Live wire: Wichita man twists and bends wire into art

By Joe Stumpe | October 1, 2020

Earl Fouse shows off two of his wire art creations.

When it came to choosing his artistic materials, it’s not surprising that Earl Fouse picked wire instead of paint, charcoal or clay.
Fouse served in the U.S. Navy during World War II, working as a radio and radar technician on a ship that spent 63 days at Okinawa. His job was to change the frequencies used by planes serving as spotters for bombers. Lots of wires.
“We lost seven crews over the island,” he remembers. “One plane came back with 63 bullet holes in it. We only had beans and tea when we left there.”
Born and raised near Abilene, Fouse attended Oklahoma State University for two years after the war, worked in Texas for three, then caught on with KG&E, eventually becoming a substation manager and superintendent. More wires.
In 1980, he bought his first wire art kit. The process calls for Fouse to drive hundreds of tiny brass nails into a stained board or other surface that serves as his canvas, then wrap thin wire around them to create abstract patterns or realistic representations of everything from musical instruments and butterflies to balloons and a Valentine heart.
Colorful roosters with a dozen hues of wire are among his favorite subjects. A monochromatic mountain chain used just white wire but required him to drive 1,188 nails into a piece of wood from a 100-year-old barn. The trickiest ones are those requiring several layers of wire.
Each piece generally takes him several weeks to produce. Early on, Fouse worked form kits. These days, he usually works from images he finds himself, with help from his daughter, Ann. Fouse and his wife, Rossena, who were married 68 years, had four children, seven grandchildren and 12 great-grandchildren. They moved into the Regent on Valentine’s Day five years ago. She passed away two months later. Fouse still lives there, displaying his wire art (he also makes string art) in and outside his apartment.
“It just gives me something to do, more or less, and I like doing it,” he said.