June 11, 2024
Passing on the Teaching of Sewing Buddha’s Robe
Paula and Tim.

Paula Pietranera receiving a Certificate of Authorization as a Sewing Teacher from Gengyoku Timothy Wicks.


By Tova Green

On Monday, June 3, 2024 Paula Pietranera received a Certificate of Authorization as a Sewing Teacher from City Center Sewing Teacher Gengyoku Timothy Wicks in a ceremony witnessed by City Center residents. This is the first time such a ceremony has been held at City Center.

“I tried to teach Paula the way Blanche Hartman taught me,” said Tim. “She taught me for twelve years, the last twelve of the thirty years she taught sewing. We spent a lot of time together. She passed on her devotion to this type of sewing, which she had learned from her teacher Joshin-san. Blanche was always training people to be sewing teachers.” Tim’s main concern in training Paula was “worrying whether I was being true to Blanche’s teachings. I tried not to innovate.”

Tim and Christine Palmer taught together in the City Center sewing room for several years and developed a list of competencies for sewing apprentices. Paula apprenticed with Tim for eight years and learned to teach sewing rakusus and okesas (priests’ robes), including lined ceremonial robes. Tim thought it would be important to formally acknowledge Paula’s completing the process and to recognize her proficiency in teaching sewing with a certificate and a ceremony.

Tim described Paula as “gentle, kind, and very skilled—a trained architect and artist. She is very devoted to sewing and she shows up 100 percent.”

Paula noted that teaching sewing “is not just about the craft of it; it’s also about how to transmit the spirit of what we’re doing. Due to my background in art and architecture, the physical part of sewing a rakusu is not challenging, but the transmission of why we do it is difficult.”

Paula first started learning to sew by working on her own rakusu for Jukai (lay ordination). At first she focused on the stitches, and aspired to perfection. She learned that working with that desire for perfection and with frustration with mistakes is part of the process. “Mistakes can be an ideal ground for practice.” When Paula finished her rakusu, Tim asked her to keep coming to the sewing room. “At each class I learned to do what students needed help with. I learned how to work with them when their emotions would arise during sewing.”

For Paula, authorization as a sewing teacher is important. Her first language is Spanish, and for many students it’s important to have a Spanish-speaking sewing teacher. She enjoys teaching in her own language, and has been able to guide students who live in South America and Spain via Zoom and when they travel to San Francisco.

Paula has been teaching students with Tim’s guidance for several years. “Having received the certificate, nothing has changed, but everything has changed. I feel more of a sense of responsibility to get it right. And I can still consult with Tim. I appreciate the time and care Tim has spent with me, and his trust in me, letting me work by myself. He has been kind and generous.”