Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Secret Code Monogram Calder Mobiles

There are so many great lessons on the mobiles of Alexander Calder, but in case you need another--here's mine! I tried this lesson with my homeschool students and they seemed to enjoy it quite a bit. It's a simple intro to mobile-making which can pose some issues to children regarding balance and construction, if they aren't used to working in 3D. We used the code found in the book "The Calder Game" by Blue Balliett in which the children in the book realize that the shapes Calder used in his mobiles are actually symbols for letters and make up a secret code. 

I first saw the idea of using the code from the blog Salamander Art, and have used it in another Calder mobile project. This project works nicely for monograms since most people have three initials so the children could use three shapes from the chart to create their pieces. It was a fun project and many of the children finished early enough that we were able to have a mini critique and I was able to pass back all of their work for the semester. A great last day project.

Secret Code Monogram Calder Mobiles

Supplies Needed:

  • Code diagram and/or pictures of Calder's work for inspiration (see Salamander Art's blog for code chart)
  • Pens/pencils
  • Foam craft sheets
  • Scissors
  • Hole punch
  • Copper wire (I'm not sure of the gauge I used, but it was easy enough to bend by hand but study enough to hold its shape)
  • Wire cutters
  • Coat hanger
  • Cork from wine bottle
  • Hot glue gun and glue
  • Piece of mat board or cardboard


1. Write the first letter (initial) of your first name, your middle name, and your last name. Now, look on the Calder Code Chart for the shape that corresponds to those letters. Draw the shapes near the letters they go with.

2. Draw or trace the shapes onto the foam sheets. I magnified the shapes something like 500% and then printed them on card stock and then put a few on each table. The students moved around from table to table tracing the letters they needed. Cut out your shapes and punch a hole in the top of each using the hole punch. If your shape has internal shapes, take a bit of leftover craft foam, cut the little shapes out and glue onto the larger shape.

3. Cut two lengths of copper wire: one that is about 14" long and the other that is about 8-9" long. Curl the wire at both ends of each of the pieces to make a loop. Don't close it all the way just yet--you'll need to add some shapes. On the short length of wire, add a foam shape to each end. Then twist and form a loop in the center of this short length of wire. Slip the center loop of the short wire onto one of the end loops of the larger wire. Add your third shape to the opposite end of the large wire.

4. Check the piece for balance and make a loop in the middle section of the large wire to hang the piece. We found that our hanging loop needed to be slightly off-center toward one side in order for the piece to be balanced.

5. Glue the cork to the mat board or cardboard. Cut a length of clothes hanger wire and bend it gently and create a loop at the end from which to hang the mobile. Hang the finished mobile on the wire stand and enjoy!


  1. I would love to find the calder code. I think this is great tie in and would love to find a copy of the code but I'm unable to access the link you provided in your post. I realize this is old so it may be broken now.

    1. Hi Judy--I'm so sorry, I didn't realize this link was broken. Let me check my notes and see if I can find something for you. Thanks for stopping by, Mrs. P


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...