From the street to the gallery
Mardi Gras beads litter the streets and sidewalks of New Orleans after the parades have passed. The colorful strands of plastic pearls lay broken on the pavement, the result of missed catches from the overwhelming barrage of throws from an endless stream of Carnival floats.
The post-parade scene of unwanted Mardi Gras beads inspired artist artist John K. Lawson. He recalls a walk along St. Charles Avenue after a parade, “It was really a bright afternoon, and it just looked like this mosaic of color and beauty.” Lawson, a native of England, attended the Landscape Architecture School at LSU and never left Louisiana.
mardi gras beads become art
On the day I visited Lawson’s studio located near Baton Rouge, he was using a hot glue gun to attached multi-colored plastic pearls to a horse head shaped figure. He calls this new work “Big Mamou”, a celebration of the colorful Mardi Gras riders that gallop across Louisiana’s Cajun country. (see story below)
An unconventional canvas
One of Lawson’s creations is on display in the front window of the Voodoo Two Lounge on Carondelet Street in downtown New Orleans. Beads cover nearly every inch of the baby grand piano in a dazzling tribute to voodoo priestess Marie Laveau. The black and white piano keys are the only surface without beads because Lawson doesn’t want to interfere with playing the piano.
mardi gras beads and hot glue
The process is time-consuming. Lawson uses what he calls a special formula of hot glue to attach strands of beads. Then he fills in any open spaces with smaller beads. “Once the piece is finished,” Lawson explains, “I take it to an automobile body shop and they lacquer it out.” He wants the beaded creations to last as long as whatever it’s attached to.
Lawson’s art is a spectacular use of left-over carnival beads. He creates colorful characters and pieces that preserve the fun and whimsical nature of Mardi Gras.
Mardi gras bead art featured on tv
view of a mardi gras super float
In 1968 the Krewe of Bacchus began parading through New Orleans on the Sunday night before Mardi Gras. Bacchus was the first of the super krewes which feature the largest floats of Carnival. Bacchagator was added to the krewe’s parade lineup in 1986. The three-section alligator-themed float is 105 feet long and can hold 86 bead-throwing riders.