A former Tibetan Buddhist nun is asking strangers for cash to fund her PhD in the "understanding of ritual" - wearing LATEX.

Damcho Dyson left the art world in 2001, selling all her worldly possessions and opting for a simpler life at a Buddhist monastery in France - once acting as the attendant to the Dalai Lama during one of his official visits.

But while on retreat in India, the 44-year-old had an epiphany to cease her monastic practice and move to the UK - where she developed a passion for latex.

She is now hoping to raise £33,500 to fund a PhD at the Royal College of Art titled 'Bodhi Unbound' - exploring the importance of ritual using the experience from both her time as a nun and as a latex lover.

Damcho, who now lives in Wandsworth, has already raised over £8,500 in her crowdfunding campaign.

She said: "I've been living and working in the UK for five years, but I don't have indefinite leave to remain.

"I didn't realise when I enrolled that it'd be international fees, which are £28,400.

"The RCA is such an established, world-renowned institution that it can demand such fees.

"I stepped back to reconsider but I have had the urge to do this PhD and aim for the stars.

"If I miss, maybe I'll land on the moon, and if I don't reach my target, there are other universities.

"I'm trying to understand what constrains us and what frees us through extreme situations, and I'm hoping in that way, my research will be beneficial.

"People have been incredibly generous, and I hope at the end of month when people are paid, there might be more donations.

"It's an interesting thing for me - as a nun, you don't get paid, so you go on an alms round for food donations.

"I never had to beg for sustenance and thought it would be difficult - it made me really check that I believe in what I'm doing to ask people to support it - so this is like an alms round."

Wandsworth Guardian:

Damcho was studying Christian Mysticism and Tibetan Buddhism at the Catholic Theological College in her native Melbourne, while creating installation art, at the age of 23, when she realised she wanted to become a nun.

She entered the monastery to "devote myself more singularly to the spiritual path" - and stayed for 10 years.

She added: "Behind the paraphernalia and ceremony of Tibetan Buddhism, it's fundamentally about understanding your own mind.

"For Buddhists, it's not about the brain, it's about consciousness - what the Dalai Lama calls the science of the mind.

"I wanted to understand the impulses of human being and to be free of the constraints of concepts around these things.

"I chose Buddhism because it's a living tradition, with teachers who embodied what they were teaching.

"I really wanted to work on cultivating my intent creatively, rather than relying on the form of conceptual art I was doing at the time."

Damcho left the monastery in 2011, after an epiphanic moment on a massage table during a retreat in India where her mind and body reconnected.

She said the workload of monastic life, along with all the responsibilities she shouldered, made it "difficult to keep precept".

After leaving the monastery, she moved between Australia, France and England, before settling in London in 2012.

It was there she discovered her love of latex, and says it is ritualistic in a similar manner to Buddhism.

Damcho is now hoping to explore this ritual, its importance, and how it's missing in mundane, day-to-day life through academia.

She added: "I met an RCA supervisor from Stanford University, and we were talking a lot about ritual, and how I was wanting to explore creativity and renunciation.

"He was interested in me exploring the idea of ritual around both Tibetan Buddhism and latex, so together we came up with my area of study.

"Latex, despite appearances, is very ritualistic and very much based around my own experiences of understanding my form.

"When you wear it close to the body, it's like a second skin, and it amplifies your feeling from inside your clothing but it also holds you in, it's secure.

"The feeling of someone touching the latex from the outside is enhanced, and the skin itself develops an awareness.

"In my 20s, as an artist, I realised intent was important in the art-making process.

"In my 30s, as a nun, I tried to remove form from the intent by not relying on my body, and practicing with my mind.

"But now, in my 40s, I realise intent needs to be embodied in something for that expression, and latex is such a playful, extrasensorial method for doing that."

Damcho's fundraising page is here