Alexander Calder Style Kinetic Sculpture: Top 5 Specifications and Constraints

As I’ve stated in my previous posts about my final project I plan to make an Alexander Calder inspired kinetic sculpture. I’m trying to create a mobile that looks weightless. One of the main specifications that I’m aiming for is the visual appearance of the sculpture appearing to defy gravity; this specification is going to be the hardest to meet as it requires careful planning. The next specification that I hope to meet is a good use of color: I want the project to be a burgundy or maroon and have a matte color pallet. I think I might need to use multiple layers of spray paint and then a final matte coating at the end. The third specification is a requirement for the project to not weight so much that it rips the paint off of the ceiling. I think this should be a pretty easy specification to meet as I just need to make sure that the wire lines aren’t so heavy that they need excessive counter balance. The forth specification is making sure that the weight of the ornaments don’t accidentally bend the 14 gauge wire. I think the diameter of the wire should be big enough that it doesn’t impact the design. The fifth aspect I’m prioritizing is the simplicity of the design. If I over complicate the design I think it could quickly lose the core of the overall intention: modern abstract art.

The first constraint is going to be the bending of the 14 gauge wire. I’m worried that in the process of bending the wire the pliers I use will marr and scratch the wire making it look unprofessional. I think the solution to this problem will be using jewelry needle nose pliers that are explicitly designed to prevent metal from getting scratched during manipulation of the 14 gauge wire. The second constraint is going to be cutting the aluminum sheeting to be the correct size. I’m concerned that the wire snips that I’m using will not produce the cuts I’m hoping for. Normally, I would just use a laser cutter to cut out the form, but I don’t think that’ll work on the aluminum. The third challenge is going to be applying the paint to the mobiles, I believe that I’m going to need to use sandpaper and then multiple layers of primer to have the paint stick to the aluminum. The forth challenge I foresee is my lack of free time, with senior design and my work getting a lot busier I’m starting to worry that I won’t have the time to finish this project to the level that I want. I think I’ll need to dedicate a few weekends to finishing the project. The fifth and biggest constraint is going to be actually balancing the mobile: a challenging math and applied arts project. I plan to use an excel spreadsheet and trial and error to get the proper angle. I’m a bit worried that the latter mobile arms will just fall to be completely vertical.

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2 Comments. Leave new

  • Maybe I am just too unfamiliar with your project, but is the goal that the arms don’t rotate? It might look unprofessional to wrap the wire around the connection points (and have probably considered that already…) In the end, this is a statics problem (assuming it’s not supposed to slide with each arm) and I know you can figure out what each weight would need to be for the red /things/. You might be able to use a thicker wire as well?

    • Trent Bjorkman
      April 14, 2024 4:05 pm

      Hey Tiana, thanks for the comment. I’m planning on having the arms be freely rotating! I did also go up the gauge of my wire to be 14 instead of 16 so hopefully that should solve the bending issue.


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