Alexander Calder was born into a family of artists, and while he initially began painting and drawing, he developed a keen interest in mechanics and engineering which he incorporated into his work. His innovative way of thinking and wonderful sense of play lead to explorations in kinetic art, where sculptures were moved about by air currents or motor power. He became famous for inventing these mobiles, as they became known. They showed us a new way of looking at sculpture, which was now shown to move freely and interact with the environment. This project will allow children to experience making this kind of mobile, by using wire to create 3 dimensional portraits.
- pencil and paper
- needle-nose pliers
- wire cutters
- string or fishing line
1. Begin this project by using pencil and paper to make a line drawing of a face. It should be simple in detail, like the wire sculpture above. This will serve as a rough guide when making your wire portrait.
2. Wire will be used to translate the flat pencil drawing into a 3 dimensional portrait, which will be hanging in space. Have children bend and twist the wire to create facial features, the outline of the face, and some hair. The wire you choose should be easy for children to work with, but strong enough to hold its shape well. Children should be able to bend it with their fingers, using pliers to make smaller curves and details. In Calder’s Medusa shown below, only a few pieces of wire are used, so try and work with long sections like he did, which can be trimmed with wire cutters when necessary. When joining sections, wrap the wire around in a tight corkscrew fashion.
3. Final adjustments can be made by suspending the wire sculpture. Fishing line is great for this because it is almost invisible, but string can also be used. Find a perfect spot to hang it up, notice how it gently moves with the air currents, and enjoy the shadows it will cast on the wall.
Great sites to learn more about Alexander Calder’s work: