high contrast mobiles

These were commissioned by a friend who wanted special gifts for a couple of new borns. High contrast baby mobiles are meant to stimulate baby brains and are usually black, red and white -which is a palette I really enjoy.  I really like black, bold shapes so this was a treat to work on since it combines illustration with the making of a useful object that would (hopefully) please the babies and the parents.

This is not strictly a “how-to” post but there are a few ideas you can use for your own projects. We started by choosing a few images that I had made already and worked from there. The inspiration for the first one was this postcard I posted originally on instagram:

"happy dreams"
“happy dreams”

I scanned the postcard and made a mockup in Illustrator with other elements:
mobile_preview

 

The second mobile was going to a household with a beautiful white dog and I was asked to incorporate her into the design and this is what I came up with:

mobile preview with dog

After this I traced the shapes in Illustrator and turned them into vector files. I cut them out of 1/4″ thick birch plywood using a desktop CNC. Although this process could easily be done using more low tech tools like a scroll saw or a band saw.

Cutting plywood on my Shapeoko2 desktop CNC
Cutting plywood on my Shapeoko2 desktop CNC
layout with all the pieces cut and sanded
layout with all the pieces cut and sanded

The next step after cutting and sanding was to paint a coat of white gesso on the surface to prepare for painting. I put a lot of effort into this in order to left the edges visible because I love the look of the plywood layers but I’m not sure I’d do it again. To accurately transfer some of the images onto the wood I printed the outlines on paper with a laser printer and transferred it using a blender pen (amazon link), it’s smelly but works pretty well:

Outline ready to transfer
Outline ready to transfer

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rubbing with a spoon to transfer the lines
rubbing with a spoon to transfer the lines
the results are not always perfect but good enough to work with
the results are not always perfect but good enough to work with

After transferring the outlines I hand painted the black using FW acrylic ink applied mostly with a brush. I used a quill pen for details and dots and coated the pieces with fixative at the end.

mobile_wolfcatWorkshop_process_05

the quill pen works surprisingly well on wood
the quill pen works surprisingly well on wood
layout after painting
layout after painting

I wanted a really clean looking string and after a bit of research I found out beading wire is really nice and strong. You have to purchase little crimps but I think the final look is worth it. There are many types of wire but I ended up using the 19 strand 0.012 in thick wire with these crimp tubes. I also got some small spinners at a local fishing supply store. I didn’t want a lot of hardware to keep the look clean so I only put spinners in a few key places.

ready to string
ready to string

The spinners are attached with little sections of beading wire. Also note that I used 3 strands in a pyramid configuration to balance the horizontal pieces.

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horizontal pieces held with 3 strands
horizontal pieces held with 3 strands

I was really pleased with the final result. Taking pictures of mobiles is kind of difficult (they move a lot turns out) but here are a few more shots – hands for scale.mobile_wolfcatworkshop_final_01 mobile_wolfcatworkshop_final_12mobile_wolfcatworkshop_final_13mobile_wolfcatworkshop_final_02

mobile_wolfcatworkshop_final_03mobile_wolfcatworkshop_final_07