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Tile Graveyard

Tile Graveyard

Julie writes...

Even though we know that there are “no mistakes” when it comes to the Zentangle Method, there are sometimes when we are just not happy with how things are going. One day I was sitting at my desk at work tangling when I was having one of those days. I started a tile and next thing I knew it was going in a direction that was not pleasing to my eye. I got frustrated with myself and tossed the tile in the trashcan next to my desk.

Molly happened to walk in the room at that moment and watched me throw the tile away. She walked over, picked the tile out of the waste bin and put it back on my desk, scolding me (in a loving way, of course) for doing such a thing!Since that day, I have not thrown away a tile that I am not happy with. But that just means instead of finding their demise in the trash can, they go to a box on my desk that I have affectionately named my “Tile Graveyard,” and it is full of half-finished tiles that I deemed unworthy of finishing.

Until now.

A few weeks ago, I was looking for a blank tile to tangle on and couldn’t find one (imagine that… I couldn’t find a blank Zentangle tile at ZHQ!), but I did have quite a few unfinished tiles in the “Tile Graveyard”. I started rifling through them a bit. Instead of a graveyard full of mistakes and mishaps, I found opportunities. I began working on some of those tiles again in an effort to resurrect them. Looking at them, I wondered, what about them I didn’t like before? Which stroke was the one that caused me to put my pen down? There were times that I picked up a tile to finish, only to realize that it was perfect just the way it was.

Sometimes all you need is to walk away from a tile (or a situation) that you are frustrated or unhappy with, take a deep breath, and return with fresh eyes and a new perspective to see the possibilities.

What you once thought was trash may in fact be treasure.


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Julie Willand


  • Yes! I like that name too..I have a box for that purpose. Now I’m going to draw a cartoon of a gravestone with an angel on it, but instead of RIP (Rest In Peace) it will say RIP (Rethinking Im-Possibilities)…like taking a new look at something that you had given up on, or didn’t think could happen.

    Karen Lloyd on

  • Love the “tile graveyard” name…. I just have “the pile”… Sometimes I will stick the ones I am not quite happy with on my mirror that is across the room from where I sit. After looking at it at various times for awhile, something always comes to me, as a way to finish it. I will admit that I have a couple that have ended up being test tiles for other things like what color will this tea make, or what color will this wine make, or what it I did that? They essentially become swatch tiles.

    Kate Ahrens on

  • Love this post Julie! I post regularly in a FB group and recently wrote I had almost thrown away a particular tile, but I had managed to “pretty it up” enough to post. Someone commented that I should “never” throw away a tile. I admit I got a little angry at that advice- but now I think I will try to toss these in a special place instead. You never know where you might find your guru.

    Jody Church on

  • Mostly I finish my tiles, but there are a few sitting in a drawer yet to be done. I’ve never thrown one away. If I really don’t like one, it goes in my portfolio anyway which goes to classes and shows with me. And almost always, someday someone will say ‘I really like that’ so give me a new perspective on those tiles. It’s always about the process and not the outcome for me, so try to show that and let others know it’s OK not to always be happy with the outcome. Someday someone else will like it and even my mind changes and then I like them too or I do something else to them and then they are good.

    Sue Leslie CZT on

  • Oh yes. I keep mine in a little basket. I call them Leftovers. Sometimes I revisit them years later and know exactly what they need. Sometimes I add something and am still not happy so they go back in the basket. Some still baffle me. And some I’ve sent on to other tanglers to see if they can ressurect them, and I’ve done the same for tiles of theirs. In our swap group (the Travelling Tangles Project) we call these tiles Be Bold tiles – because it asks us to Be Bold to send them out when we’d rather just hide them away!

    Jem Miller on

  • I love that you call it a tile graveyard! I have my fair share of ghosts in the graveyard, and I too admit that a few have hit the trash can. So I now use the really bad ones and I practice new tangles or combinations of tangles or clean up a gel pen on the back, but they’re no longer wasted. Some come fully to life when I get a refreshed look at them. “Not so bad after all!” or “Wow. I created that?” or maybe “Was that one really destined for File 13?” Not anymore, they’re not! Thanks, Julie, for a great post!

    Theresa Smith, CZT 32

    Theresa Smith on

  • I love all these posts. Every one is true! I like to do similar things with old thoughts and beliefs and memories. How old and stale they can become, and yet how we humans love to hold on to them for dear life! One exercise I do for myself is to go back to old beliefs and re-examine them in light of my life today. Recognizing they are stale and unproductive, I do some polishing and replacing. Hopefully I then will have a New Thought, one that better serves me and is more imaginative! Making lemonade out of lemon tiles is a great use of our time.

    Paula Schneider on

  • I love that element of surprise. Some kind of magic can happen overnight!

    Shelley Bell on

  • This is a really good reminder. Thanks for putting this concept back on my “radar”, as I do find myself in this position from time to time.

    Karen Peabody on

  • I love Carol Graham’s 7/11 box idea! I have tossed many a tile (sadly), and saved other “mistakes” in various places around the house, but I am going to make a 7/11 box and keep them. This blog is s great reminder … THANKS!

    Lisa Anderson on

  • I often tell my students to wait a day or over night when they have created a piece they are unhappy with. I agree sometimes it just takes walking away and looking at it with fresh eyes and a new perspective to see how perfect it really is.

    Thank you Julie for sharing a spot on blog!

    Deborah Sargent on

  • Such perfect timing Julie. Yesterday I posted a tile from my ‘junk pile’. I started it last year some time and finished it yesterday. I think many of us have a bone pile :) and you are right. They look totally different on a second look. Thank you.

    Jody Genovese on

  • Oh thanks Julie for sharing! It’s a great story. I hadn’t thought of that, but a Tile Graveyard is a great idea! This way, I will be able to return with fresh eyes at tiles that I didn’t really appreciate at first and they will be resurrected.

    Ludivine Schott on

  • OMG, I’ve done that, too, considering them in exactly those ways.

    Chris Clark on

  • Just like when I do a Sudoko, if I cannot finish in one go, I put it down and look at it later. Then I finish it. Zentangle is the same. I only do tiles when I have me tangles to put on them. Mostly I practice in a book. I can bring it anywhere and I am always ready

    Sue Bellefeuille on

  • I love the idea of detention Sundays and a 7/11 box. I usually wake at 7AM on Sunday to listen to Krista Tibbet On Being the closest I get to an hour of devotion. But this Sunday I plan to be in detention for the balance or the morning and devote that time to Zentangle. Sue Schneider CZT is my instructor in Pittsburgh Pa. She has given us a pethera of tangle idea’s at our library, and the 7/11 box will be filled with starts and ends. I am looking forward to spending these future hours creating Sunday Tangles. Thanks to all of you for your community and making the hours of my life so fruitful.

    Darla Rae Duffy

    Darla Rae Duffy on

  • When I pick up an unfinished tile to look for new possibilities, I start by giving it a quarter turn then another then another. Sometimes that’s all it takes for it to speak to me.

    Linda Dochter on

  • I cannot help thinking that when we create a tile, we are looking closely at our lines. So, I think just stepping away for a day or two is beneficial! Looking with fresh eyes, and not so close.

    Carol Parry on

  • Tiles with partial Zentangles can be some what frustrating. I find them to be a challenge to my imagination. I set the work aside until I know what I want to do next. Sometimes it takes a few minutes and other times it can take days and even weeks. When finished I feel that I have accomplished something of beauty and am fully relaxed.

    Jean Kriebel on

  • A year ago i established a same pile of misfits. During that period my little pile of tiles grew much larger! So, about two weeks ago i made a pact with myself to dedicate sundays (which i call affectionately call detention sundays), to work on reducing the pile to a reasonable level rather than starting a new tile. I also put them on my desk now so i can shuffle through them regularly to see if any new perspectives ive gained from other projects can help spark the a-ha moment that helps me finish ‘a tile in my pile’ on a daily basis!

    Matt Wieczkowski (aka MattskiCZT) on

  • I have a box of tiles like that also. I like to think of these tiles as tiles that have yet to speak to me about what they need. When I go through the box there is always one or two that jump out at me and tell me what they need. I also add tiles I personally do not like but are finished to my display folders. It always surprises me when people say they really like those tiles. What may be awful to one is beautiful to others. Having said all that, Zentangle is about the process, not the end result. This is why I tangle.

    Lianne on

  • Hi Julie,

    Thank you for the share, I too have a stack of not happy with them today tiles . Many have been finished with success others become test tiles for new tangles or techniques. Well loved paper..

    Linda Rios on

  • Well! Well! I am having a run like this with my ‘Valentangle ’19’ challenges! Now I’m thinking… maybe I’ll just go back and pull out day 1 or 3 or 4 and make it my day 12 adding to it?!

    Heather Toswell on

  • The extent of the unfinished-tile-syndrome has surprised me . That has never happened to me . I am not trying to claim superiority , it is simply a fact that , for me , a tile started is a tile finished . And , if there is a happy-accident , I go with the flow . The joy is that I need only one storage facility .

    Alan Quincey on

  • To be honest, I don’t have those graveyard tiles. From my beginning with tangling, I decided to finish tiles and (if they are done for a challenge) put the first one I made on line. Until now I like this way of tangling. And for your understanding, I put some that I really dislike on line and keep them. For me this is the best way to do.

    Annemarie on

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