Jan Huling creates art by beading through familiar objects, as she enhances their character with the various colors and patterns of beads. The beadist constructs one-of-a-kind pieces with the vibrant adornment that gives life to the objects, letting the beads create their own imprint over the surface. Jan Huling gives us an inside look of what it is like to make beaded sculptures and what her work does for her as an artist.
What inspired you to create beaded objects?
Several years ago, my sister came to visit me and brought with her a few Pez dispensers that she’d covered with beads. I found them completely charming and decided to try this craft myself. I started with small objects, kazoos, but was soon inspired by the colors and patterns to cover bigger and bigger pieces. Besides working on a bigger scale, I’ve also begun to play with the forms themselves, fusing different shapes together, using various found objects to add extra dimension to my work.
What inspires you to maintain your work and keep thinking of new ways to display your work?
Inspired by the culture of India and Mexico, particularly that of the Huichol Indians, I try to take mostly ordinary objects such as dolls, instruments, mannequins, and in ornamenting their surfaces, bring out the magic and elegance of their basic shapes.
What is the process like when making a collage?
My technique is a meticulous one of stringing tiny glass seed beads in patterns, laying down a very fine line of glue directly on the object, gluing down one line of beads, and pulling out the thread. It’s a very slow, zen-like process, but so rewarding as the designs grow and reveal themselves to me. I don’t plan my designs, I allow them to grow organically. Seeing the surprising effects that happen when patterns and colors juxtapose on a surface is the reward for what some might consider artistic bravery.
Is there any significance in the objects you choose to create? For example, the babies, the buddha heads, and the instruments?
When I approach a new project, I like to find a framework that is familiar to most people, whether a toy, an animal, or even a giant praying mantis, and find a way to cover the surface with beaded patterns that, while not completely disguising the object, will allow a viewer to consider the form itself in a new context.
Are there specific themes in your work as a whole or in your pieces separately?
Each project that I’ve worked on has taught me more about color, design, storytelling and form. Since my work is very slow and meticulous, I have plenty of time to meditate and build a connection with the piece itself. Like a Tibetan mandala, my work is made up of tiny elements, in my case tiny glass seed beads, and attempts to create a complete, unified, continuous statement.
The artist on her latest project:
The basic form of this project is an eight foot long praying mantis which I’ve bought from a mannequin manufacturer. I planned on completely covering it with beads, chains, jewels and other adornments in a similar style to my previous work. The difference being that this is on a much grander scale than I’ve attempted.
Since I don’t plan my designs before beginning a project, I’m able to allow the work itself to dictate where it wants to go. This giant praying mantis lead me to places that cannot be foreseen.
I was intimidated and excited about it in equal parts. I knew that it was going to take me months and months of concentrated work.
As for the impact of the project, I hope to inspire other people, artists and students, to express themselves using the materials that excite them. I hope to teach folks that art goes beyond paint and clay, that sometimes one has to invent it on the fly. I hope to bring surprise to an audience jaded by all that it has seen and wonder to an audience that hasn’t experienced as much. I want my enthusiasm and love of my work to be infectious. I want this to be my best work and, if it is, I will achieve my desired impact.