On Kristen Winn’s left inner wrist is a teal-blue tattoo of an oval seventh-circuit labyrinth, its lines snaking around and around until your eyes almost cross trying to see the path. She got the tattoo 10 years ago, during a time of major transition. According to Winn, labyrinths are all about transition.

“There’s only one way in and one way out. In order to get through your sh*t, you’ve gotta work through it,” she says.

Eight years later, Winn discussed purchasing a plot of land with her brother; she planned to build an enormous labyrinth on the site. Winn recalls a conversation with a friend about the project:

“She’s like, why aren’t you building them around the world? And I’m like, ‘You’re right. Why aren’t I building them around the world?’ And just that one conversation shifted everything.”

Winn took a leap of faith, leaving behind her career in marketing and turning her fascination with labyrinths and the “messy middle” of life into a new profession. She’s built labyrinths from pavers and pinecones, in backyards and businesses, and as far away as Morocco. These days, she’s focused on her more immediate community, building in places like Bow Sanctuary’s gardens and local community members’ decks. Each project is different, the materials and style and permanence all based on the environment, circumstances, and purpose of the labyrinth.

“At a space that doesn’t have a labyrinth,” Winn says, “[the choice of materials] for a temporary one, it’s very much about what’s in season, you know what’s on the ground, what’s around us. I did one with pine cones and just spent five hours building [it]. So the reason [for the labyrinths], the time of the year, their long-term purpose, if they’re temporary or permanent— those all come into play.”

Winn notes that, while traditional labyrinths have a single path, with one entrance and one exit, some contemporary designs have been adjusted to meet the needs of their walkers. For example, reconciliation labyrinths have two entrances, so two people can begin at different points and eventually make their way to the center— and each other. That facilitation of connection is at the core of what Winn finds so compelling about labyrinths of all kinds.

“With labyrinths, part of what’s compelling about them is how they bring people together, in community,” Winn says. “It really is a way to just feel that sense of connection, and knowing that these have been around for thousands of years and there’s labyrinths around the world that people have walked for centuries and still walk today, and knowing that we’re all a part of that energy.”

More recently, Winn has expanded her business to include labyrinth-focused private group facilitations and one-on-one guided labyrinth walks. She leads everything from midnight moon-howls and dance parties to silent meditations, always with an eye to fulfilling each individual’s needs and facilitating their connection with nature, the labyrinth, and themselves.

“That’s what keeps a labyrinth alive is the people walking them,” Winn says. “Knowing that I’m creating something that is positive and nourishing and beautiful— that’s a gift.”