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'New Beginnings' by Luke Jerram

‘New Beginnings’ with Luke Jerram


The artist Luke Jerram asked me to work with him to create a new piece in 2022, to be installed at Ashton Court in Bristol. It is called ‘New Beginnings’.

The project was initiated, designed and directed by Luke; I sourced the materials, gave technical advice, carved and assembled the sculpture and helped with its installation.

Luke Jerram and Alistair park with 'New Beginnings', a sculpture installed in Ashton court Bristol in 2022

The carving, made using redwood timber that was sourced locally, represents a seed into which visitors are invited to hammer coins and make a wish. The idea is based on ‘wishing trees’; a tradition where usually fallen trees or stumps have coins hammered into them by passers-by for luck. Here is a photo of an actual wishing tree near Uley in Gloucestershire;

wishing tree near Uley in Gloucestershire

On his website, Luke Jerram said “I love idea of a seed: as a capsule of information and an object of potential that contains everything inside, a plant needs to grow. I hope the public enjoy interacting with this new sculpture and it acts as a capsule for their hopes, dreams and imagination!”

After a month, over a thousand coins had been hammered into the sculpture by visitors!

A very Bristolian owl

Triodos Bank UK asked me to carve them an owl to celebrate 25 years of being based in Bristol.

The timbers used are a bit special: the body is carved from Lawson Cypress (also known as Port Orford cedar) and the feet from linden (lime) wood, both of which grew in the Ashton Court estate on the edge of the city. It’s a place very dear to many Bristolians.

The eyes and talons are greenheart, a tough wood which originally formed the top of the nineteenth-century lock gates that led into the city’s harbour. When they were renewed a few years ago, I was given this timber.

The beak came from a garden in the Lockleaze area of the city, where some my relations used to live. The oak perch is reclaimed locally-grown timber too.

bristol owl for triodos
carved wooden hibiscus awarded peaches golding 2019

A Hibiscus flower awarded to Peaches 2019

For the last four years, I have made the ‘Jackie Collins Woman of the Year‘ award for the cancer charity Penny Brohn UK, which is awarded to women who have not only been very successful in their public lives but have also fought cancer.

The carved hibiscus flower is about life size and was given to Peaches Golding, the Lord Lieutenant of Bristol, in 2019. It was carved using timbers from the area around the city, including pieces of the historic North Junction lock gate, which opened into the harbour, as well as small bits of mast from the famous ship the SS Great Britain. Each timber is identified, along with the place that it came from, in text carved onto the base.

This particular subject was chosen for the sculpture as she often wears a hibiscus flower that has been grown by her husband.


penny brown uk awarded peaches golding


It always feels like an honour to be given the opportunity to make these awards. This is Peaches Golding receiving it: the image was supplied by Penny Brohn UK and is credited to Lumiosa.


peaches golding

bespoke display stand

Bespoke display stands with carved inscriptions

Sometimes, I get asked to make display stands. The one above was for a set of three antique balls used to play the game of bowls. The oak stand really set them off nicely and I enjoyed carving two different inscriptions, one in a Trajan-style script and the other in one similar to Chancery.

inscription on display stand

I always use timber that has been sourced as ethically as possible, only using reclaimed tropical hardwoods and oak from well-managed British or European forests. Each is also finished with green baize on the underside.

The stands below were made for a stone sculptor, using reclaimed South American mahogany. The colour contrasts nicely with his carvings:

mahogany stands

Playground musical instruments

Musical Instruments for a Playground

St Werburghs Community Centre in Bristol have been redeveloping a car park as a play area and asked if I could make some ‘sensory structures’ for the area – which gave the chance to make musical instruments!

playground musical instruments

Researching how to make and tune them was a fascinating process. It was made a little trickier as I wanted to use reclaimed timbers to make some of the wooden parts. The larger companies around my workshop sometimes get deliveries of timber on bearers made from offcuts of sapele wood – a tree that grows in tropical Africa. Although many are reused by those companies when stacking timber for storage, it seemed a real shame to waste any of the used bearers by burning or throwing them away, especially as sapele is a great timber to use for xylophone bars. I’m very glad to have found a better use for the wood.

Playground xylophone made from reclaimed timbers

The beautiful locally-grown larch posts holding up the instruments were provided by Tom and the team at Roundwood Design.

The four instruments are:

A set of four tuned metallophone bars, made from discarded ends of scaffold pole. The limited space between the existing planters meant that the instruments could only be  a certain width. I also made the beaters to play the bars, using golf balls on aluminium rods.

met allophone made from reclaimed scaffold pole for playgrounds

A tuned xylophone was probably the most difficult thing to get right; especially as there is a certain amount of wastage when using reclaimed materials due to imperfections and damage in the wood. I’m very happy with how it turned out and would like to explore the idea further, perhaps by carving the bars into interesting shapes.

Xylophone for playground

The next instrument was made using stainless steel threaded bars and washers. The washers slide down the bars, making a sound a bit like a rain stick. It’s strangely fascinating to watch them as they move downwards, glittering in the sun.

Playground instruments play area

The final instrument is something I call ‘rattle poles’. These were turned from the sapele bearers, with a stick to play them that was also turned using reclaimed timber from a bearer.

wooden play instrument

Woodturning to make instruments

The two vertical sticks were the largest turned wooden items that I’ve produced so far. It gave me a chance to get my vintage Myford ML8 lathe fired up, which was great fun.

Woodturning on a Myford ML8 lathe

I think that the finished turned sticks look beautiful, especially against the rustic larch poles.

wooden sticks to play

It’s a lovely thought that these musical instruments will provide fun for children and their parents for many years to come. What do they sound like, you may be asking? There’s a Youtube video which will show you.

Carved wooden birds at Woodland Arts

These carvings of birds were made for ‘Woodland Arts’, an exhibition in Leigh Woods, Bristol in 2017. I like making new pieces to show in events like this one. Although it can be time consuming, it always gives an opportunity to explore themes that interest me but perhaps haven’t come up in my commission work.

I hadn’t carved a bird sculpture for quite a while, and the woodland setting for the show seemed to make them an ideal subject. Kestrels (as above) and nuthatches (shown below, poised to run down a tree trunk as they do) are both birds that interest me and that live around these woods, so they were the ones chosen.

Carved wooden nuthatch

For the bodies of each bird, I used European larch timber. These were timber offcuts from companies that share the area that my workshop is in. Larch isn’t particularly easy to carve with traditional hand tools, no matter how sharp they are, so much of the work was done with abrasive discs fitted to angle grinders.

woodcarving using power tools

This also gave the carvings a smoother, slightly abstract feel which I really like.

Nuthatch bird wood carving

The pale wood in the kestrel’s beak is hornbeam, taken out during building work at Bristol’s Southmead hospital.

The dark wood used for the eyes and the beaks is a bit of Bristol’s heritage. It is a timber called greenheart, from offcuts which were given to me by a furniture maker friend named Jim Sharples. Jim had made a large bench to be placed near Bristol’s ‘Mshed‘, using wood from the old North Junction lock gates which led from Bristol Harbour to the Avon Gorge and then the sea. The huge trunk of tough African greenheart wood lay on the top of the old gates, to protect them from bumps by ship’s hulls. It was removed when the gates, which were fitted in the nineteenth century, were recently replaced. These small bits of wood are really pieces of Bristol’s maritime history.

carved wooden rabbit

A rabbit for the boss of Ann Summers 2018

The ‘Jackie Collins Woman of the Year’ award is presented every year by the cancer charity Penny Brohn UK. For the last three years, I have been honoured to be asked to carve each one. All of them are different in design and a lot of effort is put into making each one special to the person receiving it.

In 2018, it was presented to Jacqueline Gold. She is the boss of the Ann Summers chain of high street shops, which sell lingerie and other products to spice up people’s love lives. Her award references one of the company’s most famous products, which has a rabbit theme…


wooden rabbit bx


The wood used is Lawson Cypress (called Port Orford Cedar in the US). It originally came from the Ashton Court estate in Bristol and the carving also has a small box included in the design, as the charity also wanted the award to be functional in some way.


carved wooden rabbit box


Here’s a photo of Jacqueline Gold receiving her award in May 2018. The image was supplied by Penny Brohn UK and is credited to Andre Regini.

Jacqueline Gold receiving the Jackie Collins woman of the Year award 2018


mythic garden dartmoor 2004

‘The Mythic Garden’, Dartmoor, Devon 2004

The is the single exhibition to date where I have only shown only stone carvings. The venue for the Mythic Garden was stunning: a large garden on the edge of the high moors that houses the national collections of birch and alder trees. Artworks were dotted throughout the space, so there was plenty of room around each one and a wide variety of possible locations to site pieces.




I don’t carve stone that often: to be honest, working with wood is really where I’m happiest. It was an interesting change though and I’m very grateful to have had the chance to put work into this lovely spot.



Teaching woodcarving to individuals and small groups at their homes or at my beautiful studio in Bristol

Individual Tuition

As well as giving tuition to larger groups and at schools, I really enjoy teaching individuals and small groups in my own workshop. It’s great to see what people choose to make when given the timber and tools and a chance to have a go.

teaching woodcarving in Bristol

They also get the chance to learn with a qualified and insured tutor who is one of the most experienced carvers currently working in the area. I am experienced in and can teach all kinds of carving, large or small scale.

Woodcarving tuition in BristolLearners can use a wide variety of my own tools; from tiny gouges, through knives and axes to power tools. I try to give the important information that allows someone to be able to buy and maintain their own tools and continue carving at home.

If you have a woodcarving idea, I can probably help you to make it.




Will Barsley spent two days learning with me in 2013. He is now studying woodcarving at the City and Guilds College in London and writing about carving in publications and on his blog. Will has thanked me for the tuition that started him on his career, saying:

‘Thank you so much for today and last week for that matter. 
Have really enjoyed the lessons and is so nice to have the opportunity to work with all your tools. ‘

‘you were my first tutor and really helped stoke the fire of my interest in becoming a wood carver.’

Will Barsley wood carving