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Saturday, January 9, 2016

Whose Muse is Whose?

This week, Laura Harms, CZT celebrates her fifth year publishing her iamthedivaCZT blog!

Congratulations, Laura, and thank you for collecting so many "muses" together in one place to inspire us and all who visit and contribute to your blog!

This week's challenge is to create a tile combining diva dance and auraknot.

Here's ours:

Maria writes:

​I have spoken before that I have been an artist since about the age of 5.

But what made me have to be an artist? Why was I so focused at such an early age?

Well, I actually know what it was, or should I say who it was.

When I was really little, (I am #6 of 7 children) I would hang around my with Mom while she was tidying up her bedroom in the mornings, talking to her as she so carefully made her and my Dad's bed.​ As usual I sat or rolled around on the floor, gazing at ceilings or marveling at the different perspectives of things, and one morning, I spotted something under her bed. I carefully slid it out, and asked my mom what it was.

There before me was a framed "something or other" that, at the time, I had no word for. My mom joined me, kneeling beside me and wiped the dust away ever so carefully, and explained to me what it was. "Ma tante Alice" ( "my aunt" in French) made this for "Memere and Pepere" (her mother and father's) 50th Wedding Anniversary in 1952. She explained that it was a story that her sister had written (in both senses of the word) to give to her parents as a gift.

I could not read at the time nor did I know much French. But it was not what it said, but how it looked, that fascinated me. Letters going in all directions, beautiful swirls and decorations around the letters, gold and red accents, cut paper borders and fancy corners . . . I was in LOVE!

After that, I would visit this masterpiece often, studying the tiniest details, following the margins, counting the stanzas, admiring the concept of writing beautifully. At that time, I only learned how to write properly . . . not beautifully. This was another world, and I wanted to go there.

From then on, most of my art included letters of some sort. My idea of fancy and beautiful morphed over time, but my passion never ceased. I studied mostly on my own, having taken a few classes with Michael Sull, a penman from Kansas.

My Aunt Alice, was actually called "Sister Maria Fidelis," a Presentation of Mary nun. None of us knew her as anything but a nun. She was always "Aunt Alice the nun" because we had another aunt named Alice who was not a nun (but, this is too funny, as I had not really thought about it in a long time, but this other Aunt Alice actually once had been a nun, then came out of the order, and at the age of 40, married my uncle and proceeded to have four children! Really! You couldn't make this up . . . but I digress . . . )

Not only did "ma tante Alice the nun" give me my name (another story!), she was my "MUSE."

A "muse," according to the dictionaries on this computer, was originally a female who inspired creativity. I am guessing maybe, way back then, women could inspire, but not create(?). Muse eventually became more generally "the source of an artist's inspiration," "creative influence" or "stimulus."

Eventually, after my parents passed, and the "family treasures" were distributed among us, I chose to take this piece home with me. It hangs in my studio as a constant reminder of where I came from.

So, what has this got to do with all of you?

The piece of art that inspired me was not the work of an Old Master. It was not the work of a professional artist, or a world renowned calligrapher. It was a simple, humble, work done with limited materials and expertise, but with unlimited love and passion. In an antique bazaar, someone might purchase it only for the frame, but this piece directed the course of my life.

What role of "muse" might your Zentangle creations play for others whose urge to create is yearning to be sparked, but who may think they are not artists? How might your work change the lives of people you will never meet . . . a chance glance over your shoulder in a restaurant . . . a sighting in a friend of a friend's home . . . a five-year-old's first vision of a tangle . . . ?

You have no idea where or how you will influence the lives of others. You do not have to wait for some predefined level of accomplishment for your creativity to have an impact. You do not have to create like daVinci, or Picasso, or Rembrandt to make a difference. (And even if you could, wouldn't that be more like copying instead of creating? Only you can create like you can create!) And when your creation is out there, there's no way to predict when and where it will strike that chord in someone that will resonate throughout his or her life.

So as we begin this new year, don't wait . . . Create!


Dear tanglers, who was your "muse"?

Please tell us a little about them.

We will choose a few commenters at random and send them a piece of my lettering and tangles because, well, I still LOVE to write. Just for the pleasure of it all. 

Oh yes, the winners chosen from commenters on our twelfth "12 Days of Christmas" blog post, are:
  • Dana Jones
  • bobbi j.
  • patsy

Congratulations! Winners, please send your snail mail address to Zentangle (at) gmail (dot) com.

With all best wishes for a wonderful New Year!

Rick, Maria, and all of us at Zentangle HQ!

Sunday, December 13, 2015

On the twelfth day of Christmas, Bijou gifted me,

A deck full of Bijou philosophies.

With passion and gratitude we bring our 2015 twelve-day series to a close.

We trust that you all had a chance to enjoy each day as we challenged ourselves to create beautiful things using the Zentangle Method and with items we found around our home.

More importantly it gave us an opportunity to slow down, to breathe through our thoughts, and to focus on the hidden gems that Zentangle has allowed us to discover. We of course thank Bijou for coming out of his shell to share these zentiments with us. With confidence he has shown us how to admire and appreciate all of the deliberate strokes that we, as Zentangle artists, put down as we as speak in tangles and take comfort in a place where the string’s the thing.

We can relax knowing we are all supported by a global community, where there are no mistakes, where you can always choose your tangles, and in the end leave yourself a moment or two to enjoy the shade.

Bijou, and now Alfie, have shown us how to savor the little things as much as much as the big things. Trust your inner artist and spend some a moment or two during this busy time of year to embellish your own visions and to inspire others just as Alfie and Bijou have done for us.

This has been such fun occasion to deconstruct our journey and to reflect on the memories that are beautiful and beyond.

Alfie says, "Thank you Bijou, for Bijouisms 1-24!"


Complete sets of Bijouisms are now available here

More info and ideas in this newsletter.


Winning, randomly chosen commenters from the Eleventh Day:

  • Angelia Lanouette
  • Jackie CZT 8
  • Mamie P.

Congratulations! Winners, please send your snail mail address to Zentangle (at) gmail (dot) com.

Thanks again for all your wonderful comments over these past few days!

With all our best wishes to you and yours for this holiday season and the coming year,

All of us at Zentangle HQ!

Saturday, December 12, 2015

On the eleventh day of Christmas, Bijou gave to me,

A reflection for my Christmas tree.


Molly writes:
Ahhhh . . . I love spending a moment here and there to look back at a time or experience that shaped me into who I am today. I didn't look up the definition of "reflect," but I always think of it as a pleasant action. I see it as a poignant way of thinking about those priceless moments that make up my past and my present.

I appreciate how a fleeting sensory experience – a smell, a sound, a glimpse of an old toy – can trigger a memory and take me back in time to a deep moment of reflection. I have noticed that my Zentangle practice seems to enhance these moments of reflection. I also find that I often remember situations differently from what might have actually happened.

What I find so great about reflecting is that I can choose which memories to focus on. I have learned so many things from my mother, but one thing I always admired was that she only seems to have room for the good memories in her brain. Ask her if I or my siblings ever did anything wrong as children and she'll say, "No, they really were perfect."

She might be on to something! To be able to deliberately REFLECT (on) the good times, the accomplishments, and the beautiful people we were so lucky to know is an overlooked gift.

Alfie is spending a moment looking back at the last ten days and appreciating how much fun he had learning about the Zentangle Method from his new friend, Bijou. He is so grateful for the gift of discovering a creative side he never knew he had.

Rick adds:
I wonder now if it was such a good idea to show Alfie how to use that two-sided tape . . . he's sticking stuff everywhere!

I also think it's quite symbolic that Alfie taped his tiles to a mirror. Tiles that you tangle, like a mirror, also offer a reflection.

We encourage you to take your tiles out from time to time and re-appreciate them, read the comments on the back, arrange and rearrange them in mosaics.

Often, in such moments of reflection, I will notice something valuable that I didn't see when I first created the tile. The experience is like re-reading a journal entry, but it's a journal entry that isn't limited to the perspective I had when I first put my thoughts and feelings into those words.

So, take a moment and look through your earlier tiles. Reflect . . . and appreciate!


And while we are talking about reflection . . . we thought we would give you a chance to reflect on our original Twelve Days of Christmas ATC project from two years ago. For those of you who missed it, enjoy! For those of you that were following along, take another look, you may find comfort and joy in seeing things again with new (Zentangle) eyes.

This LINK will get you started. Enjoy!


Winning, randomly chosen commenters from the Tenth Day:

  • deborah lee
  • luvhymns 
  • nanw 

Congratulations! Winners, please send your snail mail address to Zentangle (at) gmail (dot) com.

Thanks again for all your wonderful comments!

Rick, Maria, Bijou, Molly, and Alfie 

Friday, December 11, 2015

On the tenth day of Christmas,

Bijou gave to me, 
some thoughts on creativity.


Molly emails Rick:
Just found this . . . not sure if you want to include it in the blog today.

Actually not sure what it is from – it just appeared in my photos. Weird.
Rick writes:
Those synchronicities happen a lot around here. That "B" which Molly found is an illuminated letter (gold leaf) that Maria and I tangled as we gave a keynote speech at the Craft and Hobby Association convention in Anaheim, California, a couple years ago. Thanks, Molly!

Maria and I recently traveled to Taiwan and Malaysia for a series of book-signings and lectures. The trip was beyond wonderful – full of amazing and beautiful people and beautiful patterns. It was a thrill and honor and we continue to bask in the memories.

On our last day in Taipei, Taiwan, we got up early to get ready for our trip to the airport to come home. Wanting to savor every precious moment there, I walked across the street to the Shandao Temple a bit before 6AM. As I climbed the steps, I could hear the monks were already singing as the subtle incense greeted me. I was the only other person there. I sat down to absorb a few last minutes of that atmosphere.

I watched my thoughts go to the topic of service. I thought about "service to others" vs. "service to self." But I was not comfortable with that dichotomy. Then the phrase, "service to creation" crossed my mind and I promptly reached into my pocket for pen and paper and wrote, "Serve creation by creating!" Ahh, I felt our trip was complete and I walked back to the hotel for our ride to the airport.

To create is, by definition, in harmony with creation. Once creativity begins to flow, it feels as if all creation supports that event. As someone described, it's like "stepping into the slipstream of creation." 

"mamie p" wrote in the comments to yesterday's "Come out of your shell" post, "Sometimes the hardest part of coming out of my shell is making that first stroke . . . then the rest comes to take the final step of admiration and enjoyment."

Thank you. That is so profound.

Our invitation to all of you is to make that first stroke.

One of the gifts of the Zentangle Method is that it sets up a comfortable "elegance of limits" within which you can do just that, without worry or self-criticism.

And once you create that first beautiful mark, you're there . . . in that inspiring, gentle, resonant flow of creativity – of creation. And you realize that you can be there . . . whenever and wherever you want.

Maria writes:
I am a true believer in fate. In fact, fate inserts itself ​into my life so often, that I can't even tell anyone about it anymore lest they think I have fallen off my "twilight zone" rocker. Little things appear on a regular basis out of nowhere and just make my life ever so . . . interesting.

When Molly came to me and said we were doing these Twelve Days of Bijou, I thought, "OMG, this is way too much work for this time of year!" But as usual, I listen to my children, like a dutiful child. And, I have always been glad I did.

These ornaments are practically making themselves. We have not bought one special thing to do this project. All "stuff" we found around the house. Snippets of ribbons, string, tchotchkes, and trinkets – hiding out at the bottom of forgotten drawers and sewing baskets. Useless pieces of old jewelry and broken ornaments practically appeared as needed.

This morning, I remembered a tin of broken tea cups I have been keeping, thinking that someday I would use them for "something." My Dad (an angel, for sure) had given me some fabulous old tea cups that belonged to his mom. They did not have much, so these were really valuable to me. One day, they broke – a long story, but I cried all day.

As soon as I thought of those broken cups, I ran into my sewing/ironing/dressing room and grabbed a piece. Just holding it in my hands was a thrill: I had never before so appreciated the patterns, raised braille-like and illuminated with gold on the white china. Spectacular! (And Alfie's fav, too.)

Again, the concept of the "elegance of limits" came to mind. Like days gone by, people would make things out of other things. They had no craft stores to run to, no books on what to make with bits of rawhide or pottery shards. They saved everything because that's what they had to work with. And I believe those limited supplies inspired them do things they otherwise never would have – rag dolls, re-fashioned bicycles, clothing out of old clothing . . .

Molly and I were determined to CREATE using found (albeit around the house) objects. And what better a found object than that piece of cup?

Creativity was my best friend growing up. It never left my side. It would wake me in the night; cause my brain to explode in the middle of church. It also made me comfortable to be alone at times, even in a household bustling with numerous siblings, and later on, my kids. Creativity was the biggest gift in my lifetime. Was it handed down to me? Or was I just born this way? Aren't we all born this way?

However you come to it or it comes to you, or when, Please, Please, don't let it get away. Don't let it fade. Hold onto it with all you got. 


This is our gift to you. It is your gift to yourself. Treasure it!

If you don't believe you are capable of it, just pick up a piece of paper and start to tangle.

There it is . . . see it?

Feel it?

It's lovely. Really, just lovely.


Winning, randomly chosen commenters from the Ninth Day:
  • Kimmie 
  • Chrissie Frampton 
  • Laura Carpenter 

Congratulations! Winners, please send your snail mail address to Zentangle (at) gmail (dot) com.

Thanks again for all your wonderful comments!

Rick, Maria, Bijou, Molly, and Alfie 

Thursday, December 10, 2015

On the ninth day of Christmas,

Bijou (and friend) created for me, a jewel for my Christmas tree!

Molly writes:

One of the things I have enjoyed most about being a Certified Zentangle Teacher is watching all the creative souls "come out of their shells."

Bijou encourages us to do this of course and because it is something he, too, has had to learn. I love seeing someone create something beautiful that is completely unique and then recognize it as something wonderful.

I love to watch each student's journey as they draw their strokes – one at a time – slowly and deliberately. I watch them escape into their own worlds with such focus.

When they have put their final touches on that tile, I invite them to hold their tile at arm's length and admire their work. Then, I watch a smile appear on their face as they say, "I did that!"

It is crazy and true that anyone can discover their artist within . . . you just have to give yourself a chance to "come out of your shell."


Rick writes:
Bijou's friend apparently did just that!

Inspired by all these blog posts, he found his way onto Maria's tangled blotter on her desk, grabbed some tools and tiles, and came out of his shell . . . just in time to tangle a tiny tile for today's ornament.


Maria writes:
Many of you commented on our little buddy in the photos. "Alfie" was a gift from my sister Sue many years ago, way before the "Elf on the Shelf" thingy. I think he's kind of cute. He's loving his role in these "12 Days of Bijou."

The ornament du jour, is made from: 3 Bijou tiles, a Bijouism, a snippet of fine hand-dyed silk ribbon, and an orphaned earring. First, I cut two slits in the top tile with my trusty Exacto® knife. Then, I slid the second tile (the one with Bijou in the middle) into the slit and stuck another tile to the back of the bottom tile with double sided tape. Then I stuck a Bijouism to the back of the top tile and punched a hole on the top for the ribbon and another on the bottom for the earring.

I tangled the tiles after I assembled them, But you could go either way.

Oh yeah . . . I added Alfie's 3/4" tile (which Julie helped him with).


Winning commenters from Day Eight:

  • Antonine Koval 
  • Jean Chaney 
  • Kellie May

Congratulations! Winners, please send your snail mail address to Zentangle (at) gmail (dot) com.

Thanks again for all your wonderful comments!

Rick, Maria, Bijou, Molly, Alfie, and Julie

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

On the eighth day of Christmas, Bijou whispered to me . . .

. . . a suggestion to present be.


Molly writes:
I see it more and more – buttons, bags, signs, and apparel touting this message or something of the sort – "Be present" "Be in the moment" "Just be" – but what does that mean?

I am present. I cannot possibly be the past or be the future? Can I? Of course not.

But the truth is, our minds often wander to another place or time that is not in the present here and now. We hash over what has already happened, as if we can change it. We worry about what might happen next, as if we can predict it. And, we miss what is happening at this red hot (chili pepper) moment.

Nowadays, it's also too easy to spend so much time calling, texting, photographing, and posting an experience that we miss the actual experience. What if we could reset our clocks to the present time zone and fully participate in our journeys as we are experiencing them?

I have found that creating Zentangle art resets this clock for me. It slows me down as I focus on the one stroke at hand. I don't focus on the one I made before and I cannot predict how the next one will go. I certainly cannot do all three! If I tried, it would jeopardize the quality of it all.

When I purely focus on the one stroke at hand, as if it is the only one there is, something beautiful happens. I then move on to the next with that same intention and in that way, I get more out of each moment.

This has trickled into my life too. I find myself more aware of where I am and who I'm with. I'm also less likely to overbook myself which just results in my rushing to the next event, not able to enjoy where (and when) I am. Also, by not trying to capture every memory on a camera, I can enjoy the moment more. Now, I pocket my phone when I am with others.

And whenever I discover that, once again, I've forgotten where when I am, I say to myself, "Time to do a little tangling to reset my clock!"

Cheers to being present – now and everywhen!


Maria writes:
This is a fun project for sure. The trick is to find a glass or vase with fairly straight sides and not much pattern in the glass.

Molly had this idea. She held the tiles while Julie poured in some wild rice.

You could also use white rice or lentils or black beans, but dry please! Noah had given me this "bouquet" of hot peppers ('cause I love all things spicy). You don't want to put live flowers or plants in the rice. Dried flowers, or even a branch from your yard would do. (You could hang more Bijou tiles from the branches!)

Have fun!


Winners from Day Seven:
  • Lady Dragoness 
  • Charchick 
  • Hazel Shepherd

Congratulations! Winners, please send your snail mail address to Zentangle (at) gmail (dot) com.

We're all having so much fun with this . . . thank you for all your wonderful comments!

Rick, Maria, Bijou, Molly, and Julie 

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

On the seventh day of Christmas, Bijou told to me . . .

. . . Tidings of

in wreaths for my Christmas tree.

Rick writes:
I love to explore the uses and origins of words – particularly common words that we never think about any more than a fish thinks about water. What is behind the spells they cast and the sentences they pronounce?
For instance, take "comfort." 

This word is based on the Late Latin (3rd to 6th centuries AD) confortare "to strengthen greatly," from com- (expressing intensive force) plus Latin fortis "strong." Sounds a lot like how we use the word "empower" today. Later, in the mid 17th century, the meaning shifted toward describing something producing physical ease.

Then, we have . . .

One of the many definitions of "enjoy" is "to take pleasure in." This traces back to the Old French enjoir which in turn comprises en- "make" plus joir "enjoy," from the Latin gaudere, or "rejoice" – essentially "make-rejoice." (Which reminds me of the beautiful film about Tasha Tudor called "Take Joy.")

So, what's my take on all this? That over time "comfort" and "enjoy" shifted from actions one deliberately did, to experiences one passively received. I think that Bijou's choice of these two words is a suggestion to consider the original active, empowering meanings of these important words.

Creating Zentangle art is active. You choose and make each stroke. You discover an ability to create. You also can discover an ability to deliberately take comfort and enjoy.

O tidings of Comfort, Enjoy . . . Comfort, Enjoy . . . in-deed!

Maria writes:
This ornament was brought to you by Martha and Molly. Molly carefully cut (with a nice sharp) Exacto® knife around a few leaves of Martha's verdigogh and some of my munchin – just enough to slide the Bijouisms into the tiles. Then she attached the tiles back to back with the ribbon in between with double-sided tape.

The gold star was a piece of a wall-hanging the other half of which (a crescent moon) broke years ago. I really loved that thing, so the star stayed with us, wandering from place to place until it found its new home here. The bead is an African black bead with polka dots that I just love. I use them everywhere. I bought a few strings of them at an antique bazaar a few years back.

Winning commenters for the 6th Day of Bijou:
  • Dana Jones 
  • Jennifer Postly 
  • Carol Graham 

Congratulations and would you three please send your snail mail address to Zentangle (at) gmail (dot) com.

Once again, many thanks for all your wonderful comments!

Rick, Maria, Bijou, Molly, and Martha