Wire has many uses from bee houses to candle snuffers

90/58-111 Sculptural form, face, glass/metal/insulating wire, Douglas Annand, Sydney, 1950
90/58-111 Sculptural form, face, glass/metal/insulating wire, Douglas Annand, Sydney, 1950

Wire has been a material used in a variety of areas from the domestic sphere to agricultural, medical and applied arts areas. The Museum’s collection has wire products from cake cooling racks to electrical components and to sculptures like the one above made by designer Douglas Annand. The sculpture is a collage of various materials to create an outline of a human face. The central feature is a cylindrical clear glass form containing a blue liquid, with a number of circular indents, creating glass feet, and a nose. Green insulating wire is wound around glass and extends out either side with a green button for each eye.

What is wire? Usually it is a single, usually cylindrical, flexible strand or rod of metal. Wires are used to bear mechanical loads or electricity and telecommunications signals.

B527-4 Specimens of wire (3), 1 bronze, 1 copper, 1 cadmium copper wire
B527-4 Specimens of wire (3), 1 bronze, 1 copper, 1 cadmium copper wire

One of the most unexpected items in the collection is this West spiral bee nursery cage, made to protect the queen bee. The cage is made from a single piece of wire wound into a spiral shape. A small flat sheet of metal slides through the spiral to seal off the top, while a metal plug seals the narrow end. The plug is designed to hold food for the captive bee.

E5157-1 West spiral bee nursery cage, metal, made by Pender Brothers Limited,  West Maitland, New South Wales, Australia, 1931
E5157-1 West spiral bee nursery cage, metal, made by Pender Brothers Limited, West Maitland, New South Wales, Australia, 1931

The domestic world has been the recipient of many wire tools from cake stands to trivets (a small metal plate with short legs, especially one put under a hot platter or dish to protect a table) and pegs and this late Victorian candle snuffer.

H7081 Candle snuffer, self-acting, sheet tin & wire, Gordon's Patent, [Australia], c. 1880-
H7081 Candle snuffer, self-acting, sheet tin & wire, Gordon’s Patent, [Australia], c. 1880-

Written by Anni Turnbull  Curator

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