Thursday, April 30, 2009

McCormick Center

Hanging sculpure at McCormick Place in Chicago

McCormick Place is a huge facility, and if you happen to visit it for a convention or trade show I'd encourage you to do some exploring. There are many wonderful sculptures hidden away from the exhibit halls in areas where visitors do not typically wander, such as this piece, tucked away on level 4 or 5 of the South Building. I searched for a placard, but could not find any information about this piece or the artist that created it.

McCormick Place also has works by Tim Prentice, Dale Chihuly, and James Surls

Monday, April 27, 2009

Captcha is created by space aliens

These things are really starting to annoy me!!!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Evolution and De-evolution of a mobile

Mobiles are one of the most dynamic and interesting forms of sculpture because they are always in motion. Because of this, the arrangement of pieces is ever-changing and the appearance of any particular mobile can change dramatically from moment to moment.

Sometimes, even the design of a particular piece can seem to have a life of its own, evolving over a period of days or even years, especially when the mobile has been commissioned by a client. Here's a good example.

Several years ago a client contacted me. He wanted a very large hanging mobile for his beautiful modern home that was under construction in eastern Pennsylvania. He was a big Alexander Calder fan, and wanted a replica of the mobile that hangings in the National Gallery in Washington. He wanted it to be about 12 feet wide.

A BIG one!

I explained that I didn't make copies of Calder's work, but that I was interested in the project and felt that I could come up with a design that he would like. I quoted some prices and he told me that he would contact me at the proper time when the room was nearing completion.

I didn't hear back from him for nearly a year, and had somewhat dismissed the project as unlikely to move forward, but one day he called me and said that he was ready to start reviewing designs.

I presented this idea among several, which was similar to the Calder mobile that he liked in that it has two sections; one with vertical pieces and one with horizontal pieces. There is a view on the sketch that shows the horizontal pieces as seen from above. As you can see, the elements are pretty similar to Calder's typical triangle and boomerang shapes. I really liked this design and was hoping he would pick it.

satori hanging mobile sketch_1

But he chose this design instead. He didn't want any horizontal pieces.

Satori hanging mobile sketch 2

His next request was to make the elements "more like Calder shapes", so I sent back this idea.

Satori hanging mobile sketch 3
He really liked that design, (I didn't care for it so much).
The next step was to figure out a color arrangement. He liked this one:
hanging mobile colors

The size was critical. He sent architectural drawings to me and wanted the mobile to fill the room as much as possible. I felt that 11 feet wide would be a good target to aim for. If the mobile turned out to be larger than 12 feet, it would run into a wall. On a new design, it can be tricky to estimate sizes. A lot of it depends on where the hanging points are located, and how all the spaces and shapes relate to each other.

He sent a down payment, and I started working on the mobile.

I was really pleased when I finished and measured the mobile. I found that it had an 11 ft swing diameter - exactly like I wanted. Here's a photo that I sent comparing the unpainted mobile to the sketch. unpainted hanging mobile

The next step was to paint the mobile, pack it up, and (in this case), drive about 8 hours to deliver the mobile to his home. I really enjoyed seeing his home, it was built on top of a mountain and had many unique design features - he also had a lot of Calder lithographs.

Here's a photo that I took after I installed the mobile.

hanging mobile
It looked wonderful. Everyone was happy.
Project closed? Not quite.

A few months ago, I was flipping thru my sketch books and noticed the sketch of first design - the one that I had hoped that he would pick. I still wanted to make that mobile!

Since I had some free time, I decided I would do it. It would be much smaller of course - something that you could hang up in a room with standard ceilings. And I wanted to change the colors to the palette that I've been using lately - verdigris, khaki, red, black, and maybe a blue piece.

Here's how it came out - I really liked it!
I decided to name it "Satori"

Satori hanging mobile by unigami
I posted it up in the gallery on The Mobile Factory and quickly found a buyer.

Project closed? Not yet!!!

About a month later, a client emailed me - she really liked "Satori" but wondered if I could make it in primary colors, like a Calder mobile. Red, Black, Yellow, Blue.

Sure, I can do that!

So here is the most recent version, which I suspect is a miniature of what the large 11 foot mobile would have looked like if he had chosed my first design.

satori hanging mobile with alternate colors
So...after all of that, I guess this one has come full circle.
Unless there is yet more to come!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Philadelphia loses its Calders.

Calder 'Jerusalem Stabile' formerly at the "Calder Garden"
- courtesy hanneorla's flickrstream

Sure…his home and studio were in Roxbury Connecticut, Chicago has “The Flamingo” and the mechanical contraption in the Sears Tower (or whatever it is called now), Grand Rapids loves its “La Grande Vitesse” so much that they’ve adopted it as the official icon of the city, Washington D.C. has the beautiful and remarkable mobile in the National Gallery, New York has a fabulous collection of who knows how many mobiles and stabiles at the Whitney, but Philadelphia, perhaps more than any other city, has been most often associated with Alexander Calder and one of the best places to view his art.

“I was born in Lawnton” Calder said in his autobiography, “but it has been swallowed up by Philadelphia”. One of his first memories was living in a small Philadelphia apartment next to a railroad yard and being fascinated by the field of tracks, passenger trains, and freight cars. Born into a family of working artists, Calder also recalled posing in his father’s Philadelphia studio located on the second floor of an old livery stable for a statue that was to become known as “The Man Cub”.

Calder had no interest in becoming an artist. He was more fascinated by machines and loved tinkering and inventing things in the little workshops that he cobbled up in the corner of his father’s studio. I think he would have been quite surprised back then if someone were to tell him that one day it would be possible for a visitor to stand in one particular spot on Philadelphia’s Ben Franklin Parkway, not too far away from his boyhood home, and observe a time-line of sculptures from three generations of Calder artists; from Calder’s very-own “Ghost” mobile hanging outside the great stair hall at the Philadelphia Museum of Arts, to his father Alexander Stirling Calder’s “Swann Memorial Fountain” at Logan Square, to the historical sculptures at City Hall created by his grandfather Alexander Milne Calder.

A few years ago, the Ben Franklin Parkway boasted not one, not two, not three, but ELEVEN Calder sculptures, located in a two-acre plot known as “The Calder Garden”. Opening announcements made in 2001 by the Philadelphia Museum of Art said that there would be a rotating display of 10 to 15 pieces over a 13 year period. Funding for this display was provided by the Philadelphia-based Pew Charitable Trusts and the sculptures were provided on loan by The Calder Foundation.

Philadelphia, obviously proud of it’s Calder legacy, had even bigger plans for the Garden, a huge museum solely devoted to the work of Calder; a collection of mobiles, stabiles, jewelry, paintings, and contraptions unlike anything in the world. Sadly, despite many attempts over many years of failed negotiations to come to terms with requirements from the Calder Foundation (based in New York) and patrons who were asked to donate works on loan to the museum, the plans were scrapped and it is generally agreed that a museum will never be built.

And now, the Calder Garden is gone and it’s too late to do anything about it.

Without any prior announcement or explanation - practically under cover of darkness, sculptures were quickly dismantled, packed up, and hauled away this month. Within a few days the whimsical Calder Garden became nothing more than a grassy plot of land where you could walk your dog or toss an empty water bottle.

One sculpture does remain, relocated to an area nearby. It was the only one owned by the city of Philadelphia and not the Calder Foundation.

Spokespeople for the Philadelphia Art Museum and the Pew Charitable Trust had little to say about the removal, calling the 12 year term a “ballpark figure” and explaining that the funding for the event had simply expired.

I have not seen any comments from the Calder Foundation.

You really have to see a Calder sculpture in person to experience it. Obviously, a static photograph of a mobile can not provide you with the sense of life and playfulness that these sculptures radiate, and a photograph of a monolithic sculpture like the Flamingo in Chicago pales in comparison to the experience you feel when you are able to stand underneath a sculpture this size. I had hoped to visit the Calder Garden some day.

The loss of the museum and now the Calder Garden is not only a loss to the city of Philadelphia, it is also a loss to the legacy of Alexander Calder; a man whom is arguably America’s most prolific, inventive, and greatest sculptor. And it is a huge loss to fans and would-be fans of his work. It is disappointing that the Calder Foundation did not take a proactive role in finding a way to keep the Calder Garden alive and to find a way to bring the Calder Museum to fruition.

Roswell - hanging mobile

Roswell UFO hanging mobile
hanging mobile Roswell UFO
"Roswell" - an original hanging mobile design by Unigami
26 inches tall x 24 inches wide

Usually, a design idea comes first but sometimes a name
will inspire me to create something.

I was watching a program about the Roswell UFO incident
and decided it would be a great idea for a cute little mod
hanging mobile.

The gold sphere with antennas is Sputnik, the first object
sent into orbit by the Russians - ten years after Roswell.

visit for more information about my hanging mobiles and stabiles and also be sure to check out my Esty Shop

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Poppy - hanging mobile

poppy hanging mobile
"Poppy" - original hanging mobile by Unigami

32 inches tall x 31 inches wide
Sheet Metal and stainless steel

visit for more information about my hanging mobiles and stabiles.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Misaki - hanging mobile

Misaki hanging mobile
Misaki - hanging mobile by Unigami

28 inches tall x 24 inches wide
Polypropylene and stainless steel

visit for more information about my hanging mobiles and stabiles.