Gwen's Gems - Using Stencils for Beaded Mosaics

Posted by Galy OConnor on

Gwen's Gems - Using Stencils for Beaded Mosaics

by Gwen Lafleur

Hi everyone, it's Gwen back again today with an installment of Gwen's Gems! This month I decided to try another project based on my inspiration files... I've had this on my "to try" list for a while. I'm a HUGE fan of the work of Betsy Youngquist * and I've long wanted to see if I could make my own beaded mosaics. So that's what I did!

I have absolutely zero training as a mosaic artist, but from what I've read you generally start by laying out a pattern on your substrate that you'll fill in with the tesserae, or in this case, beads. What better place to start than with a stencil? I took the Five Hamsas Stencil by Jessica Sporn and picked one that I thought would be fun as a beaded design and stenciled it onto a piece of chipboard.
Many of the bead mosaics I've seen use epoxy clay, but the artists will push the beads directly into the clay, working on a small section at a time. I knew that I wanted to lay out the whole pattern at once so I decided to go a different route. I cut around the shape and then mixed up some Aves Apoxy Clay to coat the whole thing and covered it all at once. Before the clay cured, I laid the stencil over top and lined up the edges, then used a roller over top to press the stencil lightly into the clay (I spritzed the stencil with water first to help keep the clay from sticking to it.) 
This left just enough of an impression that I could see the raised areas of the design. I knew I was going to put an eye in the center of the design, so I pressed that into the clay while it was still open, then I let it cure completely and painted it with black gesso. (Of course, I have black Aves clay, but that would have been way too easy, right?)
Next up it was time to start adding some beads! I started doing a little outlining around the eye...
...then I got back to following the pattern from the stencil. Since I wasn't pressing them into uncured clay, I decided to use glue. I had some PVA glue in a fine liner bottle  which I loved for this because it gave me the ability to do detail work while still using a fairly strong glue of my choice. Here you can see how I outlined a small area with the glue, then placed the beads.
I tried a few different methods for placing beads during the course of the project... by the end I was just using a hatpin and that was what was working best. 
Here you can see a few in-progress shots as I worked through all of the sections.
Is this a long and tedious process? Yes! (But I think I can say that about many of the things I work on. LOL.) This is something that's good to work on while you're waiting for paint to dry on something else because it's easy to just do a small section and then set it aside. I think that helps keep the tedium from getting too overwhelming.
Finally, all of my beads were in place.
While PVA is quite a good glue, I don't really trust it to hold all of that hard work in place long term. So at this point, I put some polymer medium in a bottle with a fairly small opening (this gave me more control in applying it) and put a thin coat over top of the entire piece. 
The polymer filters down in between the beads so that when it dries, everything is locked in place and you have a nice shine, but the texture of the beads is still very clear.
You could turn this into a pendant for a very flashy statement necklace, make it into a piece of home decor... whatever you want! I decided to mount it on a birch panel so I could hang it on the wall. Before doing that, I created the background. I used a 6x6 birch cradled panel (7/8" deep) and gesso'd and painted it. Then I used my Decorative Filigree Ornament stencil and some gold paint to put the main image down. Naturally, I followed that up with some gold dots all along the outside of the design.
You could leave it plain, but I wanted lots of color matching the colors of my beaded piece so I used coordinating paint markers to color in the sections of the stencil design, plus white to add some more dots.
Whew! Almost there! I decided that this just wasn't enough, so I got some gold dimensional paint and went over my gold lines. It was one of those... am I going to ruin this? moments, but I loved it! Then I took some black Apoxy Sculpt (I got smart this time) and put some on the back of my hamsa so that I could mount it to the panel and have it lifted up a bit for more dimension.
Voila! Finished! (Although... don't you think it needs some gold trim around the sides? Hmm...) I LOVE how this turned out, and I can guarantee you that I'll be doing more beaded mosaics in the future!
Until next time, happy stenciling!
Betsy Youngquist *
Betsy Youngquist *

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