In June of 2011, I started a fiber art project, making a “prayer flag” every day. Each flag would be made in less than an hour with materials I had at hand, then hang outside for a while, its word and sentiment dissolving into the wind and being spread to all whom the wind touches. They would be a living, breathing, kinetic journal of June.
|Lisa Chin creates inspirational fiber art banners
with sun shibori, transparent paint, and stencils.
Well, I got hooked on prayer flags, and continued to make them well past that summer. I still make them today–though not every day.
I had invited others to join me in that first month, and they did. Pretty soon, we had a group and a blog, The Prayer Flag Project, with people posting their prayer flag pictures from all over the world. Eventually, Jane LaFazio took over the Project, and now it is in the capable and creative hands of Lisa Chin..
Because so many people ask about the origin of prayer flags, I asked Lisa to give you a little background, plus an update on the Project.
“What is a prayer flag? The modern Prayer Flag has a long tradition that started in Tibet more than 2000 years ago with the hanging of flags by war lords as they went into battle. The Tibetan people took the idea and made flags to honor the nature gods of Bon, using colors of the five elements: blue for sky or space; white for air or clouds; red for fire; green for water and yellow for earth. The flags were hung over mountain passes and rivers to benefit all who would pass underneath.
When Buddhism was introduced to Tibet in the 7th century, it largely took the place of Bon, and absorbed many of the Bon characteristics, including the flags. The early flags contained both Buddhist prayers and pictures of the Bon gods who they believed protected Buddha. Over the next 200 years, Buddhist monks began to print mantras and symbols on the flags as blessings to be sent out to the world with each breeze and thus they became known as Prayer Flags.
Today the flags are often hung without thought to religion or gods. Artists have taken the idea of these colorful pieces of cloth and made them their own. Images and words of hope, and support are created using many mediums: paper, fabric, fibers, stitching, and painting.
The methods of creating a prayer flag are endless and have few rules. Because of the small size, prayer flags are a fabulous way for artists to experiment with new art techniques. The flags are hung to spread beauty, hope, joy, and peace throughout the world.
I invite you to share photos of their flags, as well as their artistic inspiration, on the blog by emailing me at prayerflagproject[at]gmail.com (note, please use the @ sign in place of [at]). Starting April 3rd, the Prayer Flag Project blog will be hosting weekly tutorials and challenges to encourage the making and sharing of prayer flags throughout the world.”
Last year, Lisa taught a wonderful web seminar on how to create and decorate prayer flags using transparent paint, stencils, and sun shibori. We’ve included a download of that web seminar, the art materials, and an eBook on prayer flags for more inspiration in one place: The Prayer Flag Collection, available for a limited time. Just add fabric and positive thoughts!
P.S. What message would you like to spread with fabric, art, and wind?