Tibetan-Style Blankets: Cross-Cultural Couple Creates Colorful Business

A few years ago, I discovered Kimberly, a white American woman married to a Tibetan man in Qinghai, and later shared her story in the post Love on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau – Konchok and Kimberly.

More recently, the couple has built up a business selling blankets in a rainbow of brilliant hues — and is gaining a following for the beauty and quality of their Tibetan-style products.

How did it all come about? Kimberly has graciously written a guest post sharing the story behind Shema-lep Tibetan Style Blankets.

If you’d like to learn more or make a purchase, you can connect with Shema-lep Tibetan Style Blankets through WeChat (by scanning the QR code in the photo below) or through Facebook and Instagram.


As a foreigner living in a minority area in China, I have had the opportunity to enjoy traditional handicrafts around every corner. I’ve also had the chance to spend time with and observe other foreign visitors to the area. One thing we all seem to have in common is an admiration for traditional Tibetan clothing.

Pictured, from left, are Kimberly’s daughter, Kimberly, Tsoko (the main tailor for their business), Tsoko’s son, and Kimberly’s husband Konchok.

Having married into a Tibetan family has also taught me a lot over the years. I’ve been able to get to know people in my husband’s hometown and the surrounding area, see how their lives are, and watch the rapid changes happening there.

The idea for our Tibetan-style blankets came to me after realizing a few different things.

Even though the traditional robes Tibetans wear daily or for special occasions are beautiful and readily available for purchase, they do not make very good souvenirs or gifts for visitors. This is because there aren’t many opportunities to wear them once visitors go back home. I wanted to provide something similar to these robes that everyone can use, display and enjoy.

I have learned a bit about Tibetan tailors in my husband’s hometown area. Most are elderly; young people are not learning the trade. The culture has changed in recent years due to shifts in the economy and education. Now, instead of patching up old robes or asking tailors to make new ones, people buy new premade robes in shops. This means less and less work for local tailors.

By employing seasoned village tailors to make blankets in the style of their Tibetan robes, we can improve their incomes while providing useful and cultural home furnishings. It is our hope that our success will help Tibetans realize the beauty and value of their traditional crafts, and inspire an interest in preserving them for future generations.

Tsoko at work on a Tibetan-style blanket.

At the moment, our main tailor Tsoko is working on the majority of our blanket orders. At the same time she is providing for her 80-year-old mother and middle school-aged son. As a single parent and sole caretaker of her mother, she is the only earner in her family. She has been working odd jobs to make ends meet. We are happy to be able to provide her with a more regular income and to reduce the strain on her family’s finances.

Because our blankets are so beautifully colorful, like butterflies, we chose to name our business Shema-lep, the word for “butterfly” in the Amdo Tibetan language.

Shema-lep Tibetan Style Blankets lets customers choose from a variety of colors, materials and sizes. All of the materials available are the same materials Tibetans use to make their modern-day robes. Now real sheep and lambskin blankets are available as well. We are pleased to be able to provide something that is both authentically Tibetan and beautifully useful in any home. We are looking forward to growing and helping more tailors in the future. We enjoy sharing Tibetan culture through textiles and stories. Thank you for reading our story.


A huge thank you to Kimberly for sharing this story! If you’d like to learn more or make a purchase, you can connect with Shema-lep Tibetan Style Blankets through WeChat (by scanning the QR code in the photo below) or through Facebook and Instagram.

Double Happiness: Love on the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau – Konchok and Kimberly

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Ever since I discovered the blog Nama-Mama back in April, I’ve been dying to know the love story behind it all. I mean, it’s not every day you run across a white American gal who fell in love with and married a Tibetan man. Well, I’m excited that Kimberly stepped forward to tell us all how she and Konchok met!

If you’ve ever been intrigued by life in far Western China, Tibetan culture, or just what it’s like to raise a multicultural, biracial child in an unusual locale, you don’t want to miss Nama-Mama.

Want to share your own love story or other guest post here on Speaking of China? Visit my submit a post page to learn how
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Before I went to live in Xining I sometimes joked to my parents that I might find a nice guy there and settle down. My mother always gave me a disapproving look, which I laughed off because I wasn’t serious. I went back to China because I missed it, and because I had the chance to go to a place out west, where I could be among Tibetans and other minorities.

I met an amazing Canadian woman there and we became really good friends. At the time she was an English teacher for an organization. After she got to know me well, and I had told her that I wouldn’t mind meeting a nice young man, she introduced one of her students: K.

I’d seen him at a couple of gatherings previously but we hadn’t talked. She gave me his phone number and we began to exchange text messages. Then one night when my friend was out of town I couldn’t open her apartment door to feed her cats. I called K to come and help me and he did. We finally got the door open, cleaned up the cat mess together, then I made tea and we put in a movie. We didn’t watch it though, we just talked.

After that we continued texting and going out together on weekends. I consider our trip to the South Mountain our first date. We brought a picnic lunch and found a quiet place among the pines. I told him I was afraid someone was going to steal my boots. Later he shouted “Kim! Your boots are gone!” I scrambled around worriedly looking for them and spotted them right where I left them. The guy had a sense of humor, and I liked that.

Kimberly and Konchok

It wasn’t long before he started to tell his family about me. First his brother, who was quite supportive, and then his parents, who were worried about various things such as the high divorce rate in America and the inevitability of me leaving him once I got homesick for my own country. Though their concerns were valid (they didn’t know me), K did what he always does when it came to his own life: whatever he wanted. And in this case, he wanted to marry me. (I later found out that once a Tibetan tells his family about his girlfriend it means that they will get married if the parents agree. Otherwise, children will never talk about their romantic relationships with their parents.)

He started to talk about marriage three months into our relationship, which freaked me out a little, but if I’m honest, I knew by four months together that we would get married. I told him that we’d have to wait at least one year to be really sure that we were compatible. The months went by peacefully and to this day we have never had a fight. His family has also come to know and like me and we all get along fine.

We are now nearing our second wedding anniversaries. We have a baby daughter who brings us a lot of joy. We are both really relaxed most of the time and take things easy. I can’t imagine sharing my life with anyone else.

Kimberly is an American woman living in Xining City, Qinghai Province, with her Tibetan husband and baby daughter.

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Speaking of China is always on the lookout for outstanding guest posts and love stories! If you have something you’d like us to feature, visit the submit a post page for details — and then submit yours today.