Mobiles by Marco Mahler - Modern Hanging Kinetic Mobiles - 3D Printing Art - Custom Sculptures http://www.marcomahler.com I make mobiles, art mobiles that is, mostly modern, and hanging kinetic art installations, ready-to-ship ones, custom sculptures and 3D printing art Thu, 24 Apr 2014 15:28:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9 Two original Calder mobiles for sale on May 13th 2014http://www.marcomahler.com/alexander-calder-mobiles-for-sale/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=alexander-calder-mobiles-for-sale http://www.marcomahler.com/alexander-calder-mobiles-for-sale/#comments Thu, 24 Apr 2014 15:12:12 +0000 http://www.marcomahler.com/?p=3858 Christie’s Post-War and Contemporary Evening Sale on May 13th 2014 at Rockefeller Plaza in New York City will include two Calder mobiles, one hanging and one standing.

Photo of Alexander Calder Mobile For Sale Hanging

Poisson volant (Flying Fish)
hanging mobile
1957
signed with initials and dated ‘CA 57’
24 x 89 x 40 in. (60.9 x 226 x 101.6 cm.)
Expected auction price $9,000,000 – $12,000,000

From the catalogue: Alexander Calder’s remarkable sculpture, Poisson volant (Flying Fish), amply demonstrates the breadth and diversity of the artist’s prolific career. The sleek black outline of the fish combined with the complex construction of animated elements that comprise the fish tail demonstrate the artist’s unique compositional ability, unsurpassed technical execution and sheer sense of joie de vivre in one memorable work. Although much of Calder’s work was defiantly non-referential, the fish motif was one that occurred throughout his life; from Steel Fish, one of the artist’s early standing mobiles he created in 1934, to the themed headboard he made for Peggy Guggenheim in 1945, and continuing with his large scale mobiles and stabiles, such as the present work and Yellow Whale created during the late 1950s, the symbolic nature of the fish seemed to encompass much of what Calder wanted to achieve in his unique brand of sculpture.

Dominated by its dramatic silhouette, Poisson volant skillfully combines the monumentality of Calder’s large-scale sculptures with the delicacy of his legendary mobiles. The striking appearance of the fish’s curved body is tempered by the hypnotic nature of the fish’s eye, which Calder beautifully fashions out of a tightly coiled piece of steel wire. The monumentality of the fish’s body is then tempered by the dramatic fourish of fishy tale — a highly dynamic collection of more than a dozen individuality fabricated and assembled elements, which, when moved by a passing breeze, spring into life with all the zeal of fish darting through the water. Working on both the vertical and horizontal plane, Poisson volant is one of Calder’s most complex works as both aesthetically and structurally, his arrangement of elements work together to produce an effect that delights and amazes as it becomes a symphony of movement and joy.

Photo of Alexander Calder Mobile For Sale Gallery

By taking the fish as his subject matter, Calder is building on a custom that dates back to the very earliest days of human civilization. The fish has acquired an important role in many of the world’s great faiths and religions. In the West, the earliest use of the fish as a symbolic object was made by the Christian theologian Clement of Alexandria (born circa 150) who encouraged his readers to place the image of a fish in their personal seals. The origin of the fish’s status in the Christian faith has been traced
back to the miracle of the Feeding of the Five Thousand (the only miracle to appear in all four Gospels) in which Jesus feeds a large crowd of people with just five loaves and two fish. In the Eastern tradition, the fish is one of the eight Buddhist symbols of good fortune, and in many faiths acts as a representation of abundance and wealth. Linked to the idea that water is the giver of life, the fish has become associated with sustenance and nourishment and also linked to health, wealth and prosperity.

But for Calder, the fish was symbolic of the serene and graceful movement that he was trying to emulate in his work. After centuries of being constrained by its static traditions, Calder wanted to release sculpture from these confines and introduce a fourth dimension to the work—that of movement. The resulting body of work, of which this piece is arguably one of the most accomplished examples, gave Calder the opportunity to fully explore the kinetic possibilities of sculpture and produce three-dimensional worlds that were in constant fux. As he once said, “A mobile is a feisty thing and seldom stays tranquilly in one place. …A mobile in motion leaves an individual wake behind it , or rather, each element leaves an individual wake behind its individual self. Sometimes these wakes are contracted within each other, and sometimes they are deployed” (A. Calder, quoted by M. Prather, Alexander Calder 1898-1976, Washington, 1998, p. 137).

Photo of Alexander Calder Mobile For Sale Studio

He first began to explore the aesthetic possibilities of the fish form in 1929 with his exquisitely delicate work, Goldfsh Bowl. By 1934, it appeared again in his large-scale sculptures, and in the summer of that year, buoyed by the warm temperatures and his recent move to an old farmhouse he’d purchased in Connecticut, Calder produced a monumental outdoor sculpture called Steel Fish. Many of these early complex constructions coincide with the organic imagery of Joan Miró and Paul Klee. Calder and Miró formed a lifelong friendship after the pair first met in Paris in 1928 and lasted until Calder’s death in 1976. But as Miró’s work became more symbolic, Calder’s became more abstract. Although his piscine forms were making more frequent appearances in his oeuvre, these pieces often merely allude to forms without following them implicitly. When these new works were shown at the Pierre Matisse Gallery in New York in 1937, a critic asked Calder to define the significance of these new organic forms. He replied, “I don’t really think that the thing can be reduced to a formula. Each thing I make has, according to its degrees of success, a plastic quality, which includes many things… These things may be related, and doubtless are, but I have formed no theories about the relation. An idea which will lead me to make a new ‘object’ may come from almost anywhere, from anything” (A. Calder, quoted in M. Prather, Alexander Calder 1898-1976, Washington, 1998, p. 138).

Calder’s use of this form was to reach a wider audience when, in 1939, he was commissioned by the Museum of Modern Art to produce a work for their new building in New York. The result was the spectacular Lobster Trap and Fish Tail. This consisted of a cascade of black organic elements that would become one of his trademark arrangements, and along with a wire cage-like trap and a bright red lure, this work was his largest hanging mobile to date—and the commission that launched Calder’s career as a publicly known artist. The success of Lobster Trap and Fish Tail also meant that Calder had become a critical, as well as a commercial success. Four years later, when the Museum of Modern Art staged a retrospective of his work, he became the youngest artist ever to have been accorded the honor, an event that was to propel him into the ranks of America’s most influential living artists.

Although the fish form proved to be the perfect vehicle for enabling him to express his interest in the spontaneity and kinetic nature of his sculpture, it also enabled him to indulge in the whimsical and more intimate side of his work. In the winter of 1945-46, Peggy Guggenheim, the socialite and art collector, commissioned Calder to make her a silver headboard for her apartment in New York. Calder chose to craft for her a magical, shimmering depiction of an underwater garden. He included two simple fish motifs in the bottom left of the work, closest to where Peggy Guggenheim would have entered the room. In an added touch of whimsy, the fish were not part of the work itself, but attached to it by thin wires, which meant that they would move and shimmer with every gust of wind or each time someone entered or left the room. Peggy Guggenheim became particularly fond of Calder’s work containing his fish motif. A large, fish mobile hung in the drawing room of her apartment and often became a talking point during her glamorous cocktail parties.

Perhaps fittingly, the piscine motif that had been so central to almost half a century of Calder’s work is also the key theme in one of Calder’s final commissions. Untitled (1976) is a large mobile specially made for the Trustees of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. to hang in the atrium of their new East Building. It is comprised of a majestic collection of black, red and blue forms suspended below a shimmering glass ceiling; the effect of the sunlight bouncing off these gently moving multicolored forms evokes the sight of tropical fish swimming in shallow pools of sun-drenched water. Of all of Calder’s forms, in terms of its size, complexity and sheer delight, Poisson volant is clearly one of the most accomplished sculptures of his career. Its monumental size and graceful and majestic movement is a supreme example of Calder’s skill not just as an engineer, but also as an artist who took a thousand years of sculptural tradition and turned it upside down, and in doing so created some of the most innovative and influential works of the past one hundred years. As the artist himself once said “When everything goes right, a mobile is a piece of poetry that dances with the joy of life and surprises” (A. Calder, Calder, London, 2004, p. 261).

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Also for sale:

Photo of Alexander Calder Mobile For Sale Standing

Untitled
standing mobile
1945
Expected auction price $900,000 – $1,200,000

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Behind the Virtual Storefront: Interview with mobile maker and Etsy seller Marco Mahlerhttp://www.marcomahler.com/interview-etsy-sellers-mobiles/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=interview-etsy-sellers-mobiles http://www.marcomahler.com/interview-etsy-sellers-mobiles/#comments Wed, 23 Apr 2014 01:40:43 +0000 http://www.marcomahler.com/?p=3854 Artist, printmaker and writer Aijung Kim is running a series of interviews with Etsy sellers titled “Behind the Virtual Storefront” in connection with a workshop on Etsy Seller Basics that she is teaching at the VMFA Studio School. She was so nice to ask me to participate:

“I discovered Marco’s shop when I typed “Richmond, VA” in the “Shop Local” feature on Etsy. Marco Mahler’s shop, ArtMobile, intrigued me because fine art mobiles like his are an unusual item to find on Etsy, and he takes great photographs of his work. His mobiles are fun and stylish, and pretty classy-looking if I do say so myself. His 3d-printed mobiles are apparently the first of their kind! Also, I don’t see that many guy sellers on Etsy, so his shop stood out to me for that reason, too. I hope you enjoy reading the interview with Marco. Turns out he’s pretty business-savvy. I learned a lot from reading his answers. Enjoy!”

- Read the interview -

Photo of Mobiles

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Photos of a custom mobile I finished last weekhttp://www.marcomahler.com/custom-mobiles-3/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=custom-mobiles-3 http://www.marcomahler.com/custom-mobiles-3/#comments Wed, 16 Apr 2014 15:28:46 +0000 http://www.marcomahler.com/?p=3844 Photos of a custom mobile I finished last week for a private residence in Florida (via CAD International):

Photo of Custom Calder Style Mobiles

Photo of Custom Mobiles

The design is inspired by the architecture of the Butterfield House in New York City for which I previously made a custom mobile.

Photo of Custom Mobiles

Photo of Custom Mobiles

Photo of Custom Calder Style Mobiles

Read more of my blog or see more of my mobiles.

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Designs for large custom mobiles for a two story lobbyhttp://www.marcomahler.com/large-custom-mobiles-calder-style-mid-century-modern/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=large-custom-mobiles-calder-style-mid-century-modern http://www.marcomahler.com/large-custom-mobiles-calder-style-mid-century-modern/#comments Thu, 03 Apr 2014 15:27:19 +0000 http://www.marcomahler.com/?p=3814 Designs for large custom mobiles for a two story lobby in Houston, TX – The client requested a Calder-style mobile that would help create a modern, classy, airy feeling:

Design 1:

Image of Large Custom Calder Style Mobiles

In red and black, a classic Calder combination:

Image of Large Custom Calder Style Mobiles - Red and Black

Image of Large Custom Calder Inspired Mobiles

Again, in red and black:

Image of Large Custom Calder Inspired Mobiles - Red and Black

Design 2:

Image of Calder Mobiles For Sale

First floor perspective:

Image of Calder Mobiles Reproductions For Sale

Design 3 – inspired by the shapes on a rug that will be in the lobby:

Image of Large Custom Hanging Mobiles

Image of Hanging Mobiles

Design 4 – Showing a different type of mobile structure with a mid-century modern art design element to it:

Image of Hanging Mid Century Modern Art Mobiles

See more of my custom mobiles or read more of my blog.

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Mobile above stairwell – Two photos from a happy clienthttp://www.marcomahler.com/hanging-mobile-stairwell/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=hanging-mobile-stairwell http://www.marcomahler.com/hanging-mobile-stairwell/#comments Thu, 20 Mar 2014 15:46:13 +0000 http://www.marcomahler.com/?p=3796 Two photos I just received from a happy customer (“Mobile is amazing, well crafted. Thank you!”):

Photo of a Hanging Mobile in a Private Residence

Photo of a Mobile hanging above a stairwell

Read more of my blog or see more of my mobiles.

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Custom Mobiles for a sunglasses / eyeglasses companyhttp://www.marcomahler.com/custom-mobiles-2/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=custom-mobiles-2 http://www.marcomahler.com/custom-mobiles-2/#comments Thu, 13 Mar 2014 16:38:43 +0000 http://www.marcomahler.com/?p=3798 Custom mobiles I designed for a sunglasses / eyeglasses company:

Drawing of Custom Mobiles

Drawing of Custom Mobiles

- Made of titanium which is 56% the weight of steel -

Drawing of Custom Mobiles

Drawing of Custom Mobiles

Read more of my blog or see more of my custom mobiles.

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Large Custom Calder-style mobile at snowy parkhttp://www.marcomahler.com/large-calder-style-mobile-custom-sale/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=large-calder-style-mobile-custom-sale http://www.marcomahler.com/large-calder-style-mobile-custom-sale/#comments Wed, 05 Mar 2014 16:42:48 +0000 http://www.marcomahler.com/?p=3774 It was snowing yesterday so I took this large Calder-style mobile I just finished to the park, thinking the red and black shapes would probably show off nicely against the white of the snow in the photos. It’s a custom made 12 feet (3.5 meter) tall Calderesque mobile made of carbon cold rolled steel made for a client’s two story atrium:

Photo of Large Calder Style Mobile

Photo of Large Calderesque Mobile

Photo of Calder Inspired Mobile

Photo of tall mobiles with trees and sky

Photo of Large Calder Inspired Mobile at Lake

Photo of Large Calder Inspired Custom Mobiles For Sale

Photo of Calder Style Mobile Buy

Upon the client’s request, I disassembled this mobile after taking these photos and packed it so tightly that he could bring it to Buenos Aires on an airplane.

Photo of Large Custom-Made Mobiles Outdoors

Not a Calder reproduction, but definitely strongly Calder inspired.

And just for fun, here’s a GIF animation with a snow flurry (pun intended for the Calder aficionados reading this):

Photo of Large Custom-Made Mobiles Outdoors

- Read more of my blog or see more of my large custom made mobiles -

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Where’s the line between a Calder replica and a Calder inspired mobile?http://www.marcomahler.com/alexander-calder-mobile-replica-sale/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=alexander-calder-mobile-replica-sale http://www.marcomahler.com/alexander-calder-mobile-replica-sale/#comments Wed, 19 Feb 2014 19:31:56 +0000 http://www.marcomahler.com/?p=3752 Every now and then I receive a request from a client to make a large custom-sized Calderesque mobile, a mobile in the style of Alexander Calder, inventor of modern mobiles. I am not allowed, nor is anyone else, to make replicas (exact reproductions) of his mobiles. They are all copyrighted. Yet when I draw up proposals for these kinds of projects, I keep wondering where the lines are between a mobile that could be a replica, a mobile that’s strongly influenced by Calder’s style and a Calder inspired mobile. If I copied his style to a tee, most people wouldn’t be able to tell it from an original Calder mobile, yet it wouldn’t be a replica.

Image of large custom Calder mobile for sale

Image of Large Calder Mobiles For Sale

The question here is not quite the same as with paintings for example, because Calder invented a new art form and he is to date the only well known mobile maker. Very few kinetic sculptors have tried to create their own style of mobiles so far, and even then, the basic idea, and in many cases the structures of the their mobiles, are based on Calder’s work. In that way, most mobiles are Calder inspired.

- Read more blog posts or see my mobiles -

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Custom Sized Mobiles – 3-D modeling software allows for precise planninghttp://www.marcomahler.com/custom-sized-hanging-mobiles/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=custom-sized-hanging-mobiles http://www.marcomahler.com/custom-sized-hanging-mobiles/#comments Thu, 06 Feb 2014 21:57:47 +0000 http://www.marcomahler.com/?p=3739 Diagrams I just drew up for a couple of proposals to illustrate the space available to custom sized mobiles that will be able to rotate full circle:

Diagram - Custom Hanging Mobiles - Space

Diagram - Custom Hanging Mobiles - Space

Diagram - Custom Hanging Mobiles - Space

Diagram - Custom Hanging Mobiles - Space

These are not the most impressive examples, but using 3-D modeling software allows for precise planning to ensure a custom sized mobile will fit the space nicely.

It is also a great tool during the design stage of a custom mobile to show how it will look exactly in a specific space:

Diagram of Custom Hanging Mobiles

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Butterfly themed large custom mobiles – early draftshttp://www.marcomahler.com/large-custom-mobiles-butterflies/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=large-custom-mobiles-butterflies http://www.marcomahler.com/large-custom-mobiles-butterflies/#comments Wed, 29 Jan 2014 17:49:46 +0000 http://www.marcomahler.com/?p=3724 Designs I’m currently working on for large custom mobiles for a large staircase at a restaurant / theater being built on the Las Vegas strip – early drafts:

Design for Large Custom Mobiles - Butterfly Theme

Image of Large Custom Hanging Art Installations - Butterfly Theme

Render of Large Hanging Sculptures - Custom-Made Mobiles - Butterflies Design

Image of Large Calder Inspired Mobiles - Custom Designed

Designed with python scripts and rendered in Rhino.

Mixing contemporary art with movement, Calder style mobiles with 21st century design elements.

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Six of my mobiles will be at Robin B Gallery, Chicago, Illinois, Feb 4 – Mar 2 2014http://www.marcomahler.com/mobiles-gallery-chicago-illinois/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mobiles-gallery-chicago-illinois http://www.marcomahler.com/mobiles-gallery-chicago-illinois/#comments Thu, 23 Jan 2014 21:26:20 +0000 http://www.marcomahler.com/?p=3720 Six of my mobiles will be at Robin B Gallery at 1123 West Armitage Chicago, Illinois (Lincoln Park), from February 4th – March 2nd 2014.

Photos of Mobiles at Robin B Gallery - Chicago

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Two of my mobiles featured on This is Jane Wayne “Wohnen: Die schönsten Mobiles!”http://www.marcomahler.com/die-schonsten-mobiles/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=die-schonsten-mobiles http://www.marcomahler.com/die-schonsten-mobiles/#comments Wed, 08 Jan 2014 17:59:37 +0000 http://www.marcomahler.com/?p=3711 Two of my mobiles featured on This is Jane Wayne “Wohnen: Die schönsten Mobiles!”

Photos of Mobiles 62 and 74

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Diagrams for custom mobileshttp://www.marcomahler.com/diagrams-for-custom-mobiles/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=diagrams-for-custom-mobiles http://www.marcomahler.com/diagrams-for-custom-mobiles/#comments Thu, 02 Jan 2014 18:58:24 +0000 http://www.marcomahler.com/?p=3554 Just a photo of some diagrams for the shapes for custom mobiles I’m currently working on:

Photo of diagrams for custom mobiles

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Mobiles – Dec 14-15 – Pop-Up Shop at Modern Artifacts, Carytown, Richmond, VAhttp://www.marcomahler.com/mobiles-for-sale-shop/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=mobiles-for-sale-shop http://www.marcomahler.com/mobiles-for-sale-shop/#comments Thu, 12 Dec 2013 15:43:42 +0000 http://www.marcomahler.com/?p=3537 I’m having a pop-up shop at Modern Artifacts in Carytown, Richmond, VA (map) this weekend (December 14-15 2013): hand-made mobiles, acrylic glass mobiles and 3d printed mobiles – $10 to $190 – Be sure to say hi if you stop by!

Image of mobiles

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Renders of acrylic glass mobileshttp://www.marcomahler.com/renders-of-acrylic-glass-hanging-mobiles/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=renders-of-acrylic-glass-hanging-mobiles http://www.marcomahler.com/renders-of-acrylic-glass-hanging-mobiles/#comments Fri, 06 Dec 2013 23:42:40 +0000 http://www.marcomahler.com/?p=3527 Just some renders of a five piece custom version of the acrylic glass mobiles:

Render of hanging mobiles

Render of hanging mobiles

Render of hanging mobiles

Render of hanging mobiles

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Designs for large custom-made mobiles for a hotel lobbyhttp://www.marcomahler.com/large-mobiles-custom-made-lobby-commercial-space/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=large-mobiles-custom-made-lobby-commercial-space http://www.marcomahler.com/large-mobiles-custom-made-lobby-commercial-space/#comments Thu, 05 Dec 2013 14:54:01 +0000 http://www.marcomahler.com/?p=3519 Design for three large custom-made hanging mobiles for a hotel lobby, based on a custom mobile I made for a private residence at the Butterfield House:

Image of designs for large custom hanging mobiles for a hotel lobby

One more time with some colors:

Ideas for large mobiles custom-made for a hotel lobby

And a second idea using a design from our 3D Printed Hanging Sculptures:

Sketch of large custom-designed 3d printed hanging sculptures

See more of my custom-designed and custom-made mobiles

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Cyber Monday sale on 3D Printed Mobileshttp://www.marcomahler.com/3d-printed-art-sculptures-on-sale/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=3d-printed-art-sculptures-on-sale http://www.marcomahler.com/3d-printed-art-sculptures-on-sale/#comments Mon, 02 Dec 2013 16:12:40 +0000 http://www.marcomahler.com/?p=3507 Our 3D printing company is running a number of Cyber Monday sales, so if you’ve been considering getting any of our 3D Printed Mobiles, now would be the time: place any order and get a $10 store credit plus at checkout enter codes “save10″ (spend $75 get $10 off), “save25″ (spend $125 get $25 off), “save50″ (spend $200 get $50 off): www.shapeways.com/shops/mobiles (expires tonight December 2nd 2013 at midnight PST).

Photo of 3D Printed Hanging Mobiles by Marco Mahler and Henry Segerman
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2 Photos of Hanging Mobiles from the current Calder show at Venus Over Manhattanhttp://www.marcomahler.com/hanging-mobiles-calder-shadows/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=hanging-mobiles-calder-shadows http://www.marcomahler.com/hanging-mobiles-calder-shadows/#comments Tue, 19 Nov 2013 03:09:11 +0000 http://www.marcomahler.com/?p=3425 Great photo of the Alexander Calder show “Calder Shadows” at Venus Over Manhattan, currently showing through December 21, 2013:

Photo of Hanging Mobiles

For me as someone who makes mobiles for a living, I find this next one rather interesting. The wire structure looks like it was made with a lot of care, yet the sheet metal pieces attached to it look like left over pieces that he just picked up from the floor (at least two of them look like they’ve been stepped on). Calder sure didn’t try to make them look “nice”:

Photo of Hanging Mobiles

]]> http://www.marcomahler.com/hanging-mobiles-calder-shadows/feed/ 0 3D Printed Holiday Ornament Mobileshttp://www.marcomahler.com/3d-printed-holiday-ornaments-christmas-gifts/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=3d-printed-holiday-ornaments-christmas-gifts http://www.marcomahler.com/3d-printed-holiday-ornaments-christmas-gifts/#comments Sun, 17 Nov 2013 01:18:13 +0000 http://www.marcomahler.com/?p=3410 I just dropped of 30 red and white 3D printed holiday ornament mobiles at Modern Artifacts here in Richmond today. For the out-of-towners, you can order them through our shop at Shapeways. At $10 a piece, they’re also a very affordable mid-century modern meets contemporary 3d printing art gift. And they’re small enough to serve as stocking stuffers.

Available in 6 different colors. To have them delivered by Christmas, please order them latest by December 10th if you’re in the U.S. or Europe, for anywhere else it’s December 6th.

Photo of 3D Printing Gift - 3D Printed Holiday Ornament - Christmas Present
Photo of 3D Printing Gift - 3D Printed Holiday Ornament - Christmas Present
Photo of 3D Printing Gift - 3D Printed Holiday Ornament - Christmas Present
Photo of 3D Printing Gift - 3D Printed Holiday Ornament - Christmas Present
Photo of 3D Printing Gift - 3D Printed Holiday Ornament - Christmas Present
Photo of 3D Printing Gift - 3D Printed Holiday Ornament - Christmas Present

Photo of colors available of 3D Printing Gift - 3D Printed Holiday Ornament - Christmas Present

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Etsy’s Industrial Revolution – What is “handmade”?http://www.marcomahler.com/etsy-handmade-mass-produced-3d-printing-art-sculpture-mobiles/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=etsy-handmade-mass-produced-3d-printing-art-sculpture-mobiles http://www.marcomahler.com/etsy-handmade-mass-produced-3d-printing-art-sculpture-mobiles/#comments Wed, 13 Nov 2013 18:09:25 +0000 http://www.marcomahler.com/?p=3402 The New York Times had an article yesterday called “Etsy’s Industrial Revolution” by Elizabeth Wayland Barber. If you’re not familiar with Etsy, it’s an e-commerce website focused on handmade or vintage items, as well as art and craft supplies. It has 30 million registered users and over US$1 billion in total annual transactions. Here are their latest statistics.

Last month, Etsy announced new policies that would allow sellers to apply to peddle items they produced with manufacturing partners, as well as to hire staff and use outside companies to ship their goods — all provided that the sellers demonstrated the “authorship, responsibility and transparency” intrinsic to handmade items. By easing the definition of “handmade,” Etsy is trying to accommodate individual vendors who are having more and more trouble keeping up with their growing volume of customers. But many Etsy users are outraged by what they see as Etsy’s abandonment of its commitment to human handicraft, with some jumping ship for purer artisan sites like Zibbet.

When is something truly “handmade”? If you make something by hand out of supplies bought at your local craft or hardware store that were made using machines, well then it isn’t 100% handmade. Along those lines, the New York Times article makes the point that almost nothing has been truly handmade for thousands of years. But the real issue that Etsy and both its sellers and buyers are facing I thought was very well summoned up in the comments section:

“The “my handmade is more handmade than your handmade” debate has waged since Etsy first opened. But THIS isn’t not about degrees of handmade. This isn’t about “Hey, Sarah’s shop is handmade because she hand sews every stitch of her handbags while Betty’s shop isn’t because she uses a sewing machine”. This is about Sarah (who stitches everything by hand and charges a price that justifies that time) & Betty (who charges a bit less because her labor is a bit less) both being put out of business because Lulu who is actually a factory with 900 employees is mass producing handbags & selling them as “handmade” on Etsy next to Sarah and Betty’s, charging 1/2 the price. Also: Lulu’s able to produce 2000 new listings a month while Sarah & Betty can only do a few dozen, making their work unfindable. It’s about Cora, who isn’t making ANYTHING. She’s buying bags wholesale dirt cheap on AliExpress & merely reselling the already finished goods that she had NO part of making on Etsy as “handmade” at a fraction of the price Sarah & Betty can. Even before Etsy’s change in policy, you’d find several Lulus & Coras for every Sara or Betty. For Etsy to be transparent, they’d have to be able to tell Sarah’s handmade bags from Cora’s not-even-remotely handmade handbags, a task which they seem unable or unwilling to handle. It’s a masquerade ball & instead of actually investigating who is under the masks, they send out more invitations.” – by “Artist” from “Angryville”. As someone who makes handmade mobiles through a shop on Etsy, this is obviously a topic that concerns me too.

The second issue, and probably the the more contemporary one that wasn’t addressed at all in the article, is Etsy’s policy regarding “handmade” and 3d printing. I sell our collection of 3d printed mobiles through my shop on Etsy. They do allow it (“3D printed items can be sold in the handmade category without listing the manufacturer.” – from their Seller Guidelines). I designed them with the help of Henry Segerman, a mathematician, and we have a 3d printing service company called Shapeways print them for us. We do have a very significant part in creating these mobiles, they are 100% the product of our imagination and creativity. But they are anything but “handmade”.

3D printing aside, if you’re looking to buy something handmade, please make sure it really is handmade and listed by an honest seller. Don’t fall for the cheap pretend handmade stuff. There are a lot of honest hardworking people listing their beautiful and carefully handmade items on Etsy who will very much appreciate your business.

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