Calendar Pages -- Lecture: Jan Pether - Reviving The Art Of Tibetan Thangka Applique

February 14th, 2009

Lecture: Jan Pether - Reviving The Art Of Tibetan Thangka Applique

Lecture: Jan Pether - Reviving The Art Of Tibetan Thangka Applique0

Place: Fourth Floor, The Siam Society,
131 Asoke Rd, Sukhumvit 21
BTS - Asoke; MRT- Sukhumvit
Time: 10:30 a.m.

The Thai Textile Society, in association with the Siam Society, invites members and the public to attend a lecture on "Reviving the Art of Tibetan Thangka Appliqué" by Australian social anthropologist Jan Pether. The lecture will be held at The Siam Society on Saturday, February 14 at 10:30 a.m.

Ms Pether, a friend of Thai Textile Society member Helen Stone, has worked at the Norbulingka Institute near Dharamsala in northern India, for the past 20 years. Jan will display several Tibetan Appliqué thangkas for members to experience firsthand this truly exquisite art form.

The creation of thangkas, using a form of appliqué and made entirely from silk and brocade, goes back many centuries in Tibet. One of the Fifth Dalai Lama's many achievements was to raise the quality of fine arts in Tibet. He established guilds that monitored the standard of their members' work. As they were creating religious art, appliqué artists were tailors who belonged to the highest ranks of the tailoring guild established in Tibet. They worked with thangka painters to set the proportions and outlines of the deities they created in silk and brocade. Tailors usually joined the guild at a very young age and spent months practicing sewing by hand, until they reached remarkable standards of evenness and speed.

Appliqué thangkas hold the same religious significance as painted thangkas, offering practitioners a focus for their meditation.

The appliqué artists begin by preparing the stencil of the central figure. Using this stencil, hundreds of pieces are hand cut from colored silk and brocade. The image of the deity is then assembled from the individual pieces, each of which is outlined with silk-wrapped strands of hairs from a horse tail. The complete piece is then attached to the background and other smaller figures and landscape details are added using the same method, to form a complete thangka.

Finally, like painted thangkas, the finished appliqué image is set in a brocade border, which has both an aesthetic and protective value.

The Norbulingka Institute where Ms Pether works is dedicated to the preservation of Tibetan culture. At Norbulingka, the sacred and traditional arts of Tibet, such as thangka painting, wood carving, statue making, appliqué etc, are passed down to a new generation by masters who were trained in Tibet. Many of these skills and traditions are dying out in the exile community. In Tibet itself, art and culture are regarded as expressions of Tibetan identity and receive scant encouragement. The Norbulingka Institute offers apprenticeships in thangka painting, wood carving and statue making, as well as employment for those already trained.

Appliqué work was revived at Norbulingka Institute nearly 10 years ago; the appliqué artists at Norbulingka do their finest work when they make silk thangkas. Constructed of hundreds of hand-cut pieces of silk and brocade, these elaborate creations require many months of work. Silk thangkas in varying sizes have been made at Norbulingka; the largest to date was a 14 foot high appliqué thangka of Buddha Shakyamuni.

The Institute is a trust, whose Chairman is His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The Institute is part of the growing Tibetan refugee community that has been living in exile in India since His Holiness the Dalai Lama left Tibet in 1959. Norbulingka is dedicated to the preservation of Tibetan culture.

In addition to offering Tibetan refugees a chance to learn a skill and earn a living, the Institute also endeavors to provide a Tibetan community in which they can live, develop and raise their families with dignity, self-respect and an awareness of their Tibetan heritage.

In addition to her exhibit, Ms. Pether will also have a limited number of thangkas that will also be available for sale.

The suggested donation is 100 baht for members of the Thai Textile Society and the Siam Society. Members of the public are asked to donate 200 baht.

For more information, please contact