Mary Ellen Merrigan of Mary Ellen Beads Albuquerque talks about Maker Creativity.

Mary Ellen Merrigan Talks Maker Creativity

What does creativity mean to you? How does creativity contribute to your art?

Creativity is new approaches, fresh takes, different perspectives. While I know creativity exists in countless ways and forms, I find myself more and more recognizing maker creativity.

Maker creativity is an incredible influx of energy, a rush, a feeling of such joy that I want to pinch myself to be sure it’s real. When I’m using my hands, absorbed in the process, I lose track of time. I escape, float, give myself over to the making. Every time I bead I leave worry, fear and concern behind.

Once I lose the analysis, my heART is better. I instinctively place color and shape. I finesse design elements almost by feel. Intuition takes over. I’m always surprised by the result.

How have you evolved with your art?

As a child, I learned embroidery to keep my hands busy. My teenage self took up sewing as a practical art.I put myself through private school sewing my own clothes and doing alterations for others. I still own the sewing machine I purchased with those earnings.

For years I hesitated to refer to myself as an artist. I needlepointed and, although I was excellent at it, I didn’t have the same sense of joy that I now equate with beads. In retrospect, I found myself stitching others’ patterns. While my embellishments were good, they often were based on patterns I studied and replicated. Not surprisingly, they didn’t move me the way my place of no pattern now does.

Beads give me a place to design, to create from scratch. (It’s the difference between baking a cake from a mix and baking it from scratch.) Still, not all of my creations turn out to be masterpieces. 

One of the experiments I’ve delved into this year is metalsmithing. To my surprise, I have good ideas, solid designs. I find the techniques such as using a torch to solder, or join metals, requires some work, but that’s what learning is all about. It’s a chance for me to experiment, to push the boundaries of what I thought possible. The mistakes make me laugh…although that comes later when I’m reflecting on the process. Melting silver comes to mind. I recently used too hot a flame on fine silver and, as a result, I melted part of what was going to be my bezel. Without even trying I created reticulation, a process that forms ripples and ridges on the surface. Another time I left my piece in the acid and had to re-do it. 

Mary Ellen Merrigan of Mary Ellen Beads Albuquerque celebrated her maker creativity and took first place at the New Mexico State Fair with this single strand necklace.
© 2018, Mary Ellen Merrigan, Single strand necklace takes first place at New Mexico State Fair

Art and artistry is a learned, treasured expression in my life.

What do I want as my art legacy?

If my bead art can make people happy, that’s a legacy. If I can show others how to do something that brings them pleasure, that’s a legacy. I choose to open the doors for others, to share with them the incredible joy and freedom I feel when I create. That feeling creates a bond with fellow artisans, whether they are from Sandia Heights Artists Studio Tour, comrades at open studio, participants in a class or prospective customers.

I choose to support others in discovering their creative truth so they too can live in joy.

See the Maker Creativity of Mary Ellen Merrigan

Join me to celebrate my maker creativity during the 15th Annual Sandia Heights Artists Studio Tour. Download a tour brochure from the site, or follow Sandia Heights Artists on Facebook for updates. See my work with that of Barbara Lewis, Southwestern gourd art, in the studio of Lynda Buch, mixed media stamp collage and acrylic.

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