Perler in the Press
Thursday, August 8, 2019 marked the first annual National Perler® Day, a day designated by the Perler brand to celebrate the colorful plastic beads that are arranged in designs on plastic pegboards and then fused together with an iron. Most often considered a kids’ crafting activity, Perler beads are enjoying a new popularity among adults who use Perler beads to create elaborate pixel art. There are fan sites and online community forums dedicated to this unique art form, where, for example, you’ll find photorealistic portraits of Quentin Tarantino (made with over 12,000 Perler beads!), Madonna, Lin-Manuel Miranda as Hamilton, and Pete Buttigieg, along with numerous tributes to video game characters, comic book heroes, and other pop culture icons.
Perler bead artists turn to social media to showcase their creations and communicate with fellow pixel artists working with Perler beads. There are more than 50,000 members of dedicated groups on Reddit, Facebook, and other platforms, and the hashtag #perlerbeads has 465,000 posts on Instagram alone. Perler keeps this group of consumers satisfied by releasing new bead colors, producing interlocking pegboards that can be joined to create large canvases, and by providing inspiration from its own talented designers, including designs featuring popular licensed characters.
A portrait of Lin-Manuel Miranda made with Perler beads by pixel artist Kyle McCoy; Perler beads and colorful pegboards for kids crafts. (Photo: Business Wire)
“We give full credit to social media for making us aware of the growing number of people using Perler beads to make amazing art,” said Tyra Derr, Vice President of Marketing for Design Group Americas, the parent company which owns the Perler brand. “We took notice of this pixel art trend around eight to ten years ago when we saw that sales of open stock products, like bags of 1,000 beads by color, were keeping pace with Perler kit sales.”
Kyle McCoy is a Perler bead artist from Ithaca, NY. He says he started making beaded crafts as a hobby but found himself hooked on the retro aesthetic and the vibrant community that supports it. After he completed his first major work, a recreation of the Simpsons’ town of Springfield that spanned over forty square feet, McCoy attracted enough of a following to start his own YouTube channel, open up a dedicated shop, and exhibit at New York ComicCon.
Mr. McCoy explained the appeal of Perler beads as an artistic medium.
“What others might think of as tedious and boring, I found to be calming and rewarding. It's an extremely easy hobby for anyone to try out—it’s literally made for kids—but developing your own process can be surprisingly complex. Color choices, layout, and bead placement are all important factors in developing a style.”
Despite the buzzy attention Perler beads have gained from the pixel artist faction, Ms. Derr stresses that kids remain the core users of Perler beads, with Perler products found in the kids’ crafts aisle of major mass market retailers. Millennial parents who first crafted with Perler beads as kids are now introducing them to their own children, and the parenting website Romper recently included Perler beads in a list of top rainy day activities for kids.
“Creating with Perler beads gets kids away from screens and forces them to focus on making something,” Ms. Derr explained. “They can practice self-expression through bead art at a very young age, but they don’t have to stop doing it just because they’ve gotten older. It’s the type of creative activity that adapts to their age and talent level through adulthood.”