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Elizabeth Berrien's Wire Sculpture Tutorials
Elizabeth Berrien : Innovative Wire Sculpture Workshop

Innovative Wire Sculpture Workshop

Cat, Elizabeth Berrien's first wire sculpture.
'Cat', Elizabeth Berrien's first wire sculpture. If you think you can make a better wire sculpture, some day you may be a professional wire sculptor too. This wire sculpture workshop will help unleash your creativity.

Part 1: Introduction

By Elizabeth Berrien

Welcome to the innovative wire sculpture movement! Innovative wire sculptors invent their own new forms of wire sculpture as they explore. They take pride in being different and creating something totally new.

I learned the process of innovation in 1968, from the late Kenneth G. Curran. He got me started; I have been my own teacher ever since. Using Mr. Curran's method, I invented my own innovative form of wire sculpture. As a pioneer in the field, I raised my innovative wire sculpture to museum quality standards. In 2004 I founded the worldwide guild, Wire Sculpture International, and received the prestigious Victor Jacoby Award for innovation in art.

In this course I will hand on to you what I have learned from Kenneth Curran so you can be an innovative wire sculptor, too.

The One Wire Sculpture Rule Written in Stone:
Don't Put Your Eye Out!

Wire Art vs. Wire Sculpture

The term "wire art" makes me twinge. Granted, working with wire is an art. But the term feels dumbed down. Perhaps some teachers don't think younger students can handle the word sculpture? Hogwash! If you've been calling it wire art and intend to get enmeshed making your own, respect the medium and respect yourself. Start calling it by its proper name, wire sculpture.

To re-educate the neurons as to proper terminology, your first project is to create the words WIRE SCULPTURE in wire. Post this noble first creation on the wall as a self-titled work, and you're on your way!

Getting Started • Course Materials

Paddle wire
Wire sculpture tools — Paddle wire. All you need to make a wire sculpture is a pair of wire cutters and your own two hands! Many serious wire sculptors feel wire sculpture is preferable to the term wire art, much more descriptive of the 3D process.
Galvanized steel wire.
Galvanized steel wire. One of the many, many types of wire you can use for making wire sculpture in this wire sculpture workshop.
Recycled wire.
Recycled wire. Innovative wire sculpture is an exciting field because virtually any kind of wire can be used for the purpose of making art. Wire Sculpture is as diverse a field as drawing and painting, and it even goes 3D! We hope this wire sculpture workshop makes you feel very innovative. This recycled wire came in three exciting layers: foil, plastic and copper!
© Elizabeth Berrien
This is all you need to make a wire sculpture, wire and some cutters. If you teach wire sculpture workshops, your class can make great wire sculptures with just wire cutters and their own hands. Teaching students to call the medium wire sculpture rather than wire art will improve their english skills, too.

With apologies to chain art stores that sell a wide array of fancy pliers and wires, I must speak heresy: Most of what I've seen for wire art supplies appears grossly over-priced and over-packaged. Be especially suspicious of anything sold as Sculpture Wire, usually packaged in shockingly small quantity at several times its bulk cost.

Folks, ALL Wire is Sculpture Wire! The best and cheapest wire in the chain art stores is over in the floral department, sold as florist wire or paddle wire. Your start-up money will go quite a bit further if you make your first selections at the hardware store. For just a few dollars, you can get a voluptuous roll of dark annealed "tie wire" aka baling wire or bailing wire. It's nice and cheap, but may leave a smudgy layer of machine oil on your hands. Sometimes it comes in a silvery, galvanized version, much easier to clean up. Ask the hardware guys and gals to show you the rack of wire assortments in the picture wire section. You'll find more of the dark annealed and galvanized wire, plus copper, brass, and aluminum. Look around a little more, and you'll find wire clothesline coated in colored plastic. Craft supply stores have beading wire in lots of shiny colors. Store-bought electrical wire is expensive, sold by the foot. Then again, the phone company sometimes gives away phone wire for class projects.

Starting to feel inspired? Buy a few different types and sizes of wire. When you get home, play around awhile. As you experiment, you'll find that your hands and eyes are happiest with a certain type and range of wire. Continue to explore with this personal wire, saving the rest of your assortment for later...


One pair of wire cutters of a size to fit in your hand comfortably. That's all, folks! I used a pair of Sears Craftsman $10.00 wire cutters to make most of the sculptures on my web site. Sure, every year or so I break a pair... and Sears replaces them for free, earning my sincere endorsement!

As for pliers, skip 'em, they're just a crutch. I prefer not to use pliers at all; they just get in the way. My own two hands are the only shaping tools for every sculpture on this wirelady web site. The only use I have for pliers is to grab those wire bits that are too short to handle with my fingers alone. You'll develop your own unique style faster if you don't use any pliers at all. Don't bother with high-priced flush cutters until if and when you've got a genuine reason to do so. I haven't used them since the 1970's...

Safety First

The One Wire Sculpture Rule Written in Stone:
Don't Put Your Eye Out!

Safety glasses are a good idea, but they're not 100% effective. A long, loose end of rogue wire can still whip around and through the ventilation holes in the side of the glasses. This is why especially at first, you're safest working with foot-long, pipe-cleaner lengths of wire. So cut it small. Or be truly safe, and start with pipe cleaners! Once you've developed a reliable proximity sense, you can gradually increase the lengths you work with. But be careful out there... even after decades working wire I still have some scary scrapes and pokes.

This is the end of Part One, enough to get you started. In Part Two I'll share the wire sculpture start-up instruction I received in 1968 from Kenneth Curran, my creative mentor.

Next: Innovative Wire Sculpture Part 2 »