behind the scenes

Behind the Scenes: Making Connections

copper 'wire rivets' in galvanized steel.

Up until now, I’ve been using the traditional method of connecting mobile shapes to wires. It involves piercing the shape in two places and then threading the wire through and back in a loop. Alexander Calder used this method, and many mobile artists still do as well.

However, I was unhappy with the appearance of this connector method, especially for smaller mobiles. I recently started experimenting with the use of rivets to attach the shapes instead (thanks to a suggestion by famed kinetic artist Marco Mahler).

These aren’t the rivets you think of when you imagine battleships being assembled. These rivets are tiny and made of wire (in my case, copper). I first flatten the end of the main connector wire so that I can drill two (tiny) holes in them. I then place the wire rivet in the hole and flatten each side. The wire acts as a sort of two-headed nail, keeping the metal sandwich between them securely fastened.

The end result is a much cleaner, more elegant connection. It feels stronger than my previous method as well. There are two downsides though: 1) it probably doubles my assembly time, and 2) if I mess up the balance point, I can’t just remove the wire from the shape. The connector is strong and permanent, so I have to remake the shape from scratch.

That said, I think I’m in love with the technique. My family has gotten tired of hearing me say “rivet” over the past few days.

I have a ‘test’ mobile in the process of being painted that is entirely riveted. I’ll post photos in the next few days.