Take Care of Yourself with Women + Patterns + Plants

Coloring page of woman with indecipherable writing in her hair; opposite page is full-color image of a Black woman with eyes closed and hands folded in prayer under a night sky.

Women + Patterns + Plants

Sarina Mantle
Liminal 11
December 2018

This “self-care colouring book” by Sarina Mantle is 50% coloring book, 50% journal, and 100% work of art. (Don’t question the math, just embrace the patterns and relax.) Within its pages, you can find peaceful and powerful images of women, lush landscapes to bring to life, places to write and reflect, and soothing patterns to lose yourself in. A celebration of the feminine, Women + Patterns + Plants provides shelter from a harsh and abrasive world.

Cover: "Women + Patterns + Plants", text "a self-care colouring book" and "Sarina Mantle"; Black woman in patterned dress, standing among cacti

From the moment I laid eyes on the cover of Women + Patterns + Plants, I could tell I was in for a treat. Bright oranges and pinks give the book a warm, welcoming feel that invited me to open it and explore. Paging through the book, it quickly became clear that this is a work that embraces and celebrates the feminine.

I don’t mean a stereotypical Euro-centric white woman feminine, either. Mantle’s feminine is unapologetically, vibrantly black. Hair with kinks and coils, puffs and braids. Patterns inspired by her parents’ roots on St. Lucia. Headwraps and geometric jewelry.

Mantle makes no mystery of the purpose of her book, laying it out in her introduction:

“There are three things which create a revolution in my heart: women, patterns, and plants… This self-care colouring book awakens the divine feminine energy through hand-drawn images to inspire and empower you.”

I have to be honest here. When I first opened Women + Patterns + Plants, I wondered if I had any business reviewing it. I worried I might inadvertently white woman all over something that isn’t for me. Because in many ways, this coloring book isn’t for me; it is the work of a black woman of color creating for herself and other women like her. Mantle’s work adds another voice to a shelf that includes LaShawnda Lindsay-Dennis’s Ebony Essence, and E.B. Davis and Julie J. Sheah’s The Rhymes and Hues of Ebony.

Determined to do right by the book, I dove into Women + Patterns + Plants. My stress ebbed as I flipped page after page. Patterns calm a racing mind. Potted plants and climbing vines soothe. Journaling prompts and blank pages provide space to reflect. Illustrations of women engaged in yoga and self-care generate feelings of serenity.

Left page text: Together hands heal in sacred embrace of love All goddesses rise. Right coloring page: Incomplete coloring of nine women's hands overlapping at the center and framed with riotous flowers.
Without a doubt, this wound up being my favorite page. I only wish I’d had time to finish, but I’ll keep at it.

The result is at once deeply personal and extremely relatable. At first, I fretted about coloring well enough, both to do the illustrations justice and because I wanted to share a page I had done in this review. But I realized that was working against Mantle’s purpose in creating the book. I wasn’t taking care of myself; I was stressing out and setting off my anxiety. Once I embraced the book as it was meant to be, I enjoyed myself more and found the time I spent in its pages to be genuinely calming. I stopped fretting over periods of forced inactivity and used them to refresh myself.

If you enjoy combining art and journaling, or just want to explore what the feminine can include, Women + Patterns + Plants might be right up your alley. It’s not a universal feminine—because I don’t think there is a universal feminine—but it’s a wonderful, powerful, inspiring one.

Laura Stump

Laura Stump

I'm a constantly sleep-deprived writer who mostly prefers the company of cats to people, although cats (curse their lack of opposable thumbs!) can’t fetch beer from the fridge the way people can.