Connecting With Mandalas

Esther’s Tattoo
My original mandala drawing

I wanted to share a very cool story and an example of how art can connect us all, even from across the ocean…

Almost a year ago a woman named Esther from the Netherlands emailed me after finding this blog while she was looking for mandala inspiration for a tattoo. She had found a mandala of mine that she really connected with and asked if she could use the imagery for her first tattoo…so of course I said YES! 

A few days ago I received an email from her with her finished tattoo (pictured on left) and this is what she wrote about it:

A time ago I send you a mail with the question about your mandala drawing and my idea to make a tattoo.

So I just seemed nice to me to let you know my tattoo is finally placed on my back!!


It is my first tattoo and it means a lot to me:


It symbolizes the birth of my daughter (now 1.5) in the middle and the tiny circle. The other circles are my partner and me; both worlds come together in the middle circle and the triangle figure pointing towards it.


The details are filled with fire-dynamic elements: my constellation is aries (which is also the triangle element fire).

I feel very honored that Esther resonated with this mandala and reached out to me. I also found it interesting that when I draw these interconnected mandalas I do it as a way to explore my connections to loved ones in my life as well – how we overlap, connect, and impact one another. Esther’s interpretation of the mandala was similar in depicting the intersecting deep connections between her daughter, partner, and self.

Just as there are three interlocking circles, in this story there are three artists linking together as well! Esther is an artist and you can visit her site here: http://www.esthermeijer.nl/

And here is the site for Xander, her tattoo artist: http://www.mana-ink.nl/

While thinking about the way mandalas connect us to ourselves and to one another, I found this quote by Carl Jung to be especially relevant:

“In view of the fact that all mandalas shown here were new and uninfluenced products, we are driven to the conclusion that there must be a transconscious disposition in every individual which is able to produce the same or very similar symbols at all times and in all places. Since this disposition is usually not a conscious possession of the individual I have called it the collective unconscious.”

From an art therapy perspective, I have utilized the intersecting circle mandala drawing with my clients quite often. Each circle can represent a person in the client’s life (including the self) and I ask them to place the circles in relation to their current feelings and experiences with each individual. 

Another variation I’ve used that my clients have found illuminating is to draw three overlapping circles and label one past, present, and future. After the circles are drawn or traced I encourage my clients to fill each circle in with colors, shapes, symbols, and imagery that symbolize their past, present, and future. This is a way to create a visual timeline, gain perspective on future hopes and dreams, and explore how they perceive their present reality. 

Creating art within the circles is naturally centering and can help contain triggering memories while still allowing the client to review their life experiences. Art therapy group members often enjoy sharing and processing their mandala timelines at the end of group and after this experience there is often a sense of deeper connection within the group.

I’d encourage anyone interested to experiment with creating interlocking mandalas as a way to center the self and gain insight into the ways we are connected. Please feel free to leave comments and share links to your art here if you feel inspired!

Artist Trading Cards (ATC’s) & Building Community

Getting started on some ATC’s!

“They always say time changes things,
but you actually have to change them yourself.” 
– Andy Warhol

It’s hard to believe that 6 months have flown by since the 6 Degrees of Creativity 2 workshops began. I was thrilled to be one of the 6 art therapist instructors as well as a participant in the other workshops. What struck me most about this experience was the creation of community and artistic collaboration. Each participant in my workshop brought a unique and beautiful voice to the process of creating and exploring texture and mixed-media. In addition, the level of encouragement and inspiration during these workshops supported me in my ongoing process to carve out art-making time and space.

In the spirit of continued community building and creative exchange, Gretchen MillerHannah Klaus Hunter, and Beth Rommel have created a collaborative project called Pocket Change: Creating Change Through Small Creative Acts.
Follow this link for details and to participate: Pocket Change
A quick summary of the project from the site: 
Participants will create 4 ATCs and will get back 3 from others who are participating in the exchange. Our swap’s theme: Pocket Change is all about how simple and small acts can create and instill kindness, gratitude, and change. For your ATCs, think about the power of your mini artworks as a means to express and share a positive image, message, or intention with others and the world.
I eagerly signed up for the ATC swap and began playing in my studio this afternoon. Like many, I’ve been watching the popularity of ATC’s rise in the past few years and was drawn to the small size of the cards (2.5″ x 3.5″) and the idea behind creating them. You can make your own ATC surface or buy them very inexpensively at most art stores and craft stores such as Michael’s. Since measuring precisely it not my strong point and I was excited to dive in right away, I bought a few packs of pre-cut ATC’s at Michael’s. I chose a few different types of paper as I plan to do some mixed-media as well as drawing. 
ATC’s beginning ~
Collaging with paper Tibetan Prayer Flags

As I began to set up my art materials, I explored my associations to the words kindness, gratitude, and change and also thought about how transformative this past year has been for me on many levels. Going into 2013 I am looking forward to expanding upon all of the positive growth and experiences from this past year. 

I decided to grab any materials that spoke to me and ended up with chunks of peeled acrylic palette paint, some Tibetan Prayer flags that I have received in the mail, decorative paper, skeleton leaves, and some other small found objects. 

I enjoyed working on the foundation for a number of cards at once. As usual I worked intuitively with the materials and imagery. I looked around my studio for mod podge but couldn’t find it, so I ended up using the Elmer’s clear glue (best find of the year!) I used a small palette knife to spread the glue and then covered each collage with a thin layer of the glue as I would with mod podge to serve as a protective layer and sealant. 

The beginning of 2 more ATC’s

I was aware of how different it is to create on a small scale. Although I found myself working rather quickly at times, at other moments the small size helped me to slow down and become more familiar with the details. The other paradox was that the ATC’s seemed rather delicate while I was starting them, but when I returned later to look at them I was struck by how durable they felt. 

As these ATC’s were drying, I decided to begin some pen drawings on my bristol paper cards. I was drawn to the use of mandalas and repeating circles. I had recently read a quote by Mother Teresa that inspired my imagery. She once said, 

“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”

I was drawn to this imagery of ripples…interlocking circles and the way that we are all connected. It also looped back directly to this project’s theme of building community and change through small creative acts. We never know what one smile, word, or act can mean to another human being at the time. A small act may create a ripple effect that builds momentum and starts the process of positive change. 

I will share the finished ATC’s in a future post! Until then, happy creating and perhaps you’ll join us in this wonderful project!

Starting some mandala ATC’s