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Mobiles & Wind Chimes

Compiled by Jan Eaton

Wind Chimes

A Mobile is a hanging device that has moving parts which twist and sway in the breeze - a Wind Chime also hangs and moves in the air, but the moving parts of the chime, usually a series of metal or wooden tubes, vibrate against each other and they make an attractive sound.

Mobiles have been a popular decorative feature for several decades in children's bedrooms, but their origin is actually in the world of fine art. Mobiles are associated with Alexander Calder (1898-1976), an American artist who was one of the founders of Kinetic Sculpture. Calder experimented with hanging wire constructions during the 1920's and by the 1930's was creating suspended moving sculptures made out of delicately balanced coloured spheres and wires driven by a motor. His later, wind-powered creations were made from fine wire tipped with metal "sails" to catch the breeze. Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968), a French artist, is thought to have coined the word "mobile" to describe Calder's moving sculptures after seeing an exhibition of them in Paris in 1932.

In many cultures around the world from China and Japan to the ancient Mediterranean, wind chimes have existed in one form or another since prehistoric times. The chimes were carved, cast from metal or made from elaborately decorated lengths of bamboo and they were hung from the eaves of shrines, temples and other sacred buildings to attract beneficial spirits and bring good luck. In China and Japan, wind chimes were also used in domestic buildings and by the later 20th century their popularity had spread widely among western countries. According to Chinese philosophy, "the practise of Feng Shui" (pronounced: fung shway) is intended to create a sense of balance in your home and workplace by harmonising the flow of energy (called "chi") through the environment. Wind chimes are often hung in doorways to help energy flow and the rhythmical tinkling sounds made by the chimes moving against each other are thought to have a healing effect on both our bodies and minds.

There is a wide range of both Mobile and Wind Chimes available which feature cats as a design motif. Look in gift shops, oriental craft shops, garden centres and charity shops, selling hand-crafted items produced in the Third World. Both Oxfam and the Imperial Cancer Research Fund have cat items in their inexpensive gift range. The Imperial Cancer Research Fund sells a delightful cast metal mobile of a mother cat with four kittens for about £1.99. Among the Oxfam's selection is a tiny carved and hand-painted wooden cat which supports four solid aluminium rod chimes. Oxfam also sells a large combination mobile and wind chime featuring three small black and white cats plus a five-tube hollow aluminium wind chime suspended from a large black and white cat - hand-made in Indonesia, cost is around £9.99.

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