Monday, 14 November 2011

Elephant No. 43: Three-Dimensional Wirework

I came across a coil of steel wire when sorting through some stuff yesterday, and thought it might be interesting to try wirework for today's elephant. I've made brooches with silver wire before, but they were flat, so I wasn't sure what to expect when making something three-dimensional. I'm not really a sculpture kind of girl, so working in three dimensions always makes me a bit nervous.

From a quick online search, it appears that wire is used to make just about anything, from bowls to jewellery to really big sculptures. It also appears that the methods used to produce wire items are all over the map, and that pretty much anything goes. That being the case, I guess I can do whatever I want without violating any particular set of practices.

I started with this coil of wire. It's not a huge amount of wire, but I figured it would be enough to produce a small three-dimensional elephant. For tools, I used a small pair of wirecutters and a pair of jeweller's flat-nose pliers.

Having next to no idea what I was doing, I started by creating a small oval for the elephant's body. 

Next, I wrapped it with more wire to make a sort of three-dimensional egg shape.

I then added some wire for legs.

I didn't think I was going to be able to make the head by attaching wire directly to the body, so I made the head separately.

After I attached the head, I figured I could simply wrap lots more wire around the whole thing to make the final shape.

This was a little more complicated than I expected. For one thing, the legs were far too short, so I had to figure out how to lengthen them. Simply adding coils of wire didn't work, because the coils sort of fell off the ends of the legs. I ended up having to insert loops of wire to lengthen the legs, then coiled wire around the extensions.

 It was also a bit difficult to figure out how to insert wire securely so that I could continue wrapping. The end has to tuck in somewhere, and it has to stay in place. Although I used pliers very sparingly on this, I did have to poke the wire in with the tips of the pliers and occasionally bend it over an existing piece of wire.

This took about an hour and a half, and I used perhaps four metres (13 feet) of wire. I toyed with adding a few beads to liven it up, but decided instead to use wire alone, just to see what would happen. 

The final result is certainly not a work of art—to me, it looks like a fat deer with an elephant's head. But I kind of like it, and it wasn't so difficult to make that I wouldn't try this again. Maybe even in coloured wire and beads next time.

Elephant Lore of the Day
In 280 B.C., the army of Pyrrhus of Epirus landed at Tarentum—a Spartan colony in Italy—with twenty elephants. The most famous of these was an elephant called Victor, who had long served in Pyrhus's army.

During the battle, Victor's mahout died. According to several historical accounts, Victor became enraged by the sight of its dead human companion. Rushing forward, Victor picked up the mahout with its tusks, then took "wild and indiscriminate revenge" on the people around him. Unfortunately, Victor trampled more of Pyrrhus's army than those of the enemy.  

Following the battle, coins were minted in Tarentum featuring elephants—marking not only Victor's rampage, but the presence of war elephants at the gates of the city.

Greek coin from Tarentum, ca. 280–272 B.C.
An elephant can be seen in the lower right of the righthand image.

Interestingly, although Pyrrhus routed the Romans at Tarentum, he could ill afford to lose the 4,000 men killed in battle. When he fought again the following year—again winning, but again losing too many men—he is said to have remarked, "One more victory against the Romans and we will be ruined." This is the origin of the phrase "Pyrrhic victory", describing a victory that costs far more than it's worth.

To Support Elephant Welfare
World Wildlife Fund
World Society for the Protection of Animals
Elephant sanctuaries (this Wikipedia list allows you to click through to information on a number of sanctuaries around the world)
Performing Animal Welfare Society
Bring the Elephant Home
African Wildlife Foundation


  1. Hi Sheila,

    Thanks for your comment, its interesting to see all the different mediums you're using for your elephants....your dedication is inspiring.

  2. Thanks, Andrew. I must admit that on some days it's been the kind comments here and on Facebook that make me force myself to produce something!