Friday, May 17, 2019

We're All Ears :: Encapsulated Potential

I hope you found something intriguing about the graceful curving forms of Ruth Asawa's beautiful wire work. For me the challenge was trying to miniaturize these forms and to get the sense of the shape within the shape that her wire sculptures depicted.

I found this short video about the experience of seeing one of these forms on display and how we are meant to interact with these sculptures in a way that was different than what most had known about sculpture up to the mid-century when she was creating them. The brief video only shows one piece, but she intended for them to be shown together, like the picture above, where the shapes play off one another and the shadows they create are part of a sort of living exhibit. The biomorphic designs were built with very common materials - copper, brass, steel wire - that she elevated to something staggeringly beautiful. Asawa also believed that art should be accessible, which is why the permanent exhibition of her work is in a space that does not charge people to see them, and also that art is something that you do every single day. I love this sensibility and try to bring that to my own art projects.

So I started with the wire. I was using 16 gauge steel wire for the base and made a couple of contenders to replicate her shapes. I also pulled out some metal beads that I thought would work for the enveloped orbs that are common to her work. I think that I would go back and try to do this with other metal colors, as that is the only color in her work.

Now I don't know how to crochet with wire, but that would be something. Ruth learned these techniques in Mexico when she worked with local craftspeople who made baskets like this, but she came back and transformed the craft into art. Can you imagine some crochet orb earrings like this? I think that would be incredibly dramatic! What I decided to do was cage a bead with simple wire wrapping. I found these fluted beads that worked well because the grooves could be used to trap the bead in the wiring, giving it a sense of floating inside the shape. I like a little bit of movement, and just a hint of bling to catch the light, so I added some smalller fluted beads and just a little Swarovski crystal that helped to reinforce the cascading, morphing shapes.

There is a lot of mystery with Ruth Asawa's art. I can't fathom how she did all of these, especially getting those bubbles suspended within. So I called these "Mystery Within" as her art hints at seed pods and all the encapsulated potential.

I am curious to see how this art influenced your design.


  1. Perfect - that's the first word that came to my mind when I saw your earrings, Erin! I love how you've brought the encapsulated-sphere look to your earrings - using ridged beads to help with the wire cage is a brilliant idea! I like the strong, bold look from the 16-gauge wire, and the little Swarovski crystals fit right in with the flowing forms.

  2. these are fabulous! I think you captured the heart and soul of what she created in your earrings

  3. While I haven't done any 3D wire forms in a long time I do know wire crochet and ISK. However, I couldnt do this challenge due to lack of time. So I really admire your way of making a wire cage. It is super clever.

  4. I love that your earrings are asymmetric and monochromatic. Fun, clever, and beautiful all mixed up into a pair of earrings!

  5. I am late on adding my earrings inspired by this amazing wirework, but thanks for the inspiration!