On a recent Monday evening, Myrtle Rose Padmore walked into Seals Class Act Lounge off St. Bernard Avenue, a glue gun drawn and finger on the trigger.
She joined about 25 others who were already there, "beaning" and bonding at a costume work night for the Krewe of Red Beans and its new offshoot, the Krewe of Dead Beans, both of which hit the streets on exactly the day you'd expect: Monday, or Lundi Gras.
And they'll do it clad in suits with mosaics made of red beans, rice and other dried legumes hot-glued onto their garments.
The line between the two krewes is based not on artistic merit or even culinary preference. Mostly, it's on costume theme.
Founder Devin De Wulf said he wanted to keep membership of Red Beans at about 100 to maintain a neighborhood feel, but as applications kept coming, he hit on an idea for expansion.
For years, the Red Beans parade has featured a group costumed as skeletons, known as "the Dead Beans," so to celebrate the 10th annual Red Beans parade, the skeletons would splinter off into a new group.
The Dead Beans will launch at 2 p.m. from Bayou St. John and meander through Mid-City, arriving to meet the Red Beans Parade after it starts at 2 p.m., goes through Marigny and enters Treme.
De Wulf, wearing a Camellia Red Beans T-shirt, brought lots of beans with him to the lounge for use by the bean artists, courtesy of the company that's become a parade sponsor.
Take all you want, he told Padmore, adding that the krewe made a deal with Camellia to receive 600 pounds of beans. "They're all in my shed," De Wulf said with a laugh.
Padmore, a newbie, sought out De Wulf for krewe instructions. She picked up a member's patch to be included on her costume and a bag with artist-made glass beads shaped like beans.
"We're the first krewe in New Orleans history to give out glass beads made in New Orleans," said Nancy Thackerd, the artist who made 3,000 of them for the 2018 parades. For Dead Beans, the beads are tiny glass ghosts, corpses and skeletons.
De Wulf has three main beaning tips to share with Padmore and other "green" beaners.
FLEXIBILITY: If you glue your beans together too tightly, he told Padmore, your suit won't be flexible. Space them out a little bit so you can move more easily.
GLUE-GUN TECHNIQUE: Avoid "spider webs," or numerous thin wisps of glue on your costume, by moving the glue gun around without raising it up.
PLAN BEFORE GLUING: Start in the middle of a design and work your way outward. The pattern can be adjusted on the outside if need be but not in the center. For example, for an arm, start at the wrist and work upward.
"We're going to make an instructional video next year," De Wulf said.
Past those few tips, costumes are left up to the individual. There is no theme to follow, no rules.
But, De Wulf said, "The more you put into your suit, the more you get out of it."
The fact that krewe costumes are handmade is key to De Wulf's vision, which borrows from the Mardi Gras Indian tradition of crafting one's own new suit each year.
The parade style is based on social aid and pleasure club second lines, complete with brass bands. "People follow us as we parade. They jump in and dance with us," he said. "The Treme Brass Band makes it (the march) magical every year."
Panorama Brass Band and Bon Bon Vivant will play for Dead Beans.
Patterning the krewe costumes after the Indians shouldn't scare off those who aren't artistic.
Costuming lets "each person be as creative as they can be," said De Wulf, a self-taught artist and social studies teacher. "We guide the nonartistic. It's a very safe space for people who don't consider themselves artistic."
Designs in the works on this night ranged from the practical to the mythological to the philosophical.
THE OTHER SIDE OF THE BRAIN: Howard Turoff chose a House of Stark wolf-head sigil from "Games of Thones" as his costume emblem because it can do double duty: He also marches with the Krewe of Barkus, whose theme is "Game of Bones."
A retired CPA, Turoff said no one encouraged him in artistic things when he was young, but in 30 years on Wall Street, he gravitated toward creating visual aspects for his projects. The part-time New Orleanian is enjoying his first foray into bean art.
SNAKES AND GODS: Each of the two parades will have a costume inspired by Medusa, the Greek mythological horror with a killer gaze.
Sunny Summers' eschews the image of a monstrous-looking woman with curling snakes where there should be curly hair. Instead, she goes abstract, replicating the patterns and colors of snakes, specifically the Louisiana copperhead, one of a handful of venomous snakes found here.
Although a cofounder and "el capitan infinitum" of Red Beans, she's parading with Dead Beans for its inaugural year, qualified for it, so to speak, by her deadly costume theme.
By the time her elaborate outfit's skirt, top, head piece, shoes and gloves are completed, she estimates that she'll have put in 100 hours of work.
Meanwhile, in Red Beans, Sandy Baptie's Medusa is more representational, based on a drawing showing the woman/monster with wild hair. Baptie, however, is going the full snake route, adding squiggly, colored reptiles to the head by using beans she individually painted black and gold.
FATAL CONCEPTS: In Dead Beans, a couple of krewe members are steering clear of skeletons while still spreading messages of mortality.
Poet Benjamin Morris' hourglass is a simple reminder that life is short. "We have to confront our mortality to make our lives and language meaningful," he said.
On this night, he was debating whether the hourglass should be depicted as mostly full or mostly empty.
Artist and home renovator Eliot Brown created a darkly funny image: a cornucopia, which he calls the intersection of abundance and mortality. Its contents include a cheeseburger and fries. "It will kill you," he said.
But Dead Beans' theme aside, both groups really are all about the life-affirming activity of volunteers coming together in Carnival celebration.
In fact, De Wulf met his wife through the krewe. Now they have two children, ages 2½ and 8 months.
"A lot of people now have kids. It's a family-friendly parade," he said.
A lot can change in a decade. But one thing will stay the same, he noted.
"I firmly believe that from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., we're having more fun than anyone in the universe."