Since each of us was several, there was quite a crowd. Here we have made use of everything that came within range, what was closest as well as fartherest away. (Deleuze & Guattari, in the introduction to A Thousand Plateaus, 3)

Thursday, May 3, 2012

A Prayer Wheel Quilt

Red Prayer Wheel Quilt (2005)
114 x 148 cm 
An old Tibetan monk tells me the soul has no memory; the dead do not feel their past. This is left to the living. 
 (Colin Thurbon, 'To a Mountain in Tibet', 10) 

It was on our first day in Kathmandu that we visited Boudhanath and walked around the base of the Stupa in a clockwise direction spinning the prayer wheels as we went.

It was at the stupa I first met Tibetan women, they were wearing a certain type of apron, the bangdien or paang-den, formed from three vertical bands of repeating horizontal stripes. 

After walking in the Annapurna region, we spent some days in Pokara. I had wandered up a side street drawn by sound of a deep dark voice:
I do not know/and I could not see/who was waiting there/who was hunting me//by the rivers dark/where all goes on/by the rivers dark/in Babylon
(Leonard Cohen,  By the Rivers Dark)
And it was here I came across a tailor's shop. The owner invited me to meet his wife and family--they had a single room, most of it taken up by a double bed, which during the day became a place to sit or play on, their three young sons demonstrated how it could be used as a trampoline and invited me to join them.Foreigners were scarce, fear of the Moaist bombs were keeping them away, and the couple were eager to exchange stories.

Red Prayer Wheel Quilt
The cloth I bought from the tailor and the bangdien became a quilt - an 18th birthday gift - a traditional, if not specifically quilt design, the cloth woven in Nepal, the quilting stitches to be added by family and friends. 
It was during the process of making that his elder brother added further layers of meaning: 
"Cut and re-piece the design", he suggested, "and you will have a prayer wheel" 
 - it was as if the two horizontal panels were stitched together to form a cylinder and then re-cut to form the quilt, leaving a band of one of the panels still attached to the third.
"Think of it as constantly revolving", he continued, "our thoughts still with him even when we are not together". 
Details of the Red Prayer Wheel Quilt:
Materials:cotton, silk (various sources including Nepal), cotton threads. Polartec wadding (not recommended, it drags on the needle when hand stitching). Cotton backing (pieced).
Techniques: machine piecing, hand stitching. 

A Tibetan Apron, Bangdien
Left to right (vertical panels 1 -5)
Based on Bangdien design A, B, C
1. Same as Panel 5
2. Fragment Panel 4 reversed (C)
3. Central Panel (B)
4. Panel 2 reversed (C)
5. Fragment of Panel 1 (A)

Leonard Cohen: By the Rivers Dark in Book of Longing, Penguin Books, 2006, 53  

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