Mandala Lessons

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Another thing that came to mind when I read the description of the 6th art was the art of the mandala. A while back I’d purchased The Mandala Workbook by Susanne F. Fincher to read up on mandalas in preparation. Following a lengthy introduction on the hows, whys and wherefores of mandalas, the chapters that follow take the reader through numerous exercises with the intent of self-reflection and realization. Plenty of exercises are listed in each of the 12 chapters, coinciding with the 12 stages of a particular view of personal growth.

While I did not follow a particular exercise in the book, I tried my hand at my own using the colored sand from our earlier discussions. Here is my mandala and, what follows, are some things I learned in it’s creation.

My Sand Mandala

First I tried to make a circular shape in the middle of the plate with the sand and a plastic spoon. It didn’t want to cooperate so much.

Sometimes it helps to have the right tools.

When that didn’t go as planned, I surrounded the center sand with a different color of sand and then again in concentric rings. This made it easier to shape and shore-up the individual circles and filled the plate with sand.

The more material we have to work with, the better the outcome will be.

But I really wasn’t happy with what I had so far. So then I started drizzling a contrasting color of sand in thin lines along the circles.

What we think we want isn’t always what we really want.

Throwing things against the wall to see what sticks is always a viable option.

I had a surface, but it was pretty flat. A spare straw was used to carve out the various channels and make a pattern. Then I went back over the lines, trying to smooth them out, and it took a lot of effort to not knock the sand into the other paths and channels that were nearby.

Everything is connected, down to the finest grains of sand. Moving one could mean moving many.

But eventually I got the paths cleared, refined some of them, added some details. Then I sat back and just looked at it. It was fascinating, nothing like what I thought I’d make, but exactly what I needed to make.

Stepping back from the situation and looking at where you are often shows you more than when you were focusing so intently on one little portion.

My challenge to you…

Make a mandala of your own. It could be drawn or painted, sculpted in clay or sand, made out of rice, beans, beads or crumpled pieces of paper. Just create one and see what you notice about it or yourself.

Sand Art

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Here’s a fun project for kids (or just the kids at heart) to use some of that sand we colored yesterday.

In addition to the colored sand you’ll need the following:

  • Disposable spoons
  • Paper Funnels
  • Straws
  • Jars or other containers

To make the paper funnels, just take a square of plain paper and fold the two bottom corners in towards the center, forming a cone. Tape the overlapping edges together, leaving a bit of of an opening at the tip.

Depending on your sand, the funnels may or may not work. My sand was too fine and tended to clump rather than flow. In that case, straws seem to work great for picking up bits of sand and depositing in the vials or just using the spoons to pour it in.

I have these little vials left over from a former project (the Manicure Gift Card–another of my eHow articles) but you could use pretty much anything clear or mostly clear. Empty spice jars, extract bottles, small craft bottles, baby food jars: use your imagination!

Part of the fun of filling the containers is the random combinations of colors and patterns that happen.

A couple of tricks I can think of off-hand include filling the bottle sideways for a sliding layers look and putting in just a bit of colored sand, shaking it about to get it to stick to the sides and then filling it the rest of the way with a contrasting color. The larger the opening the easier it will be to create more artistic patterns.

Of course, then you want to seal up the jars to preserve the neat little works of art. If, however, you’re like me and can’t seem to remember where you placed the cute little stoppers that you ordered to go with the cute little vials (sigh… they’re here somewhere, I know it, I just can’t remember which box they ended up when we moved!) just look around and see what might be available in a pinch.

I used (from left to right) a decorative button (the shank kind, not the kind with holes), a piece of polished hematite, a glass bead (turned on it’s side to prevent sand from escaping through the hole–you could also fill it in with a bit of glue) and a plastic grape pulled off a decorative bunch. The button is my favorite and all were attached with a little bit of tacky glue. You might want to go with a clear glue, if that matters to you, or even a hot glue gun for a wax seal look. In fact, you could just stopper them with globs of hot glue and call it a day, too!

Of course, if you’re a little more put-together than I am and remember where you put the corks or have lids to your containers, you can still decorate them if you want with paint, paper, beads or nothing at all.

the 6th Art: Carpets of Color…

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Carpets of flowers or colored grains of rice
To decorate the temple of the goddess or the temple of love

Now, I don’t know how many temples we’re likely to be decorating, but there’s plenty of uses for this art in the here and now.

The most immediate though that came to mind was sand art. While you can buy various sand art kits, it’s just as simple to make your own materials. Namely, coloring the sand. I figured if I can tint sugar with food coloring, I should be able to do the same for sand!

Making Your Own Colored Sand

You’ll need:

  • Clean sand (playground sand is great, beach sand will do, too–just make sure to sift out any shell bits before proceeding)
  • Paste food coloring* (I prefer paste to liquid because of the water content)
  • Toothpicks (for getting the paste to the sand–no double dipping if you want to use the colors for food, later)
  • Zipper-seal baggies

Pour a bit of sand into your baggie and add a toothpick’s glop of color to it. Seal the baggie but do not squeeze out all of the air–leaving a little in there will allow the sand to move around a bit and make mixing easier.

Smush the sand and color around inside the baggie until the color is fully distributed. If you do choose to use a liquid coloring agent you may need to try out the sand a bit. Spread it out on a foil-lined pan and place in a low oven until dried out. Very find sand will always feel a little damp but will make pretty pictures just as well as larger, coarser sand.

*As a former Wilton Istructor, I am partial to their icing colors. The pastes are concentrated colors and last forever–the ones in the picture I’ve had for 10 years and they still work great!