A traditional Buddhist sand mandala.

Mandala is a Sanskrit word meaning "a container of essence".  It has also been translated, less literally, as "the universe and everything in it" and includes the circumference, the center, and everything in between. Other translation attempts give us sacred assembly, essence container, circle with a center, mystic circle, and sacred circle, among others.

In the west the word mandala has become the term used for artwork in a circular form, specifically two-dimensional work constructed in a concentric format, usually rather complex with symmetrical divisions. The four sides or corners are reminiscent of the four cardinal compass directions. In some traditions the circle and square together represents the connection between our spiritual (circle) and physical (square) natures.

An Eritrean woven mat.

The circle is one of very few virtually universal symbols throughout history and across cultures, representing eternity, wholeness, protection and unity.  The mandala is symbolic of balance, transformation, and the interconnection of all things.  Mandalas can be found both in nature and of human design in everything from a bicycle wheel to Stonehenge, from a cross-section of an orange to a whirling galaxy.

A fern: one of many natural mandala forms.

As a symbolic image the mandala suits me well due to a life-long interest in other cultures and spirituality.  I can explore many elements which are of interest to me such as color, detail, and geometry (the only math I really enjoy!).  I draw on cultural, natural, decorative, spiritual and symbolic sources from around the globe.
When I create a mandala I greatly enjoy exploring color and shapes and ideas and media, but I am also alluding to the interconnection of everything in creation and my belief in the oneness of humanity.

The design on my cappuccino.


  1. I saw your beautiful painted mandalas on your slide show. I am a quilter and they look like artistic quilts. If you don't quilt I think you have the eye and talent to go for it! Wouldn't it be wonderful to see one of your paintings quilted? I do! Way to go! I am also a gourd artist and am fascinated with taking a design like a mandala and making it go around the gourd in perfect harmony. I am inspired!

    1. I'd love to see one of my paintings as a quilt! It would be a lot of work I'm sure, and not something I'm likely to undertake anytime soon. :)
      (Although, years ago, I did a lot of embroidery.)

    2. Virginia O'DonnellMay 26, 2012 at 6:42 AM

      Look at RaNae Merrill's website to enjoy her Mandalas in quilt form. They are very time consuming but so wonderful.