What could be more fun than Mardi Gras parades: the beat of marching bands, the grand, colorful floats and, most excitingly, the glimmer of beads flying through the air. Though there's no thrill quite like plucking a string of sparkling beads from the sky, that thrill wears off rather quickly after Fat Tuesday, when you're stuck with a garbage bag of beads gathering dust and taking up valuable space. Here are few ideas to get those unwanted beads out of your attic and into your art projects.
Mardi Gras Bead Lamp
Purchase a Create a Lamp kit. Next, select a clear glass bottle (liquor bottles make excellent, and holiday-appropriate, choices) to be the base of the lamp. Using a 1/2 inch glass and tile drill bit, drill a hole at the base of the bottle. Drill very slowly and make sure to keep the drill bit moist, or it could heat up the glass, causing it to crack. Thread the cord through the hole, fill the bottle with beads and assemble the bulb and lamp shade according to the kit's directions. For extra pizzazz, hot-glue a fringe of Mardi Gras beads around the lamp shade.
Snip the beads from the string so they are loose, and arrange them densely, with no empty spaces, on a foil-covered cookie sheet. Simple, cheap plastic beads melt most easily. When you have an aesthetically pleasing arrangement, slide the sheet into a 350-degree oven and heat for 10 to15 minutes. Check periodically to make sure all the beads have melted together, rotating the sheet at least once. Keep the area well-ventilated to avoid toxic fumes. When the beads have melted, place the warm sheet of melted beads over a bowl of similar size. Shape it and let it cool overnight. Remove the foil from the inside of the bowl, and show it off.
Mosaic Picture Frame
Mosaics jazz up any surface, including picture frames, tables or even concrete stepping stones. Find a wooden picture frame that's wide enough to accommodate a nice beaded design--at least an inch in width. Snip the beads from their strings and arrange them according to color and size. Then, using a thick adhesive such as Liquid Nails, apply them in a pattern or image that you find pleasing. Make sure you don't have any space between the beads--the more beads, the more sparkle and visual interest. Keep your work area well-ventilated. Let the mosaic dry for seven days. Then, slide in a photo from your Mardi Gras adventure, hang it and let your guests enjoy this multimedia bit of memorabilia.
Missy Wilkinson is special sections editor at "The Gambit," a New Orleans-based alternative weekly newspaper. She received her B.A. in English from Louisiana State University, an M.F.A. in creative writing from the University of New Orleans and has completed coursework for a Ph.D. in comparative literature.