Napa resident Scott Haycock isn’t the kind of artist who makes portraits for your wall. Rather, his art hangs aloft, catching and reflecting sunlight as its individual pieces sway in a gentle breeze.
Haycock is at the center of MODmobiles, a small group of artists and fabricators who create hanging mobile art. Included in the group is his wife, Katri Haycock, originally from Finland is now art director for Papyrus Greeting Cards.
MODmobiles have been installed in both public and private places, including offices, government buildings, schools, hospitals, universities, high-end stores, corporate atria and homes throughout the world.
They have also appeared in the television show “Damages,” and the movie, “Little Fockers” as well as “Coastal Living” magazine.
MODmobiles also provided the mobiles for the independent film “Wes and Ella.” In the movie Wes is shown making mobiles so Haycock personally coached the actor, Scoot Menairy, on making loops and attaching shapes so that his actions would pass as experienced mobile making.
Haycock, the only member of the MODmobile group who works full-time at mobile art, has converted his garage into a studio next door to his Alta Heights home.
Stepping inside Haycock’s studio to see his mobiles, one’s vision is immediately diverted by a skeleton in the far-right corner and to a robotic figure of Brigham Young that appears to sing and move to music.
“Halloween is my favorite holiday,” said a laughing Haycock to his startled guest. “Skeletons were never creepy to me. That is an actual medical skeleton. My dad was a physical therapist, so I grew up with anatomy posters and it feels comfortable even though I’m not in that line of work.”
His father, Ron Haycock, who recently passed away, was “pretty well-known” in Napa as a physical therapist, soccer coach and Lamaze instructor.
“Dad would do lectures on anatomy and bring the skeleton home,” he said. “He’d seat belt it on the passenger side while driving it to the house.”
“The Brigham Young robot was at BYU when I went to school there,” Haycock said. “It was programmed to give presentations.”
Years later, Haycock, who earned a degree in mechanical engineering from BYU, was able to purchase the figure for $75 and, after a “great deal of work,” restored it and programmed the robot to perform modern music with eyes and mouth moving while the head turns. The arms also move.
Though Haycock enjoys working with robotics and creating a playful atmosphere in his studio and yard for his family, he says it is “just for fun.” His primary focus is MODmobiles.
Haycock has raised the ceiling of the studio to accommodate his mobiles, which are usually about 10 feet across, though he once installed a 60-foot mobile in Houston.
“Anything beyond 16 feet across is pretty hard to do,” he said.
Cheerful mobiles hang from the ceiling. Wooden shapes for a mobile going to Australia are neatly stacked on a table. Hundreds of file compartments containing various items that he uses for mobiles line the walls.
When his sons are not in school at Stonebridge, they often come into the studio while Haycock works. Haycock can also see them playing in the yard from the large windows in his studio. He loves the freedom that mobile making gives him to take his children to school and to pick them up and also to go to their plays.
Haycock makes hundreds of mobiles a year for customers throughout the world and does no local advertising.
Most of his mobiles are for interiors but he does some exterior mobiles.
He initially studied mechanical engineering without a clear vision of how he would use it. At age 22, the answer came to him when he first saw an Alexander Calder exhibit.
“Alexander Calder’s mobiles blew me away. I thought, ‘This is so beautiful and elegant,’” Haycock said. “This is what I want to do. Later on, I learned that Alexander Calder had started out like me as a mechanical engineer.”
According to Wikipedia, Alexander Calder (1898-1976), was considered one of the most important sculptors of the 20th century. He redefined sculpture by introducing the element of movement with hanging works called mobiles.
“A mobile is really just a simple machine that has only a few simple functions: balance, graceful movement, and to look good,” Haycock said.
Learning manufacturing, construction and engineering methods turned out to be useful to making mobiles. Haycock uses his mechanical engineering background in the CAD files he uses to have parts laser cut.
“Even though my career is to make art, and I can’t deny that I’ve made a career of it, I have a hard time referring to myself as an artist,” Haycock said. “I get self-conscious about it. The word ‘artist’ carries an expectation that I be profound, or poignant, or introspective, or insightful. But I’m not really like that.”
“I’ve just always really, really, liked making things, even since I was very young,” he said. “I feel very lucky that I stumbled upon this particular ability within myself, and I get to build these mobiles that go all over the world.”
His transition from making mobiles as a hobby to a full-time career started with making them for family and friends. When he gave a coworker at the Utah television station where he worked as an engineer a mobile as a birthday gift, all the other employees wanted one for their birthdays, too.
“It was gratifying, but the trouble was that there were about 50 employees,” Haycock laughed.
After five years of making mobiles as gifts, Haycock decided to put them on eBay. A year later, he had enough business coming in to quit his day job. That was about eight years ago.
“Some of my best and most innovative designs have come from working with clients with a very specific set of parameters,” he said. “You really flex your creative muscles when a customer requests specific material, or color palette, or style.”
Haycock, who grew up in Napa and has an extended family here, moved back with his wife and sons four years ago.
“I love this community,” he said.