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So Many Ideas

The Blog Triage course that Alyson Stanfield and Cynthia Morris are running is spectacular — inspiring, motivating, and, well, a bit overwhelming too!

These two women have put together a rich assortment of ideas to get and keep us writing. They clearly did their homework. And now they’re keeping up with us every day — giving feedback, encouragement, and coaching. Awesome!

This week’s exercise was to generate (and organize) a variety of ideas for blog posts, keeping our readers and our purpose firmly in mind.

So far, I’ve come up with a few categories and a random smattering of other intriguing things. Let me know what you think.

Here are my categories (and a picture of the little boy in my 2006 Pool of Light piece. He looks like he’s cooking up some ideas too!):

Pool of Light, detail. Tibetan silk appliqué by Leslie Rinchen-Wongmo

Pool of Light, detail. Tibetan silk appliqué 19x30" © Leslie Rinchen-Wongmo

How To’s

  • how to hang a thangka
  • how to roll up a thangka
  • how to arrange the drape
  • how to clean a thangka (or as a conservator recently told me, “in a word, ‘don’t'”)
  • how to wrap a horsehair cord with silk thread
  • how to twist thread (ever examined a piece of string?)
  • how to photograph textile art (I’ve got more learning than teaching to do on this one, so I may ask your help!)

FAQs (the questions people ask me at screenings and exhibitions)

  • Where do you get the patience? (This one’s done!)
  • Where to get horsehair (along with stories of my adventures on the way to figuring it out)
  • How’s your eyesight?
  • Who are your customers?
  • How did you get in to your apprenticeship? Was it hard to get access, to be allowed in as an outsider?
  • Are spiritual practices an integral part of the work , mantras, visualization,…
  • Why I like to make thangkas on commission
  • How does commissioning a thangka work?
  • How do I choose which image to make
  • … and many more…


  • Tibetan art websites and blogs
  • Sites that link Art and Buddhism (or art and religion)
  • The blogs of our Blog Triage group
  • Blogs and websites that inspire me and might inspire you too
  • Tibetan art galleries and collections

Reviews & Reports

  • of Museums I visit
  • of Textile art exhibitions
  • of relevant books I read
  • of Buddhist and Tibetan-culture-related events

Interviews or Profiles (yikes! these will take some work, but could be great fun)

  • of other thangka artists
  • of other textile artists, especially those who are working in a traditional form
  • of other western artists working in a foreign cultural tradition

Random (and incomplete) smattering of other intriguing thoughts

  • Quirky observations of the expat life
  • Explanations of the parts of a thangka, how they’re constructed, the brocade mount, etc.
  • Articles and blog posts that inspired me or solved a problem
  • Relevant office supplies, software, and gadgets I’ve found helpful (like this great little online stopwatch for managing task time)
  • Balancing the solitary nature of art making (which appeals to the introverted part of me) with the need for social contact (to energize and awaken the extroverted part of me)
  • Explanations or translations of Tibetan art lingo, Buddhist lingo, thangka lingo
  • Physical objects I find or see which inspire me
  • Tibetan art scholarship news, events, writing, discoveries
  • Thangkas I’ve seen or am studying or find on the web
  • Continuing experiments with a variety of textile art techniques
  • Inspirations of various sorts, wherever they may turn up (and they’re everywhere!)

If you’re a regular reader of my blog — or even if you’ve just stopped by and like what you see — tell me some things you’d like to read about here. I’ll see what I can do.

I’d also love for you to help me fill in some details on the ideas I’ve outlined above. That way you can help me be more interesting to you. Sounds like a good thing for both of us!

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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!

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photo from Clemson University Newsroom, March 2008

photo from Clemson University Newsroom, March 2008

In an ironic twist of fate, I had my patience tested yesterday. See, I’ve been meaning to start a series of posts on the questions people ask me about my work… and my responses to them.

As people spend time with my work, at some point they invariably make some comment about patience. An admiring, “Wow, what patience you have!” Or a self-deprecating, “I could never do what you do. I don’t have the patience.”

So yesterday I set out to write a post about patience. Added incentive was provided by my new commitment to spend twenty minutes every day writing (and that doesn’t count e-mail!)

I set my timer. I wrote. It was good. I liked what I was writing. It came easily, was fresh, funny, honest… I was pleased. Okay, just save the draft for a final proofread later, and …


I don’t know what was up with WordPress yesterday, but “Save Draft” resulted in “revert to what was on the page before you started writing,” i.e. the title! My post was gone.

Well, as I had written, I’m actually not a very patient person. (“Ask my husband. Ask my parents,” I wrote.)

Given that, I think I handled the experience pretty well. I even laughed. A poet recently told me about how important it is to learn not to fall in love with your own work. Maybe I liked my post a bit too much. I’ll write it again soon, but differently I’m sure. For now, it’s like one of those Tibetan sand mandalas that gets swept into the river at its most beautiful. Bye bye post! See you around! In your next unique incarnation…

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Lotus by Leslie Rinchen-Wongmo, 2009

Lotus by Leslie Rinchen-Wongmo, 2009

I’m trying out Twitter. Not sure what will come of it but curious enough to give it a go.

Now, it seems to me that if I want people to “follow” me, I should give them some reason to do so. I just don’t think many people are interested in what I’m eating for breakfast. Who knows?

SO… here’s my idea:

I’m going to start two regular tweets.

Weekly Thangka will give a link each week to a thangka that I find on the web. I’ll try to uncover some unusual pieces with good photos and/or descriptions and, of course, will emphasize textile forms as much as possible. Contributions are welcome. Let me know what you find.

Thangka Tidbits will be occasional bits of information about thangkas. How they’re made, what they’re composed of, history, functions, etc., etc. I’ll share what I know and what I learn along the way, in small tweet-size chunks (less than 140 characters). I hope it will be interesting and useful. It’s an experiment!

Follow me on Twitter to see how what arises. Starting soon…

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Having replaced my header with one of my non-traditional images, I found Ken McLeod’s timely reflection on tradition.

View the original post on Ken’s blog here.

another view of tradition

A tradition is an accumulation through time of inspired works, created by people who do not have tradition on their minds. If they have anything on their minds, it is their own uniqueness: the ways they do not fit in, not the ways they do.
— Clive James

In Buddhism (and elsewhere), much is made of preserving tradition. I’ve long felt that there was  problem with this notion, namely, the things one tends to preserve are dead, perhaps to be eaten later, or only to be viewed in a jar of formaldehyde, or after being subjected to a process that preserves form, shape, and perhaps color but certainly not the thing itself.

This quotation, from Clive James’ book Cultural Amnesia, is a delightful reminder that tradition is only a concept applied to a certain phenomenon. The phenomenon itself is created by people doing “untraditional” things — writing, painting, or teaching in ways that generate new energy, new responses, new possibilities.

Recently, an old colleague of mine called to describe how a group of people at a center had asked him to translate a text for their practice, and then had turned around and changed some of the words and phrasings in his translation to more “traditional” vocabulary. The translator here has long and deep experience and has come to understand how the “traditional” vocabulary leads people astray or limits their understanding of their practice (not just the text, but their practice). Against stupidity, even the gods struggle in vain.

In our culture, we try new things, find what works, and discard what doesn’t. We go down wrong paths, we get into trouble, but we learn, through experimentation and innovation. When they limit themselves only to what is tried and true, most people in this culture grow restless and impatient, unless they die of stasis and boredom first.

Posted by Ken at 1:11 PM

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Take a look at this:

Around the world in 30 colors

Wow! I love it. I know nothing about this blog or blogger but I feel richly nourished as I scroll down the page. Drinking in this BOUNTY of colors, I feel full, at home, happy. Wow!


The original post is on Environmental Graffiti and was written and assembled by Linda McCormick. Thanks Linda!

Here are a few colorful photos from my own collection (some are mine, some are Francesco’s). Mmmm…. They don’t rival the ones on that blog, but they’re still cool!

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