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:
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:
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
Update: I wrote another post about making a cat and fish mobile using a different set of tools. Check it out here.