Flower Mandalas!


Tibetan mandala, 14th C.

I’m not sure what got me thinking about flower mandalas. I used to make them regularly. I think this was when I lived in Santa Rosa on four acres and had an abundance of materials to choose from. When I first decided to write this post I actually thought I’d gotten the idea for flower mandalas from a book I will soon be reviewing. (Stay tuned.) But, in fact, when I looked there, she makes no mention of flower mandalas, and when I googled them, I found zero actual images of what I have been doing for years now. Of course the mandala itself is a very old archtypal image, as indicated above. The word mandala is Sanskrit, and roughly translates as “sacred circle.” It also bears a context of home or essence. I create my own humble, live versions, and hope after reading this post you will be inspired and encouraged to create yours.

I found as I began thinking of writing about my flower mandalas, my mind kept nagging me for thinking of writing of them in the fall, when flowers are certainly not at their peak. Nevertheless, I could not postpone the idea for some reason or another, which perhaps will become clearer by the end of this post. So I went out into the garden and gathered what was in most abundance (as you need repetition to create them) and brought them into the kitchen to begin. My first observation, surprisingly, was that almost every flower I currently have multiples of, is rather horn or trumpet-shaped. (“Harbingers of what?” I asked myself.) And this means they do not lie flat, as they should. So my first effort was uncharacteristic in its lack of perfect symmetry, yet I felt it has sufficient charm to be included. And thus I share Flower Mandala #1.

You will recognize that I used white and red hollyhocks, golden and orange nasturtium, pink and blue morning glories, and two pink zinnias. The zinnia is most what I would normally use, as it’s quite flat. But I find in spite of the slightly casual display, this is a nice addition to a table, dresser or even altar, if you are so inclined.

Most mandalas have an intuitive, irrational character and, through their symbolical content, exert a retroactive influence on the unconscious. They therefore possess a “magical” significance, like icons…

Carl Jung

Upon completing this first flower mandala I was simultaneously pleased and frustrated. I determined I needed to make another, and turned to yesterday’s farmer’s market for what I knew would be there in abundance: (flat!) dahlias. This enabled me to choose stem by stem considering symmetry, in terms of both color and size. More inspired, I returned to my kitchen and fashioned Flower Mandala #2, which is more similar to those I’ve made in the past, but also more formal. It’s very pleasing, I think. And, yes, I added two of the zinnias from my front garden for splash!

By now I found myself fully engaged in the Flower Mandala process as I found myself inquiring over and over again what the implications were for now and for the upcoming holiday season. I kept imagining bay and berries and trying to configure them in my mind’s eye in keeping with this structure, almost to no avail. Undaunted, I surrendered to this process, which has some unexamined urgency or drive behind it, and advised myself that apparently I was engaged in a Flower Mandala Workshop on a Sunday afternoon [I'm what??] and what had I thought I was doing? It seemed like a worthy endeavor. Deepening the surrender I went out in search of flowers that reflected current motifs. I’d already decided I wanted to explore greens in addition to flowers, but knew I needed a single flower with a big voice. Here’s where that impulse led.

In all honesty I had been anticipating lots of layering, so I was utterly surprised when I realized once I’d put the flower in the center, the red maple leaves symmetrically framing it, and the baby mums in place that it was finished. (You are?? Yes, I am.) This taught me that sometimes a thing of beauty can be rendered in a flash. Good to note.

My curiosity was now fully engaged and I followed the next impulse, wanting to incorporate something of the upcoming Halloween imagery, but, also, again, the notion of More Green. I had abandoned the idea of berries, as its being too soon in the season, but pulling out from a store jaunt, I happened to spy some pepper berries in the parking lot and quickly reparked and pulled out the gardening shears which I always carry in the glove compartment. (You never know when you might find something irresistable and available–such as pepper berries in the parking lot!) I have to confess I’ve never created anything quite like this, a very satisfying experience for a creative person, and thus, I really did create my very own Flower Mandala Workshop today, in the convenience of my home. Sweet, unexpected, fun, and very gratifying!


Squash, pepper berries, gingko leaves, red maple leaves, and nandina blossoms

I would like to invite you to explore making your own flower mandalas with what is readily at hand. I hope you will. And then if you would love to share your treasure, please email me a jpeg and I will include one or two here.

I saw that everything, all paths I had been following, all steps I had taken, were leading back to a single point — namely, to the mid-point. It became increasingly plain to me that the mandala is the centre. It is the exponent of all paths. It is the path to the centre, to individuation…I knew that in finding the mandala as an expression of the self I had attained what was for me the ultimate.

- Carl Jung

Love and gardening blessings,
Kathryn xoxo

34 Responses to “Flower Mandalas!”

  1. Very cool!

  2. I think the mums and maple leaves express the season beautifully. It happened quickly after lots of contemplation and gathering of materials. :) Thanks for the Sunday afternoon workshop.
    Donna

  3. Hi, Donna, Good point! :) Glad you enjoyed! Kathryn xoxo

  4. Welcome, Sheila! Thanks! Kathryn xox

  5. Absolutely stunning, Kathryn — you are so artistic! Dahlias make me weak in the knees, and on that gorgeous, lacy doily — spectacular!

    (By the way, I will be able to finish my scarf, just so you know. I hope to finish it off by mid-week…inches at a time!)

  6. Kathryn,
    Thanks for introducing me to flower mandalas. Gorgeous and inspiring!
    Shirley

  7. Hi, Shirley! Glad you like them! Let me know if you do any! Kathryn xox

  8. Thanks, Nancy, for your lovely feedback! (The doily is one of my Grandmother’s creations, btw!) Thanks for the scarf update! I’ll be watching! Kathryn xoxo

  9. As a long-time fan of CG Jung, I always get interested when someone uses his notions. The idea of flower mandalas is a really great one and yours are fabulously beautiful. Of course, you have all those killer flowers to pick from which you do so well with. Very nice!

  10. I’ve never heard of these. They’re lovely! I especially like the last one, with the gingko leaves.

  11. Hi, Steve, welcome! Thank you! I am going to challenge myself to come up with something unusual in the dead of winter. I think the pepper berries point the way! And, yes, I’m even more fascinated about the entire concept of mandalas now, and will read Jung further to learn more. I think flowers are my medium, though, don’t you?? Kathryn, excited! xoxo

  12. Hi, Kylee, neither had I! I really do think I stumbled into this. Watch in next week’s book review for a clue of where I got this… Meanwhile,feel free to make your own and fill the world with their beauty! Kathryn xoxo

  13. Those are absolutely wonderful! A beautiful idea. Thank you for sharing them with us.

  14. Welcome, GreenishLady, thank you for the visit and the kind words. I hope you will try them! Kathryn xox

  15. Gorgeous!!!! I LOVE this post and your FABULOUS mandalas!
    What a Wonderful form of artistry to introduce to your readers
    and any other lucky visitors! Thank you, mom! :-)

    Love you,
    Antonia

  16. Thanks, Antonia! :) They are fun to make. Try some and send me a jpeg and I will post! Love you, Mom xoxoxo

  17. Dearest Kathryn … you have inspired me with this lovely post. I know all readers will receive great joy connecting with their artistic self, finding a sense of peace and oneness with the universe (a bit like zen gardens). You are a beloved teacher, dear one.

  18. Oh, hi, Joey! I love it when you visit. I do hope you and others are inspired to try your own and then send me jpegs. I can’t wait to see what you all create! Hugs! Kathryn xoxo

  19. Kathryn, I’ve got to tell you about this.
    In Kerala (India) we have a festival called Onam and one of the biggest features is the making of the ‘atha kalam’ by the girls and women in each household. (Its as characteristic as the Christmas tree in western countries.)
    Elaborate designs are drawn on the ground and are filled in with petals and leaves for 10 days. Its absolutely gorgeous (and back-breaking!).
    Try going to Google Images and search for pictures of Onam, they’ll show you some of the ‘Atha kalams’

  20. Wow, Sunita! It led me to pookkalam! Clearly I was in Kerala in a previous life! Gorgeous!! Thank you so much for sharing this with me! I think I will add a pookalam image to the post today! Beautiful tradition! Here is a link to pookkalam images: http://tinyurl.com/4scexr
    Thanks again! Kathryn xxoox

  21. ‘Athakalam’ and ‘pookkalam’ both refer to the same thing. I’m so glad you liked it … I just knew you would : )
    Actually, yes, I do think you may have been in Kerala in a previous life. Its one of those super-fertile places where plants fight to outbloom each other !

  22. I can’t wait to make some mandelas of my own, your mandelas are so beautiful I can’t choose with one is the best a just love them all.
    I was in Kerala this January and went in to Trivandrum to see the women’s festival, Thiruvathira . It is celebrated in the Malayalam month of Dhanu (dec-Jan.) I’m longing to go back it was most fascinating, the people were extremely nice and the children happy even the teenagers. / Tyra

  23. Hi, Sunita! Thanks again for all the info! Yes, a friend of mine was just telling me how fertile Kerala is! Now I’m curious! :) Kathryn xoxo

  24. Welcome, Tyra! How exciting to hear you were in Kerala this year! Now I’m definitely curious! When you get to making your mandalas, I hope you will send me a jpeg! Thanks! Kathryn xoxo

  25. I have always loved (and been intrigued and mystified) by mandalas. Your flower mandalas are works of art – I love the use of non-traditional art materials to make art, and that’s just what you did. I especially enjoyed that you shared your thought process as you did these – thank you!

  26. Kim, welcome! Thank you so much! It was a joy to do and a joy to share. I’m glad you enjoyed the process and the results! Kathryn xox

  27. What a wonderful post! I love the Jung quote, and especially the green/white squash and berries. Very thoughtful. Thanks so much.

  28. Hi, Mary Ann! Yes, doesn’t the Jung quote make you want to explore and go deeper? The green/white squash was one of my favs, too,as it was so unexpected! Thanks for the visit! Kathryn xxoo

  29. I love the idea of flower mandalas, Kathryn! Who’d have thought?! What a beautiful prayer—and a wonderful way to fully appreciate the natural beauty all around us by capturing some in a bowl! I especially love you penultimate effort, with the mums and maple leaves, but the squash and pepperberries is great, too! (I wish people grew pepperberries in parking lots around here!) Thanks so much for sharing!!!

  30. Hi, Our Friend Ben! Thanks for stopping by and enjoying the creations! Try some! They are fun!
    Kathryn xxo

  31. Dear Kathryn!

    Oh! These are just breathtaking.
    The more I look at the ones I see you have created, the more I am moved by them. Yours are truly glorious.I have seen sand mandalas, but never considered flower mandalas before. As with the dismanteling of the sand mandalas to reflect the impermanence of the world, the temporal, transient quality of the flower mandalas reminds us as you have shown that the process is as important as the finished product ( which seems to me like a prayer to the universe, one that is so beautiful one just has to smile)
    Warm regards,
    Philip

  32. Hi, Philip–Isn’t it amazing that these are not just common to our culture? It’s astounding, really. I hope as a result of this post people start making them everywhere and it SPREADS! I’m really looking forward to someone trying them and sending me a jpeg! They were very fun to make. I want to make more at Christmas. :) Imagine red roses and white gardenias in center! Kathryn xox

  33. [...] I often visit Kathryn’s blog over at Plant Whatever Brings You Joy and something else that recently caught my eye are Kathryn’s beautiful Flower Mandalas. [...]

  34. [...] Kathryn Hall - http://plantwhateverbringsyoujoy.com/?p=711 [...]

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