A mere mention of Dharamsala makes us think of majestic mountains and rolling grasslands. It is difficult to take your eyes away the breath-taking landscape, but if you make an effort, you can also learn to appreciate the culture of the town at the foothills of Himalayas.
Let’s hear it from an American artist trying her hand at a Tibetan art, Thangka Appliqué, a technique of creating thangkas using not paint, but precious silk.
Hi! I’m Heidi Reyes, an artist and web designer from the US. My father is Mexican and my mother is American. My heritage informs my artwork in the colors that I use. My artistic focus is on textiles, but I also make digital prints using various software programs, including apps on my phone. I’m here in Dharamsala, taking the Appliqué Thangka course at Norbulingka Institute, which is an amazing experience!
My style of art
It is difficult to use one word to describe my style of art. When I make digital prints, the colors I use are ethnographically inspired, but the forms I use are contemporary. My work with textiles on the other hand is based on the technique that I’m focusing on at the time. For example, Appliqué Thangka is based on Tibetan sacred art, so it has specific proportions and symmetry which must be followed. I’ve also worked with various textile techniques such as tapestry weaving, inkle weaving, back-strap weaving, weaving on a jack loom, free-form crochet, embroidery and sewing.
The journey so far
I’ve been making art since childhood. I started making detailed drawings using pencil when I was about 8 or 9. I then moved on to drawings in colored pencil when I was at university. I also took some art classes at university and started weaving at that point. When I finished university, I took up free-form crochet and started using software programs like Adobe Photoshop to make digital prints. In 2013-2014, I took a course in Web design and I got a certificate. Now, I’m learning how to make Appliqué Thangka.
Tryst with Dharamsala
I first came to Dharamshala in late 2010. I had just finished a Buddhist pilgrimage and I went on to Dharamshala for a few days. I was fortunate enough to be able to visit Norbulingka Institute at that time. Then in the summer of 2015, I was back in Dharamshala to learn Tibetan and a short course on Appliqué Thangka.
I went back to the US. Once I had returned, I realized that I greatly missed Dharamshala and the friends that I had made while there and that I really wanted to learn all there was to know about making Appliqué Thangka. I decided to return and take the whole Appliqué Thangka course from beginning to end. I returned to live here in May of 2016 and I feel very much at home here. The local people are very warm and welcoming! I’m very happy to be here and hope to be inspired by the landscape around Dharamshala for many years to come!
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Mysticism and art
I feel relaxed and refreshed when I look at the Dhauladhar Mountains and I love the lush green of all the plants here. This helps me get in a good frame of mind to create art. Also, I’ve taken photos of the mountains and the plants around here and used those photos to create art. The beauty of this area does indeed help me create art.
Dharamshala is a mystic land. There is mysticism in the air and the spiritual qualities of Dharamshala have a certain effect on you. I feel calm here and inwardly focused which leads to a better frame of mind to create artwork.
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The next thing
I’m looking forward to finishing this Appliqué Thangka course and making Appliqué Thangkas for people to use for meditation. I also want to use the techniques I learn in this course to make decorative objects and one-of-a-kind art on a commission basis. I’d like to set up a studio to do this, but I would also consider working with other Appliqué Thangka makers as well.
We thank Heidi Reyes for her time and wish her good luck on her next endeavors!
Follow her on twitter @fiberwoman15
Find more about her, link to her page: https://fiberwoman15.com/