Notebook, 1993-

MATERIALS & METHODS - A Perspective on Art Education - Activities for Children - Themes & Topics

Drawing & Painting -- Modeling & Sculpting

Fingerpainting -- Mural Making -- Paper-Mâché -- Puppets -- Mask-Making -- Crayon Encaustics -- Crayon Resist Drawing -- Crayon Sgraffito -- Collage -- Mobiles -- Watercolor -- Common Earth Clay -- Salt Ceramic [recipe] -- Clay / plasticene Non-hardening -- Carving in the Round -- Newspaper Modeling -- Paraffin or Wax Sculpture -- Plaster Plaques or Reliefs -- Relief in Plaster -- Relief in Soft Wood -- Repoussé -- Sandcasting -- Working With the Coping Saw or Jigsaw -- Straw/Toothpick Sculpting -- Painting on Window Glass -- Diorama -- Peep Shows -- Whittling -- Wire Sculpture

[From: [Meaning in Crafts. Mattil,, Edward L. Chairman, Dept. of Art, North Texas State University. Third Edition, Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1971.]


A mobile is a sculpture in space, characterized by movement. Alexander Calder, one of America's leading artists, has brought the mobile to a peak of perfection in recent years, and it is now an accepted art form very likely to endure. The making of mobiles in schools has become very popular. In many instances, however, mobiles are little more than collections of junk suspended by strings or wires, with no movement, or feeling of movement, and made with little sensitivity for the materials.

First, a mobile should move; second, it should balance. Mobiles are not easy to construct and are least successful in the lower elementary grades. Fifth- or sixth-grade children are more likely to succeed.

To begin the mobile, it is necessary to string several pieces of wire tautly across the room at a height at which the children can work and to have available a variety of lightweight materials. Thin, springy wire; fast-drying airplane cement; lightweight cardboard; pieces of balsa wood; lightweight balls, such as Ping-Pong or small Christmass tree balls; and similar materials will work best. Finished mobiles should appear to float or dance gently through space. Therefore, the materials feel and look light. Here the selection and use of materials will help the children to learn that all materials cannot do all jobs and that a sensitive selection of materials is essential to good design. Good design in crafts results when the worker recognizes and respects the possibilities as well as the limitations of the materials with which he works and keeps in mind the effect he wishes to achieve.

Because balance is the essential design element, each portion must be balanced. Therefore, a mobile is most easily made by working from the bottom up, so that everything is in balance as it progresses. Two small elements are balanced with each other, perhaps on the ends of a thin wire, and this construction is hung by a silk or nylon thread. When it balances, it may be attached to a wire that has a counterweight, so that a perfect balance is attained at this level. This combination may be attached by means of a thread to an even larger wire, which is balanced by a similar combination, perhaps similar only in weight, not in appearance; and if the placement is good, all the elements will be able to turn freely without crashing into one another. On and on it goes, until the last, and generally largest elements are reached a the top.

Fast-drying airplane cement is most useful, because it can easily attach pieces of cardboard or balsa wood to a piece of wire and will be firm in a matter of a few minutes. It is also good to put a dab of the cement anyplace at which a thread is attached to a wire to hold the thread firmly in place.

Mobiles are challenging and fun, but just like other crafts projects, really good mobiles require planning. When the so-called scrap materials are treated chaotically and insensitively, they remain scrap; but through sensitive handling, they can be transformed and "dematerialized" so that, for example, a bottle cap is no longer just a bottle cap but an element of design. It is important that we introduce projects of this nature as early as possible, so that the children can become aware of contemporary art forms. The teacher should make use of every opportunity to develop the children's awareness of the art in their world. Each craft lesson should also be a lesson in art appreciation, so that the children learn to see art in everything, and not only in museums.

[Meaning in Crafts. Mattil,, Edward L. Chairman, Dept. of Art, North Texas State University. Third Edition, Prentice-Hall, Inc., Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey, 1971.]



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