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

Previous Post
Saturn V Rocket
Next Post
Skateboard Lamp Final Report

6 Comments. Leave new

    March 1, 2021 5:39 pm

    The copper aesthetic and drawing to the differences in color drew a lot of attention to that aesthetic. I like that the solder color is more a silver and made the added buds really stand out and look like a real branch. You could try painting the staple to blend in better to the frame, it does not pop out very much to begin with so this could be fairly easy and quick. Did you consider not including the glass on the frame? Where the leaves connect to the branch is a little bulky and attracts attention to places you might not be intending to draw attention to.

    • Jillian Weber
      March 10, 2021 11:38 am

      Thanks for the feedback Valerie!
      I really appreciate that you noticed the little solder buds, that was something that I was super proud of! Also, I had never thought of painting the staple, so thank you for that advice! Unfortunately, the leaves are glued down to the glass, and I don’t think I would be able to do that with the paper, so I think that I have to keep it. That is definitely something that bothered me though, so thank you for the suggestion. I’m grateful for all the feedback :)!

  • Your final upcycle project looks great! You did a lot of great initial work exploring how to make various shapes with wire and I think that it really shows in your piece. I would’ve never thought to use radio wire how you did and it makes perfect sense. Was your choice in a wood frame specific or was it something you had on hand? The way the shadow is created on the background is great touch to the overall piece. My one question is if you had considered spray painting your final piece to get it to be all one color or did you like the copper and silver together?

    • Jillian Weber
      March 10, 2021 11:35 am

      Thanks so much Hannah!
      The wood frame was more something that I had on hand– I really struggled with whether I felt I should paint it or not, and I ended up deciding not to. I figured that I could always change it if I changed my mind, but it would be hard to take back to the original, so I left it. Thank you for your feedback, I appreciate it :)!

  • I have to say I think your final product came out amazing! You did a really nice job on the shaping of the leaves and replicating a real branch. I am happy you decided to use the paper instead of the mirror because I also really like the effect that the shadow of the copper gives on the backdrop. Also, I like the use of the solder throughout the sculpture, it gives the leaves an almost frosted effect on the tips that adds a lot to the piece. I think the use of the copper stereo wire was also a good decision for the completeness of the piece, but did you consider using some of the red wire you initially had in certain areas to add a little more color?

    • Jillian Weber
      March 10, 2021 11:32 am

      Thanks so much Zack!
      I appreciate that you like the choice of paper for the shadow backdrop, that was something that I really loved too. Thanks also for noticing the frosty look of the tips, I also really liked that :). I thought about using some of the red wire to help bind the leaves to the branch, but I ended up not liking how the red played with the copper and the silver. I felt like it wasn’t as unanimous as I wanted it to be. Thanks again for your feedback!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Fill out this field
Fill out this field
Please enter a valid email address.