Drachen Foundation Newsletter: March 2008

Der Papier Drachen in Japan

Another easily overlooked gem in the Drachen Foundation’s collection is the 1914 German pamphlet, Der Papier Drachen in Japan. Written for the Linden Museum in Germany by Dr. W. Muller, German Consul in Shimonseki, Japan, this pamphlet shows an interesting view of Japanese kites through the eyes of a European. Including photographs, drawings and twelve color plates showing 31 kites and a scene of a festival, this document provides information that even a non-German speaker can understand and find interest in.

The short pamphlet gives a fairly thorough view of selected kites in Japan from the early 20th century. It includes simple, structural drawings for several Kaku-dako, the Yakko (called Dambei Drachen), the Kasuza Drachen, the NagasakiHata. Of particular focus are the Wan wans, giant kites that weighed sometimes over 6,000 pounds and took large teams of men to build and fly in competition. Included are detailed pictures of the handmade rope for these kites, as well as an interesting drawing of the ground-stake and winder method used for these giant kites.

For a collector, this pamphlet is a valuable resource. The illustrations used to describe celebrations in Nagasaki, Echigo, and Tokushima are all commercial post cards of the day. The cover features a famous ukiyo-e by Yoshitora, and a spectacular bonus is the last twelve color plates showing a variety of Japanese kites. These are wonderful documents showing the artistic treatments of that time period.

For the kite enthusiast who might want a quick project that could be a contribution to the English-speaking kite world, a full translation of the pamphlet would be invaluable. Copies of the pamphlet can be obtained by contacting the Foundation at info@drachen.org.

Scott Skinner


Researcher Visits Old Dutch Kite

The beginning of 2008 saw for the Drachen Foundation visiting researcher Thom Shanken in the office to find out more about Peter Lynn’s “Old Dutch Kite.” Shanken, with avid interest both in kites and the American colonial period, has spent much time in the study of paper artifacts related to this time period. Having learned about the kite through the DF Kite Journal, Shanken contacted DF in the fall of 2007 with the desire to spend time at the study center in serious analysis of the artifact.

Shanken spent three days examining the kite in various ways. He first made surface observations—learning what he could from the kite “at first glance.” These observations included detailed first impressions of the kite, how the parts were attached, what surface repairs could be noted, complete measurements, etc. Next, Shanken used diagnostic tools including infrared and ultraviolet scanning, backlighting, as well as microscopes to view the paper’s fibers.

A professional forensic coroner, Shanken approached his study methodically and with great care—taking detailed notes with a tape recorder. With thorough knowledge of the paper making method from that time period, Shanken was able to determine that the paper used to make the kite had been made in a method that can be dated around the 1773 date written on the sail.

Now back at his home in New York State, Shanken will continue his study of the pear top—sharing photos and data with friends and colleagues in academia. He plans to use contacts in the Netherlands to further investigate more about the kite’s origin. His compiled research will take many, many months and will be published in a future issue of Drachen’s forthcoming journal—Discourse: At the End of the Line.

Shanken’s visit to the Drachen Foundation study center demonstrates the depth of research, study and documentation that will allow Drachen to fill out the historical profile of kites. Our desire is to find and preserve that which is in the world of kiting and work with qualified individuals and organizations to learn more about the history of these items, in order to make this information available to all.


2008 Historical Kite Conference

Yearly, a group of historical kite enthusiasts throughout Europe hold a weekend conference and workshop. For those interested in the historical use and construction of kites, this conference is not one to miss. This year’s conference boasts a trip to the Zepplin Museum in Friedrichafen, Germany.

The 2008 Historical Kite Workshop will be held the weekend of April 25-27 2008 at the Zeppelin Museum in Friedrichshafen, Germany. To commemorate the 1908 opening of a meterological kite station in the port town of Friedrichshafen, the workshop will include construction of the Kusnetzov meterological kite. The weekend will include a tour of the Zepplin museum and lecture on Count Zeppelin and his work by museum curator, a lecture about the kite station at Friedrichshafen, and a lecture on the Kusnetzov kite.

In conjunction with the workshop, the Drachen Foundation will once again sponsor a $500 dollar historical kite research grant.


Rev Up to Uchinada

May 3-4 2008

Each year from the end of April to the first week of May, thousands of Japanese celebrate holidays honoring the emperor's birthday, the creation of the Japanese constitution and Children's day. This week places much of Japan's citizens on the road, traveling for vacation and recreation.

It is during this week that the JKA, (Japanese Kite Association) gathers in Uchinada, Japan for their annual meeting and kite fly. Originally a meeting for only Japanese members, the JKA now makes it a custom to invite international kite flying talent to the festival to share new ideas. In order to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the Revolution sport kite, this year's invited guests is iQuad, a precision sport kite team with members throughout the United States and Canada. 

Watch the iQuad team perform in celebration of the 20th Anniversary of Revolution kiting at the 2008 Uchinada Kite Festival! This team of 7 members led by Ben D’Antonio, represents the best of revolution kite fliers in North America, exhibiting precision flying both indoor and out!


DF Featured on Electronic Field Trip

This spring, Drachen Foundation is to be featured in an Electronic Field Trip about the Smithsonian Kite Festival. Through this Electronic Field Trip, students will be able to view festival kites, make their own kite and learn about the math and science princlples involved along the way.

Throughout the school year, Ball State University chooses various theme and partners with museums across the United States to offer a series of online webisodes, a website, classroom lessons and two live broadcasts to participating schools.

“Field of Colors: Flying Objects On The Mall” is set to broadcast Tuesday, April 1, 2008. For more information about this and other Electronic Field Trips, please visit http://www.bsu.edu/eft/home/00front.htm