In Tibet, religious objects were commissioned by patrons, individual artists, or guilds, as existed in Lhasa. All orders were custom made and patrons could commission anything from a two inch statue to fit in a gao portable altar, to a massive, hand hammered piece that would grace the interior of a new monastery hall. A Thangka could be a 6 inch finely detailed tsakali or an applique measuring several stories, unrolled on special occasions. Individuals ordered a religious object as an act to merit, usually following the death of a loved one or an illness in the family. Apprentices began their training young, learning their trade by working alongside the masters, helping with orders and rising in the ranks as per their competence.
In the 80’s, it was difficult to find a qualified thangka painter to fulfil an order. There were still a few great artists in the community, but they were always overbooked with orders and one had to wait years for a simple thangka. Norbulingka decided to change that by hiring talented masters, and creating a haven where they could work and train their apprentices, recruited among new arrivals from Tibet. Having a talented pool of working artisans gave us the opportunity to work on exceptional projects, and it was as exciting an opportunity for the makers as it was for the patrons.
Today, though we do have a selection of available statues, thangkas, and appliqued thangkas, the work our artisans love best are the special ordered pieces that challenge their creativity and talent.