Chris Moench


My modern-day prayer wheels explore the theme of hope. Each wheel tells a story through images inscribed or carved into the clay. As the wheel turns on its pedestal, the images flow, the story unfolds...

Some stories are simple--such as leaves falling or a bird moving in flight. Others celebrate natural cycles of life, death and rebirth--a moon waxing and waning over a skyline of mountains...a stream burgeoning with salmon, bears, eagles... Other stories are more personal.

And , like traditional prayers wheels, AXIS OF HOPE vessels can be filled with your written prayers, dreams and hopes.

Biography
What is an AXIS OF HOPE Prayer Wheel?
A prayer wheel is an ancient concept. I saw my first wheels in the mountain villages of Buddhist Nepal. Made of metal, leather, or wood and ranging in size from a soup can to a 500-gallon drum--each prayer wheel was inscribed and packed with written prayers. With a push of my hand the cylinder whirled. Each revolution counted as uttered prayer.

I liked the idea. A prayer wheel offered a tactile and visual meditation. You could touch the wheel and see the images pass. Watching a traditional prayer wheel turn, I felt charged by the storytelling capabilities of a cylinder carved with moving and meaningful images. Filled with prayers, this simple but exquisite vessel turned people to their core beliefs, reminded them of what was most important.

Considering the troubling state of our planet and humanity’s on-going search for hope--the wheel provided an axis from which came optimism, healing, peace, wholeness, love, compassion and harmony among all things. I realized this was an AXIS OF HOPE spinning counter to so many negative things!

My modern-day prayer wheels explore the theme of hope. Each wheel tells a story through images inscribed or carved into the clay. As the wheel turns on its pedestal, the images flow, the story unfolds...

Some stories are simple--such as leaves falling or a bird moving in flight. Others celebrate natural cycles of life, death and rebirth--a moon waxing and waning over a skyline of mountains...a stream burgeoning with salmon, bears, eagles... Other stories are more personal.

And , like traditional prayers wheels, AXIS OF HOPE vessels can be filled with your written prayers, dreams and hopes.

History of these prayer wheels:
My initial idea came from a pre-Columbian Mayan clay cylinder with bas-relief images depicting some mythic tale around its circumference. Later I visited Nepal and was intrigued by the Tibetan Buddhist prayer wheels that occupy a central place in the streets of mountain villages. There they are turned constantly by passers by to send prayers out into the universe with the intention of creating greater harmony in the world.

The surface images on many of these wheels tell stories or express philosophical or spiritual ideas that can be read by spinning the wheel. Some tell tales of natural cycles or relationships existing among some of our animal cousins like the salmon, bear and eagle. Others simply depict animals or landscapes with which I have particular fascination. Some tell human stories such as one depicting the civil rights struggle.

Uses of the Prayer Wheels:
AXIS OF HOPE Prayer Wheels are used to celebrate marriages, births, anniversaries, watershed birthdays, life-course changes, and family reunions. Wheels are erected in health clinics, businesses, parks, libraries, and ecological restoration sites to encourage community good will. Wheels are also used as funerary urns to hold sacred a beloved’s ashes. Regardless of the use, people tell us the wheels bring them solace and encourage positive change. We hope they bring you peace, harmony, compassion, and healing with each revolution.

One couple who used a prayer wheel as part of their wedding ceremony wrote:

“We had it near the guest book as people arrived and asked them to write a wish or prayer on hand-made paper. Once the ceremony started we moved it near us and spun it during the middle of it. We were so very glad to have it…the symbolism meant the world to us, and we felt it encompassed and involved our family and friends in our celebration in a wonderful, meaningful way.”

How a Wheel is Made:
Each AXIS OF HOPE wheel is sculpted of stoneware clay that has been “thrown” on a spinning potter’s wheel in several parts. Once assembled, the vessel’s surface is carved with images. Next it is burnished with iron oxides or glazes and kiln-fired to 2,300 degrees F. to make a long-lasting, durable wheel of heirloom quality. Finally it is bolted to a metal turntable with quality bearings, allowing it to revolve with a gentle push of the hand.

Display and Care of Wheels:
The wheels can be displayed inside, or outside if protected from a combination of water saturation and freezing weather. A small cedar roof looks very harmonious and is sufficient.

Custom Work or Gallery Wheels?:
Prayer wheels may be purchased from the Elliott Louis Gallery or custom designed. Custom wheels can be made to fit the needs of any location and to evoke your particular prayers, dreams and meditations.

BIO NOTE: Chris Moench

Chris Moench has worked as a chimney sweep, legal assistant, oyster farmer, hay mower, news printer, land trust president, and ceramist. In 1992, Moench fled a desk job doing legal work to pursue a full-time career in ceramics. He founded Dancing Dog Clayworks and produced garden sculptures, tiles, and functional house ware.

Internationally acclaimed Master Potters, Paul Soldner and Peter Volkus, and Architectural ceramist, Peter King have inspired and instructed Moench’s technique and craft. Vince Pitelka, Ceramics Director of Appalachian School of Crafts shared his pre-Columbian clay techniques with Moench.

In 2000, Moench’s claywork took a wondrous new direction. The reason: coping with tragedy. A gas pipeline explosion killed three boys at a park in Moench’s hometown. The awful calamity moved him to sculpt a memorial “story” on the outside of a three-foot-tall clay cylinder. Without knowing, he created his first prayer wheel. Later, mounted on a revolving stand at an outdoor gallery, the wheel became a vessel for people to place thoughts and prayers inside on pieces of paper.

Today, Moench works full-time designing and sculpting modern prayer wheels.  ” His prayer wheels have been revolving and evolving at public exhibits across the west: American Craft Council Exhibition of Fine Craft in San Francisco, Sun Valley Center Idaho Arts and Crafts Festival, Best of the Northwest Shows in Portland and Seattle, and “Ashes to Art: Funerary Art,” San Francisco.

Father of two grown children, Moench lives with his wife, Jennifer Hahn, a writer and wilderness guide, and his faithful dog.