Elizabeth Berrien · World Class Wire Sculpture and Illustration · (707)445-4931 · WIREWORK FAQ's & IFAQ's
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Workshop One | Workshop Two | Workshop IFAQ's One | Workshop IFAQ's Two

Brainstorming Wire Cloth

Julia M wrote:

Hi Ms. Berrien, I came across your web site when I was trying to get ideas for the kind wire or wire cloth I could use to make life size torso sculpture as a part of a larger installation for my MFA. Could you offer any suggestions for the kinds and gauge size of wires and wire fabrics that might work for this? I think your work is tremendous!

Thanks for the kind words, Julia.

I'm glad you like my web site - be sure and check out my online wire sculpture workshop.

It will help you open your mind to the wide range of materials available. While the first 2 workshop sections (I'm still writing 3 & 4, they'll be up soon too) deal mainly with single-strand sculpture, meshes are also fair game. Go to a hardware store, building supply house or scrap metal yard and ask them to show you all the wire mesh they have. Most of it will be in the "fencing" department - hardware cloth, chicken wire, etc come in everything from 1/4" mesh to 2" sq and more, in all sorts of gauges.

My recommendation is to consider the rigidity of the various meshes, look for the "feel" your hands like best. It won't matter so much if you're just going to chop plates and sections as if it were sheet metal, but for more spontaneous sculpting you'll want something that responds to hand-shaping.

If you've got time and really want to knock the viewer's socks off, consider making your own wire mesh, from scratch! Arline Fisch has a great book called "Textile Techniques in Metal". Her emphasis is on jewelry making, but all textile techniques can work with big wire sculptures, too.

If you weave or knit some wire into a mesh, don't worry about making it perfect - too perfect, and the viewer might presume it was manufactured! No matter how clumsy the effort, a hand-made mesh will have a wonderful raw and organic feel to it.

I'd love to see what you come up with - keep me posted!


Elizabeth Berrien


Dread Hinge Effect, part 2

Roger G wrote:

I'm wondering if you'd be so kind as to illucidate as to the meaning of the "Dread Hinge Effect" for the benefit of online workshop attendees such as myself. I would endeavor to make use of it with my 4th graders in September when we undertake creating wire sculpture self-portraits as the first class project of the year.

Thank you.

Roger G

Peninsula School
Menlo Park, CA


For my first few months as a high school wire sculptor, I had the blessed crutch of a welding torch to persuade strands of wire to adhere to one another.

Upon the close of the school year, my parental units quashed any notion of setting up a torch in my room - some quibble about fire marshall, death traps, etc.

Warily I approached my teacher/mentor, Mr. Curran, whose mantra was, "I'm a very busy man. Don't come bugging me unless you can define your problem and tell me what you already done to try to solve it." [looking back thru time, I can see that very busy man quite clearly - he was usually reading something riveting, unless momentarily distracted by a supplicant].

I said, "I've accepted that the home torch setup is out. But I think I got it solved - I'll find some machine shop that'll let me se their equipment in exchange for some cleaning up or some other menial labor".

This was enough to make Curran look up from the printed page, take off his glasses, polish them on his shirtfront, re-install them on bridge of nose and peer at me, as if some rare but noxious insect had crawled across the page and obscured the text. He spake: "Kid, I think you're trying to solve the wrong question. Remember how when you started welding, I nagged you to make sure it was a really stable joint before you zapped it? Well, I been thinking, maybe if you just make better and better joints, some day you woundn't need to zap it at all..."

We shall draw a veil across the exasperations experienced in the ensuing three years. Suffice it to say that I would wrap, tie, hook, loop and angle the wire every-which way, stand back for a proud scan - and watch the whole works collapse like a house of cards. Masochistically analyzing the collapse process, I became aware of specific traitorous joins - the Dread Hinges.

Putting a name on them, and studying why one would collapse while a near-identical one heroically held the line, taught me a lot. In accordance with Mr. Curran's teachings, I tucked away some Dread Hinge Effect concepts for future use - if I leave one or more in on purpose, and I'll have kinetic wire sculpture! 4th graders are a fine age to mess with wire sculpture.

Does your school have discretionary funds for engaging itinerant wire sculptors for workshops, K 2-12?

Finest regards,

Elizabeth Berrien


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Working on several wire projects

Wire sculptor Edward N wrote:

Hi Elizabeth,

I am working hard though the heat here slows me down a bit. My MS does not like it so hot. I now have a barn to work in... what luxury. I just love creating, it is always good to have several works on the go. I find when I become brain dead with one piece then working on a different piece refreshes the mind and soul.

Glad you've adopted the custom of working on several works at once. Heres another useful tip: Don't wait for brain-dead to make that shift. When I look around the studio (an amorphous term that engulfs barn, rented space in town, great outdoors, living room, and passenger seat of car), I see at least a dozen works in varying stages of completion. I work on one for as long as it has my focused attention. When I feel the attention drift, or I begin to suspect I'm getting stuck, I put that piece down and pick up another, that's been resting. And while that piece was resting, my hind-brain figured out a fresh approach to resuming work - it's amazing how many problems dematerialize before they get full-blown.

Finest regards,

Elizabeth Berrien

Elizabeth, Why are you so wise? Such advise is gratefully received. No notice will ever be taken but hey that's a bloke thing. We like to be proved wrong. - Edward


Homework - who's gonna do it?

My daughter is doing a school project on Pegasus in Lousville airport and needs to know the size of the sculpture, can you get back to this address with that information?

many thanks, susanne C

Dear Susanne,

Thanks for asking!

I know how important it is for your daughter to do her own research, so I'll let her glean this Pegasus article for the wingspan size.

Then, she's welcome to email me with a guess about how large she thinks the Pegasus itself is... extra credit for measuring in hands.

Finest regards,

Elizabeth Berrien


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Seamy sculptures?

James wrote: Dear Ms. Berrien. Where are the seams on your sculptures, and where should I make the seams on mine? ...I'm having a hard time with getting basic structure... Yes, that's the name of the game. Think of it as trying to teach yourself ice skating or riding a bike - how do the pro's make it look so easy? Lots of practice, lots of falling down and going boom.

Well, that "hand" idea went "boom", lemme tell ya. I decided it was too ambitious to attempt a 3-dimensional project right off the bat, so I went 2-D instead: I made a figure of a lady's head with her long hair blowing in the breeze, and I'm pretty satisfied with it as a first successful effort - looks like a more primitive version of a car hood ornament...lol.

Today, I did a sprig of leaves. The challenge with that was finding a way to attach the center veins (or whatever you call them) to the tips of the leaves - I finally up just folded the ends over the tip as inconspiculously as possible....hehe.

I think I'll try to copy a magazine picture next.

Any tips you might offer would be greatly appreciated.

Dear James,

Thanks for writing! Have you found my free online wire sculpture Workshop yet?

Yes indeed! Very helpful in an inspirational way.

My works are "seamless" - the wires just flow wherever the sculpture seems to need them.

Ah, I thought so. Just wanted to make sure.

To see plenty examples of wire sculptures from around the world, with and without seams, google up the "wire magic" site. And be sure to check out the juried wire sculptors at the Wire Sculpture International DIRECTORY...

Already had it bookmarked! Some really fantastic works there: I'm particularly impressed with Jestrabek-Hart and Ryan Stimers - the way he makes things out of a single wire is very interesting for its simplicity (but not as fascinating as your wonderfully complex stuff).

Most important: relax, have fun, just mess with it. When you're improved enough that your early works embarrass you, hide them a few years. When you come back, you'll be more forgiving and they'll look surprisingly better.

Keep me posted!

Elizabeth Berrien


I deeply appreciate your taking the time to reply. What a kind lady you are! ;o)

Warmest Regards,


The One Wire Sculpture Rule Written in Stone: DON'T PUT YOUR EYE OUT!

If you have any questions or comments to add to these, I'd love to hear them. It'll help me create upcoming workshop sections tailored to prticipants' interests. Just email me...

Workshop One | Workshop Two | Workshop IFAQ's One | Workshop IFAQ's Two
World Class Wire Sculpture · Elizabeth Berrien (707) 445-4931 · email wireladye@yahoo.com

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