Kite maker and exhibit designer Greg Kono represented the Drachen Foundation during Arts Career Day at Seattle School District's Adams Elementary, a culturally diverse and "arts-rich" school, with arts integrated throughout the curriculum and teachers learning arts skills from artists-in-residence. Greg was invited to discuss with a group of students the genesis and evolution of his career as an artist.
Greg touched on how his childhood passion for puzzles and toys fed his interests as an adult in design and kite building. His first kite, he admitted, was not very successful, but that failure only fueled a desire to learn more. Now all of Greg's kites fly, and if a kite flies well, he values it more highly as an art work.
Greg also showed students a series of kites using personal themes--fish kites based on fishing lures and fruit and vegetable kites reflecting his experiences on his family's farm in the Sacramento Valley. He called his watermelon kite a "flying reminder of childhood."
In much of Greg's kite making he combines traditional materials with contemporary tools. He uses handmade Japanese paper, washi, particularly good for making kites because of the strength imparted by its long fibers. Students were invited to touch the tendrils of a radish kite to feel the texture of washi. The greenery is not just decorative; it functions as a tail to stabilize the kite in flight. On the washi, Greg may print a computer-generated image or photograph, then enhance it by brush painting with inks or dyes. No need to be a purist, Greg reminded students, although you may face challenges by using traditional materials with contemporary tools. His challenge? To keep the washi from jamming in his ink-jet printer.