Unique Centrepiece Sculptures for a Zoo Charity Dinner

I think it’s fair to say that my best known sculptures are pretty big! Dragon of Bethesda, Giant Hand of Vyrnwy, Powis Castle Wyverns – they’re all BIG! However, did you know that not all my pieces are so large? I recently had a commission for some unique centrepiece sculptures for a charity dinner at Chester Zoo organised by Chester Business Club. At only 30cm – 70cm tall, they were the total opposite end of the spectrum!

The sculptures were not only decorative but also helped raise money for the zoo. Keep reading to find out more…

Close up of a 70cm cedar sculpture of an elephant on a dinner table made by artist simon o'rourke - one of seven unique centrepiece sculptures made for a charity dinner
The elephant centrepiece I made for the event


My client for this commission was Chester Business Club. The organisation has been around since 1986 and exists to:

  • promote the City of Chester and District in terms of trade, commerce and tourism
  • promote and foster bonds of friendship, contact, information and standards of conduct between and for the mutual benefit of business people in the City of Chester area
  • hold meetings, seminars, conferences and the like
  • arrange visits and study tours

There is also a very strong charitable focus with events throughout the year. This commission was for their most recent dinner: a fundraiser for Chester Zoo.

A dinner table with people sitting at it. The centrpiece is a 70cm cedar sculpture of a giraffe - one of seen unique centrepiece sculptures created for the event by SImon O'Rourke
Members of Chester Business Club enjoying the charity dinner at Chester Zoo


This particular event was being organised by a long-time friend, Lauren Evans. We first met her when she worked in fundraising at The Royal Liverpool Hospital and I created sculptures for auction at a few events. When she took on organising this charity dinner, she had the great idea of commissioning some unique sculptures as centrepieces that would reflect the theme and location of the event. The sculptures would then be auctioned off later in the evening. Decor and fundraising rolled into one – fantastic idea!

The dinner was not only raising funds for Chester Zoo – it was actually held there too. It was a great opportunity for networking and socialising, and featured guest speaker Conservation Science and Policy Director for Chester Zoo, Simon Dowell. The location, chosen charitable cause and speaker for the night could only mean one thing for the theme of the sculptures. Endangered species…

Chester Zoo scientific director Simon Dowell being introduced at a charity dinner
Simon Dowell about to speak to the guests – interestin, engaging & informative


With our theme established, I began planning seven sculptures that would feature as centrepieces.
We decided on animals that are not only endangered, but ones the zoo has a special interest in.
Although with an institution doing as much for conservation as Chester Zoo, that still gave us a massive list of possibilities!
So we narrowed it down further by thinking about animals people associate with the zoo (the elephant above is part of the logo) or that tend to have popular appeal.
After all, we were auctioning them off, so they had to be animals people would want in their homes, offices etc. An animal like a jaguar or panda has much more general appeal than a Yellow Sally Stonefly – one of the zoo’s insect successes.

I chose a lovely piece of cedar I had in stock as the timber and made seven sculptures ranging in height from 30-70cm:


So, how were the sculptures received?

Organiser Lauren Evans had this to say:

I can’t thank Simon enough for contributing towards the Chester Business Club Dinner at Chester Zoo.
The bespoke carved animals brought so much to the event, not only creating the best table centres for dinner, but contributing to charitable funds raised on the evening.
The event was a huge success, and all guests were amazed by Simon’s carvings and the unique skill used to create them.
Super talented

In addition to adding to the decor, the auction raised £560 for the zoo. A definite success!

unique centrepiece sculptures of endangered species ready for auction at chester zoo
Four of the sculptures ready for auction


Would you like to commission your own unique centrepiece sculptures? They add a lovely touch to any event and, as I’ve mentioned, can enhance your fundraising. If the event was a party or wedding, you could use them afterwards in your home or garden, or give them as “thank you’s” to loved ones.

First, have a think about your theme.
Characters from a book?
Mini busts of famous people?

And then? Just get in touch! Fill out the form at www.treecarving.co.uk/contact and we’ll chat. When it comes to charitable causes there are various ways a commission can work depending on your budget. I’d love to hear from you and help you elevate your event and boost your funds.

Did you have a favourite of these animals by the way? Drop a comment and let me know!