Unexpected Work Craft Times

I was invited to attend a “Community Building” exercise at work today on Zentangle. Now, I’m not a big joiner or a big community builder (more often than not someone drops you during that trust fall), but this one promised a “relaxing one hour workshop on Zentangle”. I didn’t know what Zentangle was and I couldn’t be bothered to Google it, but it sounded like fancy meditation. Or something with yarn. Or meditating with yarn. So I RSVPed yes and showed up at noon clutching my smart phone and hoping that there would be a discreet place to play “Clash of Clans” in the corner if the workshop was super boring.

The workshop was NOT super boring.

It turns out “Zentangling” is a form of structured,”no-mistakes” doodling. And it’s surprisingly fun! We were given small gift bags that contained some Dove chocolate (not pictured because I ate it), a pencil sharpener, coaster and postage stamp-sized pieces of watercolor weight paper, a lovely Sakura 01 pen, a smudge stick, and a soft graphite pencil.  Our CZT (Certified Zentangle Trainer), Paula, walked us through the basics of Zentangle:

1. Draw a border.

2. Section off areas in which to draw.

3. Learn some of the basic patterns.

4. Have fun.

Zentangle is like the crafter’s version of confident crosswording–you do it in ink, not pencil. No tracing over graphite marks or erasing your mistakes. You just kind of go with it and create something. Generally, a small (coaster-sized) “Tangle” will take about 20-30 minutes to complete (depending on how much you shade and fill).


Here are some of my results. The Tangle on the right was my class piece; the one on the left was the one that I did at my desk while on a lengthy phone call with a client.

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I find myself charmed by this particular craft, even though my right hand was cramping a bit from all of the “aura” tracing (the lines around initial shapes). It isn’t quite meditative, but it is relaxing and it’s nice to have a product at the end of a fairly short time. I’m particularly enamored with the fact that many of the patterns resemble the Surihaku and Kasuri techniques of kimono design. I’ve long had a not-so-secret obsession with Japanese woodblock prints and textiles thanks, in part, to Japanese ancestry on my father’s side of the family. a high school reading of Memoires of a Geisha* and, later, both Mineko Iwasaki’s Geisha, A Life and anthropologist Liza Dalby’s texts Kimono and Geisha (do we notice a theme here?).
*I can recognize in hindsight that each of these is a problematic text, particularly Golden’s novel, but as a sixteen year-old I was enchanted by the descriptions of Gion and the wearable art of Geisha.
Long story short, I’ll probably “tangle” again, if only because these pieces bear a strong resemblance to the doodles that appear in the margin of any set of meeting notes I take. I like the loose rules that govern this type of crafting and the fact that my limited drawing talent isn’t really a factor in their creation.