Story of Us

Narrative Weave

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, dyed 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 century.

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 production…

…the Kathmandu studio workshop has 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…

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.

Donovan Hill Architects, winner of the 2004 NSW Royal Institute of Australian Architects Awards for ‘Aleterations and Additions’ and ‘Adaptive Re-Use