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Elegance of Limits

Elegance of Limits

Molly writes...


In Project Pack 06, we brought forward the discussion and intention of one of the most profound philosophies of the Zentangle Method, “No Mistakes.” We told a story of an experience that Maria had years ago as a platform to discuss the No Mistakes philosophy. You can learn more about this story through project pack 06, but the gist of the story is that she encountered an unfortunate scenario with a very much-treasured journal. She was put into a situation where she had choices about how she could look at the situation. Some might call this perspective. We have all been in situations where things don’t go exactly as we planned. Some days, one might say we encounter so-called good luck and others we encounter so-called bad luck. What if that was not exactly the case? In one of my favorite books, Zen Shorts by Jon J. Muth, he writes about this topic through story. In one of his stories the main character perceives every scenario of what others see, as clearly bad luck, he sees as potential good luck. Patience, time and creativity can give us the superpower of seeing through difficult situations. A change in perspective is not an act. It is deep down belief. It comes from within. And once activated, it is like seeing every experience in your world with new eyes.


We took inspiration for Maria’s story in designing the mini journals found in Project Pack 06. Each booklet was an expressive version of Maria’s accidently ink soaked journal. We were not trying to recreate a so-called “mistake”, but rather using the story’s result as an exercise to shift our perspective. We also wanted to offer a challenge in the way we look at what we have or are given to work with, rather than hoping or wanting something different than what is presented. If we are always wishing how things could be different or better, we find ourselves in a constant space of discontent. When we are able to shift that energy to a place of contentment where we see the beauty and potential in what is given or presented, our outlook and experiences are much different.


When creating these journals I actually made prototype mini booklets and dipped a side of the journal in puddles of ink and let it sit and soak it up. There was no planning or manipulation of how the ink would sit on each page. Once the ink dried we disassembled the books and photographed the image the ink left behind. We created different books and within each version, the pages of those books had unique expressions. Some pages filled with more ink than others and all of them coming from different parts of the books. Our intent was for the end user to have in front of them something not so sculpted. We deliberately wanted people to be potentially forced to use different pages than those seen in the video tutorials. And most importantly, we wanted the pages to offer you the challenge of taking your book and making it yours by filling it with your marks, and in the end, to see the beauty within it all. Whether you see it on the pages or in the process, it is all yours. This book offers what we call in the Zentangle Method, the elegance of limits. With subtle parameters our creativity is forced into a space where it can grow, thrive and think outside the box. It is amazing what masterpieces are born from places of the not so perfect or restricted.


In the case of all the art created by Project Pack 06 that I have seen, I must say that all of them, whether in one of our books are on other materials, were beautiful specimens of awesome. And true evidence of artists working through limitations. Regardless if you are in a place seeing beauty all the time or still working through to that place, I applaud you for making it this far and I can tell you this journey continues and it is a wonderful place to be.

Thank you for joining us!

Molly Hollibaugh

23 comments

  • No mistakes packet is just wonderfull, brought us a lot more possibilties, I have learnt again a lot, thank you all so much!!!

    Matheussen Ria on

  • No Mistakes project pack has been my favorite tangle project so far, I really enjoyed the challenge to work outside the box! While I would have liked more black ink in my journal, I accepted the challenge to create my own art. The videos kept me inspired. We had to make the decision to put down our dog Lucy during this time and the tangling really helped me during this sad time to accept another challenge in life. Thank you so much for the inspiration and all the work you put into these fun art projects, I look forward to the next one!
    Are the inked journals available for purchase, they tuck easily into even my smallest handbag!

    SUSAN M PAGANO on

  • Thanks so much for reminding me to accept what is. I find that often when I resist what is, I suffer.

    Leslie Hancock on

  • Since I became a CZT some years ago, I have developed a shake in my “tangling hand.” I stopped showing my work because I was so self-conscious about how my shaky lines appeared. While they are not mistakes, they are not deemed to be “normal.” I still tangle regularly as OT for my hand and I believe I may start posting again. Thanks so much for the confidence boost.

    Linda Dochter, CZT 16 on

  • Molly, Love the videos, love the blog! I used to teach a class in change management, where we encouraged people to see and “embrace” the opportunity inherent in change. So the concept of “no mistakes” is perfectly logical to me, but I understand it can be frightening for some. Those of us who have been “programmed” by society (aren’t we all?), to follow the rules, connect the dots, color inside the lines, conform, and “do things right,” instead of exploring alternative options, ideas, and methods must find it hard to accept imperfection as an opportunity to cut loose, explore, or take off in a new direction. I think the Project 06 videos and philosophy are great! I love a challenge, and Zentangle offers me challenges every time I pick up my pencil and a piece of paper. I tangle on tiles, but also on letters, cards, envelopes, in sketchbooks and journals, and I’m now entertaining the idea of tangling an “altered book,” not to mention freshening up a tired, ugly old countertop in my powder room “Zentangle style!” The beauty of Zentangle is the opportunity to free yourself from whatever is holding you back from unleashing your own inner beauty and creativity. Just as there are no mistakes, there is no “one right way.” Give yourself permission to improvise…if only on a piece of paper. What’s the worst that can happen? No one’s keeping score, except you!

    Jake on

  • I tend to carry an overly-critical attitude about my Zentangle art on my shoulders. Thank you for this series of videos. I’ve found my attitude is changing. My tiles are looking better to me than they would have before these videos. So I’m excited to begin this No Mistakes challenge.
    I haven’t purchased Project Pack 06, but I just made my tiles (9 so far) using black gesso. We’ll see how that goes. Each tile now has a small or large black “ink blob” to begin my No Mistakes tiles. No two are the same, and I look forward to putting my black Micron & white Gelly Roll pens to tile. I’ve saved the videos to watch again on YouTube. Can’t wait to begin in the morning!

    Theresa Caillouette, CZT32 on

  • I feel sad that after ALL the generosity of time and energy and ideas you have all put in that there are still those who will grumble! Surely this IS the lesson…. no mistakes, make the most of what you have?!

    I can’t buy the packs in Australia but just LOVE to see the ideas and accept with gratitude that they are there for me to expand on. THANKYOU ALL.

    Freda Worsey on

  • Hi Molly!

    I chose not to buy the kit due to the cost of it here in Canada. Instead, I took 6 3Z Pre Strung tiles, “inked” them randomly with a Sharpie and taped them together…So much fun!! My project is taking longer due to other “things” that keep popping up, but so look forward to finishing it..😀

    Sharon Jerkovic on

  • I loved this project pack and matter of fact it is the first one that I have actually bought the materials since I normally use other papers and materials that I’ve collected just for my Zentangle fun. I’m sorry this one has created some negative response. I was glad to see that people created their own “spill” papers. While I get aggravated with the “buy buy buy more” attitude all around us, I also understand that this is your livelihood and it is a business. It’s all good!!!

    Lynnda T on

  • Hi! I am a certified zentangle teacher and some of my students are so critical of there own work.Some do not look at what they call a mistake as a oportunity or a chance do or try to make something unique.Sort of like the old saying making lemmonade out of lemmons.I truely have enjoyed working on your last kit of no mistakes! So at the beginning of every class that I have done since doing your last kit to encourage my students to embrace there mistakes as a fun or amazing challenge. Now at every class I teach I bring a empty paper bag and ask them to throw in the bag all there self doubts and critical thoughts of there opinions of there work into the empty bag and they are wellcome to pick them back out of the bag before they leave.They all laugh and smile when I say this and pass the empty bag around and put in there invisible thoughts .Then I remind them how wonderful and fun it is to enjoy what they are experiencing in class without any self critical views of there work or mistakes and to please think of any mistakes as a challenge to work through. They seemed more relaxed after the bag goes around. No one has ever wanted to pick back out of the empty bag that they had put there thoughts before class.After class I ask them and then put the empty bag back on the table.They all smile and laugh and tell me how much fun thery had in class.I remind them that sometimes looking at things in a different way can be fun and a learning experience. Thank you for developing your latest kit.It is amazing and fun to continue to tangle without any worries! I always enjoy your wonderful kits please continue making them! This No mistakes kit is amazing….Thank you so much!

    Julie Crosby on

  • Betty has written about the lack of black in her journal and commented that she was not offered the free replacement that was given to Carol. Neither were my sister and I after we emailed our disappointment in our rather boring booklets. I may be less quick to order future project packs unless I know beforehand exactly what I am buying.

    Claudia McKeon on

  • My husband, a jazz pianist, and I came up with our philosophy of life: Life is like jazz – you gotta swing – you gotta improvise – and there are no wrong notes!!

    Deborah Alborell on

  • Hi! I am a certified zentangle teacher and some of my students are so critical of there own work.Some do not look at what they call a mistake as a oportunity or a chance do try to make lemonade out of lemmons.I really enjoyed working on your last kit of no mistakes! So at the beginning of every class that I have done since doing your last kit to encourage my students to embrace there mistakes as a fun or amazing challenge. Now at every class I teach I bring a empty paper bag and ask them to throw in the bag all there self doubts and critical thoughts of there opinions of there work into the empty bag and they are wellcome to pick them back out of the bag before they leave.They all laugh and smile when I say this and pass the empty bag around and put in there invisible thoughts .Then I remind them how wonderful and fun it is to enjoy what they are experiencing in class without any self critical views of there work or misstakes and to please think of any mistakes as a challenge to work through they seem more relaxed and know one has ever wanted to pick back out of the empty bag there thoughts.Because I ask them and then put the empty bag back on the table.They all smile and laugh and tell me how much fun they had in class.

    Julie Crosby on

  • Molly, I’m only feeling a little guilty (NOT REALLY) for adding more ink to some pages. I did two page spread of each of the challenges- first the basic one you did at headquarters and then expanding on that with my mind. With more ink on a page I was challenged to focus changing back and forth from the black and white pens. It was a wonderful exercise! THANK YOU! And since I’m teaching two classes on black tiles this fall it became more focused on using a grey marker along with the white Gelly Roll and seeing different effects. Loved the project and HOPING you’ll sell more of those little journals- perhaps in sets?

    Gale Sherman on

  • Part of the exercise of project pack 6 was to see the beauty of transitioning from the black ink “spill” – the mistake – to the plain page. Some of the journals, including mine, had a minimum of ink “spill”. You didn’t offer to replace mine for free but offered to let me purchase a 2nd journal. I have a very limited budget & really couldn’t afford to do that. I noticed that other people seemed to be adding ink “spill” to their journals & that’s what I chose to do, too.

    I understand what you are trying to say about solving problems within the parameters of what we have to work with, & that’s commendable, but are you perhaps also trying to justify not thinking things through thoroughly & putting out a product that didn’t quite meet expectations for the project in mind?

    Betty on

  • In the throes of a potentially very serious health crisis, I find the concept of “elegance of limits” to be a refuge. I bank my energy, the limits of it defining my activities. Almost everyday there is enough time for practice or, at the least, rumination, of Zentangle patterns and tiles. I am limiting the patterns and working to create that work of he/art the tells me what my mind feels that day. There simply are no mistakes.

    Ginger White on

  • Sorry – I didn`t mean to send that long letter twice. I will NOT be upset if you eliminate one of them!

    Rosemary Turpin on

  • Hi, Molly — In the above blog, I read the following in the second paragraph: “We also wanted to offer a challenge …” I accepted your challenge four years ago when I started tangling. Through an amazing fluke of luck, I was able to take one official Zentangle class for $45 on the Island of Montreal, Canada, which included supper and 5 official tiles, so I got to try them out, and found them very nice to use. I still have three left! Although I`d been tangling for quite a while at that point, I really enjoyed the class and the teacher. However, I found that further Zentangle tiles cost me almost $1.00 CAD each to get across my doorstep. My life circumstances find me somewhat impecunious, due to no fault of my own. So I have tangled over 900 tiles using materials I COULD afford, and have had a marvellous time doing it, learning quite a bit about paper and tangling along the way. I`m 74 now and must look to my future needs as I age rather than taking the CZT course for close to $4000 CAD. However, whenever I try to suggest on line that people CAN use other papers than the officially sanctioned Zentangle ones, my letters are shoved to the bottom of any list or eliminated altogether. I wonder if blog admins are adhering to your philosophy. My letters are always carefully worded, often edited for improvement and occasionally mildly humorous. I will KNOW whether you are adhering to your OWN philosophy if this letter appears publicly as long as this series of letters is public. I also hope that Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas will get to read it. By the way, I am NOT applying for a scholarship because there are oodles of younger people with serious health problems and/or many children to raise who need and will probably use it better. I LOVE you guys and your philosophy but I HATE the modern push towards buying ever MORE! I must say, though, that I was pleased to read the last paragraph of the blog too, accepting the use of “other products”. Thank you for all that you do!

    Rosemary Turpin on

  • Zentangle and it’s “ No mistakes” philosophy help me reduce stress. When I make a mistake my whole body tenses up but when I can say, “Waot! This is an opportunity,” my body relaxes. Then I accept the challenge and, as you well know, create.

    Thank you, all of you, for broadening our lives.

    Lisa Hoesing on

  • I am trying to shed my perfectionist nature, but I need a great deal of practice and reminders. I just love how you and Martha (Julie, Maria and Rick, too!) kept bringing up the “no mistakes” philosophy in Project Pack 6, not just in Zentangle, but in life, too! This was a well-written blog…many thanks for another reminder!

    Mary Kay Cass on

  • Oh, Molly…….SO well said!
    🥰

    Carol G on

  • I am one who does not deal well with “ no mistakes” .
    I am too critical. I “practice” my Zentangle to make it “better”…..not for the quiet it can give me.
    I asked you to exchange my project pact 6 booklet….it didn’t have enough ink, I thought. You sent me another and allowed me to keep the original. I missed the whole point!! Thank you for reiterating one of the main parts of Zentangle. I get it. Now for the practice of acceptance.

    Carol on

  • Molly, the continued support, positive feedback and new ideas that team Zentangle have offered through the years have kept us all inspired and in touch with our own creativity. We send you all a collective hug. 🤗

    Kathy on

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