Preserving a Kiting Legacy

Longtime New Zealand kiteflier and power kiter, Charlie Watson succumbed to cancer this month. Fighting to the end, Charlie had started a facebook group, Power Kiters with Cancer, where, as he said, fighters could “brag, and moan and stuff. No commercial side or hidden agenda.”  A kite flier for over 45 years, Charlie was the son of another noted Kiwi kiteflier, Logan Fow. Charlie worked to preserve the kites collected by his father, throughout Southeast Asia over forty years ago. He was in the process of donating many of these kites to the Drachen Foundation upon his untimely passing.

Charlie Watson Buggying
Photo by Ted Howard

Charlie was one of nine children and in his adult life he was actively involved in power kiting, specifically kite buggying – developed by countryman Peter Lynn.  Charlie authored “The Guide to Western Circuit Hard Core Kite Buggy Riding,” inspiration for buggy freestyling throughout the world.  He was co-founder and chief steward of the Western Circuit Kite Buggy Series started in 1995 with the Blue Balls Buggy Bash and the Mighty Muriwai Moose meet. Involved in kite flying with his entire extended family, he could be found just weeks before his death flying one of his own box kites while his daughter land-boarded (with kites) nearby.

Although there might not be pages of words to be written about Charlie, it is perhaps an honor within itself.  This was a man who just DID things, spending his life documenting those efforts and events was not high on his list of things to do.

This is a kiter that experienced all the avenues of kiting.  From single line to multiple line stunt kiting and finally to buggying, Charlie did it all. He worked designing kites for festivals and for commercial sale. Items that were sold can be seen at http://www.gombergkites.com/e-spin.html.

Charlie Watson Nose Kite
Photo by gkites.com

Perhaps one of the most entertaining contributions he gave to us was his charming and journalistic account of his love of kite buggying for our publication Discourse at the end of the line. Here he candidly writes about his Christmas with Peter Lynn.  Possibly better than spending it with Santa.

In the last few months, the Foundation was delighted to have had the opportunity to work with him via email to finalize the gifting of his father’s fighter kite collection from the 1970s.  Charlie knew and appreciated the gifting, digitizing and posting of this collection, on our web, would preserve his father’s collection and his passion for kites.  When we started this Drachen “Legacy Project,” Charlie did not know he had terminal cancer. Or perhaps he did, and working with us was his way of coming to terms with his own kiting life and times.

Below is an edited “ribbon” of Charlie’s emails and his online work with us to get this project completed.

My Father Logan Fow was a renowned kiter who was involved with kites for 45 years until his passing. He spent time in Asia in 1974 and 1978 as well as spending a time on the kite scene in the UK. He co-founded the first Kite club outside the USA to be an affiliate AKA club. He was a great kite maker and amassed an extensive collection. For nearly 20 years his kites were exhibited and demonstrated in galleries, museums and at kite events around New Zealand.

I had time recently to sort through my father's kites. We have found some duplicates and some that I specifically want the foundation to have. I have a double skinned international art shipping box packed with a selection of pieces collected in 1978 from Sri Lanka, Thailand, Burma, Singapore, Hong Kong, Java, Bali and India. 

There are several sets of kites I have that I specifically want to be preserved and made available for study by yourself and your affiliates. The Sri Lankan kites and Burmese fighter kites must be very rare in the world.

My father did not buy these kites online. He traveled to the workshops and markets and met the makers and their families.

If you would like these kites I will scan some photos from my father's albums and journal and find some other documentation in publications. Many of the kites have notes written on them by my father. These notes often contain, date and location of purchase, price and sometimes the name of the builder. I will leave it to your researchers to decipher these as some are easier to read than others. I will include this in the packed box.

My late father is now survived by grand and great grand children. My aim before I pass is to make sure that his legacy is preserved in our family. 

Thanks so much for your time.

Charlie Watson
NZ

When Charlies’s box arrived at Drachen this spring there were 41 kites, carefully packed and documented – ready for uploading on the DF website. First, however, we needed to photograph each kite, and prepare it for entry into the archive by documenting the dimensions and descriptive text.  As often happens at Drachen, fate provided the “help” we needed in the form of 15 year old intern, Lupe Carlos, who was fulfilling a high school project assignment to “shadow” a non-profit for a week. What a fabulous opportunity to take this project, this legacy, and share with Lupe the fabulous history of these kites, the handling of an object, the how-to’s of documenting the object, and finally – the satisfaction of “creating” the record of the item for Charlie and the Logan Fow family. In addition there were photos, notes, and supporting documentation…no simple matter for Charlie to put this all together and certainly a benchmark example of how to properly assemble and pass along historical information and artifacts so that they can, in fact, be preserved. 

The kites and photos can now be viewed in the Collection area on our site.  Just search for Logan Flow and the collection will come up for viewing.

The life of Charlie Watson will always live on because he was one of the first to realize the magic of the web in preserving and sharing what was done in one’s life.  As we are able to search for memories of our kiting friends on our web, we realize they aren’t as far away from us as we feared when we first heard of their passing.

We can visit Charlie Watson every day. Thank you Charlie.

Charlie Watson
Photo by Pic Kimbrcam