Feb 15, 2019

Tibetan Temple #1

When I begin a project, I often have no idea where it will take me, creatively. I do know that I will learn something new, develop a latent skill, or just be amazed.

As part of my Shrines to the Divine project, the Tibetan Temple (working title - I don't know the name of the piece in the beginning, either) is featured because of my deep appreciation for my Tibetan Thangka painting teacher, Tulku Jamyang Rinpoche, at a monastery in the Santa Cruz mountains.

Every Monday for three years we sat cross-legged on the floor of the one-room cabin he shared with his wife and two small daughters. Our workbench was his 3 year old's pink plastic play table. We drank roasted teas out of thin porcelain cups. My knees creaked.

Here, I have rolled out a sheet of polymer clay for the tile floor. While doing these mundane tasks (roll out, score, bake, build) I remember the patience of the Tulku when he corrected the shapes of the buddha's ears by guiding my hand. (I am left handed. He is not).

The base of the temple will be approximately 8x8 inches, following my 1.12 scale for the whole Shrines to the Divine project. I am using balsa and basswood, easy to saw and glue and manipulate and yet still structurally sound.

Tibetan Thangkas are scrolls, usually hand-painted and gilded by masters, which tell the stories and parables of the path of the buddha. I was drawn to the meditative ritual of the painting of thangkas, the sacred geometric patterns on which each buddha is precisely designed, the shapes of ear, nose, toe, nostril.

After about six months of drawing nose, ear, lips, eyes, brows, fingers, toes, hands, I risked a question to the ever-calm monk beside me, who also drew shapes - ears, nose, knuckles - with his very sharp pencil.

"Tulku," I began... "uhm, how long will I be doing body parts?"

The room was quiet as he continued to draw shapes I knew he had been drawing exactly the same for many many years.

He looked up at me with the kindest eyes.

"As long as it takes," he replied.

This polymer clay tile floor will be bakes for 30 minutes and then painted with Unicorn Spit, my current paint of choice. For the temple, for sure, because of its intensity of color. I believe it will be blue.

One of the other thing I love about creativity are the tools. On the right is a knife from my mother's silver flatware service, perfect for scoring tiny tile floors. Also, a ruler that Allan, husband #2, gave me in 1974 out out of his tool kit. I left the man, but I learned a lot from him, and he adopted my son, and he gave me this ruler. And an eraser. I still have both.

Below on the right is a bone paper folder my friend, Cary, gave me when I was deep into the creation of the book studio at the Barnyard in Carmel, also in 1974. The skills learned from my various and talented bookbinding teachers inform all my art projects.

"As long as it takes." Lesson in Buddhism for the day.



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