A wire armature underlies a three-dimensional craft or art piece to help provide shape and support. Armatures reduce bulk and provide visual interest by varying height, depth, position and dimensionality. They are vital when creating large pieces using moist media such as clay, papier mache' or fiberglass, and when creating figures for stop-motion animations. Items with armatures dry more quickly and are easier to transport than if they were solid.
Things You'll Need
- Chicken wire
- Craft wire
- Wire cutters
- Needle-nose pliers
- Heavy leather gloves
- Vise grips
- 2 1-inch by 1/2-inch wood blocks
- Power drill, 1/8-inch diameter bit
- 1/8-inch diameter bolt with wing nut
- Work base with 1/8-inch diameter hole
- Clear epoxy
Don heavy leather work gloves before beginning your armature. Decide what scale you intend to use. Doll armatures are usually 1:12, which means that one inch in your armature's size equals 12 inches in real life. Standard dollhouse figures can be as small as 1:144, according to miniatures artist Nancy Rothrock.
Use wire cutters to cut wire twice the total height from head to toe, plus twice the length of the arms, plus twice the width of the shoulders and hips, plus 2 inches of wrap for each part of the body. A 12-inch wire armature with a 2-inch shoulder and hip span, 1-inch neck and head and 3-inch long arms will require about 52 inches of wire to make.
Fold the wire in half with the ends even. Have an assistant hold one end of the wire in a pair of vise grips, or clamp that end of the double wire in a vise if you are working alone. Twist the wire until it is a somewhat tight spiral, by using a second set of vise grips or by attaching one end of the wire to a power drill on low. Cut off the looped end of your twisted wire and any "untwisted" ends. Cut five 3-inch long pieces for arms, legs and head. Cut one 2-inch and 1 three-inch piece for shoulders and hips. Use the smaller piece for female shoulders and male hips. Use the larger piece for male shoulders and female hips.
Decide whether your figure is male or female. Open an anatomy text or web page depicting the skeletal system. Note the way the various bones attach. Your armature will need to be able to bend or twist at those points.
Bend one of the 3-inch long pieces into a circle with a stem. Wrap the stem around the center point of either a 2-inch long piece of wire (for female shoulders) or a 3-inch piece (for males). Use needle-nose pliers to pull the wire tight and pinch the end down. This prevents anyone getting stuck or scratched.
Attach arm pieces to the ends of the shoulders, and legs to the ends of the hip piece. Use the pliers again to pinch the end tight. Connect the arms and shoulders with the hips and legs by wrapping the end of the shoulder or hip wire around the arm or leg to create joints. Secure each joint with a bead of clear epoxy. According to Mark Spess, author of "Secrets of Clay Animation Revealed" and creator of Animateclay.com and Stopmotionmagic.com, this prevents the armature from twisting.
Use crumpled newspaper, paper towel rolls, empty tea boxes and other household items to create high and low areas. Cover with chicken wire that has been scrunched together.
Place a layer of cotton batting, horsehair or sisal fiber over the chicken wire. Apply clay, papier mache' or plaster until the wire armature and all of its parts are covered.
While it is still wet, make any needed adjustments to the scene. Add clay, papier mache or plaster to build an area higher or wider if needed. Paint as desired.
Tips & Warnings
- Consult an anatomy book before beginning your armature.
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