Whoever decided that mobiles needed to be phased out at the young age of 3 clearly didn’t do their research very well. When we came across the beautiful wall hangings by Melbourne based makers Lydia and Paul of Fellows Mobiles we instantly knew we wanted to be their first stockist. Turns out - just because you grow up, doesn’t mean that mobiles get any less captivating. We chatted to the couple behind Fellows Mobiles about guitar backs that aren’t quite good enough, inedible chips in the kitchen and their mission to bring mobiles back into adult homes. All grown up and fancy.
We all know mobiles from our toddler times, usually involving dinosaurs or baby elephants. Tell us a bit about how the idea of creating these modern, sophisticated mobiles and wall hangings came about?
We have both loved kinetic art and sculpture for as long as we can remember. Back in 2010 when Lydia was visiting the Guggenheim in New York, she was lucky enough to see ‘Lily Pads’ by Alexander Calder (the father of mobiles). You might say it was love at first sight, she became obsessed with the idea of making something similar for my own home. She loved how relaxing it was to watch, a nice amalgamation of creating an experience and our love of sculpture and modern art. Later when I had the chance to make one, Paul’s love of woodwork played hand in hand with this and we started making mobiles!
Your mobiles are all made from different kinds of woods and metals. Where do you source your materials? And what’s your relationship with the pieces you create?
We source our timber from a few different suppliers, one of our favourites is from an instrument maker near Daylesford – he mills his own Blackwood from the Otways Ranges in Southern Victoria (only a few very special people have that sort of license, and yes it is sustainably sourced). Sometimes we are lucky enough to get our hands on Tasmanian Blackwood too – we recently gained half a trunk of green Tasmanian Blackwood, which Paul is currently making into beautiful chairs, however, some will be dried and used to make mobiles. Yes, we have been known to salvage timber from instrument makers – even though it’s from their scrap pile it is still really high-quality timber and milled to a perfect thickness for us to use – it is nice to know that although it isn’t quite right for a guitar back it is perfect for our work and not going to waste. Our brass is machine grade and sourced from suppliers here in Melbourne.
You currently have three beautifully different mobiles in your range. Can you tell us a bit about the design process? Does the design start in your head or by playing around with balancing materials?
All of the above! We usually start our ideas on paper. The Tasmanian was originally designed as an extra large mobile, which we included in an exhibition of our work last year – we loved it so much, that we made a slightly smaller version perfect for residential spaces. The Totem started as a sketch exploring visual balance – a demonstration of Paul’s years of practising visual hierarchy as an illustrator. We loved the first prototype we made – it was just right from the start. Brass Rings came about after spending the day in a Jewellery makers workshop where she had a wire rolling machine – it was so much fun to use (and we were already exploring different ways to incorporate brass into our work more) that we bought ourselves a more industrial version that could bend solid brass rod. So that one was a mixture of the material helping to steer our design. We have definitely found that because we are working with force, weight and balance we have to be flexible in that the final mobile may not look exactly how we originally intended in a sketch. But that is part of the fun, and the more we work with the same materials the more we understand how it will balance.
Paul, you’re an illustrator and Lydia, you’re a graphic designer. Both jobs that are usually quite computer heavy. What is it that motivated you to pick up the tools and create something by hand?
Our bodies were telling us that they were getting tired of sitting and staring at screens all day. We have both always loved making things – Lydia’s background is in product design and brand experience and Paul used to restore his own cars and build bicycles. So we have both spent many hours in workshops building and tinkering over the years. We lived in the UK for about six years where our jobs were really heavily dependent on being on a computer. So when we decided it was time to move home to Melbourne we prioritised exploring how we could use our creativity and physically craft things and experiences for others again. We started with a few furniture items for our home, when we couldn’t quite find what we were looking for in the shops we made our own. At the moment when Paul’s not making mobiles he’s making Windsor chairs in his spare time. You wouldn’t think it but there’s a lot of technique and design inspiration cross-over between the two. After a few years of exploring a few different products it is great to focus on one, and we really believe in the benefits and beauty of having a mobile in your home. They are so relaxing to watch and they really elevate any space.
Fellows started out as a side project and is now turning into a business of its own. What were some of the challenges you faced juggling your main job and this little baby on the side?
It was hard to give all of our creative energy to our other jobs, so we both took a bit of a leap – Lydia started working back in Graphic Design a few days a week which is a little less demanding so has meant she has a lot of energy to put in to Fellows Mobiles and Paul has been able to switch between illustrating and mobile making while working from home. We think the biggest challenge like with any new business is the crossover phase where it’s not quite up and running but demands a lot of your time! It can be really mentally challenging but so rewarding when you start to get a return on all that hard work.
You’re based in Melbourne, where you design and create each mobile by hand. Tell us a bit about your studio. What’s your ideal work environment and do you have any tips on how to overcome a creative block?
At the moment we have transformed half of our home into working spaces (it’s not ideal but it is temporary), our second bedroom serves as an office. Our sunroom has become a little workshop and our garage has been converted into another workshop where we do most of our bigger/ messier work.
We are currently lucky enough to be able to build a new home in Eltham North where we will have a dedicated workshop and office… and less wood chips in our kitchen (we hope)!
We’re super happy to be the first Fellows stockist. Can you fill us in on where you see the brand growing in the future? What would be the coolest thing to happen for Fellows this year?
We both love kinetic sculpture, it would be the coolest to be commissioned for some residential and commercial pieces we are always imagining what we would create for different restaurants and spaces. We want to go large!