In addition to his extensive trove of contemporary and historic kites, Scott Skinner, president of the Drachen Foundation, has numerous kite-related collections----stamps, porcelains, paintings, books, monographs, photos, illustrations, pins. His easy favorite in these sub-categories is colorful, skillful Japanese prints of kites or kite-flying from the 18th and 19th centuries, of which he has compiled some 80 specimens.
The prints focus on the world of the kabuki theater and of the related ukiyo-e or “floating” world, the segment of society focused on pleasure. They were turned out by a culture obsessed with kites. The mania for kites at one period was so intense laws were passed to enforce restraint and encourage subdued behavior. Kiting and everything associated with it continued unabated.
Skinner found his first Japanese woodblock print in an antique store in Provincetown, Rhode Island, probably carried there by a Yankee trader two centuries before. “This opened my eyes,” he says, “and on my trips to Japan since, nearly every year, I have hunted for these collectibles. I know where the stores are and have rarely been shut out. Since a kite image is ordinarily not the favorite view of an artist, the print is relatively inexpensive, in the $200 to $400 range. If a spectacular image and the condition is good, the woodblock may sell for $3,000 and up. These prints are pricey, but they are rare.”