My name is Timothy Clark. I am the founder of Radiant Heart Studios. I have been collecting, drawing, printing and distributing Tibetan prayer flags since 1974. For the next 30 years I printed prayer flags in my "off the grid" house near Garberville in Northern California. My main career is architecture (Home & Temple Design). Prayer flags have always been a secondary occupation. In 1996, when the internet reached our remote area, I was fortunate to acquire "prayerflags.com." What had been a part-time hobby grew into a viable business. In 2000 I added a new line of prayer flags printed and sewn in Kathmandu (see "Radiant Heart East", below)
In 2004 I married a Tibetan woman, Tsering Chodon, whom I'd met during my travels in Asia. We moved our home and businesses to the San Francisco Bay Area in 2008. I occassionally find time to create new prayer flag and deity print designs, but architecture and running the day to day prayer flag distribution business is more than a full time job. Half of our prayer flags are still printed in Northern California by Alan Cash (Cashgraphix) while the other half is printed in our Kathmandu Studio.
Tsering and Timothy
Meeting the Lama
I was introduced to the Tibetan prayer flag tradition by a most extraordinary Tibetan Lama. In 1970, having recently returned from my first trip to India, I joined a pen pal program through the Nyingma Institute in Berkeley, California. I began corresponding with a young Tibetan Lama, Dawa Chhodak, who was then studying for his Acharya Degree in Buddhist Philosophy from Sanskrit University in Varanasi, India. We wrote back an forth for 18 years before we actually met in person. Our relationship has develop and deepened for more 30 years.
Lama Dawa went on to study Tantric Buddhism in caves and hermitages
under the guidance of some of the most advanced Tibetan Yogis of
modern times. The combination of scholarly knowledge and experiencial
meditation practice in ancient traditions makes Lama Dawa a powerful
Lama Dawa in California
Prayer Flag Beginnings
In 1973 Lama Dawa sent me a fascinating Tibetan prayer flag inscribed
with sacred symbols, prayers, and mantras. It was a Gesar flag from
Padma Jong Monastery. I became intrigued with the Tibetan prayer
flag tradition and with Lama Dawa's help and guidance I began collecting,
cataloging, and translating every prayer flag I could get myhands
In the meantime, I had moved "back to the land" in Northern California
with my young family. I built a house in the woods and earned my
living as an architect. The drafting hand I developed was also good
for drawing prayer flags. In 1974, as a hobby, I began redrawing,
printing, and distributing prayer flags. In 1975 Radiant Heart Studios
got it's business license. At an average of 2 new drawings per year
by 1990 there were over 30 designs: deity prints, auspicious symbols
and traditional prayer flags.
Prayer flag production slowly and steadily increased year by year.
At first the silk screening studio was temporarily set-up in the
living room or outside in the shade. In the early days printing
happened only a few days a month but by 1995 the living room almost
always filled with supply shelves, saw horse tables and drying lines.
After my children left for college I began traveling with Lama Dawa
Asia, during the winter months, to study Buddhism and to research
prayer flags. Lama Dawa would come to California in the summer.
Together we translated many of the flags we had collected. Lama
Dawa taught me the meaning of the symbols, the use of mantra and
the profound meaning of the Nyingma path.
Radiant Heart Studios
Humboldt County, California
By 1996 it was clear that Radiant Heart was either going to expand
or drive me crazy. To raise enough capital to move out of the living
room I had to increase production and advertise. I initiated a loose
five year plan to build a web-site, make new catalogs, to advertise,
and to increase production.
In the winter of 2000 we began "outsourcing" the printing operation to other locations. Radiant HeartI began
to concentrate soley on aquiring , designing, marketing, and distributing
Tibetan prayer flags. Since 2014 Cashgraphix in Oakland has been silk-screening the deity prints, traditional prayer flags and auspicious symbols. Radiant Heart East Studio in Kathmandu, Nepal prints and sews the long horizontal and vertical pole flags.
Radiant Heart East
Also in the winter of 2000, after searching for many years for the
right people to work with, we began a prayer flag printing operation
in Kathmandu, Nepal. At "Radiant Heart East" we make tall
flags with borders and also the long horizontal prayer flag displays.
The family that I work with in Kathmandu comes from the Yolmo region
on the Nepal/ Tibet border which is well known for it's woodcarvers
and abundance of prayer flags. Now residing in Kathmandu the Lama
family has the finest woodblocks available in Nepal and a house
big enough to accommodate large cutting, printing, and sewing spaces.
Nima Dolma Lama manages the printing studio. Her son Kazi does the
accounting, shipping, and international communications. There are
anywhere from 2 to 6 people working in the studio several days a
Kazi with his niece
As of 2002 Radiant Heart East creates 25 different prayer flag designs.
The Radiant Heart Studios in Northern California makes nearly 40
different prayer flags. There are many many new designs I would
like to complete when I can find the time to work on them. There
are perhaps 15-20 different catagories of traditional prayer flags
(Wind Horse, 21 Taras, Sampa Lhundrup, etc) of which I have 7 available
at this time and 3 more on the drawing boards. There are also many
Deity flags I'd like to complete. Between architectural design (which
pays better than prayer flag making), travels to Asia, and homesteading
it's difficult to find time to draw new prayer flag designs but
somehow, slowly over the years Radiant Heart keeps on growing.