ADAM CONNOLLY Creates a Second Life

Originally Posted: October 11, 2012

I'm always amazed when people can take something old and make it into something completely new. A never before imagined vision that gives new life to something that's been all but forgotten.  That's it's a wonderful thing.

We posted a piece not too long ago on just exactly that (post) – discovering all kinds of truly cool ideas, but what took place here in Chester, Nova Scotia this summer most certainly tops them all.

You see, there was a big old and all but departed tree right in front of the post office. With the deep roots firmly planted and widely spread – to have it removed would be costly and painstaking. Chester was stumped with what to do with this 'stump' until Dolly Hancock and a few other citizens suggested giving the tree a “Second Life” with the help of Dartmouth born, Big Tancook Island based wildlife sculptor Adam Connolly.

For the past 23 years Connolly has been creating art from found wood – so this proposed rooted tree sculpture was right up his alley and right perfect for our village!

After about 50 days (350 hours worth) of peeling, cutting, sawing, sanding and all other means of creating... a masterpiece now stands proudly for all to see.

We wanted to salute the man whose hands and imagination made it happen so what follows is our Q & A, as they say, with artist Adam Connolly.

Adam Connolly working on Chester tree - with audienceSABS: First of all let me just say - WOW!!! The tree looks amazing. I had the pleasure of watching from the very beginning, as did so many other Chester residents and I - like so many others 'interrupted' your creative process for a chat and to ask questions. You were always so nice to stop and answer, but be honest did we drive you crazy?

Adam Connolly: The post office has its series of regulars that would drop by and say hello and give positive reinforcement everyday which keeps you going. Some people would bring coffee, lemonade and even loaves of bread to me as gifts - it was fantastic. Some would come by everyday and ask “Are you done yet?” But truly the folks were great and everyone seemed to enjoy seeing the tree unfold. I also never get tired or bored talking to people about the art or trees or the whole creative process as people fascinate me. Talking about art or one's creative spirit is very powerful and I believe that power can resonate through individuals and a community.

SABS: It's wonderful to see the beautiful sculpture that you've created - but is it true that you just... begin? Just let tree take shape as you go?

Adam Connolly: Yes it is true. I never use a sketch or have a concrete image of the completed sculpture. Hard to explain or analyze my process, but I'll give it a try. First and most important... I have to become connected to the tree, which can be sitting quietly by the tree or talking to the tree (that might sound strange, but I can talk to trees). Once I feel connected, I begin the process of debarking, this is done with great gratitude and honour while all the time telling the tree that it will begin a second life as a sculpture. When the tree is debarked I look for unique folds or crevices that might inspire me. With this tree I thought about the environment around the tree, our hectic lives and the need to pause and our children's futures (i.e. the whale rising to the surface like our children rising to their goals and the bubbles are their dreams). The rest of the processes is about me getting into a zone or a creative space where I hear nothing and I really am not aware of my surroundings.

Adam Connolly working on the Chester tree

SABS: As art goes that big old tree was one daunting blank canvas - and chainsaws and sanders are a long way from paint brushes and palettes - where did you learn to do what you do?

Adam Connolly: Started with a small piece of wood and an x-acto knife, grew to large roots and now trees. But should mention that I almost failed art in high school 🙂 I have no formal art training, but have always loved mother nature's lines and wildlife.

Adam Connolly working on the Chester tree SABS: I know after seeing what you've done here... a lot of folks will be interested in giving their old trees a "Second Life" - how do you decide what you'll work on next.

Adam Connolly: I made a decision a long time ago; use only found wood, I didn't want to cut trees for art, so this decision naturally brought me to discarded trees and roots (I love when I find wood with stones or fences embedded in them.) Here are some of my reasons why I love found wood;

Environmentally Friendly – Gather wood in a conscientious manner. Use care when exploring delicate bio-regions in search of wood sources and only remove what you need, leave the rest to decompose naturally. Using found wood promotes creation rather than destruction and lessens the demand for trees to be cut and milled in blocks.

Cost Effective – Found wood is usually free or can be bought for a minimal amount.

Saves Time – By using the wood’s natural twists and turns as part of your project, Nature has done some of the design for you.

Inspirational Much of your inspiration may be drawn from Nature’s colour and lines.

Memories - Consider using a piece of wood from a special family Christmas tree, a family homestead, or a historic location. This gives the sculpture added meaning and provenance.

Adam Connolly working on the Chester tree - detailTexture and Patterning - Interesting texture is easily achieved simply by leaving some of the natural bark area exposed. Insects may have left interesting trails and holes that can be incorporated into your design.These may inspire eye placement or feathering, etc.

As for "Second Life For Trees" that came from a mission to see our historical trees have a second life as an art sculpture to help save our shorelines or as an expression of art, I truly believe that public art has a place in all communities. I think everyone has a creative spirit inside them and this creativeness makes that person unique sometimes it is buried deep inside but it is there. Public art is a self expression of the artist, but it is translated in many different forms to individuals. People see many different things that even the artist doesn't see (someone came up to me and said "look at the beautiful mermaid" I love that they see something I didn't).

That is the beauty of art, self expression and self interpretation. There is no right or wrong, only what it is to you and how it makes you feel.



SABS Special Shout Out...

We also want to salute Cossette Howlett (P.R.O. Kids ), Chad Haughn and Brad Armstrong – Adam told us they were all  instrumental in  the logistics of the tree project and seeing it through to its fruition.

Adam Connolly at tree dedication in Chester, NS ceremony

Throughout the course of Adam's creating - he was collecting donations for Chester PRO Kids – a program that provides financial assistance to children and youth from the Municipality of Chester who, due to lack of funds, are not able to participate in sport, recreation and cultural activities.

For more info on the program click here




  1. I'm so proud of my youngest brother. He is innovative and creative and caring. He's done a fantastic, beautiful job here and I salute him and all those who believe in a second life for trees and in public art.
    Way to go, Adman !

    Comment by Christine Igot — October 25, 2012 @ 3:43 pm

  2. As Adam's mother you can imagine my pride as I stood, in company with friends who had come with me from the Valley, and viewed my son's latest creation. Even more emotional for me was the delight and surprise on his face to see me there - I had not told him I was coming! Thanks to SABS for posting this lovely piece as a tribute to Adam's creative powers. He has worked on many trees and will save many more in the years to come - of that I have no doubt. Congratulations, my son!

    Comment by Thelma Bliss — October 26, 2012 @ 4:42 pm

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