A large, beaded lizard hangs on a gallery wall as a figure admires it.

All Images © Jeff Rubio, shared with permission

Anyone who grew up crafting with pony beads and cord will recognize the iconic beaded lizard. Dangling from backpacks traveling to and from grade school, trading colorful designs with friends, and crafting these tiny reptiles together are fond memories that come to mind when admiring at Jeff Rubio’s giant creaturely sculptures.

Invoking queerness, nostalgia, and joy, the artist taps into childhood experience by creating large-scale versions of the youthful pastime. Based in Philadelphia and working out of the historic Bok building, Rubio first molds dozens of ceramic pony beads, substantially oversized in comparison to the typical craft material. They then introduce vibrant rope to string together each piece to form the evocative, recognizable lizard shape. Rubio also fashions large steel paperclips onto several of their pieces to transform them into keychains, again connecting to the act of crafting as a kid, scrounging around for materials, and working with the most accessible supplies.

“In my studio, I find myself surrounded by tokens of my childhood—Tamagotchis, action figures, and Happy Meal toys. While these artifacts hold great sentimental value, they’re often a lot smaller than we recollect,” Rubio tells Colossal, explaining further:

The small scale makes the childhood memories more distant and wistful. When I was creating a replica of the beaded lizard keychain from my childhood, I wanted to have a deeper reflection on the act of play. Through the use of large-scale ceramic beads, I’ve managed to recapture the sensation of being a small child.

The artist continues to create works drawing from their adolescent memories, focusing on iterations of Tamagotchis, Mr. Potato Head, and more. Rubio is anticipating a forthcoming group show at Commonweal Gallery, opening this November. To see more of their process, check out their Instagram and website.


A large, beaded lizard

Photo by Ian Shiver

A large, beaded lizard lays oon the ground.

A large, beaded lizard lays on a table with fake grass.

Detail of the ceramic beads on a large, beaded lizard

A large, beaded lizard lays on a table next to more ceramic beads and other works in progress.

Mr Potato Head, but with the body of a pickle

A ceramic Tamagotchi

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