Nature’s Art in Ammonite Bead Mosaic Skull

This speckled mountain sheep skull is the beginning of an ammonite bead mosaic skull by Mary Ellen Beads Albuquerque.
© 2017, Mary Ellen Merrigan, Spackled Mountain Sheep Skull

Follow your bliss and don’t be afraid, and doors will open where you didn’t know they were going to be there.” –Joseph Campbell

An ammonite bead mosaic skull grew out of a possibility.  The project called to me until it simply couldn’t be put off another day.

Ammonites fascinate me. The shapes and colors of this ancient water fossil compel me to touch and pat and admire. I gravitate to them.

Part of my ammonite collection, purchased at a moving sale and housed in a simple plastic bag, demanded attention. I arranged them on a trash bag, sorting them by size and depth. Carefully turning some left and others right, I prepared for my project.

Like people, no two ammonites are exactly alike. Individual and unique pearlized markings, characterize the pieces along with matte brown colors, as well as deep luminescent amber and greens.

These ammonites are laid out in preparation for the ammonite bead mosaic skull project by Mary Ellen Beads Albuquerque.
© 2017, Mary Ellen Merrigan, Ammonites sorted for my ammonite bead mosaic skull project

A few spiral shapes are thick. Others are flatter. Some ammonites are wide.  None are tall and narrow; that shape doesn’t exist in the 125-plus in front of me which range from 1/2” to 1.25”. I set aside a few of the smallest choices and place the chips and broken pieces near the top of the arrangement. They can be used in small, tight places.

A mountain sheep skull awaits my reconfiguration with ammonites and pearls. Because ammonites are water fossils, I have chosen to use freshwater pearls of bronze, green and gray with them.

These natural ammonite and pearl shapes are perfect for this project. I reflect that the energy of nature is a gift.  Its colors are inspiring. An ammonite bead mosaic skull is a natural evolution for me.

I make the eyes of buttons and add Swarovski crystals to them. My vision included large Swarovski crystals that would march down its forehead and a piece of black druzy to serve as a mouth.

This is the making of the ammonite bead mosaic skull by Mary Ellen Beads Albuquerque.
© 2017, Mary Ellen Merrigan, Ammonite Bead Mosaic Skull

Finishing touches included a list of ongoing details: painting the underside to match the two-part apoxie base, glazing the project, filing and glazing the horns to finish the piece and so on.

A slight tinge of gold mica warmed the overall tint. Just like that my ammonite bead mosaic skull was complete.  (NOTE: You can read about an earlier skill in this post: “Beaded Skull Makes My Heart Sing”


Like many artists I can’t identify the precise moment I was inspired with a vision of this project, or how its design evolved. One thing I know for sure: this ammonite bead mosaic skull morphed into being. I can’t wait to see what I will make next.

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