I live in a loft apartment and have a fair amount of open space above. I was lying on the floor and looking up. I must have been thinking real important thoughts or something like that, but I gazed at the space and wondered what could be done with it. A mobile was the answer! I didn't really know how to go about it so sat on the idea for a while, thinking about it now and then. I started with a prototype on the floor which consisted of paper ellipses and string. I was trying to figure out the size and shape of the mobile to see if the whole idea would work and still fit within my loft. I originally had the ellipses laid horizontally, but decided they looked better hanging vertically and were easier to layout, so I changed it. I guess that's why you make a prototype.
The next prototype hung from my ceiling. I wanted to make sure that I liked the way the it looked in my apartment and also to see if I liked having an constantly moving object hanging from my ceiling that might distract me. Making some diagrams and calculations on paper is no substitute for the real thing. This prototype consisted of paper drawings, fishing line, tape, paper clips, and wooden dowels and was made to actual size. I hung it from my ceiling and immediately liked it. The thing I liked about it most was that it was always moving. It was never, ever still. With the windows closed in the middle of the night, it was always moving, even if only slightly.
I started making plans for the final version. I ended up using 3/16" (5 mm) steel rods which I painted. I also bought polycarbonate (a type of plastic) sheets that were .020" (.5 mm) thick to make the frames that would hold the drawings. The drawings themselves were done with acrylic inks on double frosted mylar, a type of plastic "paper" that has a cloudy surface which allows plenty of light to shine through. I was trying for something that would resemble stained glass, so that light could easily pass through, but not be transparent
I was bouncing some ideas off people at my workplace and a mechanical engineer suggested that we might be able to custom machine some parts which would help in the assembly and balance of the mobile. So we walked down to the shop and he made a number of these parts and did some machining on the steel rods that would make tying the lines easier and more accurate.
It had taken a good deal of work looking for the right
cables, glues, etc. in trying to figure out what would work
When I was doing this work I was originally thinking that the assembly
would be the most difficult part and based on the materials that I was
originally working with, this would probably have been true.
with the custom machined parts, it turned out to be among the
Actually, figuring out the best materials to use was the most time
part of the process. This mobile took me a whole lot of time
but knowing what I know now, I could probably make one in 1/3 the time
it took me to make the original. The creation of the drawings
would probably be the most difficult task on another mobile.
I had everything ready to go and a neighbor helped me assemble
and hang it from my ceiling. It turns out that based on the
of the room and location of ceiling fan, it would be best to hang the
off the bottom of the fan. I would have liked a better
but I have to work with the space available. The prototype
hanging from the fan for several months and it worked out
So we hung the final version of the mobile and it looked really
great. So finally the
was completed. Well, sort of. Fifty three hours
later I was
lying in bed in the middle of the night and I heard a crash.
I immediately knew
what it was. I was so exasperated that I thought, "There's
nothing I can
I didn't even get out of bed. In the morning I surveyed the
Luckily none of the drawings had been damaged and there were only a few
scratches on the painted metal rods. It turned out that
final version weighed 9 lbs. (4.2 kg.) more than the prototype and one
of the lines was hung across a sharp metal edge of the ceiling
I had put some tape on that edge, but it wasn't enough. So I
across town to buy some thin steel fishing cable and put some foam
on the edge. So far, it's still there.
I really like this piece. I often sit below it and
and like how the light shines through the frames. It's not
same feeling as the stained glass in a cathedral but it's close enough.