This Bay State Artist Calls on an Unusual Material to Craft His Sculptures

Hint: He's used some 50 miles of it over the course of his career.

ryan kelley

Balance II, tinned-copper wire on stone, $800, / Courtesy photo

Ryan Kelley spent many childhood hours playing in his Massachusetts backyard, often running through a rocky brook where roots and greenery sprouted at his feet. Now, the Byfield-based artist draws on those memories—and his enduring love of nature—to create custom wire sculptures for clients throughout New England and beyond. Kelley’s main muse? Trees. “As I started making art, it finally got to the point where I made one tree and then another,” he says. “There’s just something about the metaphor and symbolism that a tree has, whether it’s religious, spiritual, or holistic, that I was really drawn to.”

To craft one of his arboreal pieces—including Balance II, shown here—Kelley begins with a stone base, often sourced from his customers. The stone’s colors typically inspire his choice of wire, which he painstakingly cuts and bends with pliers to form the metallic plant he’ll affix to the base. The artist estimates that he’s used some 50 miles of wire over the course of his nine-year career, with hundreds of feet woven into this sculpture alone. The material is both hardy and delicate, Kelley notes—just like trees. “One of my favorite parts [of the process] is taking that cold, inanimate, hard metal and adding a little bit of life and gentleness to it,” he says.