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Custom-made mobiles from an uncommonly gifted designer

Clean, elegant lines are the hallmark of this mobile designer’s work

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Custom-made mobiles from an uncommonly gifted designer

June 15 2011
Dominic Lutyens

Designer Miranda Watkins’ work is rather out on a – lovely – limb. She makes mobiles in the tradition of artist Alexander Calder – not exactly a huge design trend – as well as chandeliers, usually in clean-lined metal or Perspex. Yet Watkins is regularly commissioned to create bespoke pieces for private clients’ homes no doubt because they’re so unique – and elegant.

“I created my first stainless-steel mobile in 2003,” says Watkins, who has a BA in metalwork and jewellery, and a Masters in fashion womenswear (specialising in jewellery and accessories) from the Royal College of Art. (She has also worked as a jewellery designer for Calvin Klein in New York.)

“It seemed an interesting area to explore since mobiles had fallen out of vogue,” she says. “I liked the tension between their delicate quality and the industrial materials they’re made of.” Today, she can adapt these designs to suit her clients’ needs by changing their scale and materials. (Chandeliers, first picture, cost from £2,350 to £5,000; mobiles, second picture, from £850 to £5,000.)

Clients who admire Watkins’ mobiles and lights now increasingly commission work that is more extravagant – site-specific sculptures that are more expressive than functional. “I recently created a Perspex, stalactite-like artwork in soft greens to go in front of a window in the Kingston home of the CEO of a renewable energy fund,” says Watkins, who has a studio in London’s Oxo Tower Wharf. “By day, it allows you to glimpse trees outside; by night, it’s illuminated by uplighters. It’s like an alternative curtain.” (Installations of this kind cost from about £15,000 to £20,000.)

Another commission – more of a stalagmite – was for a 2m-high sculpture made of slender glass panels rising from a plinth. “I chose its colours with the clients and their interior designer,” says Watkins.

If she once ventured into unknown territory with her first mobiles, such risk-taking has proved worth her while. Her work today might be more daring, but it’s just as sought-after – if not more so.