By JUSTIN SCHUVER
When hundreds of tiny beads come together, they create a mosaic of beautiful art, thanks to the creativity of Tanya Brouillet.
Brouillet, a Bainbridge artist, has been creating art with beads for almost 10 years.
“I was at a show in Havana, Fla., about 10 years ago and I fell in love with a purse that had a poppy on it,” she said. “The poppy was composed of little beads, and my husband asked, ‘Why don’t you try that?’”
Early on, Brouillet created the art just for her own enjoyment, but eventually friends saw her pieces and recommended that she begin selling them. She continues to do just that, marketing her wares at the Southern Artists Cooperative on Water Street in Bainbridge, and also at festivals throughout the year, like the Bizarre Bazaar.
Brouillet has always had an interest in sewing, and her knowledge of those techniques have helped her in her bead art as well. She has created bracelets, necklaces and earings, but also larger pieces like purses.
“When I first got married I was sewing curtains and bedspreads and children’s clothes, and things like that,” she said. “Now, I pretty much work entirely on my bead projects.”
Brouillet says she orders the beads from a store or website, and then determines the order they should be laid out to create the best pattern. She admits that it’s not uncommon for her to restart a project “five or six times” until she gets it just the way she wants it to look.
Technology has also helped make things a little easier. Brouillet said there are programs that can take a photo of an object, and then create a pattern that shows which colored beads should be used to make a similar design. She was able to use that program to create a bead-mosaic image of Jesus Christ, which currently hangs at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Bainbridge.
Brouillet said her biggest project was probably a bead-covered purse that took her four months to complete, working approximately five hours a week. She estimates that she has probably produced about 150 to 200 projects since starting the hobby.
“It’s not a money-making venture,” she said. “I sell my art to get money to buy more beads to make more art. I love hearing people say nice things about my art; that’s what’s really priceless to me.”
Brouillet said it can be difficult to handle the small beads and thin string, but she has gotten used to it with practice.
Brouillet was born in Kankakee, Ill., but has lived in Decatur County for 25 years. While living in Illinois, she was a volunteer firefighter and an EMT — she was the first female firefighter in the history of her department. She also operated an upholstery business, but retired from that craft when she moved to Georgia.
She has been married to her husband, Randy, for 47 years, and they have three children, 10 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Brouillet said that her granddaughter, 7-year-old Reid, enjoys watching Grandma work with the beads and has even created some small projects of her own.