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No Strings Attached

No Strings Attached

Molly writes...
There are eight steps to the Zentangle Method. Number four is the string. A Zentangle string is always created in pencil. In fact we will often say to create a string with a light touch. Allowing the pencil to just tickle the surface of the tile, leaving just a whisper of graphite in its path. A Zentangle string is magical as it nearly disappears by the end of creating tile.
I’ve been thinking about Zentangle strings a lot lately. A Zentangle string is unique and its purpose and definition often evolves as one’s practice evolves. People that view Zentangle from afar may know little about a Zentangle string. As by design, it often cannot be seen. When one first creates using the Zentangle Method, the string is a hard guide. A string is structural and gives us confidence to move from pattern to pattern. Some artists feel that they need to stay within the perimeters it has set and that uncertainty is welcomed to dance freely within the defined spaces. However a Zentangle practice quickly challenges the restriction and invites one to choose when or when not to use the string’s suggestion. The more strength in our pen strokes and growth in artistic confidence allow one to see that a string’s delicate presence is actually not a demand but merely a thoughtful suggestion. A comforting voice encouraging ideas and inspiring direction. It's an empowering feeling to overstep that boundary for the first time. To take a little step into another world can be a relief. And maybe it leads to a giant leap marking a bold decision. A string teaches us lessons in embracing both intended and unintended marks as part of our deliberate journey. 
As an artist of many years, I faced a blank sheet of paper time and time again. It is always the first marks that are the most challenging. Like any journey in life, the first steps can be the most intimidating. I embrace my pencil string on paper to give me guidance but honor and value that it is I that manifest its destiny. And I know now that in my life, too, I can cast a virtual string to guide me and suggest my path but it is I that can choose how to follow it and make it beautiful.


Thank you to everyone who shared with us their generous and passionate advice for new tanglers in our last blog. If you have not had a chance, take some time to read the advice in the comments - whether you are a new or seasoned tangler.

We have randomly selected ten commenters to receive some Zentangle goodies! If you see your name below, please send your snail mail address to

1. Liv CZT 26
2. Lisa Burns
3. Deb Prewitt
4. Inge Frasch
5. Ruth Johndrow
6. Sharyn Penna
7. Deb Turnipseed
8. Pat Mathes, CZT 15
9. Lydia Meneses
10. Pat Chaloux



  • A post to treasure and share. Thank you!

    Jennifer Sparrow on

  • Molly, your tile is lovely. One would not have thought that a monotangle of Garlic Cloves could be so captivating. It exemplifies the technique of transzending well with the see-though spiral on top.

    Jacki Richey on

  • First, the tile is breathtaking! Second, this post about the string is lovely … clearly the string is your very good friend!! Third, thank you for this inspiring post, and for including me among the randomly selected!! Tingles and cheers!

    Sharyn Pennayour on

  • Molly, as usual your writing is brilliant. I love the whole idea about strings and enjoyed reading your thoughts. See you soon in NorCal! Woot Woot!

    Kim Kohler, CZT on

  • What a lovely post, Molly! Just as wonderfully written as your gorgeous tile was drawn! You’ve inspired me to go pick up my pencil right now … :) You’ve also inspired me to forward your post to my students. We all need to return to our roots occasionally!

    Jan Brandt, CZT on

  • Thank you for the reminder that often the first step is the hardest. In the midst of a major life transition and move right now, this is advice that applies to more than Zentangle.

    Valerie HEss on

  • Beautifully written, Molly! I view the string as a dance partner, guiding me along in a waltz, tango, or two-step! Sometimes, we change dances and break through the guide…and sometimes, it’s just so comforting to dance alongside…

    Karin Tarter, CZT ix on

  • I think of a string as a road trip for your mind. You know the starting point and the destination you are aiming for but don’t miss any opportunity for a detour or you will not fully enjoy your journey!

    Rita Wesney on

  • Molly! Your writing borders on poetry!!!! And shows your intimate connection with Zentangle!!!! I strongly agree with your thoughts – that strings are a reassuring beginning and a guide that can be steered away from! thank you!!!

    Annette Chittenden on

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