A TibetSydney hand-weave isn't a rug; it's a story. A story where one
becomes part of the narrative. But it is a narrative, which in lesser
hands could mark a cultural crash-site. Here it becomes a calm controversy
of textures, palette and meanings between the occidental and oriental,
futurism and antiquity, noise and contemplation, skin and intellect.
Partner, Diki Ongmo's own story begins with exile from Tibet before birth.
Being born in exile creates a rare freedom and exquisite longing which could
be said to have forged the TibetSydney signature. Ongmo is Tibetan but has
also lived in the urban shock and sophistication of New York ; the verdant
mistiness of the hill stations of Darjeeling ; the graphic cacophony of Japan ;
Kathmandu 's cobbled medieval intricacy and the physicality of Sydney . Her
worldliness is as reflected in the pieces, as is her intimacy with the
surreal remoteness of Tibet .
Ongmo's voice at TibetSydney is one that speaks a language of touch. The
pieces are luxurious lanolin-rich Tibetan highland sheep's wool. The raw
material and hand-spun, died and knotted fibre gives them a tactile
complexity. The detail-driven designs are an intuitive synthesis bred of
Ongmo's unique cultural experiences and that of her Australian partner,
architectural photographer, Tim Linkins. The couple bring a complimentary
repertoire of skills and insights to designing the works. Linkins, with a
background in the arts and a highly trained photographic eye, specialising
in design and Ongmo, with studies in comparative religions at Amherst and a
heritage where design can have a spiritual significance. The designs take
cues across time and cultures. The most deceptively contemporary and graphic
textile designs in the studio's pieces are in fact those taken from the most
ancient and traditional of Tibetan designs, sometimes dating from the 11th
To engage with a TibetSydney piece is both a sensual and highly intellectual
experience. One is woven into the story of the piece, the text in the
textile, if you will, through the landscaping of the weave, the fibre and
the design. One is always already written into the story through desire.
That desire is generated through the narrative of both product and
Ongmo and Linkins, have gone to extraordinary lengths to establish a studio
workshop in Kathmandu unlike any other. "We have a profound investment in the culture- what in the west is seen as marginal - but we bring to it a modernity and worldliness, authentic to our experience. Initially we had to convince the weavers to
try to do things that seemed unusual to them. Those people have now been
with us for over five years and take great pride in their work and their
sense of excitement about what they do. We wanted to establish a facility
where the weavers would not be alienated from the production process. It was
extremely important to us to create a studio where the means of production
are embedded in the aesthetic of the object," Linkins said.
As opposed to using a local commercial facility, the Kathmandu studio
workshop has also allowed them the luxury of experimentation. The element of
experimentation is crucial to the evolution of the designs. The workshop
has also been specifically established to individualise the pieces if
desired. Designs can be re-configured in terms of size and colour. Having a
piece individually handcrafted, allows those who will take possession of the
piece to be further written into the narrative. The studio does not charge
for the rugs to be customised, as that is part of how the pieces work. The
mere 8 to 12 weeks that it takes only contributes further to the
anticipation and pull of designs. In other hands, a customised design can
take between 6 and 9 months.
In the elegant Queen Street environs of Sydney 's art and
design precinct, TibetSydney is housed in a Donovan Hill
Architects designed building. The internationally recognised practice is credited with
designing one of the great houses of the 20th century (in the C House).
The match between TibetSydney and Donovan Hill is a meeting of minds and one
that also suits the nature and behaviour of TibetSydney's clientele."There's no shop window to look through so there is an implicit invitation
to come inside and see," says Linkins. "People have to enter through this
one portal", he says of Tibet 's distinctive red door and brass framed
timber aedicule that forms the ritualised entrance to the building. "The shop
operates like a haven from the street, the noise and the exposure. One is
drawn in a process of discovery inside. It doesn't feel like a shop, it
doesn't feel commercial. People respond to the hospitality of the design."
The design of the TibetSydney premises can only be called dividual. The
space divides and divides again. Donovan Hill have treated what was before
them as a landscape rather than a set of rooms. The terrain is such that you
enter through the front door the only access point to the building and
negotiate a number of planes and rises both at ground level and in the
raised platform that forms the bamboo grove garden and the liquid line of
the oriental pond that runs the length of one of the gallery levels.
And while the architects would not deny an oriental design influence on
their modernist approach to premises, principal Timothy Hill says,"TibetSydney is more cheerful, cruder, more
festive and mystic. It's just like the rugs. The Tibetans can't resist a bit
of yak in the rugs."
Tibet Sydney is at 22 Queen St Woollahra Sydney, NSW Australia
T. 61 2 93632588