The Creative Process Behind The Swan Mobile

I always dread hearing the words, “take your time, there’s no rush.”  Anytime I hear them directed towards me I tell myself to ignore them, and that I need to get it done as soon as possible.  Unfortunately my subconscious doesn’t hear my advice, and my propensity to procrastinate emerges.  Such was the case for this mobile.  A friend was about 8 months pregnant when she let me know the specifics of what she wanted in her mobile.  She wanted swans, lilies, and lily pads for her little girl’s swan nursery.  She sent me some pictures from Pinterest showing the swans, the lotuses, and lilies she wanted, and another with the color scheme for the nursery.   It all seemed simple enough, so I agreed and set off in search of diagrams for these models.  

Finding the Right Origami Swan

The first model I found instructions for was the swan – I learned that it was a model designed by the late Akira Yoshizawa.  On YouTube I found a video of the grandmaster folding his swan, but because of the poor quality of this video, I had to continue searching for the instructions.  Unfortunately the diagrammed instructions were not available online, but I did find a video tutorial on how to fold this swan.  A 6×6 inch square of origami paper only made a thin 3 inch tall swan, so I ended up having to use thicker paper as large as 8.5×8.5 inches to get a stockier 4.25 inch tall swan.  Folding the swan itself was not too difficult, but in order to give the body some texture and a more three dimensional quality, I added creases to the wings and tail.  I also looked at some photos of real life swans to get a better idea of how their necks curved.  My friend had requested that the swans have orange beaks, so I used acrylic paint to add some vibrant orange to their beaks.  It was just the touch they needed to bring them to life. 

Origami Flowers and Lily Pads

I wanted there to be at least 5 swans out of the 18 models in the mobile. The rest of the mobile was only going to have flowers and lily pads as far as I knew at that point.  Now that the swans were all set I began experimenting with different flowers for the lily pads.  One of the models was familiar to me – I had learned to fold this traditional lotus flower when I was a kid (although it seemed as if there was one flower inside another in this picture), but instructions for the other flower eluded me.  At this point I got a bit stuck, and my mobile orders kept me from getting much done for the swan mobile.   My subconscious reassured me that I could “take my time, and there was no rush,” but this only stressed me because I wasn’t making any progress.  
After getting a few orders completed and shipped out I went back to the lotus flower dilemma.  After informing by friend the I couldn’t find instructions for the second flower, she sent me another Pinterest image that had a diagram right on it.  This was exciting news and I folded this new flower as soon as I got the chance.  Perhaps it was the type of paper, or perhaps it was the size of paper I used, but whatever the case may be, the attempt was a complete and utter failure.  The finished product looked more like a crumpled blob than a flower, and I felt like giving up.  

Taking a Step Back to Reevaluate the Project

At this point I took another step away from the mobile to fulfill more orders, and when I returned to the project I was determined to finally get it done.  By this point my friend’s little girl had been born, and I wanted to resolve this flower issue as soon as possible.  I decided that rather than attempt to fold something mediocre, I would make a different flower altogether.  In my searches I had come across pictures of lotuses with many petals that would overlap one another, and I had liked the fullness of these flowers.  I found instructions on how these flowers were put together and promptly made 8 of them in various sizes and shades of pink and peach.  Because of the similarities between these flowers and the image of the traditional lotus that I had seen, I chose to make a more simple traditional lotus, but with color harmony paper.  This paper had two color gradients that would shade into one another, so the flowers had pink petals with a yellow center, and peach petals with a pink center.  

Origami Lily Pads

In order to make the lily pads I modified the instructions for a lily pad diagram I found online.  I had to create a blintz base first because my paper was white on one side and I wanted the lily pad to be green on both sides.  Using three different shades of green, and three different sized papers, I folded 12 lily pads.  

Something is Missing

Now that everything was folded I was ready to assemble the mobile, but something didn’t look right.  The mobile needed another model, something other than another type of flower.  We live in a condo complex next to a beautiful marshy area, and on my daily walk to and from the car, gorgeous iridescent dragonflies zip past me.  This mobile needed dragonflies – beautiful iridescent ones.  I folded traditional dragonflies out of blue, green, and yellow iridescent papers, and tried them in the mobile layout.  The blues seemed too muted, the greens were overwhelming because of the lily pads, but the yellows were breath-taking.  I folded a couple more yellow dragonflies, and upon inspecting the layout once again, I felt the mobile was complete. 

How to Hang a Lily Pad

One last thing gave me pause as I assembled the mobile.  How would I hang the flowers and lily pads so that the baby could appreciate them from below, and adults could appreciate them from above?  I had been thinking about this from the moment my friend had requested flowers and lily pads, and I had come up with a few options.  
1. Place a flower above and below each lily pad.  
2. Make the lily pads and flowers face down so the baby could see them.  
3. Make them face upwards so adults could see them.  
4. Hang them at different angles so everyone could see them.  
I decided to go with option number 4, as the others seemed too bizarre to me.  So in the end some lily pads were horizontal, and others were more slanted so the baby could see the flowers too.  

The Completed Swan Mobile

Once the mobile was assembled and hung before me, I was in love.  There are no other words for how I felt – I was simply in love.  It was so pretty, so delicate, and so perfect.  This mobile was a labor of love, and despite it having taken so long to complete, it turned out just right, and I love it!  Here is a short video of my friend’s little girl enjoying her new mobile:


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