Friday, April 24, 2020

The Classic Modern Hanging Art Mobile by Mark Leary Designs

Mobiles: The Classic, and The Kerf

 On lines
“But what if I don’t want to cross it,” asked crow.
And fox laughed because she knew he was in one of those moods.

Thoughts while making
Years ago, I heard the story of a famous artist living in Paris. Every morning, he would get on his bike and ride from his home to his studio. Each night, he’d make his way back again.

This artist was very busy, so as one might expect, he took the exact same path to and from his studio. It was, after all, the shortest distance between here and there.

Well, one day – and I don’t recall why – he started tracing his path with a black pen on a paper map of the city. Over and over (and over) again, every day, each night, he’d draw + re-draw that very same route on that map with that black pen.

As you can imagine, over time, the lines connecting here and there became darker and thicker and darker and thicker, and eventually they began to change the map itself; the ink covering street names, landmarks, parks, and whole blocks at a stroke.

Seeing this one night gave the artist pause. And an idea. The following day, he got on his bike and took a different route to his studio. When he later traced it on his map, he laughed out loud.

From that moment forward, he took a different path to and from his studio every day. And while his map became an art piece in itself – filled with joyful squiggles and whimsical twists + turns – something else happened, too.

See, he realized that – in his rush to get from here to there – he missed the between. It’s a cliché story, I guess, about what happens when you invest in the experience of the journey, rather than the destination alone.

I was reminded of it today as I was thinking about our “stay at home” time that invites us to rethink how we ink the lines that connect here, there, and the in between.

This mobile is normally all black. The customer asked me to pick up my pen and take another route. And what a difference one small color change has made.

As you think about the ink you’re laying down in the world – with your thoughts, your actions – is there one place today you can pick up your pen to make a change in your life or that of others?

Black Beauty Orange | Midcentury Modern Art | Large Hanging Mobile by Mark Leary Designs

Mobile: Black Beauty Orange

on (what) matter(s)
“Just because you can’t hold it in your hands,” said fox, “doesn’t mean it’s not real.”

Thoughts while making

Have you heard the story of the man and his overstuffed shoes? It begins like this:

"There is a legend circulating about a late distinguished scientist who, in his declining years, persisted in wearing enormous padded boots much too large for him.”

It’s a tale of our times, insight into the insides:

“He had developed a wholly irrational fear of falling through the interstices of that largely empty molecular space which common men in their folly speak of as the world."

As cautionary conjure, it’s both lens and microscope:

“A stroll across his living-room floor had become, for him, something as dizzily horrendous as the activities of a window washer on the Empire State Building. Indeed, with equal reason, he could have passed a ghostly hand through his own ribs.”

Inviting a re-consideration of who, what, how, and even why:

“The quivering network of his nerves, the awe-inspiring movement of his thought had become a vague cloud of electrons interspersed with the light-year distances that obtain between us and the further galaxies.”

A recognition that things as they actually are mightn’t have been what we believed:

“This was the natural world which he had helped to create, and in which, at last, he found himself a lonely and imprisoned occupant.”

Offering an opportunity to reflect on meaning and matter, purpose and intent:

“All around him the ignorant rushed on their way over the illusion of substantial floors, leaping, though they did not see it, from particle to particle, over a bottomless abyss.”

A chance to pause to sort this from that, essential from the dispensable:

“There was even a question as to the reality of the particles which bore them up.”

And an occasion to define substance and substantive, on our own terms, once and for all:

“It did not, however, keep insubstantial newspapers from being sold, or insubstantial love from being made.”

What’s one “thing” you will bring forward or leave behind?

Quotes from the genius that is Loren C. Eiseley and his book, “The Star Thrower”

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Easter Egg Mobiles by Mark Leary Designs


Mobiles: Pride and Daisy (like Easter eggs in the sky)

on discovering
“If they’re meant to be found,” asked fox, “why are they hidden?”
“Because growth comes in seeking,” smiled bear, “not finding.”

Thoughts on Easter morning
Interminable. That’s how long it was. Maybe even a few minutes more. Sequestered in our living room. Made to swear we wouldn’t look out the windows. Hungry. And impatient.

Our Easter Bunny wore thick, black glasses, cowboy boots with suits, had an oversized beard, and often laughed so hard to he turned bright red. Oh, and he took forever to hide the dang eggs.

Oh, but what eggs they were. Rattling together in the sauce pan as they boiled. Newspapers spread on the table wide. PAAS dyes and food colors. Little pastel stained fingers and the smell of vinegar filling the house. We did the stick ons and the peel offs, the paints and the pens, 5 sets of little hands creating mini works of art.

And why? So that an architect father with a maze for a mind could hide them in every backyard nook and cranny possible. Dozens of them. The hardboiled and the delicate. The plastic and the See’s. Oh the See’s: Chocolate Butter with walnuts, Divinity, Rocky Road, and Bordeaux – all hidden, ready to melt under a springtime sun if not found quickly enough.

We’d stand, eyes down, at the sliding glass door in the kitchen, each equipped with an empty wicker basket. Then, with a whoosh, it was on. The door open, the hunt began. Two girls. Three boys. All sharing the same DNA as we spread out across the yard in our Easter best.

And to do what? Find that which was hidden. Out of sight. Concealed. Unseen. These treasures we’d created, secreted away with only one purpose: provide a temporary challenge that was 100% intended to be solved.

We were *meant* to fill our empty baskets. We were *meant* to seek with the confidence we would find. Think about that: we were *meant* to seek with the confidence we would find.

How amazing would it be if we could approach the challenges of this extraordinary time with that same level of confidence?

What treasures would you find hidden under the heavy, behind the unknown?

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Cultiver - A Modern Hanging Art Mobile for the Garden by Mark Leary Designs

Mobile: Cultiver (48” x 34”)

On your garden
“Amend your soil,” said fox, “and watch the flowers grow.”

Thoughts while making
He doesn’t look at all like you might imagine. A high forehead, a long nose, pasty white skin, and *that* hair … I might’ve gone a different way, but if a whitish-gray powdered wig with curls for days is his thing, more power to him.

His name is François-Marie, but he prefers to go by Voltaire. Odd but who am I to judge, right? I asked him over for coffee this morning because I was chewing on a passage he’d written in back in 1759.

I wanted to know more about Candide, the poor chap in his story by the same name, who endures one seemingly devastating catastrophe after another (death, disease, famine, banishment, and more), but who plugs along doing the best he can with what he has; recognizing that while he can’t control the circumstances, he can his response *and* his actions.

Candide epitomizes the Jack Canfield equation: Events + Reaction = Outcome. But there’s something more, and that’s what I wanted to chat with my buddy Voltaire about.

Because if all we do is respond to circumstance and event in the moment, where are we left? Are we really in control? Who or what is guiding our path?

Candide, of course, has the answer. He realized that a life of true passion + purpose, while necessarily pressed and pressured by the outside world here and there, is made manifest when we abide in his imperative, “let us cultivate our garden."

We cannot control circumstance. Only our reaction to it. We can (and perhaps should) take pause for these are extraordinary times. But then, to remember our own way, who we are, who we want to be, how we want to be, and why.

Because the earth continues to revolve round the sun. The seasons continue to change. The soil will need tilling. Seeds planting. And, unless we are willing to let our fields lay fallow, our gardens cultivating.

Gardens grow food. Food sustains. Sustenance is life. Life a gift to share, a treasure to receive. Working together, we amend our soil, we amend our souls. The cycle repeats.

What can you throw into the compost pile today to better cultivate your garden or that of another?


Modern Hanging Art Mobile - Follow Me in Sea Blues by Mark Leary Designs

Mobile: Follow Me in sea blues

On buoyancy
“Together, we rise,” said the balloon, ignoring gravity as she kissed the sun.


Thoughts while making
My mom tells stories of being a teen. Swimming out beyond the breakers near Laguna Beach. Splashing over onto her back. And floating. The ocean warm. The sun warmer. Eyes closed. Releasing care as she bobs and breathes, supported by the mighty Pacific.

Salt adds mass to water without significantly boosting its volume; giving saltwater a higher density, which allows less dense objects – like us humans – to float with more ease.

I see the image of my mom floating there, a lifetime ahead of her, a world of experiences she cannot yet compass; heartbreak + joy, miracles and the mundane—a thousand waiting moments germinating like unseen seeds in her soul.

1029 kg/m3. That’s the average density of seawater. It’ll vary based on temperature and salinity. And depth. The deeper you go, the higher the pressure. The higher the pressure, the higher the density. The higher the density, the more buoyancy.

A child of the 1940s meant my mom was surrounded by world wars, blacks to the back of the bus, women bound; atomic bombs, famine, genocide, and a fear of Other. Yet she resisted, persisted. And grew: choosing to feed truth, not fear; to birth love from hate, her faith offering buoyancy even in the hardest times.

History tells us we’ve been here before, but differently. And science tells us that as pressures intensify, we will rise. The deeper you’re taken, the more buoyant you will become. There are a thousand strengths germinating within you, all waiting to surface—if only you swim out beyond the breakers, roll over onto your back, vulnerable and exposed, to float, to breathe; defying gravity as you kiss the sun.

What’s one thing you can give yourself today to help you stay afloat?

The Crowner Midcentury Modern Art Stabile by Mark Leary Designs



Stabile: The Crowner

On being present
“I know it’s hard,” said moon. “But if you’re always looking for the new day, you’ll never experience the night.”

Thoughts while making
When I was 21, I decided to do a solo bike trip down the coast of California. I had a crappy bike. Hadn’t trained well. Didn’t have enough money. But somehow I decided it was a good idea. It was not. For years, I have referred to this as My Failed Bike Trip.

The first few days of the trek are hilly, really hilly. And the roads are especially curvy. I remember creeping up those climbs, hoping that around every next turn was the top. I was disappointed again and again; my energy being sapped by all the effort I was putting into these unmet expectations.

I did this for days. My body gave out in a week, but my mind had given out much earlier.

I’m an avid mountain biker now, and – ironically – one of my favorite things to do is climb. Somewhere along the way, I learned that trying to see what’s coming around the bend – what’s next, as it were – is often a recipe for disappointment and frustration.

My power comes in being present to the terrain I am currently on in the actual moment and focusing my energies and abilities there.

By being present, I’m (largely) able to short circuit the unhelpful storytelling I do when I’m thinking more about what’s ahead, and normally fearfully, than where I am now. You know, those stories that you tell yourself that you’re not strong enough, that you don’t have what it takes, and so on.

A lot of what’s happening in our world makes me think about this right now, about how hard it is to be present when many of us are wanting to know where the top of this hill is. It’s stressful not knowing how tall this mountain is or what’s hidden behind the curves in the road. Asking ourselves individually, “Will I be strong enough? Will we have what it takes?”

I got on my bike trainer today inspired by the person I made this stabile for and did a virtual ride down the exact highway I rode in California. Instead of worrying about what was coming, I looked side to side, saw the flowers, the trees, the birds, the clouds. It was a good ride.

What did you learn about yourself today?

Swan Hanging Art Mobile by Mark Leary Designs

 Mobile: Swan 

On calm
“They say it’s there before,” fox explained. “But during the storm, it’s entirely up to you.”

Thoughts while making
There atop the mountain, he stood. “The world,” the boy thought, “is mine.” Then, with a nervous smile, it began. Slow at first, picking up speed, the earth moving beneath outstretched arms.

Momentum, he knew, would take him through the first turn. He’d planned for that. Faster + faster. Then the straightaway. Nothing to stop him now. Anxiousness becoming exhilaration. His blue eyes sparkling.

The second turn. That’s where he anticipated trouble. A hard right at full speed, then directly up again. He was on the other side before he knew it. He’d done it. The celebration began even as he made his way up and up and … oh shit.

When I was 7, I “learned” how to roller skate the hard way. Racing down our steep driveway, roaring down the sidewalk, and then up into our neighbor’s equally-steep driveway. All was going well until I realized I didn’t actually know how to skate uphill.

When I started rolling backward, I had a moment where I thought I might come out alright. The sprinkler head I tripped over apparently had other ideas.

My sister found me crying and jumping up + down yelling, “My ankle, my ankle!” When my mom arrived, she tried frantically to stop me from jumping, panicked that I was doing even more damage to my ankle.

When she calmed me down enough to ask where it hurt, she was surprised when I pointed at my wrist. I often mixed up the two, and in *my* frazzled state, I’d done it again—causing even more confusion.

We laugh about it now, but at the time it was kind of traumatic. Not only because I broke my arm, but because I didn’t feel like my family could “hear” me. I was screaming where it hurt and yet they were focused elsewhere. It was confusing to me and to them.

This memory came to me today as I scrolled through Instagram, seeing such pain and fear, and the desire of so many to help or to be heard or both; highlighting the importance of speaking and listening with such sweet and gentle care.

What can you do today to better hear + respond to your own needs and/or those of others?

The Stand | Midcentury Modern Tabletop Mobiles

Stabile: Part of The Stand series

 On now
“Come here, child,” she whispered, “and rest awhile.”
And snuggling in, the earth sighed relief.

Thoughts while making

Have you heard the story of a place called Here, a time called Now? It’s a tale most hard to imagine, yet anything but make-believe.

As befits a good yarn, there’s the usual cast of characters. We meet Corona, the misunderstood dragon, a biological agent just trying to evolve. Then, there’s Fear, that shameless evil giant. There are countless little elves looking to elders and each other for cues on whether to dance or to cry. And, of course, we have fairies. So many fairies appearing like fireflies at dusk.

And then there’s you. Our modern-day hero. Your super power, truth. Vulnerability, your strength. Dressed in love, armored in hope. Shielded with calm, and wrapped in care—and yet fear can be real. This dragon breathes more than fire.

Yet you, who are mother, sister, daughter. You, who are brother, son, father. You, who are friend and stranger, foreigner and foe. You stand there, open and bare and perhaps unsure, humbly lifting your sword, marveling at how it glints and gleams even as you think, “it’s only a single spark, and there is much dark.”

And then the Quiet comes, calmly and warm. One by one hundred, a million to more, seven billion raised in a truth named Together. Continents making a world, a world united, voices resounding: “We who are hero, stand apart as one.”

As with all fairy tales, some wishes will be granted, others not. Good will ultimately triumph. But costs will be high. Life and death swim together under a single sun. Take hope. Stay safe. Do what you can. Rest when needed.

Many a tale have magical elements woven throughout, like fairy dust or magic beans. What magical element can you share or do you need from others during this extraordinary time? I’m working on a potion of laughter and softness, scented of seafoam and warm like love.