Wire sculpture

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Steel wire sculpture by Rene Romero Schuler Wired - Steel Wire Sculpture by Fine Artist Rene Romero Schuler.jpg
Steel wire sculpture by Rene Romero Schuler

Wire sculpture is the creation of sculpture or jewelry (sometimes called wire wrap jewelry) out of wire. The use of metal wire in jewelry dates back to the 2nd Dynasty in Egypt and to the Bronze and Iron Ages in Europe. [1] In the 20th century, the works of Alexander Calder, Ruth Asawa, and other modern practitioners developed the medium of wire sculpture as an art form.


Alexander Calder

Alexander Calder (1898–1976), an American sculptor, greatly developed the use of wire as a medium for sculpture with his kinetic and movement-based Cirque Calder , as well as pieces such as Two Acrobats, Romulus and Remus, and Hercules and Lion.

In 1926, after a stint spent making toys at the request of a Serbian toy merchant in Paris, Calder began creating his Cirque Calder, a miniature, movable circus that uses movable wire models of various circus performers, like sword eaters and lion tamers. [2] After this, Calder created complete pieces only using wire and in 1927 had a show of wire sculptures at the Weyhe Gallery in New York City. In 1930, he had a solo show of wire sculptures in Paris, at Galerie Billiet.

Calder’s wire sculptures of this period tended to be portraits, caricatures, and stylized representations of people and animals. While originally believing the medium of wire sculpture to be merely clever and amusing, as his work developed, he began to state that wire sculpture had an important place in the history of art and remarked on the great possibilities within the medium. [3] “These new studies in wire, however, did not remain the simple, modest little things I had done in New York. They are still simple, more simple than before, and therein lie the great possibilities which I have only recently come to feel for the wire medium... There is one thing, in particular, which connects them with history. One of the futuristic painters' canons, as propounded by Modigliani, was that objects should not be lost to view but should be shown through the others by making the latter transparent. The wire sculpture accomplishes this in a most decided manner!"

Ruth Asawa

Ruth Asawa came to prominence when her wire sculptures appeared at both the Whitney Museum of American Art and the 1955 São Paulo Art Biennial. [4] Asawa learned to use commonplace materials from Josef Albers, her teacher at Black Mountain College, and began experimenting with wire using a variety of techniques. [5]

In the 1950s, Asawa experimented with crocheted wire sculptures of abstract forms that appear as three dimensional line drawings. She learned the basic technique while in Toluca, Mexico, where villagers used a similar technique to make baskets from galvanized wire.

“I was interested in it because of the economy of a line, making something in space, enclosing it without blocking it out. It’s still transparent. I realized that if I was going to make these forms, which interlock and interweave, it can only be done with a line because a line can go anywhere.”

Wire artist Racso Jugarap with his work Carmen. Artist Racso Jugarap.jpg
Wire artist Racso Jugarap with his work Carmen.

In 1962, Asawa began experimenting with tied wire sculptures of images rooted in nature, geometry, and abstraction. [6]

Contemporary practitioners

Contemporary wire artists include:

Sophie Ryder 's galvanized wire sculpture Sitting at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park Sophie Ryder's "Sitting" (side view).jpg
Sophie Ryder 's galvanized wire sculpture Sitting at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park


Wire sculpture jewelry Wire wrapped Ruby.jpg
Wire sculpture jewelry

Because the needed tools are simple, wrapped wire jewelry can be learned and performed in home studios by hobby artists. Some of the tools used include pliers, pin vises, file, wire cutters, and mandrels.

The wire used may be of a variety of decorative metals in different cross-sections. Wire sculpture jewelry may have beads or gemstones integrated into the design.

Metals used

For most people who start out working with wire, it is not cost-effective to jump straight to precious metals such as silver or gold. Therefore, less expensive craft wires made from softer materials such as brass, copper, aluminum, or gold fill can be used. The artist typically first gains experience exploring form while learning the feel of the wire. There are many ways wire can be handled and wrapped. Progression can be made to the more expensive metals such as 925 sterling silver and 14k gold-filled wire.

14k gold-filled wire is a tube of 14k gold that has a length of jewelers brass running through the middle. It is not like gold plated wire as there is approx 100 times more gold in gold filled than there is on the plated wire. With gold-filled wire that is designated 14/20 it means that a minimum 20% of the entire wire is 14k gold. As with solid gold the gold-filled wire can come in at least yellow and rose colors enabling the range of jewelry that can be made to be expansive.

See also

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Sculpture Artworks that are three-dimensional objects

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Wire Single, usually cylindrical, flexible strand or rod of metal

A wire is a single usually cylindrical, flexible strand or rod of metal. Wires are used to bear mechanical loads or electricity and telecommunications signals. Wire is commonly formed by drawing the metal through a hole in a die or draw plate. Wire gauges come in various standard sizes, as expressed in terms of a gauge number. The term 'wire' is also used more loosely to refer to a bundle of such strands, as in "multistranded wire", which is more correctly termed a wire rope in mechanics, or a cable in electricity.

Engraving Incising designs by cutting into a surface

Engraving is the practice of incising a design onto a hard, usually flat surface by cutting grooves into it with a burin. The result may be a decorated object in itself, as when silver, gold, steel, or glass are engraved, or may provide an intaglio printing plate, of copper or another metal, for printing images on paper as prints or illustrations; these images are also called "engravings". Engraving is one of the oldest and most important techniques in printmaking. Wood engraving is a form of relief printing and is not covered in this article.

Alexander Calder

Alexander Calder was an American sculptor known both for his innovative mobiles that embrace chance in their aesthetic, and static "stabiles" monumental public sculptures. He didn't limit his art to sculptures; he also created paintings, jewelry, theatre sets and costumes.

Bronze sculpture Sculpture cast in bronze

Bronze is the most popular metal for cast metal sculptures; a cast bronze sculpture is often called simply a "bronze". It can be used for statues, singly or in groups, reliefs, and small statuettes and figurines, as well as bronze elements to be fitted to other objects such as furniture. It is often gilded to give gilt-bronze or ormolu.

Cloisonné Enamelling technique used on metal

Cloisonné is an ancient technique for decorating metalwork objects with colored material held in place or separated by metal strips or wire, normally of gold. In recent centuries, vitreous enamel has been used, but inlays of cut gemstones, glass and other materials were also used during older periods; indeed cloisonné enamel very probably began as an easier imitation of cloisonné work using gems. The resulting objects can also be called cloisonné. The decoration is formed by first adding compartments to the metal object by soldering or affixing silver or gold as wires or thin strips placed on their edges. These remain visible in the finished piece, separating the different compartments of the enamel or inlays, which are often of several colors. Cloisonné enamel objects are worked on with enamel powder made into a paste, which then needs to be fired in a kiln. If gemstones or colored glass is used, the pieces need to be cut or ground into the shape of each cloison.

Mobile (sculpture)

A mobile (,) is a type of kinetic sculpture constructed to take advantage of the principle of equilibrium. It consists of a number of rods, from which weighted objects or further rods hang. The objects hanging from the rods balance each other, so that the rods remain more or less horizontal. Each rod hangs from only one string, which gives it the freedom to rotate about the string. An ensemble of these balanced parts hang freely in space, by design without coming into contact with each other.

Assemblage (art)

Assemblage is an artistic form or medium usually created on a defined substrate that consists of three-dimensional elements projecting out of or from the substrate. It is similar to collage, a two-dimensional medium. It is part of the visual arts and it typically uses found objects, but is not limited to these materials.

Sculpture of the United States

The history of sculpture in the United States begins in the 1600s "with the modest efforts of craftsmen who adorned gravestones, Bible boxes, and various utilitarian objects with simple low-relief decorations." American sculpture in its many forms, genres and guises has continuously contributed to the cultural landscape of world art into the 21st century.

Metal clay Craft material of metal particles and a plastic binder

Metal clay is a crafting medium consisting of very small particles of metal such as silver, gold, bronze, or copper mixed with an organic binder and water for use in making jewelry, beads and small sculptures. Originating in Japan in 1990, metal clay can be shaped just like any soft clay, by hand or using molds. After drying, the clay can be fired in a variety of ways such as in a kiln, with a handheld gas torch, or on a gas stove, depending on the type of clay and the metal in it. The binder burns away, leaving the pure sintered metal. Shrinkage of between 8% and 30% occurs. Alloys such as bronze, sterling silver, and steel also are available.

Events from the year 1926 in art.

Jewelry wire

Jewelry wire is wire, usually copper, brass, nickel, aluminium, silver, or gold, used in jewelry making.

Akan art

Akan art is an art form that originated among the Akan people of West Africa. Akan art is known for vibrant artistic traditions, including textiles, sculpture, Akan goldweights, as well as gold and silver jewelry. The Akan people are known for their strong connection between visual and verbal expressions and a distinctive blending of art and philosophy. Akan culture values gold above all other metals, so the artwork and jewelry made of gold reflects a great deal of value, whether it be made for appearance, artistic expression, or more practical trading purposes.

Wire wrapped jewelry Technique for making jewelry

Wire wrapping is one of the oldest techniques for making handmade jewelry. This technique is done with jewelry wire and findings similar to wire to make components. Wire components are then connected to one another using mechanical techniques with no soldering or heating of the wire. Frequently, in this approach, a wire is bent into a loop or other decorative shape and then the wire is wrapped around itself to finish the wire component. This makes the loop or decorative shape permanent. The technique of wrapping wire around itself gives this craft its name of wire wrapping.

Albert Paley

Albert Paley is an American modernist metal sculptor. Initially starting out as a jeweler, Paley has become one of the most distinguished and influential metalsmiths in the world. Within each of his works, three foundational elements stay true: the natural environment, the built environment, and the human presence. Paley is the first metal sculptor to have received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Institute of Architects. He lives and works in Rochester, New York with his wife, Frances.

Ruth Asawa American sculptor

Ruth Aiko Asawa was an American sculptor. Asawa's work is in the collections of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York. Fifteen of her wire sculptures are on permanent display in the tower of San Francisco's de Young Museum in Golden Gate Park, and several of her fountains are located in public places in San Francisco. Asawa was an arts education advocate and the driving force behind the creation of the San Francisco School of the Arts, which was renamed the Ruth Asawa San Francisco School of the Arts in 2010 in tribute to her.

Painting Practice of applying paint, pigment, color or other medium to a surface

Painting is the practice of applying paint, pigment, color or other medium to a solid surface. The medium is commonly applied to the base with a brush, but other implements, such as knives, sponges, and airbrushes, can be used.

Visual arts Art forms that create works that are primarily visual in nature

The visual arts are art forms such as painting, drawing, printmaking, sculpture, ceramics, photography, video, filmmaking, design, crafts and architecture. Many artistic disciplines such as performing arts, conceptual art, and textile arts also involve aspects of visual arts as well as arts of other types. Also included within the visual arts are the applied arts such as industrial design, graphic design, fashion design, interior design and decorative art.

Modern sculpture

Modern sculpture is generally considered to have begun with the work of Auguste Rodin, who is seen as the progenitor of modern sculpture. While Rodin did not set out to rebel against the past, he created a new way of building his works. He "dissolved the hard outline of contemporary Neo-Greek academicism, and thereby created a vital synthesis of opacity and transparency, volume and void". Along with a few other artists in the late 19th century who experimented with new artistic visions in sculpture like Edgar Degas and Paul Gauguin, Rodin invented a radical new approach in the creation of sculpture. Modern sculpture, along with all modern art, "arose as part of Western society's attempt to come to terms with the urban, industrial and secular society that emerged during the nineteenth century".

Paul Franklin Miller Jr. was an American sculptor, art educator, and the creator of numerous art innovations. Miller was educated at Richmond Professional Institute, where he studied Abstract Expressionism. While studying he spent his summers in Provincetown, where he was greatly influenced by his mentor and tutor, Hans Hoffman.


  1. Jack Ogden, ‘Classical Gold wire: Some Aspects of its Manufacture and Use’, Jewellery Studies, 5, 1991, pp. 95–105.
  2. http://ubu.artmob.ca/video/Calder-Alexander_Le-cirque.avi
  3. Alexander Calder, unpublished, Alexander Foundation Archives, http://calder.org/historicaltexts/text/1.html
  4. Baker, Kenneth (2006-11-18). "An overlooked sculptor's work weaves its way into our times". San Francisco Chronicle.
  5. http://www.ruthasawa.com/crochetwire.html
  6. http://www.ruthasawa.com/tiedwire.html
  7. "iDn Magazine," Vol. 19, No. 3, "Drawing that Elusive Line," July 2012