Seven wire circles suspended from 2 steel rods turn slowly, each one coming into focus then retreating or continuing its turn, every movement making a different picture. Each circle contains: what? an atom? or a model of a planet, its satellites and orbits: a microcosm or a world which circles in its own orbit and inside a universe? Each separate atom or world is exquisitely detailed and inherently fragile. How would you store it securely?
I answered this question when I first wrote about storage: “wire and paper mobiles are best kept hanging. If of necessity stored in cardboard boxes, you will be hard put to re-assemble them unless you have several pictures… taken from different angles…..and even then you will struggle.“
This advice was absolutely correct: if only we had been able to follow it. Until last week some mobiles had been in the same boxes that Jenny had packed them in at least six or seven years ago – she kept only the most recent hanging in the studio. In the struggle to clear the Studio quickly we had done little more than add extra tissue paper and packing tape. The ones still hanging we photographed in situ and packed up as best we could. Obviously, when Jenny stored hers she had had no need to even label them, and she certainly didn’t need a picture to tell her how to put them together. When we got them all out we knew little more than how many boxes we had. Opening some boxes we found a jumble of wires and mesh entangled round fragile confections that despite our effort had lost their fastenings.
We had no idea what some of them were, nor how they should be re-assembled. We had some memories and a few pictures, but as mobiles by definition move even when there is a photograph the angles can make it hard to work out what goes where. It was a three dimensional jigsaw puzzle and we couldn’t always be sure that we had all the pieces. When we knew we had the pieces, had we got them in the right order? We discovered that the test was to hang them – did they move? For one (Atom Hearts) we weighed each piece to find out how it might balance, and then it did turn.
When we packed them away again, we followed our own advice. The website now has a new page with photographs designed to make re-assembly straightforward. Each mobile is stored in its own, specially made, cardboard container. We have swathed each string of fine fishing line and the shapes on it in layers of tissue paper and carefully separated the hangers. There’s a photo of the assembled mobile on the front of the box and its catalogue number on each face.
As we sealed up each box it felt like interring a Pharaoh in a Mummy case. I hope they will be dis-interred soon – the positive aspect of the whole experience was what a joy it was to see them so closely and appreciate the beauty and thought which animated them, as much as the care needed to make them