One: Barbed Wire

barbed wire, installation, exhibitions, works on paper
The tools I need for barbed wire production

A visitor to my studio asked where I bought my copper barbed wire. I laughed and said, “I made it.” Copper barbed wire would be most impractical out in the field. Why copper? I like the colour. First of all, it looks magnificent set against its complementary colour, blue. Deep blue.

Images on the internet for barbed wire

barbed wire, installation, exhibitions, works on paper
My handy-dandy vise

Before I began the project, I looked up barbed wire on the internet. With all my frustrations in the digital field, auto-correct being one of them, I must admit Google is great. Having studied the various forms of how the manufacturers produce it, I selected one I thought I could replicate.

Two sets of wire gauges

barbed wire, installation, exhibitions, works on paper
A little hard on the fingers

I am using a fine gage copper for the preliminary twist. The barbs come from stripped electrical wire. My first attempt showed me how difficult it was to get a tight enough twist to keep the barb in place on the wire. My barbed wire had slipping problems.

More consistent barbed wire design

During the second production line, I decided I needed some more consistency with what I was doing. Consequently, I took the leftover wire covering and measured two lengths. One represented the distance between barbs and the other was the length of the barb itself. Much quicker than using a ruler. This time I wanted a length of barbed wire to accommodate a curl, such as one sees on the top of some fences or around a prison yard.

Guessing leads to imperfection

In place

Rather than calculating a correct length I took the fine wire and proceeded to double and twist it into the base wire needed. While I ended up with a nice coil, it ended up way too short. Taking the twisted wire. I measured out a length, doubled it and doubled it again. Finally, I had something I could use and I turned my attention to the barbs for my barb wire.

Choosing a different barbed wire design

Another consideration came to mind. I did not like the way the barbs could move on my length of twisted wire so I decided to open a turn to receive the barb and then twist it around. I inserted the barb into the opening and using two sets of plyers, turned the wire about three times. This was not as easy as I anticipated as my left hand is not a strong as my right. Nonetheless, my barbed wire took shape rather quickly.

Nothing is wasted


The short length also received its barbs and I used it in conjunction with the small figure I had formed out of a different wire. So, what am I up to besides forming blisters on my fingers as I twist my barb wire into shape? Well, that is for the future to know. Doris Charest and Danièle Petit are part of the project and we hope to have an exhibition completed by September next year. In the meantime, other exhibitions are afoot, check them out here.


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