Archive for June, 2008

Christine Kane has done it again! Inspired and impressed me. Made me laugh and given me a practical tool for life.

For those who don’t know Christine, she’s a great songwriter too! Her blog offers inspiration and tools for living a more present, sane, creative, and rewarding life. Today’s post is titled What spam can teach you about inner peace. From the title, I thought it would be funny, interesting, practical. I was not prepared for the clever and insightful lesson it offered. (I should have known better!)

Comparing our thoughts to spam mail, Christine gives a simple tool for presence and for not getting carried away by our monkey minds. It’s the classic returning-to-the-breath or becoming-aware-of-the-body, but with a modern and fun twist that may make it easier to remember and apply. I’ll let you read it directly from Christine, since she’s such a master of words, but I’ll quote her ending here (sorry for the spoiler!):

No matter what the thought, it’s just that: a thought. You can believe it. Or not.

Should you bombard your mind spam with affirmations? Should you try to smile and pretend your mind doesn’t do this kind of thing? Should you try to clean up all of your thoughts so that they don’t happen ever again?

Well, you can work on that stuff, sure. But the mind will keep churning it out. And my advice is this:

When mind spam happens, do exactly what you do when email spam happens.

See it as the spam it is. Roll your eyes. Click “delete.”

Beautiful! I’ll just add my own little caution to those of you who haven’t played at exercises like this before. The point is not to growl angrily at the profusion of spam (thoughts) before clicking delete. They’re as much a part of the mind as spam’s a part of cyberspace. Just click delete… with a roll of your eyes, perhaps, and a smile on your face if you can muster it.

Read Full Post »

my artistic nameOn Thursdays, Alyson Stanfield poses a question for artists on her Art Biz Blog. This week, she gave me an opportunity to talk about my name confusion when she posed the question “What’s in a name?”.

Just as I have always tended to do double majors in school and just as my work lives between the Tibetan and the textile art worlds, I carry two names and vacillate between them, sometimes wondering whether I should go back to the original one or fully adopt the new one.

My art is based in Tibetan culture and tradition. I learned its techniques while living with the Tibetans in India and speaking Tibetan. In that context, I used the name given to me by a Tibetan lama. It’s a name that inspires me and that connects me with the tradition that inspires my art, and when speaking Tibetan it was completely natural for me to introduce myself with that name and to respond to it.

Then I began marketing my artwork in the west, talking about it in English-speaking environments. For a while I tried to use my Tibetan name alone: Rinchen Wongmo. But I always spontaneously introduced myself as Leslie, so that was a problem. It also made Wongmo into a surname, and that’s not how Tibetan names work. I wasn’t comfortable with it.

Finally I settled on turning my full Tibetan name into my artistic surname (hyphenating it to keep the two parts together) and keeping my original first name: I became Leslie Rinchen-Wongmo… professionally.

But, in many contexts, I still have my maiden name. (I was already too confused to even consider taking my husband’s name when I married!) So bank accounts and driver’s license and passport, travel reservations, etc. still carry Freilich. This gets confusing.

A magazine subscription may be in my original name, but if it’s connected with membership in an arts association, I may have joined with my artistic-Tibetan name. Membership in a sports club will be in my original name, while membership in the Surface Design Association will be in my artistic name. So what about membership in a Buddhist group? Since my artwork is Tibetan Buddhist art… I lose track. Occasionally, I forget what name I registered under. So far, there’s been no cost to this ambiguity other than the scattering of my own thoughts. But every now and then, I wonder if I should just go back to being Leslie Freilich and let the Tibetan-ness of my work simply speak for itself.

I’d be very curious to hear your thoughts on this.

Read Full Post »

Today I stitched some pieces of what will become the background for my Chenrezig. I’m very excited about this piece and don’t know whether to call it a thangka, a quilt, or something else. The figure is purely traditional. I used the traditional piecing and applique techniques I was trained in by Tibetan masters in Dharamsala. I created the drawing myself while studying how to draw within sacred proportions with Alex Kocharov in Sarnath many years ago. I have a special love of and connection with Chenrezig as a meditation deity, the representation of fully enlightened compassion and of our own potential.

And this Chenrezig will become part of a cloth wall hanging more similar to a contemporary art quilt than a traditional thangka. It’s an adventure, an experiment, which thrills me with a sense of risk and daring but also feels lovingly respectful of this Chenrezig figure I’ve created.

So today I was quilting. And since I’m still so new to quilting, the work was accompanied by a bit of fear of screwing up and curiosity about what technique might work best. While building some skill over the past months and waiting for some fabric to arrive, I’ve brainstormed design ideas which have changed multiple times. Now I think I know what I want the piece to look like, but bringing that vision into physical reality is something else.

My biggest discovery for the day was my love of free motion quilting, the life of the stitches, creating a rhythm of motion and breathing. One section, in particular, is long and horizontal, with long, rougly parallel lines of stitching running its length. In my practice pieces, I experimented with a normal presser foot and a walking foot — feed dogs up — as well as with a darning foot in free motion — feed dogs down. Because I had difficulty stitching smoothly at the long edge in free motion, I did the first few and the last few rows with the walking foot. But for the rest, I played joyfully in free motion. I have to say I like the subtle (well, at least as subtle as I can manage) irregularity of the stitches. I like using my breath to guide and time the movement. Here are some pictures of my results:

green quilting

turquoise quilting

purple quilting

Read Full Post »

Blogger’s block. Is this common a few months into the blogging life?

Today I received some hand-dyed fabric which I’ll use in the background of my Chenrezig piece. I’m very excited to move forward and finally finish it.

Nottingham was an interesting experience. My bags weighed 14.9 kg going and 15.2 coming back (sold cards but also carried back some I’d had printed in England), so I met the Ryan Air weight challenge by the skin of my teeth. Not a trivial accomplishment by any means!

I like the architecture of English cities. The ground-floor fronts are colorful and distinct from the upper part of the buildings. This makes the streetscape seem lower and more intimate.

And the countryside is soft and welcoming. I enjoyed three days in my friend Diane‘s tudor house in the country before the teachings started. Here’s a photo from the back of her beautiful garden and some flowers of the most amazing blue.

garden prayer flags

blue flowers

The “marketplace” at His Holiness’ teachings was in a “Big Top” circus tent about five minutes’ walk from the arena. The cold, wind, rain, spotty lighting, and uneven flooring made for an interesting (and exhausting) experience. At one point, the tent was even closed to the public because the wind was pulling up stakes! But still, we could intermittently watch some of the Dalai Lama’s teachings on a large screen TV, we had some nice Indian food, and people were quite kind and interested.

Two people, in particular, became seriously enamored with the Green Tara thangka, coming back to my table repeatedly to gaze upon her. And one woman asked that her extraordinary crystal be allowed to communicate for a while with Tara. I think they had quite a conversation!

I sold a lot of postcards but very few posters… I wonder why that is… It was interesting to note that people were especially drawn to the simpler images or those that focused on a detail. My lotus card was very popular, as was this close-up of White Tara’s face.

The ethnic diversity in England is impressive. Quite a contrast from Italy. More reminiscent of the US but even more mixed. People from every corner of the world sharing a splash in the fountain on the first sunny day. A Tibetan man who shared the Big Top market experience with me told me he’s lived in London for several years and it’s the first place where he doesn’t feel conscious of being a minority. He’s just a human in the great big mix of humanity there. But along with the diversity in Nottingham, which reminded me more of my US home than my Italian home, there was also a sense of suffering, of poverty, of alcoholism, of vulnerability which also reminded me more of my US home than my Italian one. Something to ponder…

Read Full Post »