I first visited Tibet in 2001 and instantly fell in love with the land, the people and the raw untouched nature. I had never felt this energy before and it was captivating.
I felt a deep connection and love with Buddhist Monasteries, it felt like I had been transported to another world. Large golden statues dimly lit by butter lamps, the smell of incense and the deep resonating sounds of monks chanting, the beating of drums and clashing of symbols.
Here was a country that had been through so much but somehow the people were all still so devoted and friendly. I was invited in for tea with people that couldn’t speak any English, and I couldn't speak any Tibetan, but it didn’t stop the connections and bonds that were formed over a shared meal and countless cups of yak butter tea.
This first visit was the beginning of a lifelong fascination with the people and culture of Tibet.
This image is from my first visit to Tibet in 2001. After passing this family's house I was invited in for tea. They then invited me to share a meal with them and sleep the night. I ended up staying a week, forming a connection that extended beyond a common language.
I first heard about the carpet weaving co-operatives in around 2004 when reading the Dalai Lamas autobiography named Freedom in Exile. I have had a long-standing interest in textiles, and these were like nothing I had ever seen before. I knew I had to visit one of the co-operatives.
In 2007 I returned to the Nomadic lands of Eastern Tibet to work on a book of portraits showing the deep rooted connection of the Tibetans and the wild, isolated land they had lived so closely with for thousands of years. The below image is one of these portraits: a women beside a mountain in Eastern Tibet.
In 2011 the book was published, the Dalai Lama wrote the forward and in 2012 I had the opportunity to meet him which had been a dream for many years. This brought me to the Tibetan settlements in the Indian Himalayas for the first time.
I fell in love with this region and decided to pack everything up in Australia and move to India to study Tibetan, live close to the Dalai Lama and be amongst the peace of the mountains.
I ordered 2 rugs from the co-operarive for my new house and spent lots of time with the women admiring the weaving, watching them work and practicing Tibetan with them and developing friendships.
When I moved back to Australia I contacted the co-operatives for a new rug for my house. The co-operatives usually weave flowers, dragons or auspicious symbols though I had seen a tiger skin design on the rare occasion. The weavers were able to uncover a pile of old patterns of Tiger Rugs from the storage which hadn't been used in years.
The man on the right is the original original artist who drew the designs of the Tiger Rugs. He is now 94 and has lived at the co-operative since the 1960's.
One of the beautiful things about the co-operatives is the commitment to look after the weavers and their families, even after they have retired from working. The weavers also have an unwavering loyalty to the place; recognising the value of community, stability and the sharing of skills through the generations.
Since 2012 I have visited the co-operatives annually. The weavers and their families have welcomed me into their lives and allowed me to share their Tiger Rugs with the world. I am so thankful for their openness and generosity and hope I can be a small part in telling the story of Tibet and preserving the craft and cultural traditions of the Tibetan people.