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        Martin Walker-Watson




            My first extended residency in the Himalayas was for about 8 years between 1974 and 1982. Settling in Dharamsala, I studied the Dharma, made pilgrimages to sacred sites and started to photograph thankas and gompas both old and new. Dharamsala was a quiet little town in those days but I had extraordinary neighbours and teachers. Geshe Rabten lived at the bottom of the garden, Ling Rinpoche next door, and when in residence Lama Thubten Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche. Kenji Babasaki taught me the basics of grids and drawing Buddhas. His Holiness the Dalai Lama was easily accessible and suggested a Burmese meditation course would be helpful, and so there followed for me a period as an ordained Theravada bhikku in what was then Rangoon, Burma.


            I made my way to California and then the Cayman Islands in the West Indies. For 10 years I worked in the jewellery business for a goldsmith specializing in salvaged coins from shipwrecks and high-end custom made jewellery. My Dharma studies continued with the Kalachakra initiation in Los Angeles 1989, and not long after I was invited to assist with the gilding of stupas and thrones in Australia, the U.S. and in Europe.


           My second extended residency again in Dharamsala was for 6 years was from the mid 1990’s to the early 2000s. I established the Gilding Arts Studio on Upper Dharamkot and was immediately being commissioned to gold leaf other student’s precious Holy Objects. I renovated the old shepherd’s cottage where I had spent many years in retreat and ran jeep-safaris to Lahaul, Spiti, Kinnaur as well as Ladakh and Kashmir. After my marriage to Mary we moved to Bruny Island in Southern Tasmania and bought a beach-front restaurant which we ran for 5 years.

          My third extended residency in the Himalayas was from 2008, when we spent a year in Lhasa as Mary was running a Maternal And Child Health NGO, and then another 4 years in Nepal. I had set up my studio in Lhasa gilding tsatsa and visited many art workshops that were creating the new statues for the reconstructed gompas. For political reasons we decided to move the NGO to Nepal and continue the work there. I started to work with the metal workers in Kathmandu, partnering with the Shakya brothers in Patan. We would design the work with drawings somewhat similar to the initial stage of painting a thanka. The form would be crafted by hand in copper repoussé and I would then gild these sculptures with gold-leaf and finally Open the Eyes. Some pieces have taken many hundred of hours to complete.

         My first solo exhibition called Sacred Buddhist Art for the 21st Century was held in Dharamsala in 2010 at the Peak Art Gallery. The Artworks on display here today in the Parlour Gallery of Kickstart Arts are the result of that collaboration with the repoussé craftsmen of Patan. My studio is on Bruny Island, south of Hobart.

June 2017

Gilding Arts Studio




Martin Walker-Watson

          Pilgrim and former Buddhist monk, artist, metal-finisher and gilder, school teacher and instructor Martin has a diverse background in both the arts and the sciences, and with a broad range of skills and experience he specializes in the creation of Sacred Art.

          Martin graduated from the Asian Institute of Gemmological Sciences (Bangkok, Thailand) with his Accredited Gemmologist Diploma in 1982; and also from the Gemological Institute of America (G.I.A.) with diplomas in Jewelry Manufacturing Arts (California) in 1986, and Diamonds and Diamond Grading (NewYork) in 1995.


          Born in the UK, Martin travelled to India and Nepal in 1974 and for 8 years lived on Upper Dharamkot, a remote ridge above the town of Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh in the Indian Himalayas. Over the past 40 years he has studied Buddhist philosophy and Asian Religious Art, and practiced meditation with masters in both the Tibetan Nalanda Traditions and the Theravada.  His first meeting with His Holiness the Dalai Lama and other renowned teachers was in 1976 and received full monks ordination at the World Peace Pagoda in Rangoon, Burma in 1979 through the Buddha Sasana Council.

         After returning to lay-life and completing gemmological and jewellery training during the 1980's, Martin spent 10 years working for goldsmiths on the island of Grand Cayman in the British West Indies; designing custom-made jewellery, buying gems at source, jewellery appraising, retail jewellery store management, and wholesale and retail jewellery business software development. Martin specialised as a numismatic researcher and consultant, buying gold doubloons and other shipwrecked treasure from Caribbean salvage operations, as well as buying at auction ancient Greek, Roman and Byzantine coins. Many of these coins were incorporated into one-of-a kind necklaces, earrings, pendants, rings and other jewellery pieces embellished with coloured gemstones and diamonds.

          In 1997, after 15 years working in the Jewellery trade, he was invited to assist with the gilding of the Dhamma Yaung Chi Ceti Pagoda in Sunshine, New South Wales, Australia; the following year with the gilding of the Dhamma Yaung Chi Ceti Pagoda in Westminster, Maryland, U.S.A.; and in 2000 the Dhamma Yaung Chi Ceti Pagoda at the International Meditation Centre near Klagenfurt, Austria.  These are all large stupas in the Burmese style and constructed as Meditation Pagodas. At each of the Pagodas all the domes were gilded, not only the large central dome but also 8 smaller domes as well as the crown/parasols and accompanying ornaments. The inside of the main domes were gilded as was the intricately wood-carved and lacquered Buddha thrones.


           Martin returned to the Himalayas in 1998 and set up the Gilding Arts Studio specialising in his main interest of Buddhist and Asian Art.

           Works include Buddha and Bodhisattva statues, stupas and pagodas, meditational accessories as well as ornaments for altars and decorations for temples in various Buddhist traditions.

            Martin currently lives between studios on Bruny Island, Australia and various cities around Asia; in Nepal, China, India, Laos and other pilgrimage sites and Buddhist centres around the world.

The Society of Gilders

Member of the Convocation of Jewellers

G.I.A. and A.I.G.S. Alumni Associations


2014   "Sacred Colours - Buddhist Art for the 21st Century".




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