Teaching

Teaching

  • Do you love the feel and shimmer of FABRICS?
  • Is your spirit ignited by a profusion of COLOR?
  • Do you yearn to surround yourself with INSPIRING BEAUTY?
  • Is CREATIVITY a part of your spiritual path?

Then learn to make sacred beauty with your own hands by joining the
Stitching Buddhas Virtual Apprentice Program!

I was once just as new to creating silk thangkas as you are now . . .

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.

I am a silk thangka maker.
leslie-stitching
Does my story intrigue you?

You can create silk thangkas too!

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.

The Stitching Buddhas Virtual Apprentice Program is a unique opportunity for you to tap into the centuries-old tradition of Tibetan appliqué from your own home and in the context of your own life.

Here’s what you get when you make the commitment to join the Stitching Buddhas Virtual Apprentice Program:

  • You’ll become part of something older and deeper than yourself as you learn about the ancient tradition from which Tibetan appliqué emerges. I’ll introduce you to the history of the tradition and explain the significance of this art in Tibetan culture and ceremony. Though I teach craft techniques, not religious practices, this work and these images carry the power of centuries of spiritual practice. When you step into that river of practice, you can’t help but be moved by it. The “pretty things” you’ll make are so much more than “pretty things.” (Toto, we’re not in quilting class anymore…)
  • You’ll delight in the shine, color, and touch of the genuine Varanasi silks contained in your Stitching Buddhas Initiation package. When you join the course, I’ll send you a starter pack of materials to work with. This small assortment of satin and brocade will aid you in seeking your own materials. I’ll also send you a few samples of silk-wrapped horsehair cords and stabilized cloth, so that you’ll have examples against which to compare your own first attempts. In this way (and others), I’ll be by your side, guiding you from my experience. These samples of my handwork help us feel close, bridging geographic distance.
  • You’ll become confident & competent in the basic methods of Tibetan appliqué with detailed step-by-step lessons. Delivered to you once a month for six months, these downloadable lessons in pdf format are yours to keep, print, reference, and work with for as long as you need them. I’ve poured everything I learned in the first year of my apprenticeship into these six lessons. And I keep improving them based on your feedback.

Lessons include:

    • written explanations of the fundamental steps in Tibetan appliqué
    • step-by-step instructions to create your own beautiful Lotus appliqué
    • supporting stories from my experience of learning these techniques with a Tibetan master and a community of apprentices in Dharamsala, India
    • explanations of the most traditional techniques and introduction to some more contemporary methods I’ve introduced in adapting the process to the world we live in
    • photographs to clarify the instructions
    • video clips to provide even more clarity

(I’m a big fan of clarity! And I’m committed to your understanding, no matter how far apart our homes may be.)

 

Here’s what you’ll accomplish:

  • You’ll create your own silk lotus by consistently applying the methods I’ll teach you in each lesson. At the end of the six-month Fundamentals course, you’ll have produced at least one work of Tibetan appliqué that you can hang on your wall, give to a friend, or incorporate in your other art and stitching work. The lotus you’ll make symbolizes your own luminous buddha nature (who we really are) uncontaminated by the mud of our reactive patterns and sometimes muddy lives.
  • After that, you’ll be able to apply the techniques you’ve learned to whatever designs you choose.

 

You’ll be supported every step of the way!

    The Stitching Buddhas Virtual Apprentice Program is designed to make sure you have all the support you need. Confusion’s no good for either of us, so…

  • You’ll have a chance to ask all your questions and clarify your understanding in monthly Q&A conference calls with me and your fellow apprentices around the globe. Though this is a distance-learning program, my commitment is that you never feel distant from support. If you get lost in the lessons, you won’t be lost for long. You’re not on your own. We’ll be talking every month.
  • You’ll deepen your understanding and appreciation of this sacred tradition through occasional special-topic calls and videos. Not every month, but occasionally, I’ll supplement the offering with a special conference call or video elaborating some aspect of the silk thangka tradition in Tibet and India or highlighting the benefits of this work.
  • You’ll also become a creator-participant in the evolution of new mode of training in traditional arts. Forced by our geographical dispersion and supported by the magic of modern technology, we move away from traditional residential apprenticeship and give birth to a new kind of community and a new kind of learning. Because it’s so new, we’re building it as we go along; and I invite, welcome, and depend upon your active participation in making it the best it can be as we push its edges and explore its full potential.

You’ll also be automatically enrolled in the Stitching Buddhas Atelier!

As an Atelier member, you’ll receive:

  • Access to a private online forum in which you can post all your questions as they arise and get a response from me within 48 hours (and from others as well). You’ll also be able to post photos of your work and view supplemental videos. This means clarification is immediately available! You’re not alone. It’s almost like being side by side in the same physical classroom!
  • Three 20-minute 1-on-1 video calls with me in which you can resolve those hard-to-explain doubts and difficulties. In our one-on-one video conversations, you’ll be able to show me precisely how you’re positioning your hands, moving the needle, pulling the thread… And I’ll be able to identify where you’re running into trouble. I’ll coach you personally and guide you to better results.


When you make something, even the most mundane object, you come to know it.

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.

 

Here’s what some people say when they see my thangkas and wonder about making their own:

  • “I don’t have the patience.”

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 can’t learn on my own; I need direct contact with a teacher.”

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 don’t have time!”

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.

  • “Shouldn’t you be Tibetan?”

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.

  • “I don’t know how to draw.”

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.

  • “I don’t know how to sew.”

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.

  • “I don’t want to make Buddhist images. I have my own design ideas.”

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.

To sum it all up, when you enroll in the Stitching Buddhas Virtual Apprentice Program, you’ll get:

  • Six original step-by-step lessons in the fundamentals of Tibetan applique
  • An Initiation Package of silk fabrics and samples
  • Six monthly Q&A conference Calls with Leslie and your fellow apprentices
  • Exclusive membership in the private online Stitching Buddhas Atelier, where you can post questions for Leslie anytime, get quick responses, and share your journey with others.
  • Three 1-on-1 private-access video conversations with Leslie.
  • Creative and attentional skills you’ll be able to apply in a myriad of ways.
  • A life-changing connection to sacred tradition.

Enroll now for $1497 or (to make it even easier for you to follow your heart if this resonates with you) you can make 5 easy installments of $327.

Click here to pay $1497 and enroll in the Stitching Buddhas Virtual Apprentice Program:

Click here to set up 5 easy payments of $327 and enroll now!

Satin Vajra Guarantee

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.

No worries.

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.

So, I’ll take all the risk for you.

Register today for the Stitching Buddhas Virtual Apprentice Program!


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 conditionand 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.