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Zentangle: How a small piece of art can become a treasure

| Wednesday, May 7, 2014, 7:36 p.m.
Submitted photos
Carnegie resident Jennifer Kwiecien began her zentangle classes at the Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall in March. After interest rose, students can return on Tuesdays from 6 to 7 p.m. to practice the art.
Airy colorful designs: The 3 ½-inch by 3 ½ -inch paper tiles can take any design shape imagined. Jennifer Kwiecien, a certified zentangle teacher, brings instruction to the Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall every Tuesday from 6 to 7 p.m. New students are welcome.

Doodling became an art form when Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas founded their zentangle enterprise in 2004.

The Massachusetts couple combined creative moments and meditation into a craft executed on 3½- by 3½-inch paper “tiles.” While Roberts practiced Buddhism as a monk for 17 years, Thomas developed a career as a botanical artist and calligrapher.

Jennifer Kwiecien, now a certified zentangle teacher, offers instruction at the Andrew Carnegie Free Library & Music Hall in Carnegie from 6 to 7 p.m. on Tuesdays.

She agrees with the founding couple that “anything is possible one stroke at a time.”

“It's deliberate drawing,” Kwiecien, a Carnegie resident, said.

And it's a way to develop focus and self confidence. The basic patterns, designed by Roberts and Thomas, are repetitive with line building upon line. They curl and loop, taking their shape via a fine-tipped micron pen. Pencil shading, smudging and perhaps, color, finish each design.

In as little as 15 minutes, a small piece of art can become a treasure. But more than a frameable design, the process brings something to the spirit of the person creating it.

One student once told her that 30 minutes of focused drawing often gave her one or two pain-free hours.

Kwiecien studied with the couple in Rhode Island for four days in 2012. About 100 others were in the class, including some people from New Zealand, Hawaii and South Africa.

“People all over the world are doing this,” she said.

She now is in the company of two other local certified teachers, one from Mt. Lebanon and the other from the North Hills.

Children can learn the art with very little direction. There are no mistakes and no erasers, she said, and an errant line becomes part of the design.

“It changes, just like life.”

Kwiecien's class is a part of the library's monthly calendar, and there's room for more than the 12 students who meet in the library's reception room on the second floor.

“She brought zentangle up to us, and it seemed a great thing to offer our patrons,” said Maggie Forbes, the library's executive director.

“What I love about it is Jennifer is a patron sharing her enthusiasm, and our patrons and the library are better for it.”

Getting lost in the patterns is both relaxing and compelling, Kwiecien said. “It feels so good you want to do more.”

Dona S. Dreeland is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5803 or

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