Playing with Paper

Helen Hiebert
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 My fascination with kites stems from the way they capture light as they move in the wind. My own work has developed primarily in handmade paper, and I have yet to design my own kite, but I recently found a book on my shelf that I’d had since childhood called “Drachen Basteln” (Craft Kites) which I must have purchased or been gifted when my family lived in Germany for a year when I was sixteen.

Fast forward fifteen years or so, and I had the pleasure of meeting Ali Fujino, director of the Drachen Foundation, on an airport shuttle bus in Chillicothe, Ohio, where we both attended the annual meeting of The Friends of Dard Hunter, a national papermaking organization. At that meeting I also had the good fortune of attending a kitemaking workshop with Scott Skinner, another Drachen Foundation luminary, and what sticks in my mind is this thought: “If I’d met this guy 15-20 years earlier, I’d have become a kitemaker.” The way he conducted the workshop was so similar to my own style of teaching, and I could feel his cognitive gears churning as mine would.

A year or so after meeting the “kite people,” I read Brian Queen’s article in Hand Papermaking magazine about how to make hot air balloons. I’ve known Brian for many years, and we share an interest in illuminating paper. I was on my way to teach a 2-1/2 week workshop at the Penland School of Crafts in North Carolina and decided to subject my students to making an eight foot tall hot air balloon using tissue paper, following Queen’s instructions. We spent several evenings assembling the gores (panels), connecting them and finally patching a few holes and flying the balloon.

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