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A Zentangle Origin Story

A Zentangle Origin Story

Some of you may know the story of how Zentangle got started.  (Or, not!)  But today I would like to tell you a few things that perhaps you didn’t know. 

When Zentangle presented itself to us, Rick and I had  been together for about a year or so. We were excited about everything in our lives. (We still are!) We loved our work, our family, our home, our town, our friends.  Each day brought more for us to be grateful for. 

Then, it happened. We were gifted this new “thing” in our life, not sure what to make of it . . . but, for sure, we both knew it was important and could not be ignored.

I absolutely loved my work as a full-time calligrapher. I was creating beautiful things and making people happy. It was always a labor of love. And with Rick now working with me in my stationery company, life was great.

So, why was I questioning my life all of a sudden? When Zentangle presented itself to me and Rick, we both knew right away it was important. How could I say I was grateful for this amazing life and not do anything about it. Maybe Zentangle was shown to us as a way for me (and Rick) to show how grateful we were.  The instant we realized there was nothing stopping us from dedicating our lives to this, we quit our day jobs and only looked ahead with no hesitation. 

What was missing in my life was to do something important, something essential, to find some way to give back.  Even more than that (can there even be more?) we get to give others this gift of giving this Zentangle gift as well. Each time a Certified Zentangle Teacher (CZT) teaches a class; each time a Zentangle enthusiast shares with a friend how the Zentangle Method works, you get the same you that we get.

And I think that's something important.

And that’s it. That’s all I wanted to share with you today.  It came to me in my dreams, and I could not not listen.

We’d love to give this tile away, I did it while I was thinking how to write this story.
Raised gold leaf, ink, gelly, and

Leave your thoughts below and we will choose a name at random from the commenters on this blog.


Maria Thomas


  • Zentangle has brought me so much joy and friendship both with students and this amazing community of CZT’s. it has also brought me a way of calming myself with the seas get rough. Thank you!

    Lorraine Thomson (CZT 15) on

  • I LOVE the story of how you and Rick discovered how Zentangle had been sitting right under your noses, and how you grasped instantly how vital it was to get clear about how to share it. I love how you dropped everything in your lives to create this method. I share the story with every class I teach, and love hearing more details, bit by bit. It’s like you’re continually polishing a precious gem, one facet at a time.
    There’s a glowing web of love and gratitude encircling our planet connecting tanglers globally.
    Thank you

    Mary Bartrop CZT13 & 34 on

  • I’m so grateful for this beautiful thing you’ve created called Zentangle. It does bring me so much joy to have a student come away relaxed and pleasantly surprised at what they’ve created. The joy keeps on going!

    Deb Turnipseed on

  • I enjoyed your thoughts today. Especially where you get to give to others something they can give to others. I do not know the story of how you found Zentangle and changed your life. Is there somewhere I can find the story? I would love to hear it. It is so amazing and fun and the difference it’s made in so many lives is awesome.

    Cynthia on

  • We’re all so lucky that Zentangle came into being. A fabulous origin story – thank you so much for sharing it.
    Zentangle had helped me through all sorts of ups and downs in the last 10 years, and I’m sure it will continue to do so for many, many more!

    Claire on

  • This story touches me very much! Thank you so much! I appreciate the Tangler community so much and it’s like a family that lives all over the world. Zentangle is a gift! I am now diligently saving on my own CZT training and am already looking forward to meeting great new zentangle contacts. Stay healthy! Many greetings from Germany

    Anna on

  • Thanks so much! Zentangle came to me through a friend in 2010, 7 months after my husband died. As a career graphic designer and artist, Zentangle literally brought me and my art back to life. ❤️

    Bev McCarthy on

  • There is a beautiful lesson here about holding on to things that happen that are right for you. For me – Meeting my husband and becoming engaged after a week of spending time together. Going back to college after thirty years and becoming a teacher. Adopting a rescue dog with a disability. And, on a different scale (or perhaps not), taking an introductory Zentangle workshop after meeting and speaking with a CZT at an art show. I knew there was an artist inside me (and I do believe everyone has one, many waiting to be awakened), and t is a wonderful experience getting to know her. Thank you for holding on to that thing that was right for you. It continues to bring joy around the world.

    Peyton on

  • i love everything about zentangle, the stories, tangles the tiles, you two. just all of it. every since i found zentangle i have been addicted. i shared it with my mother and she was beginning to do tangles while she watched tv in the evenings. unfortunately, she passed but in her passing i was able to come to whitinsville and go to the czt training. i believe we were the last class-czt6-to be in the diocese youth home and it was so cool!! i had the time of my life and i have been tangling ever since. the thing that is sad to me is that my mother is the one who would get the biggest kick out of my #funwithpapertape!! and i can’t share it with her but she would be happy to know that she was the one that enabled me to do it!! lacey

    lacey on

  • In the blink of an eye, the space of a breath, our whole world shifted, didn’t it? My classes were cancelled at Arts and Rec, my students left high and dry. And there was an ache in that place of mosaic and community. Within the space of a week I was off and zooming. Suddenly I was offering beta classes, seeing if this mode would offer something to fill the hole. 3/4ths of my advanced class have joined me online and signed up for ongoing sessions. Another class has formed out of nowhere for beginners, about 12 of them. But here’s the thing. When I’ve connected with them online I can feel the fear, the energy that crackles as each searches to settle down, to be included, to connect and not feel isolated. I will touch them all in some way, shape or form. What a gift you have given us, Maria and Rick. This earth, this beautiful blue planet is in need of healing. All of us, each teacher, will have an impact. One soul at a time with one stroke at a time. Thank you dear ones.

    Elaine Wegenka on

  • I’m new to Zentangle and learning so much every day. It allows me to be creative and relax. Your story is inspiring and I can’t believe I just found it in November 2019. Hope some day to have budget to take CZT class. Hugs!

    Beth on

  • Listening to and with your heart is so powerful. I am so grateful, Maria and Rick, that you listen to yours. Zentangle is the best thing that ever happened to me. I also appreciate that you have shared a way for me, and so many others, to share it with the world. Did you ever imagine that Zentangle would become the global healthy “virus” that it has? In its own very positive way, Zentangle is a good kind of pandemic to get swept up in. Especially in these frightening and uncertain times, I prefer to refer to my sheltering in place as “Artist in Residence”. THANK YOU, from the bottom of my heart, for the best cure for stress and anxiety there is! Your generosity is truly boundless.

    Candyce Anderson, CZT 15

    Candyce Anderson on

  • Zentangle is truly the gift that keeps on giving! It came into my life when it was really needed. Since then I have enjoyed passing this gift on to so many others. Thank you Rick and Maria for giving of yourselves and the wonderful gift of Zentangle…I can’t imagine my life without it! xoxo

    Kim VanZyll CZT16 on

  • When I was a child, I doodled in the margins of everything. In high school I was introduced to pen and ink lettering and fell in love. I began to do calligraphy for gifts and commissions but now, at the age of 70, I find my arthritic hands have diminished my abilities. Zentangle has proven to be a perfect outlet for my creativity and doesn’t mind my elderly hands one bit. As a bonus, I find zentangle has found its way into my quilting. Thank you for shining a light on this beautiful and happy art form. God bless.

    sharon butera on

  • What a gift! Thanks for sharing your art method with us, which then means the world! We are reaching so many people, and especially now with all the stressors in our lives, it’s even more important. I’ve been tangling daily and it certainly helps me feel more centered and grounded. Thank you so much. We are grateful to YOU, Rick and all the Zentangle folks!

    Stay well

    Deb Bowyer on

  • The daily gift of centering that Zentangle offers has taken me to thresholds that I might not have found otherwise. Thanks you for providing a vehicle for exploring the subtle subconscious!♡♡♡

    Sandra Silvestro on

  • Thank you for the very positive and beautiful message of Zentangle!

    I am grateful to share init❤️

    Barb Mavraganis on

  • Thank you for sharing your story. What a beautiful inspiration!

    Paulette KIrschensteiner on

  • Maria and Rick……….you followed your heart and it was good……in many ways.

    Barbara Paolucci on

  • Thanks so much Maria and Rick for sharing your dream with us! ❤️

    Erinlea LIght on

  • It is an amazing story! And today it is connecting people all over the world when we maybe need it the most. I live in the countryside and where I am we don’t have the same intensity of the Corona virus. Yet. But we have it and we that are 70 or older shouldn’t have any social connections. The Zentangle method is giving so many so much joy and comfort these days. We are a bunch of CZT:s out on Instagram giving free classes and these classes are much bigger than we ever had! It is giving us so much in return! It makes me happy!

    Anita A Westin on

  • Rick and Maria,

    Because of you, I have been able to change and enhance the lives of many people!

    During my ‘Zentangle Travels’, I’ve seen many people comment on how they use Zentangle to help them get through a mental health condition, recovery during a trying time, empty nest syndrome, depression….the list goes on and on.

    What a gift. What a legacy.

    Thank you both!


    Debbie Barry on

  • Maria and Rick, I’m certain you already know how inspiring your story is! And it never gets old. I’ve been sharing it at every Basic class I have ever taught over the past eight years and almost daily as I introduce people to Zentangle in my shop/studio and on my CZT social media page. I am grateful beyond words for this wonderful treasure I can share with others anywhere and anytime. Hugs and blessings from Canada and most of all stay safe!

    Brenda Shaver on

  • I have never been more thankful for Zentangling than now! What a super way to spend our safe days at home. I’ve been reaching out to there’s to give them this art form as a therapy for their anxiousness in these times. Thank you for all of work and effort

    Brenda DeBock on

  • I’m really not surprised to read this, Maria and Rick. It’s beautiful and special but it was so meant to be. Most of us found you in our own surprising way and we just ‘knew’ too. So inspiring, so giving. I’m so glad you found it and it found you. And at this difficult time, it’s more than clear that the world needs an unselfish, reassuring and life-affirming activity that only makes us feel better. Thank you. Axxx

    Annie Taylor on

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