Kinetic art is art that depends on motion for its effects; as children are beings of perpetual motion themselves, what better form of art to make with them? Mobiles, popularized by Kinetic Artist, Alexander Calder, are a wonderful form of kinetic art to make. Mobiles are not only a lesson of art in motion, but they also teach us about balance. Seasonal leaves have inspired the design of this mobile but any favourite objects could be used, from shells to small toys.
SUPPLIES Sticks or branches, felt in autumn colours, chalk, scissors, string, straight pins, embroidery thread, waxed cotton cord, metal washers or pennies, (optional additional decorations: fir cones feathers, beads, buttons, etc.)
1 You may find it easier to sketch out your design on paper first to determine how many different elements you will need for your mobile. We’ve used three sticks, six felt leaves and five cones.
2 Collect a variety of leaves and trace around them on a double layer of felt with chalk. Pin together the two pieces of felt in the middle of each traced leaf then cut the leaves out of both felt layers.
3 To fix your two layers of leaves together, stitch veins on the leaves using a simple running stitch or back stitch.
4 Following your design, begin tieing elements to your top stick using the waxed cord. Simply thread the cord through a stitch at the back of each leaf and knot it to stay in place. Be sure to cut the cord long enough to tie all of the elements on to it. For example, our first piece of cord had a leaf tied to it near the top, a fir cone under the leaf, then ended with another stick tied at the bottom. Continue in this way until all of your elements have been tied together.
5 Tie a piece of waxed cord to each end of your top stick leaving it loose in the middle. You will hang up your mobile with this cord. Hold up your mobile to check how it’s balanced. If some parts are too light you can help even out the weight by either moving the cord left or right on each stick or sliding some small metal washers or coins between the felt layers of your leaves. When your mobile is balanced you can glue the washers into place.
6 Now hang up your mobile, indoors or out and watch how even the smallest breeze will make it dance.
For a modern looking mobile use garden wire instead of sticks and form loops in the wire with pliers. Cut out abstract shapes from recycled materials and paint them in primary colours in the style of Calder, then attach them to the loops in the wire with dental floss or fine wire.
We used 100% wool felt from Myriad Natural Toys (myriadonline.co.uk). To read more about the artist, Alexander Calder look him up in the Modern Art section of your local library or go to calder.org. To see examples of Calder’s art, visit the Tate Modern in London or Liverpool - tate.org.uk.
For more kinetic art ideas see Earth, Water, Fire and Air: Playful Exploration in the four elements by Walter Kraul (tinyurl.com/earthwaterfire). This newly re-published book is packed with nature activities involving the Four Elements. As well as mobiles, Kraul suggests making a parachute, a propellor plane, a hot air balloon and many more to utilise the properties of air.
We like Art from Rocks and Shells (tinyurl.com/artfromrocks) with projects using pebbles, feathers, flotsam and jetsam by Pam Robson and Gillian Chapman. It is filled with colourful photography and easy to follow step by step instructions for the many projects.