Wire art describes the process of making art and decorations to put up on display purely from metal jewelry wire. Easier than getting your hands on some marble for that Greek God sculpture, using wire is easy to use and can produce some eye-catching results.
In order to get involved in the world of wire art, you’re going to need a few things. First, a knowledge of the wire you will need, then some idea of how to manipulate it to form the structure you have in mind, and finally some tools to help you do so with ease. These tools include pliers, wire cutters, and tape.
The Essential Guide to Wire Art Tools
Depending on the hardness of the wire, which we’ll go over a little later, you might need some extra help to bend and twist it into the desired form. If you go for a softer wire, it is possible to manipulate the wire entirely with your hands alone, however for small details like twisting the wire to make an eye on an animal, you will need tools.
So while it is possible to work with wire with just your hands, there are a number of tools that can prove essential in helping you craft the sculpture of your dreams.
Let’s start with the basics. The first thing you are going to need to get your hands on, before you can do anything, is some wire. Choosing the right wire is an important process because it dictates how easy a time you will have of working with it and the kind of finish the end result will have.
There are three main things to look out for when considering which wire to go for in your next wire art project:
- The type of metal,
- the hardness level,
- and the gauge of the wire.
Let’s go through each factor, and see how you can make a more informed decision when it comes to picking out the right wire.
When it comes to metal, there are a few main factors to keep in mind. Whether it is hypoallergenic and whether that matters to you, whether it will fade over time, how pliable it is, and how suitable it is for the project you have in mind visually.
If a metal is hypoallergenic, this means that you are less likely to suffer an allergic reaction. This is especially important if you have sensitive skin and are prone to such reactions. Of course, if you don’t have sensitive skin, then this might not factor into your decision at all. However, if you are going to make a sculpture to put up on display at home or in a shared space, other people might come into contact with it, so the hypoallergenic metals are a safe bet.
Next is the question of whether or not the metal is likely to fade over time. If it is, then you have to ask yourself whether this is likely to deteriorate the effect and visual appeal of your wire art. Maybe it isn’t super important to you that the art stays shiny for a long time, but for a lot of people this is an important factor.
Perhaps the most important quality – aside from the visuals – is how pliable the metal wire is. When working with wire for art projects, most of the time you’re going to want the wire to be as flexible as possible. This is so you can bend and twist it to create the skeletal frame and detail of your sculpture with relative ease. This is impacted by the metal itself as well as the hardness and gauge, which I’ll go over next.
There are three types of wire hardness, but there are only two that you should consider using for wire art and sculptures: dead soft and half-hard.
Dead soft wire is by far the most pliable, and easiest to work with. For that reason, it makes a great choice for using in wire art, and on the plus side, you won’t be as likely to need as many tools to help you in the process.
Half-hard wire is another great option, and provides a similar level of flexibility but is also fairly durable. This means it can hold shape well, but without sacrificing the pliability necessary to manipulate the wire into the desired form.
Wire gauge refers to the thickness of the wire. If the number is higher, then the wire will be thicker, and vice versa. So this depends largely on the specific art project you’re working on.
Maybe you’ll want a higher number gauge for more fine works of art with plenty of detail. Conversely, if the project is bigger and more robust, then a lower gauge can prove ideal, to provide the necessary structure and durability.
Now you have your wire, the next tool you will need to get your hands on is a good pair of pliers. Pliers are necessary in the majority of wire art projects and sculptures as using your hands can only get you so far at times.
Much like in knitting you need a needle to do a job your fingers are too big to do, you need some pliers with wire art to do the job your fingers can’t. Say you’re making an animal and you want to add detail in the form of facial features, you would need pliers to do so.
This is because when making a wire sculpture, you create details primarily by looping the wire back on itself, something which is far easier to do with the assistance of some pliers.
The type of pliers you’ll need for this kind of work are round-nose pliers. This is due to the small, conical jaws which can grip even the finest of metal wires and bend them any which way.
If you’re looking for a recommendation of a great pair of round nose pliers, then you can’t go wrong with this top pair from Beadthoven. Very reasonably priced, this pair of pliers is made of stainless steel and will be a great first purchase if this is your first venture into the world of wire art.
You might also consider investing in some flat-nose pliers too. Flat-nose pliers are especially useful for bending right angles into your work, and creating the straight edges that are necessary for certain projects.
This pair by Miular is more than good enough to start off with, and is again priced very reasonably, so you don’t have to splash too much cash.
As well as pliers, it will be pretty tough to get started on your wire art project without a good pair of wire cutters. Wire cutters are essential for cutting the wire to the desired size and length without having to resort to struggling to cut it with the kitchen scissors.
Wire cutters don’t need to be expensive, in fact, you can pick up this very reliable pair from IGAN on Amazon. These will last you long into the future, and are designed specifically for jewelry making, so they’re ideal for working with metal wire.
Tape and tape rack
When attempting to create a sculpture from wire alone, you will need something to connect the wire and keep it all together. Glue is an option, but is often too fiddly and messy, especially when you are working with very thin wires.
The best option then for sticking everything together and keeping it all in place is tape. Using a thin strip of tape whenever you want to connect your metal wires together is surprisingly effective. As a bonus tip, make sure the wires are overlapping when you stick them together, otherwise they might come unstuck.
Tape is great since you can use it to stick your wire sculpture together, and even use it as part of the art. You could paint the tape to create a pleasant visual element on the sculpture, or simply leave it as it is but make them part of the model.
Something else that will come in handy when using tape is a tape rack. A tape rack is essentially a rack which you lay a long strip of tape over, and then cut out the tape which lies over the indents.
What this will do is allow you to pick up small strips of tape straight from the rack, and not have to fuss around trying to wrestle the tape off with your teeth. You can make one of these yourself if you so desire using a block of wood, but if you aren’t so good at DIY woodworking, then you can also invest in something like this tape dispenser.
As well as the more obvious equipment involved with wire art, there are some extras which can prove vital for any art project or sculpture.
Especially when starting out, but even when you are more experienced in wire art, it is important to have a reference picture nearby.
If you are making a Christmas reindeer, for example, you can print out a picture of a reindeer you like, then lay the wire over the top and attempt to trace the picture exactly. This will be good practice and will allow you to create sculptures even if you don’t consider yourself to be the most artistically gifted person in the world.
Lastly, make sure you have a good pair of safety glasses on hand whenever working with the wire. This is important since the wire can snap back if you’re not careful so it really is crucial that you wear some protective eyewear.