Upcycled Copper Wire Gingko Sculpture

For my upcycling project, I planned to make a wire sculpture from upcycled copper wire. I explored several different ideas, including wire-wrap jewelry, or other wire-wrap decorations. For example, the two photos below represent the exploration phase of the project for me. I had no clear ideas in mind, and instead was just using the medium in different ways to see what I could do with it (as well as some recycled jewelry). I used insulated copper wire, which I stripped before hand, and coated copper wire. I liked the coated copper wire because of its red tint, and since I had a lot of it laying around. However, I was unsure at this point how the red color would play into the final product.

When I started to consider different options of subjects to sculpture, I knew I wanted to make it organic. In particular, a leaf or plant of some sort, was the most inspiring for me. Because of this, I decided to do a gingko leaf. I love the shape of these leaves, and I thought that they would translate beautifully to a copper wire medium. I am also inspired by these leaves, because they are often found in Japanese decorative art which I find to be very beautiful. I have been looking for a project to integrate these leaves into, so this seems like the perfect opportunity.

When I googled them, I found this sculpture below, which further inspired me.

Image result for ginkgo copper sculpture

Image 1

From this, I tried to use the materials that I had to make something similar, but in a style that I preferred. This inspired me to sketch out some ideas for a wire sculpture in my own style. I came up with the following:

Rather than the inspiration art that I found, I wanted to do a branch of leaves, not just the leaves themselves. I liked the way the twig was knobby and bent, and wanted to recreate that in the copper. I used another upcycled copper wire as the branch that was a lower gauge. Through a number of iterations, I landed on the design below.

I was unhappy with this result, because I didn’t like the red color, and the shape of the veins on the leaves. I wanted them to be straighter, similar to a real gingko leaf, but found that they often curved and overlapped with each other. I also found the red color to be misleading, and felt that it was harder to understand the intention of the sculpture as a result. I tried several different methods of wrapping the wire, and found that one long coated wire was very difficult to work with. Because of this, I decided to switch mediums, and went with stereo wire instead (example pictured below).

File:Stripped speaker wires.jpeg

Image 2

I stripped the insulation off the stereo wire, and clipped a bundle of the thin, woven wires. This allowed me to use the bundle of pre-clumped wires, and fan the tops of them out, rather than using a single long wire. I wrapped the bottom of the bundle around the “stem” so that it would stay in place. With this, I was able to create the desired shape of veins. In order to adhere the veins to the base shape, I first wrapped the excess around the top, then I soldered them down. While I had hoped to keep the sculpture purely made of copper (and copper-colored), I didn’t mind the silver color of the solder paired with the copper. Finally, I wrapped the excess stripped copper wire (stem on the leaf) around the thicker copper base (branch), to represent the tree effect that I wanted.

From here, I added more leaves of varying sizes. I also added solder to the base of the leaves to help them stay in place on the branch, and to help tie the silver color in to the overall sculpture. This helped the leaves not to slide along the branch, and also not to rotate out of position.

I was pleased with the shape that the sculpture had taken, but I felt that it was too small to stand on its own. As a result, I decided to bend the excess branch into a secondary branch. I followed the same process to make the leaves, and added them in varying sizes. From this, I settled on my final product.

I had some difficulties mounting the sculpture. I considered mounting it on a mirror, because I liked the chrome, metallic color-scheme, but decided that it would be easier to mount in a frame. This allowed me to use a staple to fix the joint between the branches to the frame, and also rest the sculpture on the sides if need be. I then used hot glue to supplement the point at the staple, and add spots on the glass to stick the branch to. This made the sculpture reasonably stable, and I have no concerns of it falling off as I did with the flat mirror design. I added a blank sheet of paper to the inside of the frame to create a backdrop for the sculpture. I particularly liked this, because it allows the sculpture to create a perfect shadow against the paper when in direct light. I loved this effect, and was further pleased that I chose the frame, since this wouldn’t be possible with the mirror.

The picture above is the final product. I was very pleased with how it turned out, and felt that it represented the aesthetic that I was pursuing. Copper wire was a new medium for me, and I had fun exploring the textures and shapes that I could get with it. I particularly love the color of copper, and I think that it will feature more in artwork I do in the future. Overall, I was happy to have done this upcycle project, since I felt like I learned a lot, and was able to create something that I am proud of.

Below I have linked the presentation for this project, as well as the feedback offered by professor and peers.

Presentation Video Link

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