I love making these and designed this tree of life tutorial years ago for my first wire work class.
(Since I sell these on my etsy shop I will request that you use my tutorial for personal use only and a launching point to designing your own variant before selling them.)
Step 1: Materials
28 or 26 ga wire
20 or 18 ga wire
stone chips (I like 3-5mm ones)
needle nose pliers
round nose pliers
flat nose pliers
ball peen hammer
anvil (or second hammer)
old prescription bottle (or something tubular and sturdy)
Optional but helpful
nylon nose pliers for straightening wire
masking tape for padding pliers
Step 2: Making the Frame
Bend about 9" of 20 ga wire around the bottle, leaving the ends even. Where they meet in the middle, bend the wires up 90 degrees.
Step 3: Hammering the Frame
Place the frame on your anvil (or the side of the second hammer) and hold the ends while hammering just the circular part.
First hammer hard enough to flatten the wire out (this will also harden the wire, but can make it fragile if you hammer too hard).
Then swap to the ball end and hammer lightly for a textured finish.
Step 4: Making the Bail
Hold the legs together about 1/4" from the top of the frame and bend about 45 degrees towards the back (less textured side).
Wrap both wires around the round nose pliers towards the front and down. Straighten the long ends so they run parallel to the little stem you created before making the loop.
Bind with a few inches of 20 ga wire.
Step 5: Finishing the Bail
Trim legs to 1" and bend perpendicular to the bail.
Make a small loop at the end of each leg with the tip of round nose pliers.
With (tape padded) flat nose pliers gently hold one of the loops and curl it along its wire to the bail, creating a spiral. Repeat on the other side.
Step 6: Starting the Tree
I lay out my stones in advance, making 10 rows of chips to be able to see color balance.
Cut 5 12" lengths of 28 ga wire and fold them in half. Unfold just enough to slip them over your frame and twist once or twice.
(Don't twist too tightly, the fine wire can snap.)
Step 7: Adding Foliage
Start with the middle folded wire, slide chips on both sides and then twist to keep them on.
Repeat with each set.
Step 8: Creating the Trunk
There are 5 branches. Twist the 2nd and 3rd together, leave some space, and twist the 1rst in around them.
Twist the 4th and 5th together.
Leaving space between the two bunches, twist those together, until about 3/8-1/2" above the frame.
Step 9: Making the Root System
Break the twisted together trunk back into 5 pairs of twisted wires and spread them out.
Carefully untwist the wires past the frame. Wrap the individual wires behind, up, and around the frame 3-5 times. There will be wraps on either side of the 5 twisted roots.
Step 10: Wrapping Up
Done. If you want, you can go in with needle nose pliers and very gently twist the branches and roots around for a more gnarled tree.