by Lydia Ruyle
Creating Buddhas, The Making and Meaning of Fabric Thangkas
a film by Isadora Gabrielle Leidenfrost
Creating Buddhas is a documentary film by Isadora Gabrielle Leidenfrost featuring an artist who makes Buddhas out of silk, Leslie Rinchen-Wongmo. Trained in Dharamsala, India for nine years, Leslie is one of the few female fabric thangka makers in the world.
Thangka, which means a rolled up image made of silk cloth, helped spread Buddhism throughout Asia. Viewing a thangka sacred image is a Buddhist spiritual practice which helps sentient beings move in the direction of enlightenment.
In the Tibetan cultural tradition, fabric thangka making is the highest form of art. Thangkas are made of precious materials; pure silk, gold threads, ornaments. There is a geometrical, artistic and spiritual canon to follow. It is a challenge to learn and practice the art form.
The beautiful film follows the process of making a Green Tara thangka from its beginnings to completion over six months later. The process is both a spiritual one and an artistic one–both the making of thangkas and the making of movies.