2006-01-22 Rev. 2006-03-14, -06-26, 2008-03-18, -03-19 split,
2009-04-16 (form), -05-25, -12-31, 2010-03-08, -09-25
|Mobiles are hanging arrangements of items that move easily in the breeze arranged so large portions are balanced against small portions or devices made like that to move with a motor. National Gallery of Art-Calder Exhibition Stabiles and Mobiles This page shows several of Calder's and several decorative ones of mine including a giant show display from the 1960's.|
|The original mobiles were created by Alexander Calder ("'mobile' -- a word coined in 1931 by artist Marcel Duchamp") and consisted of brightly painted metal plates connected by short wires such that movement was restricted and the overall pattern of shapes could not change much. (right) His tend to arc outward, pieces perhaps suggesting splash marks of a stone skipped on water. The lower right image with insert detail shows these wire hook with loop attachments. Some of his plates were mounted flat (below) and others vertically. Clouds, below, are kept in line and are turned from the center pivot. Lighter pieces, right, involve shadow interplay on the wall from directed lighting.||
Items - the individual visual pieces of the mobile
Support - or rod - the horizontal elements of the mobile that separate the items and support them.
Hanger - or hanging point - the top mount of the mobile.
Line - the connection between items and supports, which may be thread, fishing line, cord or rope depending on scale and may not exist separately as in Calder's direct use of loops of wire in the supports.
I grew up with mobiles made by my mother in the late 40's and early 50's where the items being hung might be seashells, leaves or metal representations of leaves, or almost anything. These were mounted with threads on longish rods or thin branches and each was free to pivot completely around. While at Iowa State University in the mid - 60's, I built a mobile as a stage set for a synchronized swimming show (below)
Making a mobile with glass pieces involves dealing with the weight of the glass. One can make a bold statement with heavier pieces of wire, use wood shapes, or add a yoke as with the stage piece. Notice the truss structure of the supports for the Calder clouds unit above, consider how much heavier it would look if the beam side were filled in. Or one can intentionally use a light pieces of glass as will produce the effect.
Building a mobile is a matter of arranging the pieces in a
pleasing layout, perhaps on a piece of paper, sketching in the support rods,
then building from the bottom up, making each pair balance then each group
balance against the counter item. With practice, noticing the very heavy
that will balance against several items becomes obvious, but at first it is
likely that a layout will be attempted that can not be made to balance and also
I use carpet thread most often and use a basic slip knot for fastening so I can
adjust for balance and appearance, coming
back with a touch of glue to fix the location and knot in place. Using
monofilament fishing line will make a less visible line but one that is harder
to knot and less free to twist. Thin wire is even less free to twist and
may be difficult to keep completely straight as it holds its own bends.
With enough size and weight in the items and supports, coarser string or light
rope may make an attractive line, provide necessary visual confidence to
viewers, and flex enough to transmit torque to the other pieces to enhance
The guy who invented the mobile, Calder, as sculpture also
created the stabile, which was supposed to be firmly on the ground. Calder's
stabiles don't move much because most of them are pretty heavy and we aren't
supposed to touch them (the sign says.)
Mobile made of copper leaf shapes hung from slightly carved real branches (click to enlarge)
Mobile made of cut crystal spheres from cabinet knobs and other sources hung by thin thread from slightly bent thick steel wire. The mass of the spheres makes movement in house drafts unlikely, so placing it to be touched may be useful. Since moved to a window that gets direct sun along a passage way - throws small rainbow stripes on walls and floor.
Mobile/chime in progress with carpet thread glued to seashells hung from a spiral of copper wire, hung close together for sound.
This mobile is made of real branches and selections of leaves from artificial vines sold at Michaels or Hobby Lobby. Very light so it moves in heating/AC drafts. Not a lot of effort in making or photographing, obviously. 2009-05-25
|The images below show the
largest mobile I ever
designed and built, which was done back in 1965. The synchronized
swimming group Naiads, of which I was the only male member for two years,
had performed their annual shows in the women's pool which had limited
seating on one side. ISU built a huge new Natatorium in the area of
the men's gym facilities and snagged the NCAA swimming and diving finals. My
second year, Naiads got to use the large T-shaped pool for their show and I
proposed this design to hang over the diving pool portion farthest from the
audience. Each item is related to some element of the show and include
a guitar, a cupped hand, a mask, a musical note and a G clef each in a
window frame, a mask and the Naiads logo of a female swimmer silhouette on a
narrow hexagon shape..
Each had some kind of frame which served also to protect them during
mounting. Because they were over water, the unit had to be assembled
on the side, lifted clear of the deck on one line then pulled to the center
on the main hanging line while letting out the side lifting line.
Getting access to the ceiling space and getting the pieces in involved
considerable negotiations. When the NCAA came in, they simply took out
a huge window that looked from a hallway for access and clear TV shots.
The thin black and wood color horizontal support bars are 1x2 lumber. Barely visible in these images is the rope yoke that goes from the ends of each support to shape the curve and take most of the weight of the pieces; without the yoke the supports would bend and snap, thus they are actually pushing the ends of the yoke ropes out. As I recall, each piece weighed 10-15 pounds - the guitar and hand were hollow paper structures built on a wire frame. 2010-03-08
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