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Everything Old is New Again

Everything Old is New Again

Maria writes...

I saw this "fountain mouth" piece recently. Originally from Spain from the 12th-13th century (1100-1300), it lives in the Louvre.    

 But look closely. . . this lion (?) is lovingly covered in the most beautiful of patterns.  

The artist(s) could have just etched fur-like marks, with less effort, less time spent, and yet, there are the marks, perhaps meant to entertain the viewer “more”.    

And here’s the real kicker:  I see so many tangles in there. 900 or so years ago these guys created tangles. The first one to hit me was the tangle dewed The second one was Noom Remus. I (thought I had) designed these tangles a few years back with all the confidence one could muster, announced to the Zentangle world, that these were original tangles. I even checked with Linda Farmer (of just to be sure, before we announced them. 
And yet, here it stands, mightily, proving once again that “everything old is new again."

Ain’t it the truth. And, dear tanglers, it was not the first time this has happened to me. Most of the tangles that find their way in our Zentangle world, are old patterns, that we just rediscover.  

Look closely at this mahvelous creature and see what other tangles you find. For that matter, look closely at any work of art and see what tangles you can find! 

I am constantly humbled by artists of the past, the creativity and beauty that existed on every surface imaginable (like the patterns painted in gold on an old black Singer sewing machine or the quilts our mothers and great-great grandmothers created), all to admire and be thankful for. For instance, after Rick came up with paradox, we later found out it was a favorite turn of the century quilting pattern.

My thought on this is that perhaps we should assume the patterns we come up with have, more than likely, existed before. And, that we were lucky enough to have rediscovered them, and shared them with the world once again. Maybe they simply cycle through our awareness on their own schedule . . . like those 17-year cicadas.  

Thanks for hearing me out. These things keep me up at night. That I have not been grateful (enough) to those artists, those craftsmen and craftswomen, who came before us. 

So. . .

I raise my cup of tea, in a toast of gratitude to those quiet, unnamed artists that have come before us.  

Next time, perhaps I should check with the Louvre as well! 

- Maria


Rick adds, "Is that lion growing a hollis tail?"



Last week we asked you all to help us solve The Mystery of the Tangled Legend, and your comments were such a treat to read! Thank you to everyone who contributed to this fun little mystery.

Like some of you, we finally figured out that the Legend Book belonged to Martha! How it ended up in SF's order, well that is a detail that only Bijou knows and he is not talking!

We have a special surprise for those who correctly guessed that it was Martha's book:

  • Wee
  • Rosemarie Crawford
  • AndreaR
  • Jody Genovese
  • Rebecca Lawrence
  • Claire

Bijou loved reading all of your stories and theories, and decided to send a surprise to the tangler who submitted most imaginative response: Betsey Young!

And finally, a very special CZT contacted Bijou and wanted to send a Project Pack No. 10 featuring the Zentangle Legend book to a special commenter of Bijou's choice. He wanted to choose you ALL, but this special gift will go to MaryAnn Scheblein Dawson!

If you have won a Zentangle surprise, please send your snail mail address to

Maria Thomas


  • Here is where that “nothing new under the sun” came from… kinda funny because it is very old and it is new again!

    “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”
    “Is there anything of which one can say, “Look! This is something new”? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time.”

    ‭‭Ecclesiastes 1:9,10

    Kat Van Rooyen on

  • I love this post, Maria. It’s something I’ve been thinking about since being introduced to Zentangle and conversations I’ve had with my students over the years. And it’s deeper meaning to me as a Guatemalan-American I look at the ancestors and pattens of my DNA – Spanish, Mayan, Native American, African and even Asian. I often call upon my ancestors in my art. And they speak to me in their patterns and colors, just like Zentangle tangling does. I am grateful for this post and the reuse and recycling of patterns in our lives in so many ways and whatever way they come to us. The Zentangle art method and tangling patterns allows us so much exploration into our culture from clothing, to jewelry, to pottery, to food, to architecture, to tiles, to religious symbols and on and on. That’s where I’m headed this year. And I call upon my ancestors to walk with me in this tangling exploration.

    Miriam Zimms on

  • Just want to say thank you to everyone who shared memories of patterns from their family history… I too follow the Northern Mudlarks from Scotland. They research the stories/history behind the objects & patterns of their findings.

    Rimona Gale on

  • Your observations are so insightful and inspirational, Maria! I like to think of artists as part of one collective spiritual body that we all tap into whenever we do our art ~ our creations are part of a whole, and we all get to nurture each other, appreciate each other, and share each other’s ideas across art forms, and even across the miles and centuries. As you and others here have said, history proves this over and over. I feel energy from the Zentangle community every time I tangle. Thank you!

    Peyton on

  • I look at my grandmother’s beautiful lace tatting and I see repeating patterns in her work. I have picked up her crocheting habits, and didn’t realize she also passed on her ability to create patterns. I have a newfound admiration for her work…wish I would have saved more of it. (She came from Yugoslavia when she was thirteen and brought that skill with her from her own mother.) Thanks Maria for your insight!

    Mary Kay Cass on

  • You are so right. I called this a Zentangle synchronicity. I do think there are waves of patterns. How they start, I don’t know. I’ll draw pattern in my own home, not posting it, and couple days later I’ll go online and there it will be all over Facebook. I’m not saying I started it. I think we all receive this gift. Thank you to you and Rick for organizing the gift so we can keep it for a while and enjoy it and relish it.

    Lisa Hoesing on

  • I still fall back on what I learned in the Zentomology workshop a few years back when I see patterns. Hard not to see those tangles popping out everywhere. Now, if I could just remember all their names.

    Mary Kay Watson on

  • Maria, what a delightful post! Your thoughts make me think about some of my ancestors who were probably drawing tangles or patterns just like I do today. Maybe for pleasure; possibly for a way to entertain themselves or to intentionally create beautiful art. Or most importantly, as a way to relax and find the calm that so many of us crave in these difficult days. It’s comforting to think of my great, great grandmother, or maybe an elderly aunt taking the time for herself amidst the hustle and bustle of life. Thank you Maria and Rick for following your vision and developing the Zentangle Method for me to learn and enjoy at this time in my life. I am forever grateful.

    Brenda Shaver Shahin CZT 8 in Ontario Canada

    Brenda Shaver Shaver on

  • Como se llamo esto i am from SPAIN

    killRal on

  • Who was the careful observer who said, “There’s nothing new under the sun”? It’s somehow very gratifying to realize that artists of all the ages labored with love to create beauty just because they could.

    Wee on

  • I really liked Maria your reflection on the patterns that we think we create, I also think that everything is already invented, we can modify it, vary it, deconstruct it, but I don’t think there is any pattern to discover, the mind deceives us, the subconscious us It is deceiving, they are created by something we see, something that is already in our lives previously and in the end it is the whiting that bites its tail, I loved your reflection today on the blog. Thank you for sharing so much with us. A hug.

    Yasmina L. on

  • Thanks for your sharing this with me. Really feel grateful for your efforts and love. God bless you all forever 💖🙏

    Christina on

  • Hello Dear Rick and Maria.

    I love tangling with you as often as I can. I think I wrote once before and told you It all feels so familiar to me. Sister Marie Monica, at St Bernard Academy in Nashville, TN., an all girl’s school, would decorate all our blackboards with colored chalk edges or corners. I was in love with art and horses and began to draw her (tangles!) in my notebooks beginning in the second or third grade. I’ve done a version of what you do all my life. I wish I had some old notebooks to show you. It became a meditative way to deal with a difficult childhood as an only child with older parents. A long story.

    This is a thank you note full of love. It’s also something I noticed in one of your blog letters. The highly decorated very old “lion” or “dog”. I follow online a group of people in Great Britain and elsewhere who search the ancient shores of rivers (lots of them on the Thames) but rubbish dumps, plowed fields, etc… Do you know of my friends overseas called “Mudlarks”? Please take time to go on YouTube and look up one or two of them.

    It began for me with Nicola White and her studio of amazing recycled sea glass fishes. I then found The Northern Mudlarks in Scotland ( so precious to me at my age, 76). Then there’s Si-finds hmm(everywhere)…Lets Go With The Johnson’s (Wales)…Kit and Caboodles and their kitty Sunny (so delicate picking through the day’s finds). I could go on and on, but the point is amongst their relics are ages old coins, pottery shards, Roman, Celtic, Gothic, and even Viking decorated bits and pieces of pottery and many other things. There are rules on mudlarking the Thames and I’m sure elsewhere too. I see, over and over again, TANGLES! beautiful examples to follow from the past 300 years and more!☺️.

    I watch them almost as much as I do your YouTube videos and have discovered so much wonder in the world abroad. Here too! I sent Gail and Alex (the Northern Mudlarks) a package of my great grandmother’s and hubby’s family tiny antiques. Here’s hoping you already know them, and if you don’t, that you will happily take a virtual visit online with them.

    God Bless you both, bring you blessings of happiness and health during our difficult times.

    Emily Young Austin (Facebook)
    10552 S. Windrow Rd
    Rockvale, Tennessee 37153

    Emily Austin on

  • Maria. Your observations are so amazing. Ever since I “discovered” Zentangle (just first day of this spring), I see tangles everywhere….most live on my carpets around the house! Can’t wait for warmer weather and trips to the forest to find more in nature!
    Thank you guys for opening my eyes to tangle art!

    Dora Wilson on

  • Felicidades!

    Ofelia Figueroa on

  • My high school art teacher used to tell us, “There is nothing new under the sun.” Patterns (and oral histories, stories, poems, myths, ballads, etc), have been repeated, throughout history, as people migrated from one place to another, as tribes, clans, and countries conquered each other, as empires rose and fell, as civilization and technology evolved, and each succeeding wave of migrants or conquerors adopted the best of the old culture and so it became part of the new world order. Until the next war, or the next calamity caused another upheaval or another wave of migration, and things got lost, or hidden away in hopes of preserving heirlooms and cultural treasures for future generations. Often forgotten and not “rediscovered” until many years later. I’ve been exposed to most “Zentangle” patterns all of my life. They have been there, hiding in plain sight all along, in textiles, ceramics, wallpaper, jewelry, silverware, embroidery and quilt patterns, architecture, advertising art, printing designs, woodcarvings, fine arts, folk art, back to the earliest cave art, totems, fetishes, etc. We have all been subconsciously recording these images as we move through our own busy lives. I have always been drawn to the work of Alfonse Mucha, but wasn’t sure why til I saw artwork he did for the Czech Pavilion at an International World’s Fair in the late 19th or early 20th Century. I immediately realized the traditional Czech costumes in his artworks were the same as the costumes worn by ethnic dance groups in the Eastern European (Polish, Hungarian, Czech, Lithuanian, German, Slavic), neighborhood where I grew up (in Ohio). Subconsciously, Mucha reminds me of “home” and evokes a fierce nostalgia for my childhood. So open your eyes to the patterns in your environment, and see how many familiar designs or “tangles” you can find. Careful though, you just might be surprised, if not overwhelmed!

    Jessica Dykes (Jake) on

  • Thank you, Marie!🤗

    Aurora Dabacan on

  • If you have watched “Outlander” (and other shows), you know that time travel has been very popular. Perhaps folks in the olden times traveled to NOW and adopted YOUR tangles into their designs after they found their way home. And you just rediscovered them. Stranger things have (perhaps) happened.


  • I applaud your discovery, and your acknowledgement that many patterns that seem to be of our own creation may have existed in the human psyche and imagination for eons! In these days of questionable veracity, your discovery and revelation feels like fresh air….

    Thank you 😊!

    Margaret Wingstedt on

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