Armature Wire and it’s uses in Clay Sculpting
While many of the wires that we carry are meant to be used for electronics and other wiring needs, un-insulated wires such as silver wire or our aluminum wire find frequent use in the arts. While expensive materials such as silver see use in the wire wrapping used for wire jewelry, strong and corrosion resistant wire such as our aluminum wire or our stainless steel craft wire find great use as the armatures in sculptures.
What is an Armature?
An armature is the ‘skeleton’ of any large size sculptures. In the case of armature wire, the uninsulated wires act as a sort of support that the artist can build clay around and help to keep the clay in place through the sculpting and firing process. While not all armature wire or inner structures will remain in place during or after the firing process, many choose to leave the inner cores in as further support, calling for a material that can handle the firing process.
What is Special about Armature Wire?
Most armature wire is made from aluminum or stainless steel, making a lot of the special sculpting wire you see on the shelves little more than an uninsulated stainless steel or aluminum wire. What is important is that the wire’s base material is lightweight and strong while meeting the needs of the given sculpture. For instance, you will want to ensure that whatever you use as the armature in your sculpture can handle the heat of your kiln if you are going to choose to leave the armature inside. Luckily, most armature wire can see it safely through this process. Or, if your sculpture will need to be moved and repositioned, such as in stop-motion, you will want a wire that is strong enough to hold up the sculpture, but also flexible enough where you can move it without much difficulty in order to prevent damaging the sculpture, such as an aluminum wire.
The wire and gauge used is often entirely dependent upon the sculpture being built, and how much strength and flexibility you need. Wires are often used almost entirely for smaller sculptures, such as the artist armatures you can find sold in craft stores. However, armature wire also finds considerable use for helping to support larger size sculptures in areas such as fingers, hair or other thinner spots on sizable creations.
Armature Wires can Withstand Corrosion
Another often overlooked aspect of the wire armatures is the wires ability to withstand corrosion. Certain polymers and clays, such as Puppen Fimo, do not dry out, and as such can wreak havoc on the base wire used, making it weaker or causing it to rust. That’s where having wires that don’t rust, such as aluminum or stainless steel craft wire, tend to shine. These wires make an excellent all-purpose and surprisingly cheap material for making your own armatures to practice sculpting on.
There are a lot of different techniques and ways to make armatures for clay sculpture so there’s no set in stone method for what works best. However, it’s always important to remember that your sculpture is often only as strong and stable as the materials used, both in the clay, and in the armature wire!