Meet Our Instructors: Leigh Adams

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When you visit a Piece by Piece open workshop, you will often see a group of participants surrounding a purple-haired woman. Leigh Adams, an instructor with Piece by Piece for five years, is known for her kindness and candid but supportive coaching--on mosaic and life skills in general. Her background of teaching for 30 years, both in the classroom and in different venues, gives her a depth of experience to pull from. She has taught internationally in China, East Africa, Mexico and Central America, working with a variety of populations.

Her experience doesn’t stop at teaching--she is also a renowned artist, specializing in glass. She is the Artist in Residence at the L.A. Arboretum, and most recently curated their most successful exhibit ever: Forces of Nature. Several of our instructors and one of our participant artists were accepted into this show. Her own work can be found in various galleries, public sites and private residences.

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Chinese Mosaic by Leigh Adams

At Piece by Piece, Leigh teaches beginning workshops, cutting techniques, finishing techniques, and supports our larger commissions with her talents in cutting, clay forming and other specialties. She has a wonderful way of encouraging creativity, helping our participant artists to free themselves from inhibitions, and explore and develop their talents. She is also bilingual, and her fluent Spanish relaxes many of our ESL artists, who can express themselves more articulately through their own language.

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Leigh talking with participant artist at a workshop

We asked Leigh a few questions about her relationship with Piece by Piece, and art in general:

You have a wide range of experience in art. What are some of the other mediums you’ve worked with? I put myself through school by sewing stage clothes for rock stars, making pillows, recovering furniture and decorating houses. Then came many years of giant soft sculpture monsters, embroidery, quilting, crocheting, basketry, gourd art and toy design. All accompanied by garden design, hot, warm and cold glass work, jewelry design and doing art with children.

How did you come to mosaic art? My love of mosaic comes from coveting the Fiestaware dishes of a favorite aunt. I took enormous pleasure in getting a bowl or plate in the colors that I love. When I had my own plates and my own children shattered them, I couldn’t bear to throw the beloved dishes away. I learned to imbed them in concrete and create colorful patterns.

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Rainbow Dream Snake as seen from above, at L.A. Arboretum, by Leigh Adams

What do you like about it? What I like most about mosaic is its versatility, its infinite variety and its beautiful recycled colors!

What is your inspiration? My own art is a part of a long running dialogue with nature and the universe. I was inspired by the broken dishes generated by my own children and the joy of turning something shattered into something positive and beautiful. It is a paradigm shift worth pursuing for everyone!

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Leigh's mosaic throne in the garden

Do you have a favorite artist who influences your work? I am most inspired by the colors of nature and the beauty of folk art by indigenous peoples.

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Instructors Luz Mack Durini and Leigh Adams at recent workshop

‘What do you like about Piece by Piece? What I like most about Piece by Piece are the people! The teachers, the participants, the volunteers…all are incredible human beings. I love that we get to see people grow and develop in their art and style while we are immersed in the joy and color of mosaic.

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What do you see in the future for Piece by Piece? I see us doing larger and larger projects and developing more artists and supporting them in creating their own careers.

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Dawn Mendelson

Dawn Mendelson has provided leadership in the development of Piece by Piece since 2007. She has over time built an arts curriculum for participants that fosters learning in design, drawing, creativity and collage mosaic technique. As Piece by Piece Artistic Director, she steers the vision for workshops held at a variety of locations. Dawn specializes in pique assiette, a style of mosaic which uses recycled materials. She has been featured on HGTV and Dawn was twice selected as Educator with the Mayor's Gang Reduction Program. Her passion is working with people, especially those who are new to art, and enjoying their moments of self-discovery.