Behind a mound of flip flops and Saints shirts, at the bottom of every New Orleanian’s closet you’ll find a bag of Mardi Gras beads. What do we do with these beads? We mail them to friends in other cities. We pass them onto anyone who rides in a krewe to throw next year. We drop them off at organizations like ARC that recycle Mardi Gras beads. Then there are those among us who repurpose the beads into glorious works of art. During this time of year, when the city slows down – using that term lightly – and you’ve got a moment to clean out your closet, I offer these ideas to those who unearth their bead stash.
Beads as Wall Art
Divide your plastic finds into color categories and design your own Mardi Gras bead mosaic! Black Pearl resident Katie Farmer runs NOLA Bead Art, an Etsy shop in which she sells framed creations from the Mardi Gras beads she and her friends catch at parades (supplemented by purchases at Mardi Gras bead recycling centers). Farmer recommends affixing beads to a wood-paneled canvas frame, which she says can support the weight of the beads. She then paints her designs on the panels before gluing the beads down with Aleene’s tacky glue. Farmer says her mosaics take anywhere between 60-90 hours to finish.
Display Your Keepers
In a custom familiar to anyone who has gone through a bag of Halloween candy, post Mardi Gras New Orleanians sort through their “good” and “bad” beads when deciding which to keep. Good beads are the unusual ones — the bigger beads or the ones that have a medallion. Last year, Uptown resident Nicky Mast wrapped her best beads around a wreath left over from Christmas. She says she wanted a way to display beads that were too pretty to donate but would just sit in the closet.
Make a Vase
On a visit to the Louisiana Children’s Museum, I spotted these decorated milk jugs through the door of an activity room. You can turn the jugs into a vase, or even make a Mardi Gras tree that’s potted in beads, as in the photo.
Another Way to Wear Your Beads
Beads don’t just belong around your neck. With so many holidays and festivals in the city that beckon attendees to don a costume, why not craft a custom outfit for multiple occasions?
Not that artistically inclined? Well, your house can wear the beads! It’s a common site around the city to see beads wrapped around a fence, glittering and faded from the sunlight.
FREE Weekly Roundup!
Enter your email address for updates on all the best things happening in New Orleans.