Zentangle Is Not So Zen

Last night I visited the “Official Zentangle” website looking for a tangle pattern. Unlike a few years ago, when I first landed on the site, I don’t find it to be a creative repository any longer. I couldn’t find the pattern I was looking for – or any other patterns for that matter – using the search function. I ended up clicking through to their blog because I’ve been lucky in the past to find old posts about patterns there. What I found instead was something that confirmed my belief about the “we’re here to share the Zen gift we’ve created, with you” philosophy the “founders of Zentangle” are always spewing: It’s not a gift. It’s a business.

Instead of finding anything creative – that wasn’t for sale –, what piqued my interest was a recent blog post the self-titled “founders of Zentangle” have up on the site. In this particular post, they are publicly shaming and bullying someone for having a similar idea to their own that monetizes doodling. If you’re at all interested you can read the ridiculous nonsense that does little to veil their contempt for someone doing as they have, posted on their site by clicking this link to the post, which they actually titled “Seriously?…

I can’t believe I’m investing any energy in this but, to start, I need to say that I find this situation the “founders of Zentangle” have posted about SHAMEFUL, on their part and on the part of their followers who are participating in the bullying. Second, the “founders of Zentangle” don’t have the right to decide who can or cannot anoint themselves as experts of doodling. Publicly shaming this woman (Ina Sonnenmoser) for trying to earn a living the way she chooses and encouraging members of your Certified Zentangle Teacher (CZT) clique to pile shame on her is not a flattering look for you, nor is it very Zen.

To the “founders of Zentangle” (Rick and Maria), I’d like to say, you’ve had a good run in your attempt to copyright and ritualize doodling. However, no one has a monopoly on doodling. I think you need a reminder that doodling has been around forever and a day. I agree that doodling can be meditative and I often write on my blog about using it to distract my focus from my chronic pain and I’ve also written about how I use objects I have available to do zentangle according to the way you’ve specified, which I view as an unnecessary limitation. If someone else has invested the time to come up with a way to monetize drawing lines on paper, more power to them. I’m certain there are many more people than Ina out there – including those whom you have anointed as experts in your method – doing the same.

I also have to call out Rick and Maria, for their blatant hypocrisy. For anyone reading my post who wants to see how ancient some of the patterns they claim to be their originally conceived patterns are, there are books available in the public domain from as early as the 17th century that show you the origins of all these patterns (see images of pages below). Look up topics such as decorative design, ornament, ancient ornament, nature in ornament, ornament from specific cultures, and pattern design. There are volumes of material available to learn how to create your own combination of patterns or how to develop them from things in your environment.

Moreover, how many times have Rick and Maria and members of their “CZT family” done what they call “deconstructing a pattern” from an object or artwork to create a tangle. They do this without a moment’s thought of giving credit to the craftspeople who worked tirelessly to create it in the first place. News flash, just because you change a few lines (as you point out to Ina) doesn’t make something original or yours.

As Rick said, sunshine is the best disinfectant. There’s nothing Zen about publicizing this feud. What you’ve shone a light on is the true motive behind Zentangle, which is the same as any business: Making lot$ of money. This is clearly visible in the redesign of your website that no longer shares much free information about how to draw the patterns, whereas, ironically Ina’s site does. You were just hoping your followers would continue to pay thousands of dollars to you, instead of another individual or company, every year to become certified in your “method” of doodling; and more importantly, that people would forever be blinded by your phony claim that you’re giving them a gift.

Finally, for all the Certified Zentangle Teachers and followers participating in bullying Ina Sonnenmoser, take a step back and seriously look at the toxic behaviour the founders of this supposed Zen method are encouraging and taking pleasure in you acting out to support them.


A Handbook of Ornament – Franz Sales Meyer – 1849 – p22 **Click image to see the book**

A Handbook of Ornament – Franz Sales Meyer – 1849 – p27 **Click image to see the book**

Iroha-biki Moncho-Book of Crests and Designs – Kikuo Tanaka – 1800 – p24 **Click image to see the book**


Note: In the comments, I’ve made some additional observations about the cost vs. the benefits of becoming a Certified Zentangle Teacher (CZT)


32 thoughts on “Zentangle Is Not So Zen

  1. You hit the nail on the head! Thank you! I am no CZT (obviously!) and will never become one. I buy my materials to ‘tangle’ locally and none is engraved with the letters “ZEN” or “ZENTANGLE”. I create “my own tangle patterns”, but, despite recommendation, refuse to send them to any existing tangle database website. They are on my website and my flickr account, both only I control, and that is as far as I go. A few months ago I deactivated my comments section not because I had bad comments, but a) because the comments were repetitive and didn’t helped me in my drawing skill development and b) the ‘comments business’ actually ate into my allotted drawing time. As with every business, competition eventually will arise. As time taught us, competition is good….for the consumer, speak tangler; hence I understand Rick and Maria’s desperate but useless fight to hold on to something they themselves must see slipping slowly out of their control. However, I agree with you, the weapon they use, us with our words, is despicable. We live in a big world and I am sure they will always have believers filling their coffers (worse clowns have duped people), but as long as these minions are happy to part with their hard earned cash to pay for something they can get free on the web, cheaper at their local stores, or pay a little fortune simply to gather with other people for a like-minded seminar weekend that might or might not advance their skills (if that is the purpose (?))….hey, I rest my case. So, now I am going back to my tangling sans zen officiel.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I admit that finding their site helped to spark my creativity and opened my awareness to a creative practice that I’m able to engage in with my artistic skill level and health issues, but I recognized early on that they are a business.
      I’m not a CZT either and it’s not something I have any intention of doing, not only because of the prohibitive cost but because what is outlined as deliverables from the training is flimsy (I’m trying to be kind).
      I understand people needing to feel like they belong to something, but as you’ve stated all of what anyone needs to engage with this form of art is available for free online.

      I hope you continue to find joy in your creativity 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Did you ever speak to a CZT to get their views on the training they received rather than dismiss it as flimsy? Did you think maybe people have other motivations to want to be trained in order to help others vs only wanting to help themselves only as in your case? If you want access to Zentangle patterns try http://www.tanglepatterns.com. You will find the latest Zentangle patterns plus patterns from those who also follow Zentangle and it’s free just like pattern-collections.com ( although I did notice they are starting to charge for access to basic techniques so no difference). Any time you have a question about Zentangle you should reach out to a CZT that way you are better equipped to provide objective viewpoints from both sides. I am a CZT plus I have over 30 years of business experience as CFO in food ingredients, specialty chemicals and most recently as COO for a major hospital in the northeast. I use Zentangle as a benefit personally and also to teach and help others on a part time basis who don’t have the luxury or ability to be as independent as yourself in finding out what Zentangle is on their own especially those experiencing traumatic circumstances where Zentangle can help in the healing process. Being in healthcare, I have seen first hand the healing aspect that this art form enables. We should find more time in these blogs to talk more about the benefits of this art rather then pick sides in a dispute because the only people that suffer are those we cannot reach who need it (and don’t realize it yet) and that is not something I would want to have sitting on my conscience if it turned them off this art form after reading an article like this one.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Congratulations on your career accolades.

          I’m baffled by why you felt the need to write comments that personally attack me based on what you’ve determined to be my motives & how you’ve concluded that because I’m not interested in becoming a CZT that I somehow have no interest in helping others. Before drawing that conclusion you should have read some of my other posts or my ‘About’ page to understand why I started this blog.

          I’m fully aware that people have varying motives. Kudos to you & other people who feel that they need to spend the money required to become CZTs. That happens to not be the direction I, and many others, choose to take. Furthermore, as I’ve learned since becoming ill, there are many creative methods available that contribute to healing & coping with trauma; and most of them don’t require spending thousands of dollars.

          I’m aware of Tangle Patterns & many other sites online that share patterns for free, along with many more books that are archived online.

          Sadly, the biting comments you’ve left here have made me even less interested in engaging with anyone touting CZT credentials. If your aim was to build a connection you could have taken a different approach that might have shown me the Zen in zentangle as it’s supposedly taught to you by Rick & Maria.

          Liked by 1 person

      • Thanks for the info. In my case you’d need to add the price of a CHEAP round-trip ticket BKK-PVD of $1,200. Below my 2 cents…

        I used to be a scuba diver. Then I wanted to teach scuba diving for a living. I knew all about scuba diving, but in order to certify people to be SAFE underwater, I had to climb up the non-pro certification levels until I could attend a seminar to get certified as a PADI scuba diving instructor. Yes, I had to pay for it and it all made total sense! E.g.: breathing compressed air under pressure higher than at sea level (in water) can end deadly if the instructor is not trained to teach scuba diving for novices. The same can be said for driving a car, flying an airplane, and others.

        Here my question: How would I harm a person if I, a non-CZT, one day show my neighbor some of my finished tiles, show her where I get the tangles and their stepouts on the internet, where I find useful info (e.g. INA, tanglepatterns.com), what materials I use, etc. etc.? Could I be legally prosecuted if she gets her circles ‘wrong’ or messes up a tangle pattern? (Oops, there is no ‘wrong’ in Zentangle!!!) Or would she be a lesser pen handler maybe, or become a worse designer? (Oops, ‘no’ again, in Zentangle we do not critic ability because we all do our best and art is in the eye of the beholder.) What danger would I put her in or what would I cheat her of? A class attendance certificate maybe? Shameful! Competition among class members, peer pressure maybe? Ouch! Granted, a lot of people need that sense of belonging (social media jumps to mind), they want glorification among peers and that is all fine with me.

        And that brings me back to what I always say when the talk comes to spending hard earn cash: As long as you enjoy what you get for it, think it was worth the spending, feel all-round happy and content, have no regrets, don’t feel cheated, no negative thoughts at the back of your mind, and nobody got hurt by your action…Well done and hi-5 to you!

        Liked by 2 people

        • I’m sure you’re aware of this, but I don’t believe the concern is about what harm might come to the people you teach if you’re a non-CZT. They simply want people spending money with them and no one else.
          It’s a shame that something they claim they’ve built for the enjoyment of others (and a gift) is becoming associated with such negativity.
          That happens sometimes when a business grows and people lose sight of why they started it.


            • As awful as the bullying Rick and Maria and the Zentangle followers may engage in is, at least there are things we can poke fun at to show how ridiculous they are being about this situation.

              Thanks for the laugh 😛


          • No different then what Ina is offering. If you can train someone go right ahead no one is stopping you but please don’t fault others who are making an effort to develop a framework that will help to train others for the work they put in it to develop a course. Did you ever go on an art course/leadership training for 4 days away from home Working 10-12 hours per day requiring meals and lodging? I have and it is no significant difference to what is offered by Zentangle. Because of The nature of the training (not just art) it is better to have this as in person as opposed to online In order to get the max benefit. If you have been on any type of leadership course you would understand this.


            • Once Your training is completed there is no further obligation owed to Zentangle. You can either do nothing and Justify the cost for your own personal skill improvement or you can decide to Train others in this art form and more than recover the cost of the initial training. With Ina’s training program there is an ongoing requirement to pay her personally a percentage of the fee charged for each student which many people seem to forget when comparing costs.


              • Matt W – Your statement about ongoing requirements to pay Ina a percentage of the fee charged for students – you are mistaken! That is a misconception that CZT’s are continuing to put out there as rumor. But it is NOT AT ALL True!


            • Again with the negative assumptions.

              I’m sure most people, at some point in there adult work life, take some type of training course(s) relevant to their careers. Based on the education & career(s) I’ve had, I wouldn’t equate the CZT training with them.
              I’m sure Rick & Maria put the necessary effort into designing their course, but that still doesn’t mean it’s going to be enticing to everyone, especially with the associated cost.

              I don’t understand why you’re so bothered by the idea that there are people who don’t feel the need to take the CZT training.

              Liked by 1 person

        • Excuse me but you don’t need to fly to the US for training any longer. Programs offered in Taiwan and now for the first time in Shanghai starting this year. That should be a big savings for you.


          • I guess this comment was meant for me. Me, the CZT-less tangler here in Bangkok. Thanks for the hint on CZT seminars in the Far East. As mentioned in this blog, I have no – ABSOLUTELY NO – interest in becoming a CZT; never have been interested and never will be. Equally, I have absolutely no interest in teaching (Zen)tangle. Not now and not ever. Hence, even if a CZT seminar takes place around the corner and for a fraction of the money presently advertised for the course alone, I would not attend. I may compare my disinterest in becoming a CZT to flying to Mars.

            Liked by 2 people

  2. In a previous comment, I made a reference to the cost of becoming a Certified Zentangle Teacher and what Rick and Maria outline as the deliverables from the training. Rather than edit my post, here’s an excerpt from that page on the Zentangle website:

    To become a Certified Zentangle Teacher it costs $1745.00 – $2245.00.

    What you get for that is listed under the FAQ section on the Certified Zentangle Teacher Training page (link above).

    The list of what they claim they can and can’t do for people who take the program contains no measurable benefits and is what I see as pure fluff. It amazes me that people are willing to spend their hard earned money on this.

    Some of the things they say they CAN’T DO are:

    **Guarantee you’ll make money [b/c] even colleges and universities will not guarantee that
    **Teach you how to run a business or handle your taxes [b/c] it’s beyond the scope of our seminar
    **Assign territories [b/c] people move and there are so many applications for teaching the Zentangle Method within any one area: Schools, businesses, clubs, health care, etc.
    **Promise that a non-CZT won’t offer competing classes
    **Once you are a CZT- use that title to set yourself apart. Shout it from the rooftops!

    Under the list of what they CAN DO, the second and final claims in the list stand out most to me among a list of statements that provide no tangible benefits for what participants pay:

    **Provide a wonderful experience at seminar. Many people come (and come back!) for the camaraderie and immersion in an atmosphere of Zentangle creativity, inspiration and friendship.
    **Invite you to join us in this wonderful exciting adventure. While no one can promise it, we continually hear wonderful stories of gratitude from people who have found a CZT through our website and it has changed (or saved) their lives. The gratitude that you can experience in teaching the Zentangle method has become a major focus in many CZTs’ lives . . . it is a source of joy, focus and income.

    This page from the website further strengthens the position I’ve outlined in the above post.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I agree with you on so much of what you have said. The Zentangle works is so blown out of proportion. And the bullying is rediculous! Such childish behavoir I’ve seen from Rick and Maria as well as their Recruited CZTs. Thanks for writing this.

    I have a set of articles I’m putting together to help clarify things. Maybe you’ll find them interesting too.


    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for commenting and sharing your articles 🙂

      This is such a childish situation.
      Sadly, this isn’t the first time I’ve felt compelled to write something about the negative attitudes I’ve encountered from the “Zentangle community” and people who proudly label themselves CZTs.
      It’s embarrassing to witness adults behave so badly about nothing more than doodling.
      Although, I suppose they fear losing their unique status and the possibility that other groups/organizations might make a dent in their revenue stream.

      Feel free to share my post.
      I was actually able to upload it to the comment section of the Zentangle website. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if they remove it.


  4. Oh, this is the second time I forgot…Thanks for the links to the design books. I actually downloaded the .pdfs. You are correct, many many patterns look the same or very similar to Zen-tangles. Do you think over at the Quilting groups they have the same problem we have? If they miss out, maybe because there is no “ZEN” in front of Quilting.

    Liked by 1 person

    • This is probably too much to write in the comments, but I’m hoping people will continue to share their thoughts here.


      You’re welcome for the books. Those are just a couple of the endless resources that are available, at no cost, in the public domain, for anyone to use.

      I don’t know much about it, but I hope people in the Quilting community aren’t affected by this kind of behaviour. The only thing I’ve heard about the way things work with them is that patterns and techniques do get named by the people who develop them, but I don’t know how freely they are shared. Prior to this incident, people might have assumed that the purpose of Zentangle and “the community” built around it was to increase awareness and share knowledge; rather than people aggressively claiming ownership rights to drawing doodled patterns and treating it as an income source.

      The books, to which I’ve posted links, are probably part of the reason why the founders of Zentangle have been unable to obtain patents. Those books and some that are even older, show the cultural origins (e.g. African, Arabic, Indian, Roman, Etruscan, Egyptian, Chinese, Japanese, Greek, Aztec, etc.) of thousands upon thousands of patterns, some with instructions for how to draw them first then transform them. Many of these patterns are the same ones that the founders of zentangle would have people believe are their original creations. From that perspective, who is misrepresenting their product(s) to people? Who should be ashamed of parting people from their money under the guise of teaching them something special no one else can, for simply training them to focus while draw patterns that have existed all around us for centuries?

      If they are pursuing patents and claim copyrights for what they post online, I’ve often wondered if the people who have written all the zentangle instruction books are required to hand over a portion of their book royalties to the founders of zentangle, Rick and Maria. With the issue of patents and copyrights, still in mind, I wonder also, what happens when when/if the CZTs start making money from classes they teach or materials they create. Does it somehow morph into a pyramid-type scheme or as I’ve seen someone mention before like the Tupperware organization involving the official zentangle materials. What about all the people who organize online challenges and groups where people participate by creating artist tiles with selected patterns, are they required to pay a usage fee or are they granted some sort of licence to use the patterns and terminology?

      Liked by 1 person

      • There is no financial obligation to Zentangle beyond the initial training to become a CZT. Any revenue generated from teaching engagements by the CZT is their own income unlike pattern-collections.com where a percentage is expected to by paid directly to Ina S (that to me is closer to a pyramid plan and not what you incorrectly assume Zentangle has in place). There is no royalty required to be paid on book sales either but there are guidelines to be followed in using the Zentangle name (all basic stuff that has not prevented any book authors from publishing books that I’m aware of). In future, you should in fairness to all get your facts correct if you are going to criticize people on both sides as it helps in building credibility.

        Liked by 1 person

        • It wasn’t a criticism or an assumption. They were genuine questions because I have no idea about how or what arrangements people make when they write the how-to books or sell the “official” materials.

          Thanks for your criticism, but I don’t need to build credibility because I’m not trying to sell anything. My post was in response to something I read that bothered me because it resulted in people bullying an individual, which was clearly the aim of the author(s).
          Also, based on my experience – which is what this post is about – my facts are correct.


          • I stated it exactly as i read it. Please dont get involved in something that has nothing to do with you otherwise i will have to block you as i do not appreciate harassment.


            • You are responding to a comment on my site that was made about 6 months ago as part of what was a very spirited discussion about Zentangle.
              If anyone participating in the discussion respsonded inappropriately, I believe it was you. Your comments were rather agressive, if not outright hostile, I presume because you yourself are a CZT.

              I would appreciate it if you would refrain from threatening to report people for harassment when they are doing nothing but visiting my site & participating in a discussion.


  5. Hi, this is the first time I have visited your blog. We have some chronic pain issues in common. My heart goes out to you and I hope this is a good day for ya.

    Very Good Post. And I really like the extra info you put in the comments as well. I hadn’t looked at the cost of the certificate training from the same angle. But WOW! Thank you for sharing your view!

    I have an article that’s closely related. If it’s okay – I’d like to share it. I piggybacked off of of the UnZenTangled site.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for visiting and taking the time to leave a comment 🙂

      Even though it’s nice connecting with people who are able to understand what I’m living with without going into detailed explanations, it always bothers me to know that other people are living with the same/similar heath issues that I have because the pain I experience is present and intense ALL THE TIME. I truly hope you have more good than bad days 💛.


      With respect to zentangle, as I’ve said before: I am glad that finding the site helped to reignite my creativity and remind me of something I used to do so much of when I was younger. However, the cost of the training is ridiculous. When I first found the site, my interest was piqued by all the feedback from the CZTs – all of which is always over-the-top positive – but when I saw the cost any interest I had was put to rest. Even the materials they sell – to support the message of how unique their method is – are costly; and I doubt I’ll ever purchase any of them.

      I’m glad you found my post and the extra information I added helpful.
      I was contacted by the person who manages/owns the ‘UnZen Tangled Thoughts’ site after she read my post. She shares lots of helpful information on that site.
      I included the link to your post with your comment 🙂

      Your post blew me away! I hope everyone who lands here will go read it to learn about Carol Ross Edmonston.


    • The traffic on this post is unbelievable!
      There seem to be a lot of people interested in learning different points of view on this issue.
      They’ve been clicking through to your post, the UnZen Tangled Thoughts site, and the Zentangle post that triggered this conversation too.
      I’m glad my ramblings on this issue were of interest to so many people 😉


  6. I’m late to the party but feel compelled to comment. I appreciate the links to the archive site. My eyes about popped out of my head when I started paging through the Japanese link you provided. Damn Huggins, I hate that pattern!

    The archive site is a great resource and I have much reading ahead of me. A little amuse bouche penned by Willam Morris in 1878. [https://archive.org/details/decorativeartsth00morr] I’ve always admired his art and loved this little insight into his mind!

    As to the Zentangle Dust Up, well, it was inevitable. I’m just surprised it took this long to happen. I’ve read all the posts you mentioned in your comment of Aug.1 8:47pm and am just shaking my head. So much energy directed in such a negative pursuit. To the point of continuous negativity from a zealot that tracked you down to your chronic pain blog. I share your outlook on Zentangles and appreciate your articulate post.

    I had a moment of anticipated hope when I noticed your post about normal v.s. swollen feet, alas, as in my case, no answers. As Cindy Angiel commented, I also share some chronic pain and swollen feet issues. I’ve been living with my situation since 1980. It became disabling in 2002 and since 2016 I’ve had a lot of issues with my swollen ankles and feet.

    From one spoonie to another, hi-5, mini-salute [we shan’t lift our arms above our shoulders], -knowing-look-and-tilt-of-the-head-, I look forward to exploring your blog further.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi Sue,
      Sorry for my delayed response (I’ve been away from the blog & writing for a little while) and thank you for your thoughtful comment on this post.

      Where to begin?
      I’m always conflicted when I read comments from other spoonies. First, because I can’t stand the thought of another person living with any of what I have been for the past 5 years. Second, although I’m humbled by the support and it means building and connecting with a community that seems endless, before becoming ill I had no idea that so many people in the world suffered in this way. It makes me question whether I’ve been a compassionate enough person throughout my life 🤔

      I also connect with what you said about “so much energy directed in such a negative pursuit” because knowing what we live with each day it boggles the mind that people do invest so much time and energy into tearing each other down over something we’ve been doing since we were children. Unfortunately, the Zentangle community, including the guy who made the unnecessarily negative comments on this post seem to have lost sight of the fact that there are bigger things in the world to think/worry about; and don’t see the relevance of the deception they have been pulled into by the “founders” of the company.

      As far as the swollen feet issue goes, I’ve had minimal success with keeping it in check in recent weeks but it requires spending lots of time sitting with my feet/legs resting on stacks of pillows, which is not conducive to living the way I wish I could. If what my doctors prescribed in the last couple of months continues to yield positive results I will definitely let you know. 🤞

      I hope you’re having a better day today than you did yesterday 🙂 💛

      Liked by 1 person

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