Making Personal Mandalas With Ed Woodham
Grounded in a community arts education model, #HowlAtHome focuses on the process of making—connecting to materials and encouraging free expression. While COVID-19 makes producing work in community with others more complicated, shared principles of trying new methods and using our hands to produce projects meant to inspire joy can build connections to ourselves and others, even when physically distanced.
Making Personal Mandalas by Ed Woodham is our first selected lesson plan activity from the #HowlAtHome request for proposals announced towards the end of last year. Share your creations with us via Howl’s social media platforms on Instagram and Facebook. Those not on social media can email an image of their final project to Howl’s education director at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The mandala is a centering space for the self. It’s an easy way to make order out of disorder. Mandala is a Sanskrit word for “magic circle.” Nearly every culture uses mandalas or circular images in their cultural or spiritual practices.
Keywords and themes: Dreaming. Well-Being. Affirmation. Grounding. Centering.
Part 1: Pencil, pen, and paper
Part 2: Crayons, colored pencils, watercolors, or markers
Start with any blank piece of paper. It can be copy paper, the inside of a grocery bag, any blank paper or cardboard you would like to use. Decide on a positive phrase that you want in your life now or in the near future.
I expect to have good health in my life.
I love myself just the way I am.
I deserve the very best and have a wonderful future ahead.
Focus on this phrase throughout the creation of your personal mandala. Find the center of the paper and make a circle or a dot. Say your phrase out loud several times. Draw other circles or dots or any shapes or lines around the center circle/dot. Repeat drawing more shapes, lines, dots, around each new circle. Be mindful of your breathing. Take deep breaths in and out as you draw. Continue to draw the circles, lines, dots, and shapes until you have a big circle on the paper. Hang the mandala where you can see it and think of your positive phrase about your life. You can cut out the circle or leave it as is.
Part 2 (Optional)
Make a selection of colors (markers, colored pencils, crayons, or watercolors) that you like and complement one another in a way that is pleasing to you. Look carefully for 5-10 minutes at the mandala that you created with pen or pencil. Remember to breathe deeply, inhale and exhale as you focus on your positive phrase.
Think where you would like to place your selected colors as you stare at your mandala. Begin to color whenever it feels right and continue until you decide that it is complete.
Bio: Ed Woodham is a conceptual artist and educator investigating quantum physics: the philosophy, Zen, mathematics, poetry, visuals, performance, and absurdity of Nothing. He has been active in community art, education, and civic interventions across media and culture for over 35 years. Founder and director of Art in Odd Places, Woodham employs humor, irony, subtle detournement, and a striking visual style in order to encourage greater consideration of—and provoke deeper critical engagement with—private and public environments. In 2020, he was featured in international art festivals Treasure Hunt at Art Prospect Festival, St. Petersburg, Russia, and The Smallest Festival, Dordrecht, Netherlands, and in the exhibition and publication Babel Masks, Berlin, Germany.
What inspired you to share this particular activity?
I utilize art (whatever form) for personal ritual. Mandalas are easy to make and are represented in many different cultures as a calming, centering activity regardless of skill level.
How has participation in the arts contributed to your life?
Art provides opportunity—from exploring new ideas to traveling to creating community. Art is a lifeline during difficult times, from personal crisis to the AIDS epidemic to now. Art provides a meaning for being and a way of seeing. Art gives life and life gives art.
The Keepers, Ed Woodham, Gowanus, Brooklyn, 2018 (photo by Masahito Ono)
Danger Deep Water, Ed Woodham, Lloyd Park London, U.K., 2014 (photo by Shahin Shahablou)