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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


  • When I started to learn Zentangle, the calmness it brought me was a godsend. And now more than ever, with restrictions due to a pandemic, and my own health, that same calmness invokes a coping mechanism. The simple “one stroke at a time” mantra repeats itself in my mind, underlying every task, and I know getting through each day is easier. I have been lucky enough to show others that same coping strategy, and it reminds me again of your artform, simplicity of pen to paper.

    Ginger White CZT34 on

  • I’m very thankful Ihave learned Zentangle Method. When I first time started tangling , loved it so much and wow! I could draw something, create something beautiful!!! And now, as I’m a CZT, Iam helping people letting them experiencd what I’ve experienced! thank you guys at ZTHQ ❤

    Cher Chang CZT#19, Taiwan on

  • I love everything Zentangle, but most of all the love and light that you and Rick shine out into this world. Namaste.

    Georgi on

  • Thank you for the lovely post. I was aware of Zentangle for a few years but about half a year ago I started participating. For the past 7 1/2 years or so I’ve been recovering from several traumas & Zentangle is helping me in many ways. I’m very grateful for your gifts. 💝

    Rimona Gale on

  • I’m so glad you found each other. You and your family are beautiful together and and have done great work! I’m glad to have known you since we had babies….a few years ago! ❤️ Letty

    Letty Wheelock on

  • Even in times like these, you’ve given us something to be grateful for. I’ve learned the Zentangle method from books and videos for many years now and was able to take some classes locally this last year. I was scheduled to attend CZT#35. I’m disappointed of course, but your Zentangle method has taught us to accept and push on when the unexpected occurs. Thank you!

    Cheryl Velker on

  • When I was thinking about retirement a few years ago I knew I was going give myself a gift – a new hobby or activity. I don’t even know how I found Zentangle- I think probably I was searching for how to develop patterns- teaching myself. I saw Zentangle and knew this was it! I found a CZT and went to town! I am CZT34 and would not know how I would be coping now if it weren’t for Zentangle. Thank you!

    Della Lamm on

  • When I was thinking about retirement a few years ago I knew I was going give myself a gift – a new hobby or activity. I don’t even know how I found Zentangle- I think probably I was searching for how to develop patterns- teaching myself. I saw Zentangle and knew this was it! I found a CZT and went to town! I am CZT34 and would not know how I would be coping now if it weren’t for Zentangle. Thank you!

    Della Lamm on

  • I absolutely love sharing this “love story” with my students! You have both been a blessing in my life and I am ever so grateful! God bless you! ❤️

    Zenner on

  • Thank you for this great story of the origin of Zentangle. I have noticed there is one big difference between calligraphy and Zentangle. As for calligraphy, you need to try to write as expected, while Zentangle is more forgiving and any outcome is accepted. No CZTs correct students’ tiles. We all appreciate and enjoy the outcome and the mosaic! Thank you for creating Zentangle. I couldn’t stand this difficult situation without it. Please stay healthy!

    Hiroko Matsuo CZT32 on

  • During this time of crisis, your inspiration continues to touch people across states and countries!! I’m so honored to be teaching free zentangle twice a week and connecting with more people each week and the class tells their friends and they tell their friends!! It gives me something productive to do!!!

    Gretchen Rayburn on

  • Thank you for your beautiful work and wonderful words of inspiration!

    Berit on

  • I discovered zentangle wandering through Pinterest while waiting in a Doctor’s office. I immediately went to the website and I was hooked. Always too distracted to meditate, this was the perfect solution to slowing down, releasing my creativity and expressing how grateful I was for all the strange twists and turns my life had taken in the last year. Now, during these strange and scary times I am grateful for embracing zentangle. Every day during our daily briefing from our Governor, I tangle, this calms me while listening to the horrible news I’m grateful that myself, my family and friends are safe and I can create some beauty in these strange days.

    Kathleen WIktor on

  • Lovely story of inspiration. I am a calligrapher and have used your tangles in some of my work. Please continue to inspire and fuel our artistic talents. Thank you ❤️

    Barbara on

  • As a fellow calligrapher, I was initially enthralled to see this fantastic method and how it can interact with letters. Now I continue to constantly learn just how much more it can intermingle with as well – always an adventure, a treat, a thing of beauty and an accomplishment!
    All of you at Zentangle HQ have provided the gift that keeps giving…in so very many ways! Thank you!

    Shawna Oertley on

  • Did it really come to you in a dream? Like “Yesterday” did for Paul McCartney? I love dream creativity. It gives us a glimpse of what we are truly capable of, the magic in our heads. Thanks for sharing your vision with us. I know it has made my life sweeter.

    Susan Browning on

  • I already was grateful for having Zentangle in my life. But now, with all the craziness going on I am even more grateful for it. It keeps me grounded and sane and reminds me to take every day at a time…one stroke at a time. Thank you, Rick and Maria, for bringing Zentangle into my world.

    Doris Bisschop on

  • Inspiring story, glsf you both to a leap of faith. Enjoy following Molly’s vocal instructions, it’s a fun surprise at the end of the session. Thank you all for sharing your talents so generously!


  • Since social distancing, Zentangle has played a big part of staying sane and being creative without having to drag tons of stuff and (and then have to clean it up). I love the voice guided tangling Molly is doing and it has made me braver in taking risks. I am so grateful to be sharing this with others and watching the practice impact lives so positively. Thanks!

    Betsy on

  • Before we begin every class we talk about the beginning of Zentangle….the story of Rick and Maria and how Zentangle came to you. Thank you for following your heart and allowing all of is to share in this wonderful adventure!

    Barbara Walton-Faria on

  • I’m very grateful for all those lovely examples you share with us. Zentangle art is such a pleasant and wonderfull way to discover that we all can do it, share with each others and of course having a nice relaxing time while drawing. Especially in these weird times, Zentangle art can help us trough this awful period. Thank you Maria!

    Ria Joris-Matheussen on

  • All I can say is thank goodness for Zentangle during this difficult time. It gets me through the day and night and I have something beautiful to show for it in the end!

    Dennie York on

  • I relocated to a new state just before the Coronavirus forced us all to stay indoors. My new house needs much TLC, so I spend my days painting and unpacking and rearranging shelves and tables and Zentangle supplies. I’m holding the energy that brought me to this place, envisioning the day I can again offer Zentangle classes and gather a group of growth-minded new friends. The magic of Zentangle has informed my life in countless ways since taking the training 9 years ago, Thank you for sharing your gifts from spirit with so many.

    Kerry Bowes CZT6 on

  • Zentangle has really opened my creativity back up. I was feeling stymied after my husband passed last year. I had taken zentangle classes some years ago, but didn’t do much with it. I took some classes a year ago with a different teacher, who I love, and am now captivated. I do a tangle almost every day and could spend most of my time doing them, but life intervenes – somebody has to get dinner!! This has spilled over into the rest of my life – my gardens are particularly benefiting!! Thanks so much for being the spark of inspiration and sharing it with the world.

    Deborah Alborell on

  • Oh how I love to hear this story. The first time I heard it was at Kripalu in 2015, remember it snowed right at the end of the retreat and you told us all to turn around and look out the windows as we were unaware. Afterwards a few of us students were talking with you, I was waiting to ask you when you knew this was important, and without my asking you said “And we immediately knew it was important!” Indeed what a gift you were given. I’m so glad you received it so enthusiastically, opened it up layer by layer and continue to share it with the world. Four seminars and two ZenAgains later, I’m still enthusiastically sharing the gift with as many people around the world as I can and with small groups in my home. Happy tangling and much gratitude. Stay well.

    Sandy Kelley-Jones CZT on

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