Apr 1, 2016

Nursery Mobile: Paper Birds

When planning out the changes to the nursery, I wasn’t sure if it would be better to make or buy a new mobile. I loved the idea of making something special for this baby like I did for Oliver, but I was also tempted by the convenience of buying one. Especially since I feel like I have zero time these days. In the end though, practicality (cost!) and sentimentality (both kids deserve something made with love!) won out. I managed to put together a simple paper bird mobile using craft dowels, thread and coloraid paper leftover from my art school days (the paper, required for a class, was so expensive I never threw it out and I found it when we cleaned out the office).

The paper is one-sided and I also wanted to double-up for strength, so I folded each sheet in half and glued the sides together, pressing them under a book overnight so they were very flat. I drew three little birds on cardstock and cut them out to use as a tracing template, then traced them over the colored paper. Each bird was carefully cut out by hand.

To string them up I tried fishing line, thread and elastic cord. The fishing line was too strong for the paper, the birds didn’t weigh enough to straighten it out and everything stayed coiled from the spool. The elastic cord was too bouncy, I knew it would be hard to balance the mobile. White thread ended up being the easiest material to use, and while I originally wanted something clear, I think it came out just fine! Plus I was able to use a needle and thread to poke holes in the birds to string them up.

I think balancing the mobile was the hardest part of the whole thing. Each bird tied to the dowels had to be counter-balanced. I hung up my mobile pieces and added the birds one at a time and it was a pain. I started at the bottom and worked my way up, since I knew balancing the bottom would be the hardest part. Once everything was tied to the dowels and semi-balanced, I spent a lot of time adjusting each bird and dowel connection until the mobile was as balanced as I could get it, again working from the bottom up. Since the nursery has a ceiling fan that will be on all summer, I knew I had to glue the threads into place on the dowels or risk destroying the whole thing. I glued in stages to keep everything balanced - first the bottom birds, then the middle ones, then the top birds, letting each section dry completely before moving on to the next. After that I glued the dowel connections into place starting at the bottom, then the middle, then the top, once again letting everything dry in between. It took a couple of days to get it all glued down but gluing itself only took a minute each time.

I’m really happy with how it came out. The colors, the movement, the way the paper birds flutter in a way that only paper can. For some reason some of the birds came out a little pinker than they are in real life and the oranges are much brighter - in person the colors flow together really nicely in a gradient. The balance isn't perfect - I left it in a place where Oliver could reach it... and of course he couldn’t resist (the colors! The movement! MUST TOUCH!) so now one of the bottom dowels is off-balance again post-gluing, but it doesn’t bother me. When the whole thing is motion you don’t even notice it. And I like to think Oliver left his personal touch on it for his brother :)

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