I can still recall the day when I made my first mobile! Even though the wires were clumsily bent, the elements were cut out of poster-board and "painted" with magic markers, and the design came out looking nothing like I had planned, it still gave me a thrill when I hung it up from the ceiling light in my bedroom and watched it go into motion. Despite the crudeness of my work the mobile moved with a grace and beauty that immediately captured my attention and made me want to make another one. Thirty years later, I'm still making them, and the thrill of hanging a new one up for the first time has not diminished.
If you are reading this, you must already have an interest in mobile making. You may have seen a Calder mobile in a museum and wanted a copy of one for yourself. Or perhaps you would like to make a simple design to brighten up a child's room, or a more complex abstract design for a special accent to compliment your modern décor. You could be a graphic artist looking for a unique sales presentation, or an art teacher interested in demonstrating the effects of color and balance to her students.
But, like many people, you may be bewildered about how one goes about figuring out the weight and how to balance all of those pieces. It must take infinite patience, lots of time, and perhaps even a few magical powers to make it work - right?
Well I'll let you in on a little secret. It doesn't take magical powers or special tools to make a mobile. The secret is that you build the mobile from the bottom, up. Quite simply, you make the bottom-most piece first, find its balance point and make a loop there, and then make the next piece up and attach it to the bottom piece and then find its balance point. All you have to do is keep repeating this process as you work from bottom to top making and balancing each new piece as you go. It's that simple. Of course, you'll find that the sizes of the pieces and the length of the arms (wires) tends to increase as you go because they must get progressively heavier to counter-balance the weight of the pieces hanging below, but you don't need to know exactly how big to make them, and there is a lot of flexibility available to you in the design. In fact, that is one of the best things about hanging mobiles, you make them from nearly any kind of material and in any kind of style, it is only limited by your creativity.
When people ask me for advice on mobile making, I always recommend that they study the work of Alexander Calder, and find a good book that gives
detailed instructions on mobile construction. Many years ago, when I first started, I learned from the book
How To Make Mobiles by John Lynch. This book,
which was first published in 1953, is one of the best sources for learning to make mobiles in the style of Calder. Unfortunately, it has been out of print for
many years, but I scanned it, and you can download an Adobe .pdf copy by clicking on the image hyperlink below:
Two other mobile books that I recommend are Timothy Rose's book:
Making Creative Mobiles
And this book by Bruce Cana Fox:
Making Mobiles (Schiffer Book for Artists)