Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Tibetan applique’ Category

WFMU’s Beware of the Blog brought this to my attention:

The Newark Museum is celebrating their 100th birthday (from yesterday through Sunday, April 26) with 100 straight hours of free admission and loads of activities. There’s a schedule on their website.

To quote WFMU,

The Newark Museum is a gem that sometimes gets lost in the shadow of New York’s mega museums.  They have one of the largest collections of Tibetan art outside of Tibet, and since the 1930’s have had a gorgeous consecrated Tibetan Buddhist altar, most recently renovated in the 1990’s by a monk who worked on it for months, offering visitors the chance to observe his daily progress.

I have to concur. Besides having one of the best Tibetan collections around, it’s one of the only collections to include silk appliqué thangkas! They have a large 15th century Medicine Buddha silk thangka from Gyantse on display, along with a video of its restoration in 2002. There’s also a photo series of an unveiling of the giant Drepung thangka in 1999, by Nancy Jo Johnson. An unusual fabric thangka of Tsongkhapa in the Museum’s collection is not currently displayed.

I recently visited the Museum for the second time and highly recommend going if you have the chance. Friendly staff too!

Read Full Post »

Every screening of Creating Buddhas is a wonderful opportunity to connect with curious, appreciative people and to share something about a world and an art form I love to talk about. But last Saturday’s screening at the Drikung Kyobpa Choling Tibetan Meditation Center in Escondido, California was extraordinary. A couple of surprise guests helped me to see how valuable and important this film is.

Two Tibetans — Lekshay, a fabric thangka maker and good friend of my teacher Dorjee Wangdu, and Tenzin, son of Namsa Chenmo, personal tailor to His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Both have lived in San Diego for a number of years. Though I didn’t recognize him at first, Lekshay was a frequent visitor to the tsemkhang (sewing workshop) during my apprenticeship. As we talked on Saturday, the memories moved closer. His daughter had found the Creating Buddhas on YouTube and had told her father who recognized my name. So they responded enthusiastically to the center’s invitation for a screening.

I was a bit anxious sharing the film with Tibetans. I had had a similar feeling a week before as thangka painter, Pema Namdol Thaye, watched in Pasadena. I’m carrying on their tradition. I come from outside the culture. Will they think I’m presumptuous? Will they disagree with my statements? Will they object to the ways I’ve evolved my technique?

After the film, my doubts dissolved. During the question-and-answer session, Lekshay and Tenzin expressed gratitude and appreciation for the film, for Isadora’s production of it, and for my continuing production of fabric thangkas in the west. They spoke of their own limited capacity (and that of Tenzin’s father, Namsa Chenmo) to communicate in English, to present their cultural tradition effectively, and they thanked Isadora and me for doing it. They, and I, were almost moved to tears.

Sometimes I think that making silk thangkas is just too impractical. Sometimes I think of giving it up. At some of those times, a feeling of responsibility keeps me going. I feel I have a responsibility to continue, though I’m not sure to whom or to what. Last Saturday, that sense of responsibility was reinforced. Lekshay has not made thangkas for some years. Working to make a living doesn’t leave enough time. Life in the west doesn’t support this kind of work… I have always known I enjoyed favorable circumstances. Saturday I gained a renewed appreciation for just how precious my situation is. I can continue to make silk thangkas. I can teach. I can write. Not everyone can. Perhaps Lekshay and I will be able to collaborate in the future, to exhibit our work together.

This week I’m grateful for the film, for Isadora’s confidence and perseverance, for Tibetan culture, for smiles… and for YouTube.

Read Full Post »

Endangered Tibetan art form

blossoms in Italy

Wed Dec 17, 2008 9:42am EST

Photo

By Barbara Cornell

MILAN (Reuters Life!) – She left for Dharamsala, India, as an economic and community development volunteer and emerged nearly nine years later as master of a rare Tibetan art form, the fabric Thangka.

Leslie Rinchen-Wongmo painstakingly transforms horse hair, fine silk thread, colorful Indian silk fabrics and luscious brocades into traditional depictions of Tibetan Buddhas. A single work takes four months to a year-and-a-half to complete.

Four of her traditional Buddhas and two Tibetan-inspired modern textile pieces are on display in Milan until December 19 at the show “Silk Mosaics: Sacred Images and Techniques from Tibetan Tradition.” Showings can be arranged through January 4.

Rinchen-Wongmo is also the subject of “Creating Buddhas,” a documentary released this fall that will be shown January 18 at the Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena, Calif., which hosted a large exhibition of her work in 2002.

“I never decided to do this,” she said at the Centro Mindfulness Project in Milan, where her work is on display. “When I saw it, it just took me.”

She first saw a crafts center producing fabric Thangkas while touring Dharamsala as part of an economic development team. The intricate, richly colored Buddha tapestries are used in ritual spaces like altars and temples but are so rare that even many Tibetans have never seen one.

Through persistence and luck, perhaps fate, she was allowed to train with a Tibetan master, perfecting delicate stitches amid swarming flies drawn by the raw meat juice smeared on the silk to stiffen it. She now uses a cellulose and acrylic mixture.

She spent a year just learning to embroider eyes.

Sixteen years after that first encounter, Rinchen-Wongmo, 48, is now one of a handful of women fabric Thangka masters and one of the few masters outside Asia. Married to an Italian, the California-born artist lives in Milan and Los Angeles.

She begins by making a drawing in traditional proportions to prepare a template for her bits of cloth. She gives contour to fabric shapes by appliqueing round threads made from three strands of horsehair wrapped in fine silken thread. She sews the shapes together and finishes with a brocade frame.

Rinchen-Wongmo, who uses a Tibetan name meaning “precious, empowered woman,” works on commission so rarely assembles her far-flung Thangkas into a show. Eleven appear on her website, www.silkthangka.com. For exhibition details, visit “Exhibition in Milan” on her blog: stitchingbuddha.wordpress.com.

(Editing by Paul Casciato)

Read Full Post »

The Norbulingka Institute has a beautiful new website!

I first met Tibetan appliqué work at the Norbulingka Institute in 1992 while engaged in volunteer work with the Tibetan Planning Council in Dharamsala, India. I was part of an economic development team touring some of the refugee community’s handicraft centers, together with the founder of a company marketing Tibetan products in the US for both commercial and cultural preservation purposes. I still remember the awe I experienced when I came in contact with the vivid colors and rich textures of these forms. For me, it was like Amish quilts met spiritual awakening in an explosion of joy and beauty! I loved the intensity of the colors, the energy of the forms, the profundity of the tradition. And I determined that day to learn to make these artworks myself.

It took a while to find a teacher, and I never did study at Norbulingka. My teachers were Tenzin Gyaltsen and T.G. Dorjee Wangdu. But I have always retained great respect for the Norbulingka Institute as the seed inspiration for my career. And I’m so pleased to see their new website, which beautifully displays their work with grace and integrity. I wish them the best in their efforts to preserve and enrich Tibetan artistic traditions.

Read Full Post »

Click on the picture below to play the trailer of the documentary Isadora Leidenfrost and I have been working on.

Read Full Post »