This assemblage a, b, c, was made by Mary Ellen Beads Albuquerque in a class at Art Unraveled 2018 with Leighanna Light of Taos.

Assemblage A, B, C From Leighanna Light, Thingmaker

“Not everything you do is going to be a masterpiece, but you get art there and you try and sometimes it really happens. The other times you’re just stretching your soul.”  -Maya Angelou

In a masterful way, this quote sums up why I take classes: to explore, to stretch my boundaries, to get of my comfort zone, and to sometimes get waaaay out!

Usually, I discover that the cutting-edge of my capacity is best challenged gently and then bumped up again and again, in stages. Exit gentle. Enter full immersion when I enrolled my beading self in an assemblage class from Thingmaker Leighanna Light of Taos, NM during Art Unraveled, a Phoenix-based art retreat in its 15th year.

My two-day Spirit Protector class filled me with an odd mixture of trepidation, (even though previous tin experience was not a requirement) and awe. Barely an hour into the effort, I found myself totally immersed although still not together comfortable. At the end, I could truly say, “What a blast!”

Mary Ellen Beads Albuquerque talks assemblage a, b, c after an Art Unraveled class with Leighanna Light.
© 2018, Mary Ellen Merrigan, Instructor Leighanna Light and Mary Ellen Merrigan

In a busy, loosely-constructed and firmly-guided workshop, Leighanna introduced ten of us to a variety of techniques to color and treat tin: transferring laser images to tin, faux etching on tin, leaf printing on tin, tin weaving, etc. We’d gather around her table for a demo and then go back and try it ourselves. 

The spacious classroom made it easy to chat and the longer we stayed together, the better we got at checking in with each other. Leighanna helped us get to know fellow participants as she showcased our work and created a fun atmosphere in which to experiment.

My neighbor, Naomi, created a tin weaving that was the envy of the group.

Mary Ellen Beads Albuquerque shows her classroom neighbor Naomi and Instructor Leighanna Light are pictured here.
© 2018, Mary Ellen Merrigan, my class neighbor Naomi and Leighanna Light

For my part, I was totally transfixed by the bag of springs Naomi shared with me to allow me to add curly hair to one of my figures. I remembered a Peanuts postcard where Lucy says, “People always expect more of you when you have naturally curly hair!”

This is the curly hair assemblage done by Mary Ellen Beads Albuquerque during a class at Art Unraveled.
© 2018, Mary Ellen Merrigan, Curly Hair Assemblage

Throughout our time together, Leighanna modeled a special version of the A, B, C’s of assemblage instruction. I put together this five-step assessment of her efforts and say a little something about each word in the paragraph that follows:

Assemblage A, B, C

  • Ability
  • Belief
  • Caring
  • Demonstrations
  • Engagement

Ability: In a quiet, confident way Leighanna led us through our sessions. Her models were on the front table, near the point where we gathered around to see how she recommended we work specific techniques. We experimented at a work station in the middle of the room, at our own table place, and on tables that lined the perimeter of the room. Although this was the first time she’d presented “Spirit Protectors”, there was no hesitation in her leadership or her assessment of when it was time to move on. It’s the mark of a pro when it comes to teaching.

Belief: Each participant came to the classroom from a different place. Leighanna’s belief in the student was apparent, both from her respectful manner as well as her genuine praise for the new ideas birthed. She empowered the novice and the expert alike.

Create-Care-Cheer: “I love to create,” Leighanna says on her website. You can tell. She commented sincerely on our work, noticing things she hadn’t thought of, offering encouragement and suggestions or advice as needed. Leighanna modeled caring in a way few can achieve, always putting her students first and moving her work and herself out of the way.

Demonstrations: Instead of providing complicated directions, Leighanna showed us how she works with metal and found objects to get results. She answered questions on the fly and stopped to share/praise great work. She laughed with us and at herself. We shared in the light-heartedness of the moments.

Engagement: We worked at our own pace. Although Leighanna worked on her own project part of the time, she roamed the room on a regular basis. In order to keep interest piqued, Leighanna held a few drawings. I was lucky enough to be the recipient of one such found-object gifting. It was fun! I used the green plumbers tape (not pictured here but also included) in one of my weavings. Color me inspired. Getting the “M” was perfect. 

This is the prize pack won by Mary Ellen Beads Albuquerque during assemblage a b c from Leighanna Light at Art Unraveled.
© 2018, Mary Ellen Merrigan, Found Object Prize Pack


This is a collage of participant creations from the Spirit Protector class featuring assemblage A, b, C according to Mary Ellen Beads Albuquerque
© 2018, Mary Ellen Merrigan, Collage of participant creations

Assemblage Leighanna-style is a fun experience. If you haven’t taken one of her classes, I encourage you to do so and see if you agree with me about my Assemblage A,B, C.


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