Art and Design

Mobiles

In the 1930s the American sculptor Alexander Calder invented a new kind of sculpture, the mobile. Balance is essential to make mobiles work.

 Crinkly with Red Disk, Alexander Calder 1973.
Crinkly with Red Disk, Alexander Calder 1973.

© Rufus46 [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)]

Calder hung abstract shapes from rods. The balance point was where the rod was hung or supported. His mobiles were always asymmetrical but they were balanced in weight or else they would tip on end. He made this large sculpture in 1973 for a square in Stuttgart, Germany. It is called Crinkly with Red Disk. One circle balances two irregular polygons that are on another rod. The balance depends on the weight of each of the parts and where the balance point is put.

Task

You will need lengths of wire or dowel, glue, monofilament or string, heavy card, cutting board and knife, something to hang the mobiles from.

Make a mobile to try out balance with different shapes. Cut shapes out of the card and hang them from the wire or dowel with the monofilament. Hang the mobile with monofilament from the ceiling or a bar.

  • How different can you make shapes that balance one another?
  • Does it change things if the balance point is off-centre?