By Carey Dunne, 22, reporting from New York, NY, on homemade art for hanging
Mobiles are like jewelry for your ceiling. When my grandma was a teenager, she'd make mobiles out of coat hangers and sell them door-to-door in her town during World War II for $10-$15 each. Some of them have survived and now hang in my room—one dangles with bells and painted wooden birds, one has fairy Christmas tree ornaments perpetually chasing each other. They look great up there, killing the myth that mobiles are just for baby cribs.
My grandma drew inspiration from Alexander Calder, the mobile master of all time. Calder's moving works of art hang in museums all over the world. Using materials as simple as painted wood, wire, glass shards, and sheet metal, he created what often look like miniature solar systems with deranged orbits, or bunches of tree branches dangling with odd fruit.
A few years ago, my grandma showed me some of the tricks of the coat hanger mobile-making trade, and I have been making them ever since.
They're simple and completely free to put together, requiring only a wire coat hanger, string, and whatever objects you have lying around that you might want to send soaring. Plus, they make excellent gifts—or perhaps a for-profit product, if you're as crafty-entrepreneurial as my grandma.
Here's the quick mobile how-to:
Collect your objects. This can be anything from old toys—Legos, Star Wars action figures, a pog collection?—to beads, shells, photographs, it's up to you. Lately I've been cutting images from National Geographic and collaging them with drawings or photos of people I know. (If you're using photos, cut two in the same shape and glue them together back-to-back, so that you have an image on both sides, and the mobile doesn't look boring from either of them.)
Make your base. Get a wire coat hanger thin enough to bend into the shape you'd like it to be. The simplest maneuver is to make a diamond, bending the bottom wire down into a 90-degree angle. You can also form a circle, or tie two hanger diamonds together at different angles to make a cube[[note deletion]]. Feel free to paint the wire base, or if it's already painted white, color it in with markers; or string beads and wrap them around.
String them up. Take either string or thin wire and tie your objects to the base. Have one dangling in the middle of the diamond and then one hanging from each point of the diamond.
For more advanced mobile maneuvers, you can try going all Calder-like, or introduce other materials, like felt. Whatever moves you.