THE BIG WON
HIGHLIGHTS of 2005
WIRE WALL ART
- Hazardous Duty
ART BIZ COACH
WE ACCEPT CREDIT
cry and shriek as we follow the adventures of Rachel Jensen, intrepid
art teacher on a remote military base, as she introduces a truly
devilish student body to Innovative Wire Sculpture - and the students
invent hair-raisingly hazardous uses for wire!
This ongoing blog will report Rachel's correspondence with wire
sculptor Elizabeth Berrien.
29, 2007 - TOTALLY DESPERATE!!!
I need some help here VERY BADLY. I am a high school teacher who has
been catapulted into teaching art in a unbelievably remote school on a
military base. Here are my problems. A) I am not an ART teacher, but I
do love art. B) The teacher who taught these classes retired early, I
was the only person within 50 miles who can teach and didn't already
have a job. He taught leatherwork and wood carving and took all of the
tools for these art projects with him because they were his own.
Leaving me with 18 kind of wild 8th graders with NO SUPPLIES for art.
c) My budget is tight because we are half way though the year and money
has already gone to what it was needed for at the start of the year.
Luckily I live on a cattle ranch. We have miles and miles of wire I can
scrounge up.. . .baling wire that is. I am really a welding teacher but
that was 10 years ago and I cant remember a whole lot about details
after having 3 kids and being a stay at home mom. Anyways, my students
are good kids, but they need some structure. We can do wire art but I
need help on how do I introduce this? What are simple things I can do
with them and how do I work into more complex things. Can we even do
this with baling wire? What are rules we need to follow.
HELP HELP HELP!
Thanks A TON
Dugway High School.
Don't panic, I'll do what I can to help - because there can only be one
possible Dugway High School, right? Plopped in the middle of the Dugway
Proving Ground, nearest hamlet for a wild Saturday night - Tooele? My
family lived at Dugway in 1957 while Dad did some meteorolocal work for
the government. I was in second grade, my oldest sister went to the
high school - and we loved the way the wild horses came to graze the
bright green school lawns at dusk.
I have month-end deadlines today, but here's a start: my lesson plan at
Have the kids CAREFULLY chop the baling wire into 12-inch lengths for
the three-wire exercise in the lesson plan. As they demonstrate more
control over the wire, let them have more pieces of the wire, and
gradually extend the lenths of pieces - maybe to 15", 18", etc as the
kids develop a sense for proximity and safety.
Until you have an unlimited supply of wire, encourage the kids to make
airy, open-work wire sculptures with lots of "negative space" between
the lines. One kid doing a round-and-round-wrap-it-up sculpture can
consume an otherwise cheap three-pound roll of tie wire in an afternoon
- keep it airy until someone shows a reason to do otherwise.
So you're not an art teacher? Big deal - neither am I, really - I just
know what I like, and I'm not bound by rules of how things are
"supposed" to work. Frankly, you'll probably get more creativity out of
your kids than the teachers with too much art training!
us. Dugway, Utah. In the middle of nowhere. It seems the wild mustangs
are all gone and now the base is overrun with antelope and deer.
THANK YOU!! for your help.
-K- so give them all three pieces of wire in 12 inch sections. They can
cut it and reconnect it as many times as they want? If yes, do we need
pliers for this or do I encourage them to figure out how to reconnect
it with their own hands. I need this project to take at least a couple
weeks. So what are the different methods I can do here?
I can just see a few of my troublemaker kids scrunching up the three
pieces of wire and saying "OK, Im done." I need some more structure.
There are about 6 kids in this class that have split personalities as
monsters. If I dont have something for them to do every second of my
class period, their evil moster sides come out.
I am about two weeks away from starting wire art, but it's coming fast.
Should I have them start by bending their name in a completely
connected way? Or each letter free standing? I really like your point
about no wood blocks. Let me know when you get a sec. No pressure, Ive
got some time before we hit this. Thanks Again!!
I'd bunch the kids around tables, with perhaps one pair of wire cutters
per table. I'd keep pliers away if possible, or the kids may think they
can't shape without them - crutch effect. Let the kids cut as much as
they want - they'll find out real fast that it's harder to re-connect
than it is to cut.
A couple years back I worked with a class that had more than its share
of "monsters" personalities. So I challenged them to make monsters out
of wire - bugs, snakes, bats, sharks, dinosaurs, gargoyles etc. It was
so fun in spite of my apprehensions (I'd been warned about them ahead
of time) I pretended not to notice the table-full of "worst offenders"
conspiring... hunched together so I couldn't see what they were
doing... sniggering a lot - they sent the who 45 minutes pooling their
wire - (gasp) CHEATING - to collaboratively create the opposite of
monster - a hummingbird feeding nectar from a flower.
Talk about blown away! I made much of them, hailed their creative
problem solving, made sure their feet didn't touch the ground as they
walked out at end of session.
So there IS hope. I alway single out the "ringleader" types, the ones
who make the most noise out of "I can't do this", and say, "With YOUR
imagination, I bet we're about to see something that's never been done
Since you have tons & tons of wire, after they make something
worth keeping out of their 3 wire exercise, give them another 3
wires... reinforce extra-good behavior by upgrading to 4 wires, 5
making the letters of their names is a good start. Even now, I get
frustrated trying to link letters together as I wire. So if the
adventurous ones want to try it, let them, and give them praise for the
effort... but let everyone else wrassle with the wire at their own
By now, you've probably cooked up more questions - send them by!
-K- So I
found a guy that is hopefully going to get me some telephone wire. I
found a piece on my lawn last week. (we had some house additions this
summer) Its WAY FUN! Hopefully we can get some of that stuff.
So-let them cut to their hearts content.. .right. They will learn not
to cut so much. But if they do cut and want to reconnect, is there a
method? Or do they just reconnect by wrapping it around as tight as
their fingers can get it?
How do I explain keeping the project light and airy? I can just see
these kids making aball....taaadaaa!
Do I give them a theme or is this really a free for all do what your
"creative self" tells you to?
I feel like I need some structure to this wire unit. (Things in motion,
or animals or something)
Can you help me come up with a few ideas that I can lay out for the
Do your name completley connected. or
Do something in motion that includes:
- Wires twisted?
- A certain number of wires?
- A looped wire?
What guidelines can I include that is structural here?
Am I being totally too restrictive? Should I just let them go and dont
worry about structure or steps to this. ? ? So, The only thing I give
is 3 wires of 12" and then as they do something excellent give them
more wires for another project or do they keep building on the one that
was the 3 wire one ? ? Ive got a few kids that I can just see wadding
up the wire into a ball and saying done. . .and insisting that their
project IS art?
What is art anyways? I would be willing to accept a wadded ball, but
doesnt it need to take some time and thought.
Sorry Im so full of questions here. Im still kind of floundering at
this art teacher stuff although I am SOOOO passionate about teaching
art. I LOVE IT!!
Thanks for you time and thoughts so VERY MUCH.
that desperate art teacher out in Utah again. Now I have TONS of wire.
I have a parent that works for the phone company and he brought me like
50 feet of huge underground phone wire that has 100 wonderful, colorful
strands per foot. Now. . how in the world do I keep all this wire
organized? Any good ideas?
P.S. I still havent heard back from [wire forum]. Im sure they will
respond to me soon. Thanks Again
gave Elizabeth permission to circulate their correspondence among other
wireworkers, in hopes of garnering more advice for Rachel's unique
situation. Angela Hook, a Canadian wire sculptor who conducts
workshops, lent some great advice:
Whether you get the telephone wire or just use tie wire... some of
these ideas may help...
I like to start a wire class by asking the kids where they see or use
wire in their lives every day. Ask them how they think wire is made.
Get them talking and thinking about wire. Each with a single piece to
start with... what happens if you bend your wire back and forth too
Then I explain that learning to 'draw with wire' is much the same as
learning to draw on paper... you start out with little chicken
scratches, then you work on practice projects to learn basic techniques
(like a coloring book), then you are able to use your skills to create
your own original creations!
Usually, I like to ask the class to create a face with their wire.
That's all I say. Inevitably, they all make a 2-dimensional
representation of a human head... two eyes, nose, mouth, flat on the
table. The fun part is when you walk around the room and bend all of
the noses out into the third dimension.
This is where the magic of wire really comes to life! When they realize
that they are not stuck to the table anymore... that 'space' is their
If your class happens to be in the morning, it's always fun to get
those groggy adolescents to recreate their breakfast out of wire. It
gets them talking and experimenting with the wire in many different
ways. You do not construct a piece of toast the same way as a bowl of
This summer I had a group of kids animate a short story with me using
wire. The results can be seen in a short video I put together for them
on my website. This was a fantastic way for everyone to participate
(some more than others!) and they have something pretty cool to show
for it in the end.
So, yeah... visit http://www.wireinspire.com/fun.html
to see the video).
Best of luck with your class!
Let the Wire Inspire!
how'd it go?
OHHHHH! I am
still very undecided on if that was a good thing or a bad thing. I had
some amaizing creativity from about 6 or 7 of the kids. THe other 10
were their typical devilish selves. The good students made some really
fun sculptures of crazy things and others made very artsy replica type
things. The bad ones did things like wire whipping eachother, stealing
wire from my classroom and wiring doors shut around the school. Some
even had fun making trip wires on doorways around the school and other
VERY creative yet undesirable things.
I loved the unit becuase it made them think in three dimension. I loved
that it was FREE and I don't have much of a budget. About 5 days into
the unit I made everyone stop wire art and I attempted to cement the
idea into their heads that we can do art the fun way (wire art) or the
not so fun way (textbook work-art history). The deal was that until
everyone could behave for ONE solid day, we would not do anything other
than bookwork. The second day, of course, I rewarded the good students
with wire art, but my bad students did bookwork for the next two weeks
solid. They have moved on to another teacher with the end of the term
I have a new bunch of 7th graders now that have a similar devilish
reputation. However, I think the difference will be "me" in the overall
sucess of the wire art unit. I have had these kids for two weeks now
but the first day they walked in my rooom I was the strictest, meanest,
most horrible teacher you could imagine. I went over rules after rules
and then the consequences. We discussed manners and expected behavior.
I think I now have these students in my back pocket.
I am a VERY fun, laid back, go with the flow type person. I have a very
flexible classroom. I am excited to see how these seventh graders do
with wire art now that I have established some VERY STRICT guidelines.
So . .YES I am going to do wire art again. I did really have fun with
it. I think restructuring my teaching style will help immensly though.
I am excited to see what these kids can do when I EXPECT their best at
whatever they are doing.
THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR YOUR HELP! You rescued a floundering teacher and
now I have confidence in wire art and a budget to show for donations.
NOTE TO TEACHERS FROM ELIZABETH BERRIEN:
Rachel has alerted us to hitherto unknown hazards of wire sculpture. To
avoid these difficulties in future wire sculpture classes, follow these
Closely supervise all students working with wire. Students who do not
demonstrate the ability to work calmly and safely with wire should be
redirected immediately to a more conventional art form.
The teacher, or another mature and responsible person, should pre-cut
wires to short lengths prior to distributing among students for use in
projects. Students should not be permitted access to longer lengths
until they have demonstrated consistently safe and responsible behavior
with shorter lengths.
Wow. You didn't exaggerate about the devilish side of teaching wire
sculpture... I laughed and whimpered all the way through your account!
Glad you learned some "tough love" skills as well - 2 weeks of art
history is about as rough (but legal!) a treatment as I can think of!
Your experiences made my hair stand on end - I've never heard of wire
being used as extremely as your pack did. This info should be added to
my lesson plan - to warn other teachers of undiscovered hazards, etc.
As I update and expand the WireLady website, may I add your account if
I only use your initials and refer to your location as a "remote rural
I should also confess a personal agenda - it's all very, very funny and
I'm sure other battle-weary teachers would love to hear it! I hope
you're keeping some sort of journal; if you survive the Dugway
experience, you'll have the makings of a best-selling novel.
Do stay in touch - I've really enjoyed our correspondence and would
enjoy brainstorming on all aspects of creativity and my ongoing hobby,
animal training, which also applies to humans and even schoolkids.
Hint: find a book called "Don't Shoot the Dog" by Karen Pryor...
AHhhh (sigh of relief) Its nice to hear that I could help other
teachers learn as I forge a new path into the unknown world of wire art
out on Dugway. Oh my gosh, I am really not joking about how absolutley
HORRIBLE these 8th graders are. You would think that being on a
military base, behavior would be completely opposite. It seems that
most of the people out here are contracted employees. These kids move
from school to school much more often than they should. Our school
counselor has been here for 18 years and he says he has never seen a
group of kids this bad. The new group I have now, like I mentioned
earlier, have a similar reputation. They seem a bit more creative
though. I am excited to see what they can do with wire.
YES YES, you can use whatever you like from my experiences on your
website. You can even put my name. Im not worried about it, do whatever
you like. I am going to try to find a copy of that book "Dont Shoot the
Dog". It sounds like something I could really use at this point. Ill
let you know what happens with this group for sure. I seriously doubt I
will have such excitement (if that is what its called ha ha.) We wont
start the wire unit for another month. Keep your fingers crossed for
Thanks A Bunch and I'll keep in touch
Hi Angela -
just browsed your website - it looks crispy, professional
and beautiful! Are you really making jewelry? Can't wait to see it - I
don't make jewelry to sell, but like to dabble up something now and
then for myself or my family. Here's a wire jewelry forum I enjoy -
Good people, great resources!
Remember Rachel Jensen, the school teacher who asked for advice on
teaching wire sculpture? Her adventures are involved enough that I'd
like to set up a "Dugway Chronicles" blog for her within my website
WireLady.com. Rachel wasn't able to access you advice at the Telegraph,
so I copied & mailed it to her - it was very useful. I'd love
to include it in the Chronicles, along with a bit about you and a link
to your website. May I have your permission to do so?
Hope all is well with you, I'd love to hear bout your projects!
I was rolling on the floor laughing when I got to the part about the
whipping and trip wires! Geeze...teachers really don't get enough
credit, do they?
Well, I'm glad Rachel made it through and is willing to try it again...
You may certainly use my advice, etc.. I love sharing!
Thanks for the jewelry link... I have a batch of rings and earrings
needing to go in for gold plating right now... They keep getting bumped
to the bottom of my priority list, though.
My daughter is having a dance art fundraiser next month, which I have
become the event coordinator of, by default! That seems to be consuming
me lately. I even whipped up a website for it!
(http://members.shaw.ca/h2okay/artofdance.html) and have been teaching
myself how to paint again! Fun, fun, fun!
Anyway, great to chat with you. Hope you're having a fantastic spring!
Note from Ray B., A retired teacher who once led charter school
students in repairing, rebuilding and restoring a vintage bike..
"I really enjoyed the Utah teacher's adventures--reminded me of my own
times when the kids ran wild with spray paint--more on them than the
How about "sculpting" and shaping your students' behavior?
This just came in today, an essay on "The
Shape of Shaping" by Karen
Pryor, the godmother of operant conditioning (aka "clicker training"
and author of "Don't Shoot the Dog". Here's another link that shows how
even a goldfish can be trained
through a hoop, follow a target, even swim backwards... I have a DVD on
how to clicker-train a chicken... and the five-year-old across the road
uses it to train his own chicken!
The idea is, if even goldfish and chickens can be trained through
positive conditioning, so can people - even rowdy school kids. Learn
Class Wire Sculpture
· Elizabeth Berrien (707) 445-4931 · email email@example.com
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