TAFA: The Textile and Fiber Art List

Sunday, August 15, 2010

TAFA Members Talk: Leslie Rinchen-Wongmo

"Nomad Girls", by Leslie Rinchen-Wongmo
As part of a series I am running on Fiber Focus about TAFA members, Leslie responded by sharing a bit about the places she has lived and how that has affected her work.  As fiber artists, we are all part of a larger community, an international one that has thousands of years of history where we can add our particular vision and voice.  But, as individuals, we help shape our immediate communities whether we work alone or participate in a larger group.  Leslie has immersed herself into Tibetan textile traditions and apprenticed herself to T. G. Dorjee Wangdu where she participated in embroidering thangkas for His Holiness The Dalai Lama and other notables.  She is one of the few Westerners who has had such an honor. 

Now, hear from Leslie:

Leslie Rinchen-Wongmo
For the past 20 years, I've been living primarily out of the country and traveling back and forth for events and to visit family. I LOVED living in Dharamsala, India, where I met and learned the precious tradition of Tibetan appliqué. There, I was immersed in communities of Tibetans, of dharma students, of artists, of adventurers. I felt very supported and very much at home. But nothing lasts forever, and life shifted in unexpected ways. 

"I once lived here... My beloved mountains in Dharamsala, India"  

I spent my 40s living in Milan, Italy. Milan was "closer" to California, more accessible to the airport, and less pleasant to hang out in. So, I traveled back and forth to California more frequently.

"and then I lived here... You pick!" (Milan, Italy)

Living on two continents and traveling back and forth frequently may sound exciting. And it's true -- life doesn't get boring. But it doesn't get connected either. Milan was a hard place to connect anyway, and connection was made even harder by taking off every few months. I met some wonderful fiber artists in Lugano, Switzerland, and participated with QuiltItalia a little. But I found that I couldn't be continuous in my activities, couldn't establish routines to make my work flow more smoothly, and couldn't take on an organizational role in any groups because I'd always be leaving too soon to take responsibility for follow-through.

A glimpse of my studio (now, back in California).

I love where I'm living now and am so fortunate to have a light and spacious area in which to work. The weather is cool and the ocean is near. It's a good place. And I'm on a path to connect with community here. I don't know whether there are relevant fiber arts groups, but I've found a wonderful Buddhist study group, some amazing entrepreneurial networkers, and will soon start an internship at an ethnographic art museum in LA. It's good to feel that I'm here for the long haul and can count on deepening my involvement in these (and other) activities.

"And this is just a block away!"

A word about physically near community:
In recent years, it has become easier and easier to connect with people and with like-minded groups online. My life has been bountifully enriched by such connections. I love email and Facebook and Twitter. I love that I can teach online through my Stitching Buddhas Virtual Apprentice Program. I love that I can stay connected in an inspiring way with people through my Threads of Awakening Weekly Wake-Ups.

Lotus, by Leslie Rinchen-Wongmo
But maybe because I'm a tactile person... Silk isn't silk unless you touch it. The light only shines off it in a certain way if you're standing near it. And the energy of physical presence with people is different than what travels through cyberspace... So community in my physical vicinity is important to me, whether that be through an arts group or a book group or a hiking group or a volunteer group. I'd love eventually to live in an artists' live-work community. One of the things I miss from my days in Dharamsala is the simple pleasure of having someone stop by for tea during the day. I'd stitch while we talked. It was wonderful! I'd love to live in a small arts community where that's possible again. But for now, I'm really happy where I am and am enjoying the process of connecting day by day.

Visit Leslie's Member Profile on TAFA for more samples of her work  and to find her places where she is on the web.  Leslie has a website, blog, and is on facebook and other places.  So, come and show her your support and leave a comment if you like her work!

Visit other articles about TAFA and its members on this blog.


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(Both by the master, Mark Twain)

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