Elizabeth Berrien · World Class Wire Sculpture and Illustration · (707)445-4931 · WIRE SAFETY
elizabeth berrien's bbc wire sculpture illustration wins the Clio award 2008.
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learn all about wire sculpture and innovative wire sculptors. Wire sculpture, a once-rare medium, is experiencing a quiet revolution. Today, colleges offer wire sculpture as a standard item of art curriculum. Still, there is a surprising dearth of knowledge about the self-taught pioneers and innovators who evolved separately, each weaving a personal approach to working with wire.
SAFETY CONCERNS - Eye Pokes & Carpals
Until you've worked wire long enough to develop a natural "Proximity Sense" (the ability to know where every sharp end is in relation to your eyes, unprotected skin and other vulnerable areas) be especially aware of the hazards. Even after all these years, I still have the occasonal scary event.

Here are some tips to bolster the odds of emerging from a wire session still graced with binocular vision.

Eye Pokes: Safety glasses can minimize eye pokes, but do not offer 100% security. A rogue strand of thin wire can still whip through a ventilation hole and zap you.

Start out by experimenting with short lengths. A six-foot length of tie wire whipping every-which way has the potential to cause blindness. Students can start with pipe-cleaner lengths (about 1ft long) and work with longer pieces after thay get the hang of the short stuff.

For extra safety and control, open out the angle of your elbows. This will automatically hold the work further from your eyes.

Carpal Tunnel Syndrome is very painful. If left untreated, it may require surgery and a long recovery. It can happen to anyone indulging in repetitive wrist motion.

If you get addicted to wire sculpture, carpal tunnel inflammation can cause you to give it up cold turkey! So take it seroiusly... and takes steps to prevent it.

In 1980, when I told my doctor I was leaving my day job to work wire full time, he gave me a sermonette about the evils of carpal tunnel inflammation, which

My doctor gave me a set of wrist splints and instructed me to wear them for two weeks, even when sleeping, but especially when wiring. It was a real bugger at first, almost impossible to twist wire that way I had been. So I had to develop other ways to handle wire, distributing the stresses among my fingers, arms and shoulders but leaving my wrists themselves nice and relaxed.

Twenty-five years of wire-twisting later, my wrists are still fine. My fingers are so agile they're double-jointed, without any detectable cumulative damage or arthritis. If you work a lot with wire, be sure to discuss carpal issues with your own doctor.


A third year silversmithing major from London asks, "How do I protect my poor battered hands from further cuts, scratches and blisters?

OOOhhhh, that brings back the memories...

I'd search the second-hand stores - some have entire bags stuffed with ladies' dress gloves - tiny, thin and close-fitting, in either cloth or fine leather. Even with small hands, I really have to wriggle awhile to get all the way into them.

Bags of gloves can be dirt cheap - I got mine for $5.00US, and the proprietress was relieved to be rid of them (many were mis-matched) While my hands were still at the raw stage, it helped a little to pull a couple old-lady gloves out of the bag, snip off the finger-tips (of the gloves, I mean) just enough that the pads of my fingers could make contact with the wire. You may want to start by snipping just a little, then a bit more and a bit more until you achieve the balance between dexterity and protection.

As for the finger pads themselves, if you have blisters they will need time to heal. Try bandaging (or leaving the glove tip over) every other sore finger for a full week, then check. When it feels safe to abuse them again, work very sparingly as they toughen up and develop those blessed callouses while you bandage the remainder.

Even with good callouses, you need to develop a sensitivity to how close you're skirting to the edge between callouses and blisters. Pain is OK, you can learn to tune it out. But pain is also telling you something - damage is being inflicted, and you must monitor to make sure it isn't long-term.

When you're working wire projects with deadlines, try to distribute your time so there are built-in "off" periods where your skin can recover a little - maybe two hours "on" with the wires, half an hour "off" doing research, grabbing a cuppa coffee, etc... Only you can tell what ratio of "on" and "off" will get your work done while saving your hands and even toughening them up - the tougher you get them, the longer the "on" spells you can work without hurting yourself.

One more thought - way back when I went rock climbing a lot, some climbers sanded their fingertips and palms real bad. Being a demented bunch who wouldn't DREAM of staying off the rock face long enough to heal, several resorted to painting their hands with myrrh, which they swore gave almost instant toughening. I tried some tincture of myrrh from the health food store on my own hands, but didn't like the feel - still, you may wish to give it a try.

[One of my more difficult life decisions was to give up rock climbing because it impacted my wire sculpting - I came home from a mundane climbing weekend at Yosemite, then woke up with sore puffy hands and couldn't handle wire for a few days. I decided I could get through life without climbing, but not without wiring...]

Anyone else have safety tips by/for wire workers? How about welding safety tips?
Learn the History of wire sculpture
Discover Wire Sculpture International, the worldwide guild of wire sculptors
Explore the International Directory of Wire Sculptors
Learn to Make innovative wire sculpture
Items of interest for wire sculptors, Wirist News
Find out How to care for wire sculptures
Discover Elizabeth Berrien's personal creative process
World Class Wire Sculpture · Elizabeth Berrien (707) 445-4931 · email wireladye@yahoo.com

Content and images © 1968-2009 Elizabeth Berrien. All rights reserved. · Updated Oct 22, 2009 · this page valid HTML 4.01

elizabeth berrien's bbc wire sculpture illustration wins the Clio award 2008.
CLIO 2008
elizabeth berrien's wire sculpture illustration wins two coveted cannes gold lions in 2008.
Cannes Festival
Double Gold
elizabeth berrien's wire sculpture illustration wins two coveted ADC gold cubes in 2008
ADC
Double Gold
elizabeth berrien's wire sculpture illustration wins the coveted Obie Best of Show award 2008.
OBIE
Best of Show
elizabeth berrien's wire sculpture illustration wins two coveted Andy gold awards 2008.
Andy Double Gold
elizabeth berrien's wire sculpture illustration wins one show gold pencil awards 2008.
One Show Gold Pencil
elizabeth berrien's wire sculpture illustration wins double grand awards at London International Awards2008.
London International
Double Grand