If you’re lucky enough to live in an area that celebrates Mardi Gras, you’re sure to end up with a few bags of beads every season. We fight like crazy trying to catch every last one. We wear some, hang a few from our rear view mirrors, and shove the rest into the bag we brought to the parade to hold our prizes. But then, a week or two after Fat Tuesday’s come and gone, you find yourself staring at the bag of beads, wondering what to do with them. You missed Krispy Kreme’s Doughnuts-For-Beads day, and you don’t want to just toss them…well, the logical solution is to start gluing them to things.
Bead art is one of the most impressive, yet easy ways to decorate. You can hot glue Mardi Gras beads to practically anything that will sit still long enough. And custom art work couldn’t be easier. It’s as simple as finding an image you’d like to recreate, and tracing it onto a piece of cardboard or wood.
In keeping with our Pirate theme this week, we decided to do some Jolly Roger bead art. Here’s how it works:
First, find the image that you like. A great place to look is Google Images. A quick search will turn up dozens of options. Print the one that you like, bearing in mind that bead art doesn’t allow for a lot of detail, so simplicity is what you should be looking for.
For those more artistically inclined, you might be able to draw your image freehand. For everyone else, the simplest way to get started is to cut out your picture, and trace it onto the cardboard. Think about the size of the beads. Make sure that the beads you’re using will not be too big, and remember to leave enough space in between separate parts of the image to fill in with the background color.
A great way to make your bead art look more polished is to color the background the same color of the beads you’ll be covering it with. That way, if there are any holes between the beads, they won’t stand out.
That’s the hardest part, done! Now, all you have to do is draw a line of hot glue onto the cardboard, and gently press the beads down onto it. While the glue is still soft, you can manipulate the shape, making sure that the beads follow the right curves. We used a basic 33″ 7mm white pearl bead.
Continue filling in with beads, following along the same lines. Try to keep different pieces of the image separate–for example, finish one whole bone before carrying over into the other bone. That way, it’ll have the look of two separate pieces.
From there, all you have to do is fill in the blanks, a little at a time. You’ll probably need to cut the beads where they don’t bend the right way, or cut off one single bead to fill in a hole.
Don’t be afraid to use different shapes of beads. We found these baseballs that were the perfect size and shape for the skull’s eyes. The black bones fit in with the theme perfectly to make the shape of the nose. And for teeth, we just used single beads, spaced a little further apart.
And now, the background. Start the same way you did with the bones…add a small line of glue, following along the lines of the white beads, and gently press the black beads as closely against them as you can.Again, the standard 33″ 7mm beads were used.
If you’ve left enough space, you should have no problem fitting the background beads in between your image. Again, snip off one or two if you need to fill in a hole here and there.
Once you’ve filled in most of the background, your art will really start to take its shape. Before you reach all the way to the edges, you might want to go ahead and add a border that will also serve as a frame.
Look for a special bead that fits the theme of the piece you’re working on. For this, we found a red skull and crossbones bead, which is perfect for adding a pop of color to the black and white image. Wrap them all the way around, taking care to try to get them straight.
Outside the skull and crossbones bead, we added a couple more rows of gold. You can always use a real frame if you have one, but if not, if you still have glue and beads, it’s simple to make your own.
Now, just look for any holes, and fill them in with single beads.
Attach a hanger to the back, and you’re done! These pieces can be as simple or as elaborate as you want. The only limit is your imagination.