Making My First Mobile

So, I’ve been toying with some new things lately, and Kyle and I have been invited to propose a kinetic sculpture for permanent display in a very specific space.  I love kinetic art – LOVE it, but the thing is, I’ve turned out to be a mostly 2d kind of girl.  My most sculptural work to date has been the dimensional wall hangings from the Friendly Neighborhood Robot Factory show.  Those consisted of robots projected off of a fabric background with some of them having several levels.  This photo of Roboscout illustrates that.  They’re sculptural, to a point.  Some of them were even kinetic in the widest sense – Boombot with his light-up equalizer bars, the Wrasselator with his moving arms, ect. roboscout The thing is, this proposal is going to have to be something that is more dimensional, more kinetic, and frankly more collaborative between Kyle and I than any other piece we’ve worked on together.  And let me tell you, I know jack about building a true kinetic work.  So what did I do?  I went to the library, that’s what I did.  It takes a while to get what you’re searching for, but once you find it there is a gold mine out there of helpful books.  My personal favorite was Creative Kinetics:  Making Mechanical Marvels in Wood by Rodney Frost.  It goes to the trouble to discuss all different kinds of moving works, terminology, and it discusses the way different pieces will move, which is especially helpful for someone like me.  I decided to start off slow by making a mobile in order to test out the motion and construction of a piece.  Due to the space we are making our proposal for, a mobile is not practical, but who says you can’t get your toes wet first before you get down to business?


I had a nice rummage through my art hoard and came up with a pile of hard drive components that would look attractive in an arrangement.  I started by making a lever, a branch with one weighting item at each end, and finding it’s balance point.  Then I made the first vane.  A vane, think weather vane, is a kinetic piece that is designed to be weighted on one side.  Since I wanted to start with a simple but still elegant mobile design, I laid out my mobile to have one lever and four veins.  Each vein is counterbalanced by the weight of the rest of the mobile and/or the lever underneath.


Let me tell you – the balance on these bad boys is hell of tricky.  Apologies for the awful photos!

One-off Work

As a working artist, I always strive to innovate and keep my work fresh.  In order to do this, I experiment a lot.  Sometimes the payoff is immediate, and sometimes it takes longer to show up in my work.  The less successful experiments I do tend to kick around my gallery for a long time.

I am currently working on the final stages of a major life change for me.  I moved to a different state earlier this month, and I am currently finishing up one of the hardest parts of that – setting up house.  As part of this move, I have been taking stock of the work I have that is kicking around my home.  Prototypes and experiments that have never seen the light of day before now.  It isn’t bad work, any of it, but it was a series of stepping stones more than a destination for me.

A lot of artists don’t want anyone to ever see any piece of their work that isn’t absolutely technically perfect.  In theory, I disagree with that because this construct can prevent artists from putting good work out.  If you want to be an artist it is okay to make work only for yourself, but if your goal is to become a working artist and no one knows you make art, doesn’t that kind of defeat the point?  However, in action I have many many pieces that are these stepping stones.  There is feeling and intention underneath of them, they just aren’t the destination I was heading for.

I often tell people that all art is important, and so with an eye towards that, and towards making room in my new studio, I have started listing some of these one-offs in my Etsy shop.  I started yesterday with a simple piece.  It is wool felt stitched in layers on top of a hand-dyed ocean of cotton.  It is a topographic depiction of an atoll that I did with an eye towards experimenting with adding dimension to a flat surface, creating texture on fabric with ink, and constructing things with solid felt.  Overall, I am very happy with it.  It led to some texture work I did in the background of a small series of mixed media pieces, and it improved my construction techniques for my felt art-jewelry.



So tell me, do you have any experiments that are hiding in a back closet just because they were the stepping stone and not the destination?  Why don’t you take them out and show them to the world?!

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