I've seen many sculpting tutorials and recordings of works where the artist uses aluminum wire for the armature, with aluminum foil used where bulk is needed for the form.
However, as a beginner, aluminum wire is too expensive for me to essentially waste on practice projects. I've tried steel wire, but the thicker gauges are practically unworkable. Almost every hobby and craft store I've been to only sells aluminum wire in the floral section, at very high prices per foot, and online stores sell much more than I need.
Is there a cheaper alternative aluminum? It doesn't need to be as flexible, but sturdy enough to hold the clay and be safe in the oven.