Drachen Foundation Newsletter: October 2007

Featured Archive Item: Files of Margaret Greger and Ed Grauel

In addition to the hundreds of kites, tools, photos, and books in its collection, the Drachen 

Foundation’s archive also includes what is known at the Study Center as “the black files.” Contained in 21 three-drawer filing cabinets are thousands of documents, photographs, newspaper clippings and letters. Two of the gems contained here are the files of Ed Grauel and the correspondence files of Margaret Greger.

A former schoolteacher, Greger has taught thousands of children the how to make kites and is one of the pillars of kiting education. Her best-known books Blown Sky High, Kites for Everyone and More Kites For Everyone were written and self-published by Greger, whose desire was to bring her years of kite plans and experience to other educators and all interested in kites. Her aesthetic was to provide plans that were simple to build, took less than an hour to put together, and were inexpensive to produce. These plans were extremely influential to kite makers at the time, and many can claim that one of the first kites they themselves constructed was a Greger.

In addition to Greger’s influential kite plans, she was also valuable as an international networker. At the time that Greger was learning about and teaching kites—as the American Kitefliers Association was just getting started—information, ideas, and innovations were passed back and forth throughout the kiting community through the mail. Greger was especially prolific in here correspondence, and as she explored her kiting ideas with the likes Bob Ingraham, Dave Checkley, Stormy Weathers, and many others, she kept detailed copies of each interaction, carefully filing all correspondence and her carbon copy replies. “Margaret is amazingly articulate,” explains Drachen director Ali Fujino, “her letters are more like little essays full of substantive text and ideas.”

Several years ago, Greger happened to mention to Ali Fujino that she was preparing to get rid of these files. Convinced of their obvious value, Fujino persuaded Greger to place them in a box and mail them to Drachen instead. Shortly later, three perfectly packed and organized boxes arrived at Drachen’s Study Center. “Receiving something like this is an archivist’s dream,” comments Fujino, “these are the things that you base written history on.”

Another exhaustive resource in Drachen’s black files are the writings, correspondence and patent archives of researcher Ed Grauel. Methodical and thorough in his approach, Grauel spent 40 years of his retirement researching, designing, building, collecting, and writing about kites. Most notably, he was an authority on U.S. kite patents. Very probably no one—not even the U.S. patent office—has had as much knowledge of American kite patents. Grauel freely shared his research, self-publishing his findings in the ‘journal’ American Kite Patents, and updated those interested yearly with his new findings. Grauel’s patent archive has been an invaluable resource for the Drachen Foundation and anyone wishing to research a particular patent.

As Grauel commented years earlier, “Apart from my work with patents, I want to be known as the guy who tried to get research into kiting. My research has been significant. It has worked for me, it has worked for a lot of other people.”

Upon Grauel’s death in 2002, his family donated Grauel’s archive, correspondence, and kite material to Drachen, including his old Canon word processor and printer on which all of his research papers were written. Sadly, no one has kept Grauel’s patent work up to date, and this remains a job for the future kiting generation that Grauel and Greger have left their knowledge.

The Drachen Foundation is very pleased to house both of these collections. These papers contain years of not only Greger’s and Graul’s thorough research and knowledge about kiting and kite making, but all those they were in contact with—a legacy of information gathered and analyzed over decades, and something to be treasured by the kiting world much longer.


Alexander Graham Bell Cygnet Kite Centennial

It's a long way to the Alexander Graham Bell Museum in Baddeck, Nova Scotia-almost as far east as you can go on the North American continent. But if you can get most of the way there, like participants of this year's Dieppe, Canada, International Kite Festival, then the four-hour drive to Baddeck is well worth it. Read More


"Finding Religion" in Bali

Indonesian Kite Festival 2007

Janggan Kite I really didn't expect this, but my visit to the 29th annual Bali National Kite Festival brought me face to face with a kite culture so deeply rooted that at least one of my hosts insisted that "Kite is God!" In a culture where every activity is begun with a ceremony and a prayer, I began to see where my host Bagus was coming from. This is a deeply spiritual community, where ties to God, family and community are readily apparent. Kites here are a direct tie to all three.

In the nights before the three-day festival, neighborhood groups work together to prepare sails, spars and hummers for their kites. Each group might have from one to six of the four-or-five meter wide creations, including the subtle pechukan, the bebean, or fish kite, and the janggan, dragon kite. Each has its own peculiarities-the pechukan, favored by professionals to demonstrate their kitemaking prowess, the bebean, for its distinctive flight pattern, and the janggan for its overall majesty. While working, offerings are placed upon the kite frame, that there will be many more ceremonies to come.

The first two days of the festival are spectacular, when over a hundred kites are flown each day but it builds to an amazing final day, when almost two hundred kites are registered and flown. The kites are flown in groups, Pechukan, Bebean, and Janggan, for an hour at a time. They are then judged on their beauty, flight, and their launch and retrieval. Each kite is paraded around the field before and after flight by a team that might have 50 to 100 members. Much like Hamamatsu, Japan, older men supervise while teens and twenty-somethings do the bulk of line handling and running; youngsters play in the bands. It is an extremely community-based activity with colorful tee shirts, banners, and obvious pride.

The days there are a complete assault on the senses: sight, sound, smell and taste (dust is kicked up everywhere!). Three traditional colors are used in the kites-red, black and white, with a forth, yellow, now frequently used as well, usually in the Pechukan. Simple linear graphics are the norm, and they all have significance. Arrangement of colors, width of stripes, background color - they all are significant and are carefully chosen by the team and their artists. Bagus explained that the simplicity of the basic kite frame, with its central spine and top cross spar, further re-enforce the kites relationship with God. The spine is a straight vertical line to heaven, while the top horizontal spar demonstrates balance in our lives, with nature, with others.


Anna Rubin 

On Friday, August 31, celebrated kite artist Anna Rubin opened an art show at gallery Das Zentrum in Radstadt, Austria. Another celebrated artist and kite maker, Tal Streeter reviewed her show for the Drachen Foundation.

Imagine effervescent, delicate and beautiful objects and then (simply) bridle them to fly as kites. There are very few identifiable limitations keeping us chained to what is commonly (tradition bound) recognized as a "kite." Anna Rubin puts art in the forefront of the dual elements of appearance and function-the mechanics of a kite's ability to fly no longer a prime concern (not to depreciate the extraordinary pure, modern developments in kites and flight certainly worthy of recognition and appreciation). Appearance is something we take for granted in automobiles, airplanes, appliances, shelter and all the things we employ to enhance our lives. All these objects have long been candidates for enhancement by the visual aspects of art. Wouldn't it be wonderful if more of this art concern found its way into the popular sphere-as well as professional sphere of kite making-as innovations, not just art tacked on the kite as a canvas, (the first stage which many of us are still in) but the forms themselves-which Rubin's work so wonderfully demonstrates. Thanks, Anna! Your're a pioneer and an inspiration for those of us who are anxious that kites continue to surprise and demonstrate that human beings are capable of contributing, making a worthy mark in the context of nature's astonishing beauty. 


Dr. Paul MacCready Passes Away 

In the fall of 2006, several Drachen board members were honored to visit Dr. Paul MacCready to talk about the use of kites to tap windpower. MacCready, an aeronautical engineer is celebrated for many of his aeronautical inventions, including the Gossamer Albatross, one of the first practical human-powered aircraft. He passed away on August 28, 2007 due to brain cancer. 

Board Member Joe Hadzicki and one of the fathers of the revolutionary four line kite aptly expressed Drachen's feelings when he heard about MacCready's death:

Sorry to hear the bad news. Possibly my fondest memory at the Drachen Foundation was the meeting with Dr. MacCready at his offices in Simi Valley. Truly a chance in a lifetime to meet with a true Legend.

Read more: http://articles.latimes.com/2007/aug/30/local/me-maccready30


Bintulu International Kite Festival 

Sarawak, Malaysia, Borneo

It takes 36 hours in airplane and airport transit from the Drachen office to touch down on the shores of the thrid largest island in the world, Borneo. Simply a dense jungle from the air, Drachen was visiting to photo-document another group of "wau" kites and begin a survey on the fighter and single line kites of the Republic of Brunei. 

The island of Borneo is comprised of land owned by three countries-Indonesia, Malaysia and the Republic of Brunei. A visitor can quickly guage the struggle of these three country's politics, with border issues, economic issues arising from plentiful oil and natural gas resources, and impressive ecological uniqueness (its vast jungles contain with a large variety of unique flora and fauna.) We were situated in one of the smallest coastel towns, Bintulu. An old airport now cleared of planes was the site of the 3rd Annual Bintulu International Kite Festival. 

This festival did feature some of the world's international kiting favorites. Peter Lynn's large, inflatable characters filled the sky to the delight of passing crowds; children were entertained and gifted by the candies falling from the stuffed animal-manned kite of Michael Alvares, and kite delegations were present from almost all over Asia. Yet, what made this kite festival so special was not just the show of international kiting greats. Most impressive was the fact that the government of Malaysia has recognized and committed themselves to preserving and teaching their own tradtional kite culture. 

For decades, the Malaysian government has designed, developed and produced national kite festivals in their country-Johor, Kota Baru, and now Bintulu, with a fourth region to start in the near future.These kite festivals involve the whole Malaysian population and emphasize the heritage of the "wau" kite by bringing students and adults together for kite making and competition. This culture is the focus of the festivals, and the invitation of international kite enthusiasts is done to celebrate their particular wau craft with others.

The festival ran a full week, with a wonderful group of Malaysian kite officials on hand to assist with the arrangements and logistics. Bintulu, a small coastal town, offers little entertainment other than daily routine. Thanks to the world's largest natural gas find in 1975, their population has grown to that of nearly 500,000 people in a town that takes one only 15 minutes to walk across. All residents, in that short week, visited the kite field and all watched and flew kites.

Special thanks to Ismail bin Mat Taib, Haji Hussain Haron and Anuar Abd Ghani, whose passion for their Malaysian kites have continued to fuel the government for more projects and events.

Ali Fujino


Gary Hinze

Gary Hinze (San Jose, California), a long time researcher and passionate chronicler of the world of kites, has surfaced once again! As we enthusiastically went to press last newsletter on the acceptance of what we thought as an unusual one of a kind Japanese design, Hinze opened up his newsletter, and went to work to prove to us that we knew more than we thought about this one artifact-note his documentation. The value of the items we collect are only as valuable as the people who work with them. In Gary's case, he did what good investigators or scholars do, they gather information and cross reference it. Having as much information as we can about kites is one mandate, but being able to find it, and cross reference it with other sources and apply this information is what scholarship and knowledge is all about. Bravo, Gary!

David F. Jue, "Chinese Kites, How to Make and Fly Them", 1967, page 38, calls it "Octagon Kite" and shows how to make two versions with 24" squares, both with spars along all four sides of both squares, one with the center pole running across the diagonal of one square and an alternate form with the pole running between opposite points where square sides intersect. The pole extends below the face of the kite in both. The illustration of the former on page 39 shows two bridle points.

Tadao Saito, "High Fliers, Colorful Kites from Japan", 1969, page 58, calls it "The Hakkaku Kite" and shows your exact kite, silver lame octagon and all. The photo shows a three leg bridle. The sparring diagram shows a spine and spreader running along the diagonals of the diamond square and spars along the left and right sides of the box square. There is also a rectangle in the center of two spars running parallel with the wingtip spars, connected at the bottom and top by short sticks, forming a rigid rectangle in the center. The spine extends below the kite face. The caption says "The central stick can be removed and the kite folded for storage." It is not evident in either the picture or the diagram how this could be done, unless "central stick" refers to the lateral spreader. The sparring diagram shows six bridle points, two on either end of the top short connector, three across the lateral spreader where it crosses the spine and the wingtip spars and one at the crossing of the spine and the lower short connector.

Wyatt Brummitt, "Kites", 1971, shows several pictures of this kite. An illustration on page 7 shows it being flown in China with a two leg bridle and three tails attached to the three aft corners, the spine does not extend. The diagram on page 47 shows the alternate orientation and calls it "Double Diamond". the spine extends both above and below the face. An illustration on page 69 is labeled "Chinese" and shows a single tail at the end of the spine, which extends below the face. The first and third kites have different color patterns. The third has a circle in the center.

Tsutomu Hiroi, "Kites" (Japanese), 1971, (big blue book in slipcase, published by Mainichi Newspapers) has a large photo on page 65 that shows the details of your kite well. The points are colored dark blue, green, red and yellow. The silver foil octagon is present. There is a spine, a spreader and two wingtip spars, but the top edge of the box square has what looks like a bow stick extending beyond the wingtip spars. There is no corresponding stick along the bottom edge of the box square. The texture of the paper shows that the central rectangle is present, as shown by the diagram in Sato. Four bridle lines are tied to the corners of this rectangle. The spine continues below the point and has two strings dangling from it. It looks like the lateral spreader may be tied on in a way that allows it to be removed. With the removal of the spreader and bow stick, the kite could be folded. Note the similar circle pattern on the kite shown on page 38.

L. S. Newman and J. H. Newman, "Kite Craft, The History and Processes of Kitemaking Throughout the World", 1974, page 151, calls it the Yatuhana kite from the north of Japan. The B&W photo shows colored corners with Kintaro painted on the central octagon. There appear to be spars around all four sides of each square and a spreader and spine. There is a diagram illustrating this sparring arrangement, as well as one illustrating that seen in Hiroi's picture, without the top bow stick. There is no indication of bridle or tails, but the spine extends well below the point.

Tal Streeter, "The Art of the Japanese Kite", 1974, portfolio following page 80, kite number 77, shows your exact kite, just like Hiroi's picture, but the red corners appears more orange and it doesn't have the leading edge bow stick. There is no indication of bridle. The note for this kite on page 115 says "A hakkaku, or octagonal, kite with Bull's eye pattern. From Takamatsu, Kagawa Prefecture."

Tsutomu Hiroi, "Kites Sculpting the Sky, A Practical and Aesthetic Guide to Making Kites", 1978, page 31, reproduces the earlier color picture in B&W and much smaller size. The caption says "Hakkaku octagonal (Takamatsu, Kagawa Prefecture)"

"Kite" (Japanese), >1982, page 141 shows a version of the kite with four spars, along each diagonal of each square, and one bowstick extending beyond the wingtips at the top of the box square. The spine extends below the point. The points are colored orange and green in alternation, the central octagon is outlined in black, colored red except for the circle pattern and half a flower on each lateral side. Page 160 shows a completely different color pattern, red points with a green circle in each and a green central octagon. This kite seems to have five vertical and five horizontal spars or battens. The top horizontal spar is deeply bowed. There are cords hanging from the bottom corners of the box square. There could be seven or eight bridle points; tips and center (?) of top bow, centerline 1/4 down octagon, center of octagon and three along spar 3/4 down octagon where the lateral spar crosses the three central spars..

"Kite Flying, Love Expressing, The Treasured Album of China Weifang's Kite Culture", >1989, page 4, shows a variation of this kite on a stamp. There are eight smaller kites surrounding a large central kite, with spinners on interconnecting spars and two tassel tails. Page 5 shows it again. Pages 9 and 10 show it again, with another stamp. The kite pictured on the stamp differs from the illustrations in that the perimeter stars are joined at two corners, not separate. 

"The Kite Culture and Art of Weifang, China", came in the same box as the above, page 8 shows a photo of the kite illustrated on the stamp in the previous work. Some bridle string is evident, but it is not clear where it attaches to the kite, it is too fine to see clearly.

Dr. Paul Eubel, "Bilder fur den Himmel, Kunstdrachen", 1989, in German and Japanese. There are no page numbers, so you get to thumb through this big, wonderful book. In the section that describes the seven types of kites used in the project, "Der Hakkaku-Drachen" describes the kite and illustrates it with a perspective drawing. The kites in this project were fairly large. The diagram shows a hummer bow at the ends of outriggers projecting forward of the leading edge at the forward point. The lateral spars at the top and bottom of the box square are bowed. The spine extends quite a bit below the face and has two cords attached at the bottom. It has eight bridle legs. The bridle point appears to be incorrectly drawn, I don't think the kite would fly with the bridle point below the center of the face. At the end of the description of the Project is a diagram illustration all seven project kites and their outside dimensions. This shows an even more impossible bridle for this kite number 3, Hakkaku. David Nash was the only artist to use this form. There is text and a full page picture of his kite "Flying Tree", 200x200 cm (78x78 in). The kite has spars on all square sides and diagonals. It has the hummer bow and a long extension of the spine below the face with cord wrapped along it's entire length. In the section "Vernissage am Himmel" at the back is a picture of this kite being carried out to the flying field, showing the back of the kite. There is a bowstring on the central lateral, but not the top and bottoms edges of the box square. The glue lines joining the sheets of paper are evident. There are seven or eight bridle lines at the bridle plate. Two cord tails extend down from the bottom corner along the spine extension. At the end of the book is a Kite Map showing where each of a dozen kite forms comes from in Japan. Hakkaku comes from Okinawa.

Ha Kuiming and Ha Yiqi, "Chinese Artistic Kites", 1990, page 13 includes a sketch of this kite in an illustration of traditional Chinese kites. Page 64 shows a photo of a 40 inch "Eight Trigrams" kite. The name refers to the eight fortune telling binary bar figures generated by three binary bar digits that are painted on the face. This pattern was also shown in the Weifang books above. Each triangular point contains two spinning eyes. It is hard to tell exactly how many spars are behind this kite, but there appear to be at least four diagonals and top leading edge lateral. Probably all sides of all squares are present. There are strings of pom-pom tails attached to the lower outside points. The three leg bridle is attached at each outside end of the top triangular point and to the spine just below the center circle, above the bottom points of the side triangular points. Page 136 describes the Eight Trigram(s) kite. This appears to suffer severely from translation problems in both text and diagram. The text and the diagram do not correspond, even the text seems to be confusing two framing patterns. I leave it to you to find your own interpretation(s) out of this chaos. None of the other depictions shows any evidence of bowing, but the diagram shows a "towline" attached to one end of the spreader and a note "end of string looped here" at the other end. This rigid structure would be difficult to bow and the kite with the tails could be flown unbowed with an aft bridle. Page 157 shows this kite belonging to the wind force of 3 to 4, with the pop-pom tails forming a loop. 

Dr. Paul Eubel, "Arte en el cielo, Art Kites, Cometas artisticas", 1991, is substantially the same book as the above by the same author, but in English and Spanish and under different sponsorship. The illustrations are the same. Here I quote only the text that describes the kite. The caption to the first diagram says "Hakkaku. This eight-sided kite (so its name) can be found in many corners of Japan from Okinawa to Shikoku to Aichi. (In Kanagawa Prefecture it is called Yatsubana, which means eight flowers".) The bamboo framework is formed by overlaying two rectangles and then rotating one slightly, while the painted designs are generally geometric patterns. Very often a humming string is attached to the upper part. In Okinawa the tips of the stars are characteristically painted red with a small white circle."

Franz Arz, "Asiatische Drachen, Kampfdrachen und andere Fesseldrachen selber bauen", 1992, pages 36 and 37 have a large color photo, dimensioned plan and construction instructions for a 610 mm (24") version of this kite, named "Chinesischer Achteckdrachen". It shows spars on all four sides of each square and the vertical and horizontal diagonals which do not extend beyond the points. It has pom-pom string tails on the three lower corners. The three leg bridle ties to the ends of the top triangular point and to the intersection of the spine with the lower horizontal. The three horizontal spars are bowed. The photo has the top of the kite to the right.

Scott Skinner and Ali Fujino, editors, "Kites, Paper Wings Over japan", 1997, page 36 shows a form of this kite called mattaku coming from Okinawa.

Buteo Huang, "Wings of Dream, the Stories of Kites", in Chinese, 2001, page 22, map shows an 85x85 cm (33x33 in) kite coming from Taiwan. Pages 40-41 show a diagram and color photo of the kite. It looks like four sides and two diagonals of each square are sparred. There is a single multistrand tail and a six leg bridle, flown unbowed. Three bridle lines go to the top horizontal spar, are approximately perpendicular to the kite face and about equal to the length of a square side. The other three go to the lateral spreader. There are circular holes in the center of each triangular tip.

The Drachen Foundation, "Paper Kite Workshop", 2003, page 22 shows a diagram for this kite, 19. Hakkaku, as one suggested for students to make. Page 25 says that Luca was given this design, but there are no pictures of the kite.

"The Kong Family of Beijing", in Chinese, 2004, page 89 shows another version this kite with spinning eyes at the inside vertices, a three leg bridle and a pom-pom loop tail.


Capturing San Francisco

To mark the centennial of the 1906 earthquake, and a seminal event in the history of kite aerial photography (KAP), the Drachen Foundation collaborated with Bay Area photographer Scott Haefner to re-photograph Lawrence's view of San Francisco. Included here is a short film about this attempt.