Maker Spotlight: Flying Mobiles

Maker Spotlight: Flying Mobiles

At Tulia’s Artisan Gallery, we aim to spotlight the talented makers behind our collections. The Flying Mobiles are made in a small, woman-owned workshop in central Colombia. Olga Isabel has been creating and painting mobiles for over 20 years and working with Tulia’s Artisan Gallery for nearly half that time. Every mobile has been touched in some way by Olga Isabel. From the striking wings to the details of a beak, it’s a pleasure for us to share her beautifully crafted birds, dragons, unicorns, and more.  Over the years, Olga Isabel has been able to expand her team and train more and more artisans to paint mobiles in her style. Aliya Segura had the opportunity to interview Olga Isabel about her thoughts on what it’s like to be an artisan in Colombia and her experience with Tulia’s Artisan Gallery. In this interview, Olga Isabel discusses the challenges of being an artisan, what she enjoys about the creative process, and how working with Tulia’s Artisan Gallery has impacted her business. 

How did you begin creating mobiles? 

“I started to create mobiles when I was pregnant, so I ended up making mobiles to decorate my daughter’s room. The very first mobile was a dragonfly. Soon, friends and family began to request mobiles for their homes. The orders continued and a friend encouraged me to enter an art show. I took out a small business loan to cover the booth fees. At the show, I sold out and won a prize for ‘best in show’. With the prize money, I was able to pay back the loan. That’s when I knew I was onto something. By the time my daughter turned three, I was a single mom and had to depend 100% on my mobiles so I traveled across the country and participated in all the art festivals I could. I traveled from town to town by bus with my daughter and as many mobiles as would fit in a hard-shell suitcase.” 

How long does it take to create mobiles? 

“That is hard to say since there are so many types of mobiles and the different steps it takes to make them are divided up in batches. Mobiles can be challenging to create due to the large variety of designs and each design requires different painting techniques. If I were to approximate how much time it takes to make one mobile, I’d say it takes about 4-10 days depending on the design. I can take up to 4 hours on just the final details of a single mobile.  Mobiles like the Frida Kahlo, Day of the Dead, the Viking Ship, the Toucan, and the Puffin take the longest. Each mobile has a different process and technique, especially when painting. The different designs and their required techniques are divided out in the workshop based on each artisan’s skills. Cutting, sanding, and painting usually take the most time to create the mobiles. We take our time as artisans  so people may enjoy seeing them in their homes or wherever they choose to display them.” 

Frida Kaholo Mobiles in process           Frida Kahlo Mobiles

What inspires you to create mobiles?

“What inspires me are my customers and what they would like to see the most. Customers enjoy birds, any animal that has wings, or even unicorns! Whatever clients ask for, that’s how I am capable of earning a living by doing what I love, painting and making mobiles. In this business, having a product to sell depends most on the clientele. Whatever people order or want is what inspires me to create to give people something that is handcrafted. I love painting and seeing new mobiles fly out of my workshop knowing that it will make a client happy.” 

Is there a piece of yours that you enjoy most? 

“That is hard to say since so many mobiles we create are marvelous! If I were to pick one of my favorite pieces to create, the bird mobiles. The birds are the mobiles I enjoy making the most. I say this because the bird mobiles are the ones that look the most realistic. Every day in Colombia, in the skies or mainly in the streets, the mobiles of the little birds are exactly like the ones we see every day.”

What is one thing you hope people think about when they see the pieces you create?

  “Well, I hope there are many different ways that customers feel when they see mobiles. The emotions or feelings I hope that the mobiles bring when people see them is happiness. When they buy the mobiles and get a chance to look at them, I hope that the mobiles bring them tranquility once they set their eyes upon it. One last thing that I hope is that the mobile brings them joy. Joy, happiness, and tranquility can bring someone peace at once, which is what I believe mobiles are capable of doing. Hence, customers can have all those positive feelings simultaneously when they set their eyes on mobiles.        

What is the most difficult aspect of being an artisan?

“Ah, that’s a hard one! The hardest part about being an artisan doesn’t necessarily have to do with what we create; it has to do with how people think about artisans and what we do. People do not see what we do as important due to our line of work. I believe this is because how we make money involves art. When people view our work as insignificant is the most difficult for me since there is little or no support for artisans. We don’t get any help for our work because it is a type of occupation that is not traditional or normal. People don’t see it as a formal profession. It’s like they separate us from other occupations because they see our jobs as informal, unimportant, or not a way where we can make a decent living. Therefore, they see our profession as less than or even less legitimate than other professions. People often say, “Oh, that’s not a real job!”. Instead of people seeing what we do as work, they only see what I and others do as a hobby. Some believe making mobiles is only entertainment for us.”

How has working with Tulia’s Artisan Gallery changed your business? 

“Working with Tulia’s Artisan Gallery has changed the work I and others have done tremendously! To me, being able to work with Karen at Tulia’s Artisan Gallery has been an absolute blessing. I don’t have to travel to art shows anymore.  I can stay at home and do what I love the most - paint. We have also been able to expand more as a small business. Instead of only selling products in Colombia, we can sell our unique pieces to anyone who buys from Tulia’s. Here, we can complete all the requests to fulfill the demands made by Tulia’s and create jobs for people that truly need them.”

Graduation Photo
Olga Isabel and her daughter at her college graduation!


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