Pole Flags and Prayer Flags on Ropes
Prayer Flags on Poles
At Radiant Heart East we make tall flags (Dar Cho) - to be displayed on poles. The flags come in the traditional 5 colors with borders and "tongues" (streamers). They have sleeves and ties down one side for for securing to a pole. (You can cut off all but the top and bottom ties if you are using the sleeve). All the pole flags and their tongues are hemmed for durability. For information on erecting flag poles see the "Flag Poles" link in the navigation buttons on the left.
Prayer Flags on Ropes
Besides the high quality sets of flags we print in our western studio (the PF series) we also offer horizontal displays of more economical prayer flags printed in our Kathmandu studio. We offer several sizes and designs, pre-sewn on rope in sets of five, ten and twenty-five.
We print a wide variety of Tibetan prayer flags using two printng: traditional woodblock and modern silk-screen.
For centuries traditional Tibetan prayer flags were printed using woodblocks; the same method used for printing Buddhist texts on paper. For this method the designs are meticulously carved in reverse on flat slabs of wood, usually tight grained hardwoods. Ink is applied with a roller or ink soaked pad to the block and a blank piece of cloth is laid over the block. A clean roller or padded weight is pressed on the back of the cloth, transferring the ink from the woodblock to the cloth. The new flag is carefully peeled from the woodblock and hung up to dry.
The ink used these days is usually kerosene based. It is fairly non-toxic and waterproof. The major disadvantage of these inks is that light colored inks cannot be printed on dark backgrounds. Essentially, everything gets printed with black ink.
Woodblock carving is becoming a lost art. There are fewer and fewer artisans that can accurately carve Tibetan script in reverse, and it is difficult to obtain as fine a detail as can be obtained with more modern printing techniques.
We searched for several years for the collection of woodblocks we use to print our prayer flags. Since 2000 we have been collaborating with our friends, Kazi and his sister Kuisang, producing traditional prayer flags in our Kathmandu Studio – Radiant Heart East. Using woodblocks carved in their mountain village in Yolmo, we are printing prayer flags in the traditional way. We feel that these are probably the best woodblock printed flags available in the world today.flags.
We chose the 5 best medium size (14" X 18") woodblocks to print most of our line of traditional prayer flags. To keep things simple, we print each design on a different color. For example: when you order a blue flag it will always be printed with the Health and Longevity design, the Vajrasattva design will always be on white, etc.
Health and Longevity - Tsa La Nam Sum (Blue with red border)
Purification of Karma -Vajrasattva (White with blue border)
Wish Fulfilling Prayer- Sampa Lhundrup (Red with yellow border)
Compassion Prayer - Praise to the 21 Taras (Green with yellow border)
Victory over Obstacles - Gyaltsan Semo (Yellow with Green Border)
Many studios in Asia have switched to silk-screened printing with acetone and other lacquer thinner solvents. This method produces a fine waterproof print in nice colors. Unlike the woodblock inks, with lacquer inks it’s possible to print light colors on dark backgrounds. Unfortunately, the inks are quite volatile and printing without proper ventilation, can pose health problems for the printers. Because of these drawbacks, we’ve resisted silk-screening in our Radiant Heart East - Kathmandu studio until recently. For several years, our printing crew has been asking to expand our line of prayer flags to include the more popular colored inks. We added a well ventilated covered outdoor area to the studio allowing silk screening to be done during fair weather. We will continue to print using traditional woodblock but we’ve expanded our line of prayer flags to include the more modern silk-screened prints.
Radiant Heart West Studio in California has been silk-screening with water-base acrylic “Versatex” textile inks for over 30 years. The colors are bright and true (we can mix all the colors from the 3 primaries) but they only show up on lighter backgrounds.
We use a high quality cotton cloth for all our prayer flags instead of polyester or nylon. We have found that good quality cotton holds up just as well or better than polyester and it doesn’t degrade or fade as much in the sun. We also prefer cotton because when the flags shred and disintegrate, the threads and cloth will biodegrade without the non-organic residue associated with nylon and polyester. Cotton is safer for the little animals that use the bits of cloth for their nests. Also, the traditional way of disposing of old prayer flags is to burn them. Burning polyester or nylon cloth produces toxic smoke and a gooey mess. That’s why we prefer cotton. Believe it or not, 100% cotton colored cloth is almost impossible to find in Southeast Asia. The cloth we use is called 100% cotton but we suspect it has about 10% polyester thread. It’s the best quality fabric we’ve been able to find.