Friday, January 31, 2020

Wisteria Midcentury Hanging Art Modern Mobile | Mark Leary Designs

Mobile: Wisteria (44” wide x 21” tall)

On blooming
“It’ll open,” said fox, “when the time is right.”

Thoughts while making
“When you get right down to it,” my Gramma wrote, “I’m not very grandmotherly. After all, I smoke and do sinful things. I also gamble and like it.”

For as long as I can remember, my Gramma and Tim – her third husband who lovingly called her his Little Red Hen – would sit on our back deck and smoke. Christmas dinner, Easter brunch, birthdays, and everydays, they’d step out of the family gathering, taking a few moments on their own, smoke curling up from their long cigarettes.

“I truly wish I was like your mother, who can see good in everything,” she once wrote, “even those big pants the teenagers wear. All I can see that they do is make them fall off their skateboards. Perhaps, I just go to the Taco Bell too often. They hang out there and fall off their skateboards and bikes all the time. Mostly, though they are nice to old ladies with canes.”

In the winter, Gramma and Tim would bundle up in their thick jackets and retreat to the deck for their after dinner smoke. As a kid, I remember stealing glances at them through the sliding glass door. They were mostly quiet, sharing space yet not talking, a waft of smoky air following them back in as they wrestled with the heavy sliding door.

“I do not react well to gloom,” she wrote at another time. “It seems to creep into my mind and body and messes up my usual cheery disposition. I try not to let it show because your Mom and Grandpa get upset. Since they banned smoking in the Taco Bell, life is really dreary. When I started smoking it wasn’t a terrible thing, but it surely is now.”

In the summer, wisteria grew thick and full on the pergola over the back deck. The sunlight filtered through tangled woody stems with their candy green leaves, casting these shifting shadows of light and question.

As I was making this mobile – of laurel harvested from my backyard – I was thinking about how much my grandparents loved each other, how lucky I was that we wrote to each for many years, and memories of those clusters of purple wisteria flowers blanketing the deck as they sat quietly together.

What's your favorite flower? 

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Midcentury Modern Mobile - Pinwheel | Mark Leary Designs

Mobile: Pinwheel

On breathing
“But it’s just going in and out?”
“You’ll see,” said fox. “You’ll see.”

Thoughts while making

 Have you heard the one about the girl and her bubble?

It begins simply enough…

Once upon a time there lived a girl who loved blowing bubbles. It made her so happy.

“I make magic,” she thought, “with my breath.”

One day when the sun was nowhere to be found, she sat under a tree, unscrewed the cap of her homemade bubble solution, dipped in her pink wand & began to blow.

She blew and she blew. And the bubble got bigger and bigger.

Soon, people gathered around: “Stop!” they yelled. “It’s already big enough!”

But she kept blowing.

“You’re going to ruin it!” they barked. “It’s going to pop!”

And do you know what?

They were right. It did.

But with a big smile on her face and a sparkle in her eye, she dipped that pink wand right back into that purple bottle and began to blow again.

She blew & she blew. And the bubble got bigger and bigger.

“It’s just going to pop again,” they said. “Why can’t you just be happy with big enough?”

But she kept blowing.

And the people – thinking they knew what was going to happen – turned their backs on the little girl and left.

But she kept blowing. And blowing. And the bubble kept getting bigger & bigger.

In fact, it got so big, do you know what she did?

That’s right: she climbed inside.

“Oh,” she whispered, as her feet began to lift off the ground. “Look at the world now; it’s beautiful, all rainbows and swirls.”

As she floated higher and higher, the people turned and saw. “Look at her now; she’s beautiful, all rainbows and swirls.”

But she didn’t have time for those who had turned their backs. She had places to go, things to see, mountains to climb, and a life to live, happy + carefree.

Imagine what would’ve happened if that little girl had listened to the naysayers and doubters. Picture if she’d let others tell her what was right, enough, too much.

But she didn’t. Why? Because she just wanted to blow bubbles. And because of that she’s had one adventure after another … all from inside her bubble. But that’s another story for another time.

Where’s one place you’ll find magic today?


Monday, January 20, 2020

The Wham Midcentury Modern Mobile | Mark Leary Designs

 Mobiles: The Wham x 2
On chakras
“But I don’t feel like I have a rainbow inside me,” said mouse.
“You do,” explained bear, “and it’s beautiful; just like you.”

Thoughts while making
His name was Lloyd. He had curly brown hair and big glasses. And when I first met him, he was sitting on a desk in the lotus position, smoke from a stick of burning sandalwood mixing with sitar music.

Over the course of the next hour, Lloyd regaled us with stories of ancient India, holy sadhus, levitation, transmutation, and things I never even could’ve imagined were real, but that excited me to the core.

The class was Hinduism 101 and Lloyd was actually. Dr. Lloyd Pflueger. And, after 2.5 years in college with zero idea what I was going to major in, Lloyd’s class led to a year at Berkeley studying Sanksrit and Hindi, two degrees in religious studies, and a lifelong fascination with how we make meaning.

Lloyd was a gifted storyteller. Passionate about history, his experiences, and the way past and present, his and yours, here and there, came together in this magical and interconnected way.

I was watching the Screen Actor Guild awards the other night and two things occurred to me: 1) Where else do we get recognized for doing what we do in such a grand and celebratory way? 2) Where else do we have a formal opportunity to stand up in front of our peers and loved ones to take a moment to say “thank you”?

Thank you for inspiring me. Thank you for supporting me. Thank you for trusting me. Thanking for taking a chance on me. Thank you for being there for me. Thank you for making me better. Thank you for loving me and sacrificing for me and believing in me.

For all the bad rap award shows get, there’s something to 1) taking time to reflect on what we and others have done and accomplished in this past year, and 2) to celebrating with gratitude those who help us in our eternal becoming.

As I was looking at these two mobiles together and their circles, I had a flash of a chakra diagram Lloyd showed the class, and it made me think of him, and how he has no idea how he touched me and my life. So thank you, Dr. Pfleuger.

If we shine the spotlight on you for a moment, who would you like to thank?

The Classic Modern Mobile | Talking the Good Life Project and Jonathan Fields' Sparketypes™

 Mobiles: Follow Me, The Classic

On sparks
“But how do I know who I’m meant to be?” asked little bird.
“Keep asking questions,” said fox. “Like a match to wood, they will ignite your fire.”

Thoughts while making

She flew low and close to the ground. Black against a blacker night. Her feathers a whisper knifing cold through desert air.

I’d just lit the old Coleman stove. A relic from childhood camping trips. It’s small round burner glowing, gas blue turning a deep luminous orange.

I was all alone until she came. 600,000 acres of Anza-Borrego wide around, and yet I felt crowded. My thoughts a mob, thugs familiar, loud and unkind: doubt, fear, self blame; where was I going, what was I doing? Would I ever just feel okay?

When she first flew by, I felt more than saw her, a shadow at the edges. When she returned again and again, making these long, sweeping passes, she came closer each time, illuminated by the small circle of light—free and wild, curious and quiet, waxen wings poetic, her eyes seeing a man standing barefoot in the sand, a thousand starlit galaxies within reach if only he leaped.

As I was making these mobiles, I was listening to Jonathan Fields sharing on his always-beautiful Good Life Project podcast. He was talking about his genius idea of Sparketypes™, about finding that path in life that “fills you with meaning and lets you feel fully-expressed, alive with​ ​purpose and absorbed in flow ("sparked").”

His words brought me back to that desert night years ago, and to the questions that raven asked, “What is it that stands between you and that thing, those things, that light you up?”

And it makes me wonder, what would your life look like, feel like, taste, smell, and sound like – be – if you could step around that thing, those things, that you imagine block your way? If you stepped around and followed the light, a match igniting passion?

Perhaps sit with this for a moment? I will be. Then, if you’re curious, I encourage you to learn more about Sparketypes at, yep,, and share what yours is here once you find out. Maker and Nurturer for me.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

Arrow and Pivot | Modern Kinetic Art | Mark Leary Designs

Mobiles: Pivot II, Arrow

 On directions
“But where am I supposed to go?” asked bird.
“Perhaps,” invited fox, “a better question might be ‘where am I now?’”

Thoughts while making
There’s a path on the side of my house. Nine oversized pavers mark the way. For 20 feet or so, you enjoy concrete-y goodness underfoot.

It’s a straight line. A sure shot. Makes you feel like you’re heading places, moving with purpose.

And then it just stops. Beyond that, get out your map, my friend, because you are on your own.

The idea had been simple: create a walkway from my side door to The Shed (aka my studio).

In the spring, grass between my toes is a delight. Yet, since Portland winters are wet, all that walking back and forth creates a slip-n-slide of mud and downtrodden grass.

So, this summer, I found the pavers, prepped the soil, got to work … and stopped woefully short, about halfway to my destination.

“I have plenty of time,” I told myself. “Plenty of time to wait to finish until [fill in the blank]: it’s cooler, it’s warmer, the ground is softer, I don’t have so many other things to do,” and on and on.

Big surprise: No other pavers have been laid.

For the first few weeks this winter, *every* time I made that trip - dozens of times a day - I was focused on what the path wasn’t rather than accepting what it was. I berated myself for not finishing, leaving it undone, failing.

How often do we struggle against what isn’t rather than embracing what is, inventing stories of lack and scarcity rather than seeing what is truly there?

I saw a brilliant @brianandreas illustration today that reads, “Try to remember it’s Always Whole, even Where you only see parts.”

In this case, that path has always been complete, always Whole. But I – focused on what parts I told myself weren’t there – was missing the opportunity to see what was: to slow down (so as not to slip), to pick my own path, and feel gratitude that I get to create art for others.

Together, these mobiles remind me of the many and varied paths we each tread every day and the opportunities that lay in every step.

Where’s one place you can gently shift your story from what’s “missing” to a gratitude for what is?


Wednesday, January 15, 2020

Blue Moon Rising in New Colors | Modern Art Mobile | Mark Leary Designs

 Mobiles: Blue Moon Rising x 3

On being naked
“There’s so much more to you,” whispered crow, “than I could have ever known.”

Thoughts while making
She was just standing there naked. Like it was totally normal. As if she woke up every day ready for 30 people to gawk at every exposed inch of her bare body. I can’t speak for the other 29 people in the room, but *I* was highly uncomfortable.

When I was 17, I took an Intro to Drawing class in college. There were your standard still lifes with vases and fruit. And there was also this: a nude figure drawing session.

In our very first class, the professor had noted the session, and for weeks I worried myself sick about that one class.

At that point, I’d never seen a naked body in person. I was afraid of what would “happen” to me, how I’d react. Eight years of parochial education didn’t give me confidence I could keep it together.

I remember walking to class that day, blood pumping to my head, the sounds, shapes, and colors of campus a blur.

And there she was. A silk robe. Flip flops. A cigarette. Mussed hair. Tired eyes. She was leaning against a wall outside the classroom, smoking. She wasn’t wearing a nametag that read “Nude Model,” but it was clear who she was.

I looked away quickly.

Moments later, she entered, disrobed. My first sketch might as well have been of a carrot. That’s how closely I did not look at her. But sketch after sketch, I began to take courage, to look more. And that’s when I began to see.

The lines of her. Wrinkles, bumps, bruises. Curves and angles. Folds and hair and sweat.

This was not the Playboy the neighbor tucked between the stacks of newspapers. This was not the Penthouse found in the forts behind our house. This was not even the scrambled cable signal from late-night TV.

This was the human body, in all its variety; every scar and vulnerability tattooed like a story I could never know.

These mobiles together sparked a memory of that moment, of the time when a teenage boy saw his first naked woman and learned the lesson that a body is just a body until the author chooses to share the stories that write its lines.

What word would describe the first time you saw a naked body?

Blue Modern Hanging Art Mobiles | Mark Leary Designs

On privilege
“But I don’t know if I can,” said blue bird.
“If you have the option of can or can’t,” explained crow, “then the question becomes will you or won’t you.”

Thoughts while making
 “Pick it up,” he yelled. “PICK.IT.UP!”

On the concrete in front of him was a collection of odds and ends. A small, blue plastic bottle of Bombay gin. Some loose change. A dirty blue plaid handkerchief and a bunch of crumpled papers.

He pointed directly at a nickel, looked at me directly in the eyes, and dared me, “Pick It UP!”

I’d heard him from a block away. Seen him running back and forth on the corner. I’d watched three groups of people cross to the other side of the street to avoid him.

As I approached, he kept yelling. I met his blue eyes and just smiled the kindest smile I could find. And then it happened.

For a perhaps a second, he was silent. He stood still. He seemed to clear his throat. Then, looking right at me, he said, “Fuck you.”

And this may be the best present I receive this holiday.

Walking around downtown Portland is a lesson in privilege, a primer on the turbulent and fickle economies of fortune. It’d be easy to oversimplify or create labels and boxes, and we each have our hardships, all carry our own burdens: But fuck me if I forget for a second how fortunate I am.

It’s a story, I know (and one told from a place of privilege), but what I told myself is this man wanted somebody to see him, hear him, stop for him, and simply do what he asked: pick it up. And I just smiled at him.

How many people in our lives, including one another, have this same need to be seen and heard? How many people, including ourselves, silently just want to be picked up for even just a moment?

Where is one place you can slow down, stop, see, listen, and “pick it up” for someone—or for yourself—today?

Tuesday, January 14, 2020

New Color Palette on Modern Hanging Art Mobile from Mark Leary Designs

Mobile: The Bakersfield (44” x 23”)

On paint
“If I could be any color,” said fox, “I’d be happy.”
“But that’s not a color,” explained crow.
“Oh, and grateful, too,” fox smiled.

Thoughts while making
They were yellow. Like my mom’s backyard daffodils. Like the scrambled eggs dad made on Saturday mornings. A no. 2 pencil. Hope.

Spread over 18 miles and dotting a monotonic landscape, each was nearly 20 feet tall, almost 30 feet in diameter. 1760 in total.

In the fall of 1991, I drove down from Oakland to meet my mom and younger brother on the Grapevine, the massive canyon that connects southern to central California.

As a kid, we’d driven that stretch both ways every summer. Going north from San Diego, looking out the passenger seat window, a feeling of leaving the world behind, ears popping with altitude, a hundred adventures waiting. Returning south at summer’s end, a mix of fear and excitement of what the new school year would hold.

Depending on the season, the Grapevine’s hills were painted anything from lime green to weathered brown. Yet if fortune (+ rain + sun) smiled, there was a riot of yellows, oranges, reds, purples, and blues.

Goldfields, tidytips, and phacelia. Fiddlenecks, monolopias, and lupines. Van Gogh, Miro, and Picasso. Klimt, Giacometti, and Rothko. Your world an orgy of colors dry brushed in three dimensions.

Ostensibly, we were meeting to see Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s “The Umbrella” art installation. Enormous parasols shading the rolling hills from a mild October sun. But, really, we were meeting to give and get hugs and say “I love you.”

As I was painting this mobile, its vivid colors reminding me of thoughts thunk as I looked out the car window as a kid, and that windy fall day, and gratitude for the connection that art enables between us all.

If you could hop in your car and go anywhere in your history today, where would it be and why?

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Black Beauty | Modern Hanging Art Mobile from Mark Leary Designs

 Mobile: Black Beauty (Approx. 24" wide x 28" tall)

On darkness
“But I can’t see,” cried bird.
“Then, close your eyes,” whispered fox, “and open your heart.”

Thoughts while making
Imagine: With the flick of your wrist, magic. Sparking light in a black night. A moment, bright and clear. A breath taken, a gleam in your eye, a dream illuminated. Offering hope under a starless sky.

Blend together one part phosphorus pentasulfide (P4S3), a little potassium chlorate (KClO3), and a bit of powdered glass. Swirl a small wooden stick in the mix. Then, strike it against the world.

When I was a kid, I loved everything about matches. And I still do. What else do we hold in that way, between thumb and forefinger? What else makes that sound, potential drawn across grit? Where else does time suspend, right before the ordinary ignites? A puff of smoke separating what was and the impossibility it has become.

The modern strike-anywhere match is a chemical marvel. Take your P4S3, add the heat generated when you scratch that tiny piece of wood or paper across a short inch of frictional surface, and the match sparks. KClO3 literally adds fuel to that fire, offering itself up—by way of oxidation—to allow the flame to burn bright.

Between those fingertips, creation held at the end of a matchstick, bringing that which was shadow to sight.

And here we are now. You, the match. The world, your “frictional surface.” With a flick of your intention, an explosion of possibility realized; igniting the ordinary, casting light on dark places.

And what it does it take? Not much. Applying yourself across that short inch: a kind smile, a soft hello, a listening ear, an extra thank you. Watching as your world illuminates around you, trusting your creative spark.

Where’s one place you can shine a little extra light this week?

Saturday, January 4, 2020

Passages | Hanging Art Mobile from Mark Leary Designs

Mobile: Passages (36” x 21”)

 On rites of passage
“But I’m scared,” said little bird.
“I know,” replied bear, “but we’ll be here on the other side.”

Passages is part of my ONE Series, a collection of 1-of-1 bespoke fine art mobiles. Each design in the series is totally unique and will not be reproduced. Your ONE Series mobile is handcrafted in Portland, OR, and comes with a Certificate of Authenticity. Grab Passages while it's still available.
Thoughts while making
Her name was Anastasia. She spoke slowly, her words distinct and clear. I sat there as she asked me a seemingly endless list of questions, ticking boxes on her computer with my answers.

“Anemia? Arthritis? Asthma?”
“Hernia? Heart disease? Headaches?”
“Skin rashes? Sinus trouble? Shortness of breath?”

How many times had she asked these very same questions, a medical history conflating systems with symptoms, psychology with STDs?

She’d called it a “rite of passage,” and as I was chirping off the string of yeses and nos, I was struck with how few actual rites of passage we have during the bulk of our lives.

Sure, we frontload with “coming of age” rituals. And, yes, we have graduations and weddings, and even retirement parties. But what about the rest of life? Where are all the other markers like Colonoscopia, Menopausism, Crowsfeetasia, and Hairlosseoum?

As we grow older, where do we turn for help to make sense of aging, meaning, and death in the very real ways these show up for each of us every day? Outside of checkboxes on a medical intake form, where are our prescribed rites of passage – that move us from feeling *alone* to *allin* this together?

I am not the first man to lose his hair or have a colonoscopy. I’m not the first person to hit “midlife” with questions, doubts, and fears. Yet we are often left to feel like it’s up to us to figure all this stuff out, isn’t it?

Generations have experienced all of life’s parts and pieces. And there’s wisdom embedded in their experiences, deep, vital, beautiful wisdom to wrap us up, to comfort us, to help carry us forward, integrated & incorporated. But how?

Perhaps it starts with a simple “I’ve been there,” “I’ve felt that, too,” “I’m afraid of the same thing,” “I don’t know what to do,” “Can you help me?”

As I was making this mobile + thinking about my colonoscopy yesterday, I began wondering what I could do to better mark rites of passage in the year ahead. I’m looking forward to it.

If you could create one new rite of passage, what would it be?

Thursday, January 2, 2020

The Wham | Modern Hanging Art Mobile

The Wham (36" x 23")
Am I Blue (22" x 15")

On the new year
“Can’t I just focus on today?” asked rabbit. “A whole year seems like a lot.”
Bear smiled. “I think you’re beginning to understand,” she said.

Thoughts while making

After the sweet taste of Martinelli’s was gone, and the acrid smell of confetti poppers had dissipated, and all the pots and pans and wooden spatulas we’d banged to scare away the evil spirits were safely back in the cupboards, and Dick Clark had counted us down, we’d tuck into our beds “to sleep, perchance to dream.”

As a kid, New Year’s was staying up late, waking up to the Rose Parade, endless sheets of Chex mix baking in the oven, and bowl games. I don’t remember thinking about another trip around the sun, time being marked, opportunities for resets and reimaginings, or even resolutions. The idea of intentions was decades away.

In high school, I’d drive to a cliff overlooking La Jolla Shores. I’d light a single candle. Review the year. Decide whether – on balance – the past justified stepping into the future or off the edge. It was admittedly moody and appropriately 80s with a soundtrack of The Cure and Joy Division thrown in for good measure.

While I’ve left the teen dramatics long behind, I’m still not convinced by the “new” year. On the one hand, it feels like an arbitrary date plunked down in the dark of winter; one that is filled with expectations, one that doesn’t care where you may actually be in your own trip. “Celebrate me,” it demands. “Judge yourself,” it whispers.

On the other hand, it’s a unifier, an opportunity. “Come together,” it invites. “Because we’re all in this,” it explains. “And time does not stop: you too will pass,” it says frankly. “So how can I help you become?” it gently asks. I prefer this hand. And, in the end, it’s just a day. There are many others.

What can I do to help you become?