Styling Technique: Tricks of Wire and Spring

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Styling Technique: Tricks of Wire and Spring

Post  Geoline on Sun May 02, 2010 2:30 pm

My deciduous stock is growing fast and furious in the mid-spring environment. I have been using 12, 14, 16, 18 gauge black and kelly green aluminum armature wire on the branches.

Sculpters normally use a soft round aluminum armature wire (also refered to as crafting wire) to create a framework for clay. The wire needs to be flexible enough to manipulate delicate shapes with bare fingers and sturdy enough to retain the weight of the human or animal form in movement as the clay hardens into greenware to be sanded and refined. I use natural silver tone armature wire to sculpt feminine Hinamatsuri court dolls and fierce Musha armored warhorses. The lead free color plated version of the same aluminum crafting wire, I use to hold the shape of soft fabric doll bodies and also for the decorative hair jewelry of court ladies and Musha war armor.

In bonsai sculpting, I find aluminum armature crafting wire the perfect softness for wrapping branches and twigs and the perfect sturdiness to retain the movement which I lock into the branches and twigs. Aluminum armature crafting wire is a little harder than typical bonsai aluminum wire but softer than annealed copper bonsai wire.

Armature wire is a cheap alternative to copper and aluminum wires produced for bonsai. For the budget minded bonsai or sculpting artist, 100-to-7000 foot bulk spools of various thickness silver-tone aluminum crafting wire can be purchased if you don't mind silver-tone. The industrial sized spools of aluminum crafting wire can be found for under $100 USD wholesale, while the smaller spools are under $10 USD. Industrial spools come in soft round and half hard flexibility. Ask the wholesaler for samples to play with. (Note to self: I cannot justify toting around gargantuan spools of wire....yet.)

For spring wiring of bonsai stock, color of wire should not be a big issue. Wire color becomes an issue when nicely potted bonsai is displayed in the home, in a festival setting or in a show.

For show piece bonsai, inexpensive 4-to-50 coils of color plated aluminum crafting wire can be used to blend-in with the color of twigs and branches for bonsai that need a little more refinement. I use a basic black for general spring bonsai wiring. Chocolate, dull brown and kelly green coats, I use for display wiring depending on bark color. The wire also comes in red hues that would work well with coral bark. Color plated aluminum craft wire is the perfect softness for branches and twigs. This is the stuff I actually use for bonsai projects. I purchased black in bulk for wiring saplings and nursery stock and also for securing mesh to to the holes of mostly black nursery pots. Price range for coils of varying gauges and colors are about $2-$10 USD for the non brand name stuff and much easier to tote around with the rest of the sculpting and bonsai accouterments.

For my deciduous and tropical stock, spring wiring is very temporary. I leave wire on for 1-to-4 weeks to avoid nasty scarring of fast growing cambium tissue. I check daily for growth spurts especially when the temperature is cool enough to warrant a light jacket or sweater. Mild cool/warm temperatures induce growth spurts while hot temperatures retard major phytohormone productions in plants. Even then, there is a little bit of wire bruising during spring. Bruises heal quickly. Wire scars don't heal well.

To retain sculpted shape after brief spring wiring jobs, I switch to strategic hanging of weights on branches. Dangling weights work well in introducing delicate curves and the illusion of tree branch weighted down with age. The dangling weights allow for the wind to gently sculpt more fluid, feminine Yin curves into my branches and twigs like the way streams of ribbon dance in the wind.

Furthermore, allowing the wind to move through the branches with dangling weights causes lateral stress which in turn encourages greater ethylene production. Lateral stress induces sumo cell structure rather than the elongated cell structure. The end result is thicker branches and trunk. The Yang Cycle is a modern term named after Shang Fa Yang, Professor Emeritus at the University of California, Davis. Professor Yang pioneered studies of Ethylene biosynthesis in the regulation of genes in fruit ripening, plant growth, wounding and stress responses.

Thus, in the natural life cycle of a tree, thicker branches help support heavy fruit and the wildlife which eat the fruit and cycle the seeds through their gastro-intestinal tract. For those of us who nurture saplings, more stubborn tree seeds require an additional acid bath when scarification isn't working in the seed stratification process. Thus, I aim for tricking the bonsai stock into thinking it is bearing heavy fruit and supporting wildlife. Especially, when the only wildlife for miles is an intoxicated Bonsamurai in his natural viking habitat...

This spring, since I have no clue which box the fishing tackle is packed-in or where my India glass beads are, I used various sizes of paperclip clamps as weights. I guess this is an instance of me thinking inside the box cubicle and using paperclip clamps for something other than paper.

Really, I did not intend my tree stock as urban cubicle art. I would have preferred using India glass beads as decorative weights in lieu of paper clamps. Besides, glass beads mimic heavy fruit and are pretty! At least the urban office art is not as enigmatic as the bonsai trebuchet siege engine I built earlier to bend trunks. I watched an episode of Mythbusters last year about the use of living coniferous trees to catapult diseased corpses over fortress walls. I thought a miniature trebuchet frame would work for wind blown trunk angles. Blame my son for introducing me to Mythbusters.

Places I buy aluminum armature and craft wire:


with rhythm of wind
dancing leaves and shadows -
tricks of the spring
(Jazminka 2001)

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Re: Styling Technique: Tricks of Wire and Spring

Post  JimLewis on Sun May 02, 2010 6:07 pm

Thanks, Geoline . . . I'd missed missed your quirky approach to the care and training of our little trees. If you can, read over out tutorial on posting pictures and give us a pic of the weights swinging in your breezes -- in either Tennessee or Hawaii.

Jim Lewis - - Western NC - People, when Columbus discovered this country, it was plumb full of nuts and berries. And I'm right here to tell you the berries are just about all gone. Uncle Dave Macon, old-time country musician

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