WRITTEN BY MEGIN POTTER | PHOTOS PROVIDED


When Frank Berlin’s daughter Allison was little, she planted an apple tree. That sapling grew up, as she did, in Jonesville. She and her husband now have a house in Cape Cod, but the apple tree has stayed where it was planted 40 years ago.

When it finally had to be cut down, Frank kept its trunk in his garage for three years, unable to part with what had now become, a revered chunk of wood. 

Then he shared his story with Nick Kelley.

“He looked at that piece of wood and said to Frank, ‘I think I can do something with that.’

Fishing was something the family enjoyed, so Nick carved a striped bass. 

“It came out magnificent! I was so impressed. I was almost in tears. When Allison saw it, she was in tears, too. She was so excited!” said Frank. 

Powerful Inspiration

Nick Kelley is a full-time chainsaw carver and wood sculptor who had only used the powerful machine to clear trees before 2018. That’s when he saw this exhilarating art form at the fair. He was so inspired, despite not having any formal artistic training, he taught himself how to elaborately chisel and carve wood.

Starting with a traditional bear sculpture, he has since expanded his repertoire to include creating a variety of animals, ranging in size and scope from an 8-inch owl to a 10’ eagle with a 6 ½ ft. wingspan.  Working both on tree stumps with their roots still deep in the ground and at his home studio, Nick has spent up to two weeks on a single project. 

“My goal is to get it as realistic as possible. I want to capture animals in different poses. I love the challenge,” he said. 

A number of his carvings can be seen at businesses in the area, including a red fox standing at the Ballston Spa Country Club, a fish bench at King Neptune’s Pub, and a loon bench at the outlets in Lake George.

Rooted in Trust

Although he enjoys the character of white pine, maple, and oak, Nick will work with any species of wood his clients request and finishes his pieces with stain, paint, or polyurethane to protect them from the sun’s damaging UV rays. He also offers an optional maintenance plan to help keep the sculptures looking great year after year. 

When clients see his portfolio of completed works, they often give him the opportunity to create his own designs. This is a freedom he feels honored to have been entrusted with when working on special and sentimental projects, like the Berlin’s striped bass, or the series of nine Lion King characters he sculpted for a family’s Monticello memorial garden. 

“It meant a lot to me, and it meant a lot to them. It was nice,” he said. 

To see more of Nick’s work, go to www.kelleyscarvings.com/ and follow Kelley’s Carvings on Facebook for updates. 

Nick Kelley
Nick Kelley Tree Carving

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