Cloth Prints & Thangka Paintings
Since ancient times, prayer flags have been put up for protection from negative forces and to bring balance and harmony to the environment. Since 2000 we have been producing traditional prayer flags in our Kathmandu Studio – Radiant Heart East. We have chosen the best cloth available in Nepal on which to print We offer several sizes and designs, pre-sewn on rope in sets of five, ten and twenty-five, using two printng techniques: 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 few 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. We feel that these are probably the best woodblock printed flags available in the world today.
Whereas wood block printing requires printing with a dark ink over a lighter color cloth, silk screening allows for light ink on dark cloth. Because the screens are created photographically, any line drawing can be turned into a design and clear detail is possible. Although the printing techniques are modern, we are careful to only print traditional designs. With the exception of the "World Peace Prayer Flag" and the "Prayer to Avert Nuclear War," all the designs are hundreds of years old.
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.