Threads of Awakening

An American Woman's Journey into Tibet's Sacred Textile Art

Non-Fiction - Art/Photography
328 Pages
Reviewed on 07/20/2022
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Author Biography

Leslie Rinchen-Wongmo is a textile artist, teacher, and author of "Threads of Awakening: An American Woman’s Journey into Tibet’s Sacred Textile Art."

A California girl who bought a one-way ticket to India and landed in a Tibetan sewing workshop next door to the Dalai Lama, she became one of few non-Tibetans to master the Buddhist art of silk appliqué thangka. Trained by two of the finest living Tibetan appliqué artists, Leslie learned to stitch bits of silk into elaborate figurative mosaics that bring the transformative images of Buddhist meditation to life.

Her pieced silk thangkas have been exhibited internationally and featured in magazines such as Spirituality & Health and Fiber Art Now and in the documentary, "Creating Buddhas: The Making and Meaning of Fabric Thangkas."

After two decades abroad, Leslie returned to southern California where she now lives with three cats and enough fabric to last several lifetimes, but never enough for the next project.

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Kimberlee J Benart for Readers' Favorite

Thangkas are a rare form of fabric wall hanging depicting sacred figures of Tibetan Buddhism. Using a little-known technique called Tibetan applique, these detailed images are created by sewing together pieces of colorful silk. Leslie Rinchen-Wongmo is one of few Westerners who has mastered this tradition. In Threads of Awakening: An American Woman's Journey into Tibet's Sacred Textile Art, she describes not only her transformation from an urban planner/economist working in India for the Tibetan refugee community into a full-time art student but also her spiritual journey as a follower of Tibetan Buddhism. A foreword by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, a preface by Tibetan art educator Pema Namdol Thaye, an appendix with instructions on the technique, a glossary, and photographs are included.

In Threads of Awakening, Leslie Rinchen-Wongmo gives us a wonderful blend of art and autobiography. Her writing style is engaging, well-paced, informative, detailed, and revealing. Just as the thangka communicates spiritual teachings through the puzzle piece-like details in the images created by the fabric, so the author explores the spiritual transformation she experienced as the pieces of her life came together like a puzzle when she saw her first appliqued thangka - an epiphany not unlike being struck by the proverbial light on the road to Damascus - which redirected her life. Bringing this art form to the West, making the study of it available to others from around the world through a virtual apprenticeship program, and helping to preserve a re-emerging traditional textile art that was nearly lost will surely bring many blessings. Highly recommended.