With a bit of wire and some beads, you can make sculptural art in many forms, including animals. The sculptures generally use two different gauge wires. The heavier wire is used to make the basic animal shape, which is called the armature. The thinner wire is loaded with beads and woven into the armature to give the sculpture its surface form and to embellish the piece. When you're first learning to work in this challenging medium, you can create small animal sculptures. As you gain experience working with the beads and wire, you'll be able to create larger and more elaborate beaded wire animals.
Form your animal shape with the heavy gauge wire. It may be helpful to trace the animal form onto a piece of paper and then bend the wire around it. Make the head, neck, body and legs of a long continuous piece of wire formed to the specific shape. For the giraffe example, form a very long neck with one wire and then bend the wire to represent the thickness of the body from shoulder to chest. Continue this wire down the left front leg. Bend the wire around into a hoof shape at the bottom of the leg and bring it back up. Continue the wire around the shape of the lower belly and then drop it back down to form the rear leg. The wire will move around the lower hoof shape, bend back up and form the rump. Take the wire back up as if it were the spine and then bend it up where you want the neck to be. When you get to the top of the neck, bend the wire in to the head shape and wrap it around the nose. Dropping the wire around the tip of the nose, bend one more time to form the underside of the jaw and join the wire to the beginning by twisting a couple of wraps to secure the ends. Clip the wire with wire cutters.
Form a second giraffe shape using the heavy gauge wire. Make it the same as the first shape along the neck, head and body. The legs can vary to represent different leg positions. Clip the wire.
Add wires to the armature by wrapping them over existing wires following the form of the giraffe. These wires will run perpendicular to the basic armature wiring. These wires also hold the framework of the giraffe apart to make the proper width of the head, neck and body. Pay close attention as you place these wires and remember that you are forming the giraffe's width at this time. Wrap these wires around the outside of the armature from one wire to the next going around the first wire in the neck making a loop around the inside of the armature wire and back to the outside of the armature. Move to the next wire in the neck and wrap around to the inside and back out. Wrap these wires tightly so that they do not slip around. When one wire has encircled the armature, secure it by twisting it in place and clip it. Make another wire wrap one or two inches down the neck. Continue down the neck and then place one where the neck joins the body. Place another wire wrap in this manner around the body. Continue down the body placing a wire wrap looped to the inside of the armature until you have a wire exoskeleton down the neck, around the body and around the legs. You may need to add two or more additional vertical wires to each leg once you have a body form to attach them to.
Place wires around the armature wires of the head wrapping them tightly and securing each one in place by twisting the wire ends together. When you add wires to the head, wrap around the four wires of the armature. Remember to narrow the head by making smaller wire wraps as you work toward the nose. When complete, you should be able to easily visualise the giraffe form if you imagine skin covering the wire. As you visualise, correct any errors in your giraffe form.
Thread a few beads onto a length of your 28 gauge wire. These beads may be the same colour or you can intersperse an occasional dark-spot coloured bead among them. Secure one end of your wire to one of your original armature wires near the tip of the nose. Wrap the wire around to the next wire. Make sure you have beads extending the full width of the gap between wires. Wrap the 28 gauge wire around the armature wire and then extend it to the next wire near the tip of the nose. Add beads as needed. The beading should completely fill the space between wraps around the armature. Continue working around the nose and head in a spiral fashion. If you run out of wire, secure the end and start a new wire, adding beads and keeping the wraps very tight and very close together. Use armature wire or the 28 gauge wire, depending on the sculpture size, to add ears and horns when you get to the top of the head. Bead these areas as you did the nose.
Attach beaded wire to the neck. Use the dark beads to work dark giraffe splotches into the beading pattern as you attach the wires. Work around the neck in a tight spiral fashion as you did the nose and head. When you reach the body, you may choose to continue to apply the beads and wire in a spiral or you may elect to attach the beads and wire to the body along the length of the spine horizontally. Continue working the beaded wires in place until the body is complete. Use the 28 gauge wire to add a tail when you arrive at the tail location.
Attach at least one additional armature wire to each side of each leg to form a roundness for the leg shapes. Fasten these additional armature wires securely to the existing body wiring. Work the beaded wire segments onto the legs in the spiral fashion you used for the head and neck. Add the dark colour patch beads as needed on the upper legs and then continue the rest of each leg in your light giraffe colour.
Wrap the ends of the beaded wire securely when you reach the bottom of each leg. When all four legs are complete, your giraffe is done. You may wish to add a larger bead eye on each side of the head. Short beaded wires for the mane can be wrapped into the bead work along the top edge of the neck. Wrap the wire through one bead twice and then add the number of beads desired for the mane - two to six depending on the size of your giraffe. Secure the other end of the wire in the neck. Add these along the neck from the back of the head to the point where the neck meets the body. These short beaded wires can be added to make a tuft on the tail as well.
Keep your beaded wire rows or spirals very tightly spaced.
Secure the end of a bead wire carefully. If the beaded wire ends come loose, your beads will fall off and ruin the sculpture.
Tips and warnings
- Keep your beaded wire rows or spirals very tightly spaced.
- Secure the end of a bead wire carefully. If the beaded wire ends come loose, your beads will fall off and ruin the sculpture.
Things you need
- Paper and pencil
- Seed beads in the colours of your animal - light and dark giraffe colours for the example sculpture
- Wire cutters
- 28 gauge wire or wire of a size to fit through your beads
- 18 gauge wire or larger