design. The trust chatted to several artists before giving us the commission, which is normal and encouraged. It’s important you find an artist and style you like when you commission any art. The trust thankfully liked our “creative vision of how to masterfully scale up these minibeasts in a way that would maintain their real-life qualities, whilst also making them engaging and interactive pieces” and we received the commission.

Everyone at the Simon O’Rourke studio has been very communicative throughout the whole process, always willing to take on board our feedback and make changes to designs when asked.

Jordan, North Wales Wildlife Trust
A wood sculpture of a green tiger beetle, one of a series of invertebrate sculptures at Marford Quarry
The Green Tiger Beetle Sculpture by Paul Edwards

Creating the Sculptures: Tools & Timber

Paul worked on the sculptures in the studio and then installed them at the quarry a few weeks later. He mostly used the Stihl MS661, MS500i and MSA200 saws. We’re both big fans of the Stihl battery saws like the MSA200. As well as getting in closer to the sculpture for detail, they help us reduce our carbon footrpint. Less noise pollution too, so we’re finding ourselves using the battery saws more and more often.

He used Sequoia for these sculptures, the same timber I used for the Fforest Fawr trail. As Paul says, it’s such an awesome timber to carve! “The saws just glide through it and it takes the detail so nicely”. It’s also stunning when it ages.

Sculpture of a ruby tailed wasp, one of a series of invertebrate sculptures at marford quarry

Creating the Sculptures: Technique and Tips

Every sculpture comes with its own unique set of challenges and things that make it fun. One of the main challenges with this one was creating an animal with such delicate limbs in a way it wouldn’t get easily damaged or break. Paul overcame this with a lot of relief carving. The invertebrates were an unusual subject for us too. In fact, I think it’s the first time to focus on them and create them on this scale. They’re usually an incidental thing like an occasional butterfly in a pillar! That meant going on a bit of a google image binge to find references.

Paul and I don’t often paint or colour our sculptures either, so that was something different too. If you’re going to paint your sculpture, one tip is to exaggerate the details as you’re carving as Paul did here to make sure the paint doesn’t flatten out the details.

A wood sculpture of a silver washed fritillary butterfly
Silver washed fritillary butterfly

Revealing the Finished Pieces

Paul and I installed the pieces this week, and they’ll be officially ‘unveiled’ on 22nd April. The Wildlife Trust are hosting a celebration day where they’ll highlight all the changes that are part of the “Marford MiniBeast Project” – including the sculptures! There’ll be a sculpture ‘hunt’ for children and families, so it’s a good day to visit! If you’re planning a trip, you’ll find directions as well as information about things like parking HERE. It’s our hope that not only will people enjoy the sculptures, but that they’ll also leave with a greater level of appreciation for the wildlife in the area.

A wooden sculpture of an ashy mining bee, one of the invertebrate sculptures at marford quarry
Ashy Mining Bee

Commissioning Your Own Sculptures

Would you like a series of sculptures to enhance your business or community? A sculpture trail can be a fantastic way to showcase something, provide education, and attract people.
If it’s something you’re considering, it may be worth reading my blog with ideas on funding a sculpture. There’s no doubt that a series of sculptures like this is an investment, but there are lots of ways yiu can generate the funds. In the case of these invertebrate sculptures at Marford Quarry, the trust had a grant from the Landfill Disposals Tax Communities Scheme. Grants, crowdfunding, special events and more can all be good ways to raise the funds you need for your sculpture.

And, if you would like (or Paul!) to create your sculpture(s), get in touch via

Thank you to Paul Edwards and Jordan Hurst for their assitance with this blog. Photo credit: Jordan Hurst.