Shopping for Eastern Treasures at Vision of Tibet

A transplanted NYC boutique — which offers goods crafted by Himalayan artisans — puts down roots in Ulster County



Along the row of homegrown businesses that make up Main Street in Rosendale stands the brightly colored Vision of Tibet, owned by Sonam Zoksang and his wife Kathryn Culley. The shop — which offers clothes, accessories, crafts, and spiritual wares from Tibet, Nepal, and India — originally opened in Greenwich Village in 1987 but moved upstate in 2009. “We had a month-to-month lease that ended when our building was sold,” Culley says. “But we had been living in Kingston since 2005, and thought about opening a location around here for a while. It’s a sleepy town, not super-busy, but we receive good support from the community.”

Zoksang, who is the shop’s main buyer, goes to Nepal and India twice a year to meet with artisans and families and choose which wares he’d like to sell. “We believe in fair trade, based on the principle of paying fair wages to suppliers who pass along a living wage to producers,” Culley says. “We buy direct from families and producers, not wholesale corporations. It’s not easy, but this way we’re more certain that workers aren’t being exploited.”

Popular items at the shop include brightly colored scarves and handbags; hand-painted boxes; clothing from Nepal and India; Tibetan singing bowls; and journals made of rice (or recycled) paper. A wide array of jewelry is also available, including antique Tibetan pieces; metal cuffs; and pendants made of colorful glass, stone, or yak or buffalo bone. (Culley explains that many international artisans believe in utilizing every part of an animal that has been slaughtered for food; the hide will usually be made into leather goods, and bone is often used for decorations and jewelry.)

Framed portraits of touching photojournalistic scenes from around the world — many taken by Zoksang, a self-taught photographer — are also for sale. “Photography is one of his main loves and it’s one way he’s able to raise awareness about the situation in Tibet,” Culley says of her husband, who was born in Tibet, grew up as a refugee in India, and moved to the U.S. in the 1980s. The region has been under Chinese rule since the 1950s. “Some customers are aware of what’s going on,” says Culley. “Others will be curious about something in the shop, start asking questions, and learn that way.”

The shop also offers a selection of Eastern religious items. “Dharma practitioners can get books, incense, or ritual pendants, but we don’t have an intimidating amount of spiritual items,” Culley says. “Even kids love us; we have lots of fun little toys. Really anybody can come in and find something they like.”

Vision of Tibet. 378 Main St., Rosendale. 845-658-3838; www.visionoftibet.com

Double vision: Sonam Zoksang and Kathryn Culley together operate Vision of Tibet, a Rosendale shop that focuses on items produced by artisans in Tibet, Nepal, and India

1  Trunk show Lively home accents, such as this brightly colored elephant mobile with miniature chimes, offer a sense of whimsy; plus, elephants with their trunks pointed up are supposed symbols of good luck. $12

2  Uncommon scents Tiny jewel-toned tins filled with fragrant candles add ambiance and aromatherapy to any space. Available in a variety of scents and patterns. $4

3  Bedeck your neck The shop offers a wide array of handmade turquoise-and-silver jewelry — an evergreen combination that never goes out of style — in distinct, elaborate patterns. The pendant seen here includes inlaid coral. $250

4  That’s a wrap Lightweight cotton or silk scarves in bold hues heat up your look by providing a brilliant splash of color to drab winter wardrobes. $18-$22

5  Off the cuff Add unique Eastern flair to even the simplest outfit: bracelets and wrist cuffs decorated with polished stones, engraved lettering, and other ornate designs make a statement. $24 each (for those shown)

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