- Wire safety
How to Join
||Wire sculpture, a once-rare
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
Class Wire Sculpture · Elizabeth Berrien (707) 445-4931
· email firstname.lastname@example.org
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