the value of a CZT

Let me reiterate from the beginning that there is no one person who has prompted this post - merely it is something I have been thinking about for a while and the time is right to write it down. This is my personal opinion only and is not endorsed by Zentangle® or anyone else.


I often get emails from people in various parts of Australia and elsewhere asking me about being a Certified Zentangle® Teacher and asking for specific information about what happens at seminars. I have been asked for copies of notes, which I have declined - both because I signed an agreement not to share official Zentangle documentation and also because I believe it is morally wrong to share it.

There are many people out there who "teach" Zentangle but, truthfully, they should not be. Despite what some people think, Zentangle is not public domain. Sure, non official tangles might be if the designers allow them to be. But the name Zentangle is a ® meaning registered trademark (which applies worldwide) and the official designs are owned by the creators, Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas. They are generous in that they allow people to use their designs freely in their personal artwork, but they do still retain ownership and copyright. 

I became a Certified Zentangle Teacher in October 2010. I paid to attend the seminar, my airfares and accommodation. This ran into the thousands of dollars but I saw it as an investment, both in the concept and brand of Zentangle, and in myself. I learned not only about the tangles themselves but about the origins and meanings of Zentangle, about the people and the deeper stuff that simply cannot be conveyed in any book or on any website. It is something that needs to be experienced.

When people who are NOT certified "teach" Zentangle, they do a couple of things which I don't agree with.

First, they consider themselves "qualified", in an unofficial capacity, to do so. They cannot talk about the specifics of the Zen or the Tangle. I've had this argued with me from people who are qualified school/TAFE/university teachers, qualified and practicing artists and even those who are Buddhist (where some Zentangle origins derive) - because they understand how to teach or are practising Buddhists, they think they are well placed to teach Zentangle. That's wrong. It's like people who own digital SLR cameras portraying themselves as professional photographers.

Second, they effectively send a message to me and to their students that being a Certified Zentangle Teacher is worthless. They thumb their nose at my qualification - one I worked hard for and went a LONG way to achieve. I know this may not be an intentional by-product of their actions, but it is a reality and I know CZTs around the world feel the same way. We feel our qualification is disrespected, not valued or appreciated by Zentangle enthusiasts. 

Third, they also, in my opinion, rob their students of the genuine Zentangle experience, one which is exciting and powerful. They are making money from something they don't own or have authorisation to gain from. Having this authorisation and selling official Zentangle product is one of the benefits of being a Certified Zentangle Teacher, but the financial gain is both minimal and, for most, the least of our concerns. I don't think there is a CZT anywhere in the world paying their mortgage off their Zentangle-related activities.

This isn't about being scared of "competition" - I am one of three Australian CZTs with more to come no doubt. Heck, I don't even have Melbourne to myself and I don't mind that at all. What I object to is people wanting to use me and my skills to benefit themselves, without doing the certification seminar, without gaining the expertise that I went a long way to get. Those who place themselves as experts, when they are not.

The every day "tangler" IS free to use tangle patterns in their artwork and display them online. But I do not believe they should be TEACHING the process and I think students who take these classes are robbing themselves of a wonderful experience, as well as thumbing their nose at the hard work I and other CZTs put in and continue to put in.

I know my view does not make me popular. But it is not cool - heck it's not ZEN - to take a class from a CZT or otherwise and then teach it yourself - we work hard to create our classes not to have them stolen. It is not cool to portray yourself explicitly or implicitly as an expert or a real teacher of Zentangle and place yourself in direct opposition to those of us who HAVE worked hard and who have done things the right way.

Please, please respect that and those of us who work hard to make Zentangle accessible to you. We love it as much, if not more than you can imagine and it hurts us as CZTs and the Zentangle brand. If you are serious about teaching Zentangle, get yourself over to Massachussetts and get certified - you'll have the experience of a life time and never regret it. You may also then understand why some of us feel the way we do.