Leslie Rinchen-Wongmo is on a mission to connect
A contemporary American textile artist and caretaker of a sacred Tibetan tradition, she stitches bits of silk into elaborate figurative mosaics bringing the sacred images of Tibetan thangka paintings to life.
She calls her work ‘Threads of Awakening’ and encourages people to follow the threads in their own lives — connecting the dots, stitching disparate parts and pieces into a beautiful whole, creating a tapestry that connects you to your heart and your heart to the world.
Trained in Dharamsala, India, in traditional apprenticeship to appliqué master T.G. Dorjee Wangdu, she participated in the creation of silk thangkas for His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Namgyal Monastery, Gyuto Tantric College, Sogyal Rinpoche, and others.
In a private audience at the end of her apprenticeship, His Holiness the Dalai Lama blessed Rinchen-Wongmo’s work, commenting that it was “Very beautiful. Very well done.” He then encouraged her to use this Tibetan art form to inspire people of other cultures and religions.
Since completing her apprenticeship in 1997, Rinchen-Wongmo’s thangkas have been exhibited internationally in museums, juried art shows, dharma centers, and at the Sun Valley Spiritual Film Festival and featured in magazines such as FiberArts, Fiber Art Now, and Spirituality & Health.
The documentary film ‘Creating Buddhas: the Making and Meaning of Fabric Thangkas’, focuses on Leslie’s work and story. The film highlights the rarity of female thangka masters. Though Tibetan appliqué workshops are filled with female apprentices, the masters are all men.
Leslie Rinchen-Wongmo is one of very few women creating her own silk thangkas and perhaps the only one passing the skill on to others. Through her Stitching Buddhas virtual apprentice program, she teaches the sacred craft to women around the globe, helping them connect the spiritual and creative threads in their own lives.
Leslie has always been a bridge and often finds herself with feet in two places, fingers in multiple pots, stitching together seemingly contradictory elements in her character and life.
Her own experience of integrating these disparate aspects of her life has increased her empathy for others who find themselves at loose ends, feeling disconnected. “Whenever I’ve felt unhappy in my life there’s been disconnection, alienation, an inability to contribute, to be heard, to understand, to connect,” says Rinchen-Wongmo. “And my greatest joy is to be immersed in the magic that arises naturally when people come together and intentionally open their hearts.
“I want my patrons to feel CONNECTED and totally at ease. Dancing with the universe, loved by the universe. I want viewers of my art to feel like their whole life sits in the heart of the buddha.”
In commission work, Leslie Rinchen-Wongmo helps patrons cultivate a deeper and more meaningful experience of their own lives through art that connects their personal growth with ancient Buddhist imagery and timeless wisdom… and beautifies their home at the same time.