For months, every flat surface of Del Hamilton’s dining room has been covered in glitter, feathers and rhinestones.
With just a few weeks to go before their parade, three women sat gathered around her table on a Monday afternoon, glue guns blazing, as each bedazzled and bedecked another purse destined to join the ever-growing collection of finished products scattered throughout the Uptown home.
These handmade creations represent the latest batch of signature throws of the Krewe of Nyx, which will be parading for the its fifth year when it rolls Uptown at 6:45 p.m. Wednesday.
“We’re in mass production right now,” explained Hamilton, a float lieutenant with the group. “We started working on the purses in March after last year’s Mardi Gras. During Thanksgiving weekend we had a three-day decorating marathon here, and then, of course, there have been the occasional parties in between.”
Since joining New Orleans’ largest all-female Mardi Gras krewe four years ago, Hamilton has offered up her home as a sort of purse production headquarters for the krewe, which as of last year included 1,511 riders with a full waiting list.
“It’s not required of any member to create a purse, but I’d say most want to,” she said. “Each member is allowed to throw 20 purses each season, but some may do one, maybe another will do five.”
For Jane Yelton and Sherri Marina, who both joined the same year as Hamilton, the tradition of making the purses is a treasured part of the season.
“I just really like getting together with everyone,” Yelton said. “It’s like this little village. Someone will ask, ‘Hey, what do you think this purse needs? Trim? Maybe some more feathers?’ It’s a team effort.”
The purses that make up the raw material for the throws hail from a variety of sources.
“We get a lot from thrift stores, but many are given to us — I had quite a few given to me this year,” Marina said. “We tend to prefer the smaller, cocktail purses.”
While it may sometimes be difficult for members to figure out what look to give a purse, Hamilton said when it comes to handing them out to eager paradegoers on the big night, it’s often a decision that just comes from the gut.
“One of the most fun parts for me is finding that one person in the crowd that you connect with,” she said. “I can’t tell you exactly what I’m looking for, but I know it when I see it, and I can tell you it’s different for everyone.”
By the end of the parade, hundreds of purses will have been distributed, but for Hamilton, and many others, the fun is just beginning, thanks to the Nyx Purse Tracker, which Hamilton launched four years ago.
“If you catch a purse, check inside,” she said. “There are these cards that many of us put in that say who made the purse and ask you to take a photo of yourself with it and post it to our Facebook page — the Nyx Purse Tracker. From the day after the parade, all of us are glued to purse tracker, hoping to see one of our purses show up. Last year, we had hundreds posted from all over the world.”
Hamilton said the idea started small, but the page has grown to almost 2,700 followers.
“It’s just so cool to see where all of them end up.”