Modern Hanging Art Mobile

The Multius Mobile by Julie Frith. Stylish modern hanging art mobile, fills your empty ceilings with color and movement. Custom color it!

Happy Birthday Alexander Calder!

Google doodle goes mobile for Alexander Calder's 113th birthday.

A piece of kinetic art took the place of the usual Google logo to celebrate the 113th birthday of American artist and sculptor Alexander Calder.

Friday's Google doodle shows a mobile, a type of kinetic sculpture that was invented by Alexander Calder. Mobiles take advantage of the principle of equilibrium and have objects hanging from rods. Kinetic art uses motion for an artistic effect.

Mobiles are usually brightly coloured free-moving creations in abstract shapes made from sheet metal. The mobile Google doodle sways on its own and can also be controlled by mouse gestures.

Calder was born on July 22, 1898 in Lawnton, US to a family of artists. While his father and grandfather were both sculptors, his mother was a painter.

He graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering from the Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey, in 1919. He then took art lessons. After a brief career in commercial art, Calder moved to Paris and put up an exhibition of a miniature circus with toy-like animals made of wood and wire. In Paris he formed associations with renowned artists and their influence helped him shape his art.

Calder was also a jewellery designer, an interest that developed when he was fashioning a wedding ring for his marriage with Louisa Cushing James. Besides his sculptures, Calder also illustrated a number of books. Besides mobiles, he also earned a name with stabiles, a type of stationary abstract sculptures.

With the years Calder also scaled up the size of his mobile and stabile installations. Calder died at the age of 78 on November 11, 1976. Two months after his death, Calder was honoured with United States' highest civilian honour, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Interactive and animated Google doodles have now become a regular feature on the Google home page. The last such doodle was during the total lunar eclipse of June 15-16 when Google put up its first live doodle that refreshed itself every two minutes to reflect the stage of the moon.

For a dozen years, Google has been occasionally swapping its everyday logo for a doodle, a sketch celebrating holidays, inventions, artists and sporting events, and showcasing designs from contest-winning students.

For a look at contemporary mobile designs .... come see modern mobile artist Julie Frith:


Hovering in harmony with modern homes, today's mobiles energize and calm living spaces with ever-changing viewsFrom the pages of the CA-Modern magazine

By Dave Weinstein

Brad Howe went to Brazil to study international affairs. Instead, he began churning out mobiles.

"I didn't even know who Calder was," he says, referring to Alexander Calder, the art form's chief inventor. But the Malibu-based artist learned about mobiles -- abstract, kinetic art, generally suspended from the ceiling -- from young Brazilian architects who loved their country's wealth of mid-century modern architecture and realized how beautifully the style meshed with these hovering webs of art.

"There was a huge interest in Brazil because mobiles fit wonderfully in modern architecture," Howe says. "Many architects designed spaces for mobiles -- but not many were making them."

He also discovered an affinity for the art form. "I could look at a mobile and build it the next day from memory," Howe recalls.

"I made seven for a Rio architect who sold them all in a week. I made 200 mobiles in a row, and I sold every one. I was sort of sucked into a vacuum."

Howe's story, surprisingly enough, is not surprising -- not to people who know mobiles. They are an art form, after all, based largely on serendipity -- how the parts move in relation to other parts, to the spaces they inhabit and the people who walk by.

Equally serendipitous are the careers of many of their makers. "Serendipity was the word" for the past year, Howe says, and many mobile makers could say the same about their entire careers.

Several, including Brian Schmitt of Sacramento, fell into the field simply by tinkering with mobiles -- then finding a demand for them. A student of industrial design at Arizona State, and a woodworker since childhood when he constructed an immense skateboard ramp, Schmitt began sculpting mobiles out of wood in his spare time.

"What are you wasting your time on?" an incredulous instructor asked.

Matt Richards of Portland, like many mobile artists, including Calder, began as an engineer. "The technical part of me really likes the idea of mobiles," says Richards, whose firm is Ekko Mobiles. "You're using logic to figure out how to get things to move right.

Heather Frazier, looking for a new gig after closing a boutique in San Francisco, indulged her love of garlands by cutting up her old fashion magazines and turning them into mobiles.

The result? Frazier, also of Portland, discovered a major market for mobiles among a particular sub-set of the mid-century market -- parents.

"I wasn't thinking of designing for the children's market. It naturally happened, because decoration for babies and children today, it's huge!" Frazier says.

What is it about a mobile that appeals to people?

"There's a lightness to it, which is nice," says Tom Graham, who has two mobiles in the Sacramento Eichler home he shares with his wife Lisa Foster. "It introduces movement into the room."

"As sculpture it shapes and defines its space," he says. "And the mobile's space is constantly shifting, its shapes and relationships constantly changing."

In their front living area, Graham and Foster have a Calderesque mobile. In their rear, they have a Schmitt 'Camber' mobile floating in front of a clerestory window.

Clearly, motion is key to the appeal of a mobile. "It has a kind of motion, quite often, that will remind you of the same emotion you feel when looking into the flames of a fireplace, waves in the sea, or clouds in the sky," Howe says.

"As a mobile maker, you can vary movement through different linkages, swivels, or no swivels. Whole sections can move together."

"Each mobile," Howe says, "has its own choreography."

Julie Frith, who produces mobiles in Eureka, says, "They're relaxing. They actually move. Buyers are flabbergasted. They lie in bed and watch it move."

"People turn off the TV to watch mobiles," she adds.

"Mobiles add a dimension to the space that wouldn't be there otherwise," says architect Zoltan Pali, whose Culver City firm SPF:architects put a Howe mobile into a medical office. A successful mobile, he says, is more than decorative; it becomes "part of the architecture and part of the space itself."
Mobiles may also appeal, Schmitt suggests, because they are not as intellectually demanding as much modern art. "A lot of art tries to express ideas or requires interpretation," he says. "What I strive for in the mobile, it's an object you want to have in your home. It enriches your environment. You don't have to analyze it."
Not that there isn't plenty to analyze. Alexander Calder (1898-1976), the Philadelphia artist-engineer who gave mobiles to the world in the 1930s, spent time with the French Surrealists and was equally fascinated with chance procedures and the unconscious.

A mobile, Howe suggests, "is almost like a structure that references a dream activity. They are bodies floating in space, they are planetary, they are like cloudscapes or thought bubbles floating above your head."

Frazier says the appeal is simple. "They make people happy."

Schmitt enjoys the unpredictable way they move. "They're almost like a goldfish you don't have to feed," he says.

"Because it's dynamic," he suggests, "it adds a personality to a space you don't get with a static object. In a corner of an atrium, it really sets off the space."

Mobiles work well in modern houses, Frith says, because high, open-beamed ceilings benefit from the energy of mobile art. "Eichlers have angled roofs, so they're perfect to hang a mobile," she says.

Matt Richards, who began his mobile-making ten years ago, building ten-inch table models he hawked over eBay, still sells some production mobiles through Design Within Reach, but focuses instead on large scale, individually designed commissions -- many for hospitals.

Mobiles succeed in hospitals for the same reason they succeed above cribs -- they're relaxing. Many of his mobiles hang in hospital lobbies and atriums. "Patients or family members sit and look out," he says. "It's slowly moving, just a little movement. In the end it gets mesmerizing. You spend ten minutes gazing at it. That's something other art doesn't do, it doesn't allow you to get lost in it."

About half of Brad Howe's mobiles go into people's homes, often to mobile collectors, who number maybe a thousand worldwide, he estimates, with up to 200 in Los Angeles. "Some people love their mobiles like pets," Howe says. "They're very, very fond of them."

While there is general agreement that a 'mobile' has to move and has to hang, and that its movement must be generated by wind or a breeze generated by passersby and not by a motor, definitions vary.

Many say a 'mobile' must involve interconnected pieces, one hanging from another.

"A suspended interconnected, balanced sculpture," is Howe's definition, "with elements that are cantilevered, with linkages that allow for more or less rotation before the next link can move."

Others use the term in a broader sense to mean art using "anything that might move," Richards says, interconnected or not.

Richards uses a broader term 'hanging kinetic art,' within which 'mobiles' are a subset.

Whatever you call them, mobiles have a natural affinity with mid-century modern design.

Calder and other pioneers of kinetic art -- the Russian Constructivist Naum Gabo in the 1920s and the American-born Scotsman George Rickey in the 1950s -- produced one-of-a-kind, avant-garde artworks.

During the 1950s, mobiles went mass market, with production by several European and American firms, including the Danish company Flensted, which remains in business.

Many sculptors from the early 1940s through the 1960s produced a wide variety of mobile sculptures, including the San Franciscan Robert B. Howard, the Frenchman Jean Tinguely, and Otto Piene, who focused on inflatables. French artist Jackie Matisse worked with kites.

Later mobile artists of note include Timothy Rose of Sausalito and Jerome Kirk, who settled in Healdsburg.

Meanwhile, many advances were made in the much broader field, 'kinetic art,' which ranges from mechanically controlled robots to electronics and sound sculptures.

One of the world's most unique creators of mobile sculptures is San Franciscan Ruth Asawa, whose freeform, basket-like wire designs, which she began in the 1950s, have become iconic. Asawa was married to architect Albert Lanier, who designed mid-century modern homes.

The connection between mobiles and mid-century modern design is acknowledged by many current mobile makers. "A lot of my clients come from that mid-century modern mindset," Matt Richards says.

When Schmitt heard a tour of modern homes was planned for Sacramento last year, he scurried to sign on as a sponsor and 'gifted' a mobile to Graham and Foster, whose home was on the tour.

"The style is timeless, clean design," Schmitt says of mid-century modern. "That's how I'm trying to approach my own aesthetic."

If anything haunts the otherwise joyful world of the contemporary mobile maker, it's the ghost of Calder.

Too many people, Julie Frith says, "they think, if it's a mobile, somebody has copied Calder. No, that's not what it is."

Frith, a "100-percent mobile maker" who's been turning them out for 12 years since being floored at a Calder exhibit, insists she's no copyist. "I want to be different from Calder and from everybody else."

Richards too acknowledges the influence. "I cut my teeth on pieces reminiscent of Calder," he says. "When I get the opportunity I like to try something new."

"To me," Howe says, "mobiles don't belong to Calder. Calder was just a virtuoso in the mobile world. Calder didn't invent them and he didn't own them. He pushed the science of mobiles in a lot of different directions."


"There a quasi-physics to it," architect Zoltan Pali says with a laugh. "A crazy physics."

Ever since Calder, who would often build several models for each sculpture to get the movement just right, artists have twisted, tied, weighted, and otherwise manipulated their works' hanging elements to get the balance and movement just right.

It is how a mobile moves, as much as its appearance, that defines its style.

That's why so many mobile artists began as engineers -- and why Matt Richards collaborates with Ben Cogdill, his in-house industrial designer.

"It has to work. It has to turn," Julie Frith says. "It has to move nicely, to be graceful."

Mobiles, originally mostly metal, today come in plastic, paper, and in a few cases, wood. Schmitt, who uses bamboo and various woods, plans a new line in metal -- and perhaps one in felt.

Metals used range from stainless steel to aluminum, to various combinations. Connections vary too.

"Some mobiles by artists are more Calder-style, using bent wire with paddles," Schmitt says. "Others are connected with rings that limit the motion, so you know the pieces will stay in relation to others in a certain way.

"I strive for every piece to have full 360-degree rotation. I think it makes a more interesting piece."

Getting the right balance isn't easy, Schmitt says. "That's a little bit of a trade secret. It's part of the mystery."

"I can only approach it knowing the elements look good together," he says, "and as they spin it's going to be a fun effect."

At the end, science gives way to art -- which is another serendipitous thing about the art of mobiles.

"You may start with the basic idea," Howe says, "but once in process, a lot of unexpected things occur. The original idea morphs."

"When working on a piece," he adds, "you end up having all these spontaneous new ideas burst out in front of you. So when you're done, you have ten new directions to work in. And each one of them inspires ten more directions.

"It's a self-propelling experience. You end up with more ideas than you could possibly accomplish in a lifetime."

Photos: David Toerge, Carl Van Vechten, Dave Weinstein, Paulo Tavares Pereira, Chris Schroeer-Heiermann, David Zuttermeister; and courtesy Brian Schmitt of Schmitt Design, Heather Frazier of Frazier & Wing, Julie Frith, Brad Howe, Matt Richards of Ekko Mobiles

Looking for a mobile?

Type 'mobile' into your favorite search engine and the siege begins. As mobile maker Julie Frith notes, "There are a lot of mobiles out there."

They range from cute -- teddy bears floating above cribs -- to cheesy, to high art. Many resemble Calder. "A small portion of it is inventive," mobile maker Brian Schmitt says, "and a huge portion is reinventing a style that's been done for decades."

If you're looking for a mobile, bear this distinction in mind: Some are made by people like Schmitt, who considers himself both an artist and a product designer and aims his work at 'normal people.'

That means mobiles produced as multiples in the $100-$200 range. Many mobile makers provide their artworks for less.

Other artists produce only one-of-a-kind works, often for specific sites. Brad Howe sells his residential mobiles for roughly $5,000 to $10,000.

Mobiles can be bought in galleries and museum shops, at crafts shows, or online.

For artists featured in this article:

• Brian Schmitt - Schmitt Design

• Heather Frazier - Frazier & Wing:

• Julie Frith:

• Brad Howe:

• Matt Richards - Ekko Mobiles:

• Linda Tomoko Mihara:

CA-Modern magazine is the full-color publication of the Eichler Network. Its content is aimed at mid-century modern homeowners and enthusiasts throughout California, with an emphasis on Eichler homes, Streng homes, Cliff May Ranchos, and Palmer & Krisel homes. Its content focuses on home maintenance features, solutions, and furnishings for modern homes; profiles on special California neighborhoods; breaking news; and much more.

Alexander Calder Art Mobiles in 1965 Post

The swinging art
and the man who created it
an article by Richard Lemon 1965

with a Calder mobile on the front cover.

My husband Brian Ladd, is always looking around on the net for cool mobile art related stuff for me. On Ebay he bought me this vintage magazine... The Saturday Evening Post Feb. 27, 1965. I just love it. Not only is it old and in great shape... it didn't smell like mold! It also had a great article on my favorite artist... Alexander Calder. The front cover shows a child reaching up to touch one of Calder's mobiles.

The start of the article shows an action photo of Calder sitting in the center stationary,
and the motion of his mobiles in action. The first piece shown is a stabile, I have not seen it anywhere, it is called "Rat". I love it!! The humor of Calder really shows! They talk with Calder and he seems so delighted and upbeat about his experiences making his mobiles.

On the left a stabile "Bucephalus", on the right "Five Rudders".

Shown above is the Alexander Calder show at the Guggenheim. Where people were able to actually touch the giant stabiles and mobiles. "Albert Einstein once spent 40 minutes watching the entire cycle of a motorized mobile called A Universe at the Museum of Modern Art, and reportedly said he wishes he had thought of it himself".

"Calder broke all attendance records at the Guggenheim, outdrawing even the mighty van Gogh." I think you will like this article very much. To see the article above go to my website:

Feel free to share it with others, I made it large enough to print out for your own copy of history. Enjoy... as I am sure Calder would have wanted us too!!

A New High School and a new MOBILE!!

Jones High school was burned down. And a new better school was built.

For nearly the last three years, the entire town wanted to know what the brand new, 83,000 square foot facility would look like.

The original high school was destroyed after power lines fell on the building and started a fire in the 2007 ice storm.

Watch this video of the local news

Best Baby Mobiles 2010

"Eliptusmobius" is 20"w x13"h, has petals for underneath viewing $135. The delicate balanced petals are so beautiful, blowing and watching them move is a wonder. Children that have mobiles near their bed or crib are known to be calmer, sleep better and have a wider imagination than those babies in a blank environment. Stimulation is the key, and a mobile not only activates the child's eyes, but stirs the brain to have more creativity, imagination, possibilities of science, balance and nature.

"Neptune" Foamobile is 26"w x 10"h, lightweight, moves at the slightest wind and very entertaining to a young child's eyes. Great price too $100

"Modernist" mobile is 30"w x 13"h a fantastic mobile for movement, turns from many pivot points to always show various balance configurations. $150

"Bluefish" mobile 20"w x 13"h, a traditional fish design with custom colors to match any room.

"Planets" mobile that does not (or does) have the planet Pluto. 37"w x16"h a glow in the dark mobile that is just fantastic, recommended for ALL ages!

Safety Note: Always hang mobiles out of child's reach.


These are my top 5 picks for the best baby mobiles of 2010. So many mobiles these days it is very difficult finding the perfect one. I chose to show art mobiles compared to clamp on musical or puffy type mobiles. Those only last for the first year or so. I like to buy items for my child that I know will grow with the kid and that they will enjoy viewing forever. Art becomes a part of the child's room, then as the child grows up not only will they love art, but share with others their upbringing.

Balancing a Mobile

Learn to balance a mobile, with this interactive NGA program for students and teachers. Add weight to a bar, then add another, see what happens when you change their size! Everything is balanced by the other side. Add different shapes, and change their colors. A fun site for learning the art of balancing a mobile.

For more fun mobiles and stabiles....

NGA Mobile designing for Kids

Watch the virtual mobile change and grow as you add branches, shapes, and colors. Adjust the orbit speed and make the pieces spin. See how the mobile casts shadows on the wall, then change your point of view and watch it create spirographic patterns as it moves through space.

National Gallery of Art NGA Kids a great site for all ages! Watch a Flash video showing one of Calder's mobiles and it's shadows.

Alexander Calder, Cascading Flowere 1949 painted metal, painted wire, and wire 221 x 243.8cm (87"x96")

Video "A discussion about American sculptor Alexander Calder"

This is a great video showing Alexander Calder's Grandson Alexander Rower, He is director and curator of the Alexander and Louisa Calder Foundation and co-editor of the beautiful book 'Calder: Gravity and Grace'.
A must have book for the Calder enthusiast. Also:

Art Meets Science: Calderoids

Dodge and destroy Alexander Calder’s mobile constellations in
the cosmic spacecraft of Ed Logg’s Atari Asteroids!

Blast Calder’s mobiles to a million brightly coloured bits! Instead of being a mere spectator to the play, irony, and humour of the toys in Calder’s Circus, or a spectator to the free play of the motion of Calder’s mobiles, in Calderoids you get to play with his art yourself when you climb in your spaceship and fly around his sculptures, laughing as you zap them to pieces!
Calderoids illustration

Few artists approached the world with as much of a sense of play as the inventor of mobiles: "Alexander Calder chose, aesthetically and morally, to play, to play for keeps at playing the game, because art at the time was a game or it was nothing. That’s how Calder understood it, and that’s how the best minds in that Paris which was a ‘moveable feast’ understood it as well" (Francisco Calvo Serraller, Gravity & Grace, 2004). Calder’s workshop would have found a home in the playland of the early Atari development lab: "Work is a word used very loosely at Atari. Most of the Atari employees I saw projected an aura of almost delirious bliss. They didn't seem to think of themselves as working. This isn't a company, I said to myself, it's a candy factory" (David Owen, Esquire, 1981).

Calder’s first major artwork was the animated Circus, a series of wire automata whose motion delighted and amused avant-garde Paris. Crashes between his abstract Circus forms foresee the cosmic conflagrations of Calderoids: "It was possible to move colored discs across the rectangle, or fluttering pennants, or cones; to make them dance, or even have battles between them. Some of them had large simple majestic movements, others were small and agitated" (Calder, Mobiles, 1937).

With mobiles, Calder plays with the fourth dimension of time: "Just as one can compose colors or forms, so one can compose motions" (Calder, Modern Painting and Sculpture, 1933). In Calderoids the gravity and grace of his mobiles arc through space with the zero-g elegance of Ed Logg’s spaceship: "Asteroids fulfilled the fantasy of being out in space, with no gravity, and free floating. The spaceship had a very elegant grace. A lot of motion in the game had grace, even the way the boulders floated around" (Rich Adam, original Atari programmer, The Atari Library).

Wikipedia: Mobile (sculpture)

A mobile is a type of kinetic sculpture constructed to take advantage of the principle of equilibrium. It consists of a number of rods, from which weighted objects or further rods hang. The objects hanging from the rods balance each other, so that the rods remain more or less horizontal. Each rod hangs from only one string, which gives it freedom to rotate about the string.

The sculptor Alexander Calder is well known for his mobiles. Calder invented the mobile in 1931. Marcel Duchamp suggested the name "mobile".[1] Mobiles are also popular in the nursery, where they hang over cribs to give infants something to entertain them and give them external visual stimulation.

The meaning of the term “mobile” as applied to sculpture has evolved since it was first suggested by Marcel Duchamp in 1931 to describe the early, mechanized creations of Alexander Calder. At this point, “mobile” was synonymous with the term “kinetic art”, describing sculptural works in which motion is a defining property. While motor or crank-driven moving sculptures may have initially prompted it, the word “mobile” later came to refer more specifically to Calder’s free-moving creations. Influenced by the abstract work of Piet Mondrian, Joan Miró and Sophie Taeuber-Arp, Calder in many respects invented an art form where objects (typically brightly coloured, abstract shapes fashioned from sheet metal) are connected by wire much like a balance scale. By the sequential attachment of additional objects, the final creation consists of many balanced parts joined by lengths of wire whose individual elements are capable of moving independently or as a whole when prompted by air movement or direct contact. Thus, “mobile” has become a more well-defined term referring to the many such hanging constructs Calder produced in a prolific manner between the 1930s and his death in 1976. A succinct definition of the term “mobile” in a visual art sense could be a type of kinetic sculpture in which an ensemble of balanced parts capable of motion are hung freely in space.

What is an art mobile?

Mobiles by Julie Frith
Frithmobiles: Mobiles by Julie Frith

Mobile (art), in art, type of sculpture characterized by the ability to move when propelled by air currents, by touch, or by a small motor at any one time. The most striking feature of the mobile is that, unlike traditional sculpture, it achieves its artistic effect through movement; it is the most familiar form of kinetic art, which requires movement of some kind. A typical mobile consists of a group of shapes, frequently abstract, that are connected by wires, string, metal rods, or the like. Although mobiles are usually suspended, some are designed to stand on a platform or floor. The first experimental mobiles were the work of the French artist Marcel Duchamp in the 1920s.The form, however, was developed to its finest expression so far by the American sculptor Alexander Calder, beginning in the 1930s. written by Marco Mahler

Words: Mobile and Stabile

Mobile : moábile 'mO-"bEl

Word Definitions: Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary

moábile Pronunciation: 'mO-"bEl

Function: noun : a construction or sculpture frequently of wire and sheet metal shapes with parts that can be set in motion by air currents; also: a similar structure (as of paper or plastic) suspended so that it moves in a current of air.

Stabile staábile Pronunciation: 'sta -"bEl

Function: noun Etymology: probably from French, from Latin stabilis, adjective : an abstract sculpture or construction similar in appearance to a mobile but made to be stationary

Where did the word "mobile" art come from?

Russian Constructivist Alexander Rodchenko appropriated the idea of the hanging mobile. From this idea, Alexander Calder (1898-1976) was the first to develop the mobile as a three-dimensional kinetic art form. In 1932 Marcel Duchamp gave the name "mobiles" to Alexander Calder 's new art forms. Calder also made static, sculptural constructions called "stabiles", this term was titled by Jean Arp.