Then learn to make sacred beauty with your own hands by joining the
Stitching Buddhas Virtual Apprentice Program!
You know, I never intended to make silk thangkas. Their beauty took me by complete surprise!
When I first discovered this art, I was working as an economic development volunteer for the Tibetan refugees in India. I only expected to stay there a few months.
One fine day, I walked into a workshop where a Garuda image was being created out of silk. The beauty of that image stopped me in my tracks. The room went silent. If someone was still discussing the economic structure of the workshop, I didn’t hear them. Instead, I found myself falling deep into the colors of the image, sinking into the texture of the brocade, dazed by the shine of the satin, awestruck by the incredible delicacy with which the pieces were formed, linked, overlapped, and interconnected.
I had been taking Buddhist philosophy classes at the Tibetan Library and attempting to meditate for months, but in an instant I felt more deeply connected to Buddha’s teachings than I had at any time before that.
Ignoring the formal context of my visit and the fact that I could barely speak Tibetan, I immediately asked the master whether I could study with him. He stuttered and didn’t really answer. I don’t think he knew what to make of the question. Westerners don’t study Tibetan stitchery. Westerners can’t become apprentices. My desire didn’t fit his world view.
I returned to my room in Dharamsala. But I was changed. The seed that was planted that day would not be kept dormant. The dream that was awakened would not go to sleep. I was unstoppable. I had to learn. I just had to make these rich, vibrant, meaning-filled images with my own hands.
Nineteen years have passed since the day I walked into that workshop and fell in love. I remained in India for eight more years. I found a teacher and entered a full-time four-year apprenticeship that changed the course of my life.
You may be thinking that it sounds fabulously exotic but utterly impossible. Running off to India is just not on your agenda this year, and a full-time multi-year apprenticeship may seem like pure fantasy.
But don’t dismiss your yearning just yet.
You don’t have to play out the whole Stitch-Pray-Love uncut version like I did.
I’ve brought the lessons of that experience home with me. I’ve spent the past two years writing them down, honing my explanations, harnessing the resources of technology — of the internet and video calls and teleconferences and online art stores…
And I’m ready to share my lessons with you — wherever you are.
(I’m a big fan of clarity! And I’m committed to your understanding, no matter how far apart our homes may be.)
As an Atelier member, you’ll receive:
We develop a relationship with the things we make. And with Tibetan appliqué, we’re developing a relationship with centuries of wisdom. The objects we make and come to know are embodiments of our clearest wisdom, our deepest compassion, and our highest aspirations. They are carriers of vast teachings and great kindness.
I don’t understand everything that’s taught, and I’m not a great meditator. But, in making fabric thangkas, I’m immersed in an ancient river of insight that flows from Buddha Shakyamuni through countless spiritual masters, accomplished artists, and simple tailors. When I look into the eyes of the deities I create, I sense the presence of the lamas and the dedication of the artists who passed this tradition on, generation after generation, until I was lucky enough to meet it.
I also recognize the silkworms who spun the threads and the artisans who wove the cloth, the practitioners who will use these images to further their practice and the art lovers who will sit quietly before them, each touched in their own way.
To make a silk thangka is to be a part of this wondrous web.
People always think this work requires tremendous patience. I say, you don’t need patience to do what you love. The joy of creating sacred beauty stitch by stitch is uplifting. Sure, you have to wait for the end result. A thangka or even a simple lotus takes time to complete. (Stitches don’t multitask! They go on one by one.) And skills take time to master. (I never saw anyone wrap a smooth horsehair cord on the first try. . .)
But the process is soothing and centering. And rather than using patience, you’ll actually cultivate it, as you witness the beauty and mastery slowly emerging.
I’ve designed the Stitching Buddhas Virtual Apprentice Program so that you’ll feel connected and guided every step of the way.
I’ve written the lessons to be as detailed and clear as possible, and I’m available in the Atelier to clarify anything that remains confounding.
The Stitching Buddhas Atelier is a private online forum where you can get your questions answered, share photos, watch videos, and connect with fellow apprentices.
And in the Atelier, you can chat with me directly on video too!
PLUS as my apprentice, you’ll be invited to occasional apprentice-only in-person workshops. Nothing on the calendar yet, but you’ll be the first to know when they get scheduled.
I know. Nobody does. But ask yourself this: what’s meaningful to you? How we invest our time is how we shape our lives. In this work, the time you spend on crafts and hobbies will meld with your spiritual growth and connect you to ancient wisdom. It’s up to you. To me, that sounds like a pretty good investment of time.
It’s true that I am not Tibetan. But I lived for nine years among Tibetan refugees in Dharamsala, India. I spoke the language, ate the momos and drank the salty butter tea. I immersed myself in Tibetan culture and took teachings from some of the most accomplished spiritual masters of our time. Most importantly for you, I sat and stitched day after day, under the guidance of my kind teachers T.G. Dorjee Wangdu and Tenzin Gyaltsen. My four years of apprenticeship were dedicated solely to mastering the skills for making fabric thangkas.
I was so passionate about this work that I returned home every evening to work on my own thangkas, pushing ahead to master techniques that that my teachers had not yet introduced.
During my apprenticeship with appliqué thangka master T.G.Dorjee Wangdu, I assisted in making thangkas for His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Namgyal Monastery, Gyuto Tantric College, Sogyal Rinpoche, and many others. In the nineteen years since then, I’ve created traditional silk thangkas, original thangka quilts, and contemporary portraits — all with the techniques I learned from my Tibetan masters. My work has been exhibited internationally and is the subject of the acclaimed documentary film, Creating Buddhas: The Making and Meaning of Fabric Thangkas. I love the Tibetan appliqué tradition and am committed to its preservation, perpetuation, and evolution.
Drawing ability can help but it isn’t necessary. We work with tracings. Most appliqué thangka makers commission drawings from master painters. We will use drawings provided by other artists and found in books on Tibetan art.
A love of fabric is essential, but no sewing experience is required. In fact, experienced quilters and embroiderers might have to work a little harder to unlearn some of their ingrained stitching habits. The techniques used in Tibetan appliqué are unique. You won’t have seen them anywhere else. And I will teach them to you step by step, from the beginning, assuming no previous knowledge.
That’s okay! If you’re a quilter or mixed-media artist, you can use the techniques you’ll learn in this course to enhance the work you’re already doing, to create the designs of your own imagination.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama encouraged me to use these techniques to create any images that inspire any audience regardless of whether they’re interested in Buddhism or Asian art. Having cultivated a skill, we can each apply it in whatever way best serves us.
People often ask whether making a thangka is a spiritual practice and then pose questions about rituals, offerings, mantras, and dedications.
These things are all wonderful but they’re embellishments to the essential practice.
For me, the act of making is itself the practice.
And the beauty of the thangka, along with the moment-to-moment experience of making it, is its own reward.
Oh, and then there’s the wonderful joy in knowing that it provides inspiration to others!
So how do you get started? It’s really easy. Just decide which payment method you prefer and click the corresponding button below. It’s that easy. I’ll send your Initiation package out within a few days, and your first lesson will arrive in your inbox next week.
I can’t wait to work with you!
P.S. When we make something we have a relationship with it, we get to know it intimately. When we stitch a buddha, we make a representation of our clearest wisdom, our deepest compassion, and our highest aspirations… How cool would it be to cultivate an intimate relationship with that every day?
P.P.S. I won’t lie to you. This stuff takes time. But time’s passing anyway. How do you want to spend it? The Stitching Buddhas Virtual Apprentice Program is a unique opportunity to use your precious time in a meaningful way, tapping into a deep well of tradition to make something that will nourish you and inspire others. That might just be time well spent.
Click here to enroll now
Click here to enroll now
Have an inkling this is right, but don’t quite trust yourself… or me yet? I understand! This is a big step, and you don’t know me.
I am so committed to you growing through this experience, and so sure of the joy to be found in conscious stitching that…
If you feel this is something that speaks to you and that might allow you to express parts of yourself that haven’t been given space, I want you to feel safe to step into it, to make the commitment.
After all, this is not a quickie course, it’s the entryway to a deep and nourishing path that could lead to a lifetime of spiritual creativity.
That’s big stuff, so…
Since I understand it’s a big step (and it’s definitely not for everybody), I want you to feel safe in making it. I honor the faith you put in me as a teacher.
Then, when the program begins — love the silk… work with the lessons… watch the videos… connect with the tradition… clarify on the calls… connect with me and others in the Atelier…
If, during the first 60 days of the course, you decide we’re not a good match, just email me and return the Initiation package in full re-sale condition — and I’ll give you all of your money back! No questions asked!
You have nothing to lose — except for that vague feeling that something more meaningful is calling you.