“I have easily used over 15 miles of wire.
I purchase 3,750 feet of wire at a time and buy many spools a year
depending on classes and projects.”
—RYAN KELLEY, artist and sculptor 


interview by NANCY GORDON
portrait photography by MATT COLLAMER

Photograph by Alex Iby

Why trees? Did they choose you, or did you choose them?

Some of both. I have always loved trees. I have lived in the woods in gorgeous nature my entire life, and seeing how the trees would react and grow around obstacles and change with the environment was so inspiring. We as humans need a reminder of that patience and power, so I hope my work will evoke some of those elements.

How did you learn your craft?

I am totally self-taught. Between local artists, social media, the internet, and trial and error, there are many ways I have learned over the last 10 years! Creating something at least once a week and keeping at it slowly adds up over time!

What is it about wire that makes it so perfect for trees?

Wire is such a fun, approachable and dynamic medium. Being an additive art form definitely lends itself to creating trees. The more wires I add, the more branches the tree gets. There is a ratio and equation that feels natural and balanced, just like trees.

On average, how many feet of wire are woven into each sculpture?

Depending on the size and style of the piece, I use anywhere from 75 to 1,000 feet of wire. Winds of Change, my largest wire tree so far took over 2 miles of wire to create.

How many miles of wire do you estimate you’ve used in your 10-year career?

I have easily used over 15 miles of wire. I purchase 3,750 feet of wire at a time and buy many spools a year depending on classes and projects.

Much of the stone you use for bases comes from Maine … Any particular type of stone?

My goal is to create pieces that mimic the natural world in my own way. Depending on the pieces style and size, I love using a variety of rough and smooth stone bases. Having rough granite faces that mimic cliffs is a personal favorite, but people also seem to love the water-washed smooth rocks to give a calmer vibe to the piece. There is such a variety in the granite, some marble, quartz, and other gorgeous natural stone in Maine. I get so inspired!

Do your clients provide their own special stones as the base for their trees?

About half of my clients provide a stone base for me to use. It adds another layer of customization, emotional connection and intrinsic value to their piece. It also makes each piece even more unique.

Given that your work is mainly commissions, the trees that you’re asked to sculpt must have varied and interesting tales of creation. Please choose a few and tell us about them.

Clipper City Rail Trail Tree
Photograph by Ryan Gregory

This piece is my first welded 3D tree that was installed outdoors! I have created other pieces in this style, but never on a large stone base and never outdoors. I worked with a local family that I have created other projects with to design and build this steel rod welded tree and installed it on the Clipper City Rail Trail in Newburyport, MA. The granite base was repurposed from a friend’s job, the large stone base for the tree was found on the side of the road in New Hampshire, and all of the components are secured together with special masonry adhesive. People seem to love this piece, and I have plans for similar works in the future.

Winds of Change
Photograph by Kam Mitchell

Winds of Change is the largest wire tree I have created in my 10 years of business. The tree is approximately 4 x 4 feet, weighs 77 pounds and consists of over 2 miles of wire. Taking over 200 hours to create, I worked with my long-time friend and photographer Dawn Gagye to capture the entire process of creating the piece to compile into my book that I now sell, or sign and give to customers. This piece is now on display at Morton Contemporary Gallery in Philadelphia.

Photograph by Ryan Gregory

This is the largest bonsai style tree I have ever created. It was commissioned by my good friend and fellow artist Markus Sebastiano of Blochaus Gallery in Newburyport, MA, for his client’s home in Austin, TX. The tree has 600 tinned copper wires, is 3-feet tall and has over 24,000 leaves! The dark granite base is from southern Maine, and getting the whole piece to balance while looking organic was a fun challenge. Ventiquattromila took about 70 hours to create.

You also offer workshops. What can people expect to learn?

I host a monthly wire tree art class at various local venues. In the two-hour class, I provide all of the tools and materials required. The students create a variety of wire trees. I teach people how to make the tree they want to make, not one that the entire class copies. You just bring a fist sized rock, friends or family and some creativity!

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