How-To: Block-Printed “Hope” Flags

community hope flag activity. amyhoodarts.com

My son wishes his school had a library. My daughter likes when everybody is friends. And I enjoy a community in which children and adults strive to be kind.

I’m helping organize the arts + crafts booth at the school fair this year*, and one of the projects is to contribute to a Community Hope Flag display. These are, of course, inspired by Tibetan Prayer Flags, which are hung in the elements until they disintegrate, releasing the prayer or hope. Fair visitors can depict a hope for themselves, their family, their school, town, or world and add it to the school’s display. Because prayer flags were traditionally block printed, we decided to use a method accessible to all ages and skill levels: scratch-foam printmaking.

Our fair isn’t until next weekend, but I thought I’d share the method and samples here now. I prepared both the flag blanks and the printing plates. The “flags” were made from donated sheets, which I washed, dried, ironed, and cut into 7″ x 9″ rectangles using my rotary cutter with a pinking blade, cutting mat, and a ruler. This made the cutting go fairly quickly. I then pressed a fold at one end to create a 7″ x 7″ square (or thereabouts) and ran a quick line of stitching to make a casing.

The printing plates are Styrofoam trays with the raised edge sliced off, then cut into quarters. Again, using a craft knife, metal ruler, and cutting mat made this go quickly. Other materials are pencils, sponge brushes, and liquid acrylic craft paint. Onto the method!

1. Think about what hope, dream, or wish you’d like to share, and how you can represent it with a simple image.

2. Using a pencil, draw the image onto the smooth side of a Styrofoam rectangle. You want to indent the Styrofoam, but not make holes in it. Your image will print in reverse, so keep that in mind while drawing. Words are probably too tricky at this point unless you are very good at mirror writing.

scratched image onto Styrofoam. amyhoodarts.com

3. Paint a thin layer of acrylic paint onto your scratch-foam drawing. If it’s too gloppy, your image will get obscured when you print.

painted scratch-foam image. amyhoodarts.com

4. Take a look at a blank hope flag. The casing (the folded over and sewn bit) is at the top, and the fold is towards the back. Lay the front of the flag over your painted foam and firmly smooth it to transfer the paint. Don’t wiggle it around or your image will smudge. Just firmly press. Then peel it off.

hope flag placed over printing plate. amyhoodarts.com

pressing the image onto the flag. amyhoodarts.com

finished foam-printed hope flag. amyhoodarts.com

We plan to have permanent markers on hand so people can write any words if they wish (as my kids did in their samples in the top image). We will also have white t-shirts so that kids can make another print of their image on a shirt to take home; the plates can also be taken home and used again and again. It’s definitely hard for some kids to leave their artwork behind, even as part of a community display, so these other options are nice to have.

I think this is a great activity for a community big (like our school) or small (like a family). It’s nice to display hopes, wishes, and dreams, I think, and keep them in view.

*Yes, I’m doing this the same spring I’m moving a 5-person household six hours south. What can I say? Sometimes I’m illogical.

One thought on “How-To: Block-Printed “Hope” Flags

  1. donna lee

    I love prayer flags. I have often thought of purchasing some and for some reason, it never occured to me that I could just make some….

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