Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Collaborative Ceramic Bead Mosaic

True confessions time: I almost threw all the beads away. In January I saw lots of cool medallions and beads on Pinterest and thought it would be a great thing to do with my Grade 1's since we didn't have a lot of clay.  I got the kids all jazzed up to use glaze and fire them-- not thinking for a second that DUH you need special equipment for glaze firing beads.  Equipment that I don't have.

So the bisque-fired beads sat in the clay room for months, unpainted, unglazed and unloved.  Finally some keen kids pestered me enough to begin thinking about them, but I still had no idea we were going to do.  Putting them on yarn and sending them home just felt too summer camp-y. When it became clear that the holes in the beads were all different sizes and that many would not fit on a heavy gauge wire, I decided we needed to just stick them to something.

What We Did:

1)  We had many chats about the power of collaborative art (showing them Yayoi Kusama's The Obliteration Room helped.) I also showed them this super cool tile mural and juxtaposed it with just one of the tiles, all alone and sad.
2) They got to choose one color of acrylic for each bead and it took them two 45 classes to cover their beads completely.  Each child had about 5 beads and they were textured so they needed to really work to get them covered.

3)  The next class was their favorite-- they used paint markers in gold, silver and black to decorate the beads.  This marked the end of their personal ownership of the beads- when they were decorated they "said goodbye" and put them on a tray with all the other beads according to color.  We made a big deal of it, "Goodbye precious bead, you know Mommy will always love you.  Be a good boy and enjoy your new life with the other beads..."etc etc etc.  The kids thought it was hilarious. 

4) The boards were painted after school and each class got to glue one section.  During their art class as they were working on something else I called one table at a time and they got to come up and stick them in the glue.  It got progressively harder as space got tight.

And there you go...what's that saying about necessity being the mother of invention? :)


  1. Great work from you and your students. I love the addition of gold paint markers over the textured clay. - it makes the art dimensional and personal, like a signature. Great group art project.

  2. Brilliant! Love this collaborative piece. The addition of the paint marker designs adds another wonderful design element.

  3. Excellant! May they hang for many years to come where everyone can admire them! :)

  4. Very cool. What type of glue did you use? And where will the piece be displayed? Will it be a permanent installation somewhere?

  5. thanks guys, i am so happy with them. :)

    @phyl: elmer's glue all! that's all i've got (and i can't drive to go get something else!) so i tested a few first and it worked great. I've got gallon jugs of it and i just poured it very thick.

    i hope they'll be a permanent installation but i just have to figure out where...maybe the community library here or somewhere else outside of school, with permission from the artists of course. ;)

  6. This is really great. Love the idea!