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.

Acharya 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 individual.


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 on.

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

Expansion
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 week.


Nima Dolma

Kazi with his niece

Woodblock printing

What next?
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.


-Timothy, 2002