Drachen Foundation Newsletter: October 2009

Kites in all Forms and Colors Fly in the Gota de Plata Pachuca, Mexico

To help celebrate the annual festival of San Francisco in the city of Pachuca Mexico (two hours north of Mexico City), the inauguration of this phenomenal exhibition of 319 art kites was opened by Scott Skinner of Drachen and the mayor of Pachuca.

This exhibition of kites is the collaborative effort of world famous artist Maestro Francisco Toledo of Oaxaca and Cesar Gordilla Aguilar, director of the Museo Erasto Cortes of Puebla. With the inspiration of art, Toledo leads the first round of artists from Oaxaca creating over 150 art kites. When the exhibition moved to Puebla, another 60 brilliant kites were added and the results were stunning.

Toledo continues to be taken by the media and the form of the kite to support his images, and in August, the Foundation was pleased to attend his one man art kite exhibition at the Rose Gallery in Los Angeles, and find the maestro is now confidently signing his work. The exhibition sold out in 2 hours.

Special thanks to Cesar Gordillo, his staff at the Museo and family, who spent 5 days in perfecting the exhibition installation. Together with Drachen, a full day of public kite workshops were held at the plaza in front of the Gota and was finished with the first Pachuca Kite Competition.

 

Kites Over Washington

September 9, 2009

Seth Abramson has been flying kites as performance art for the past 12 years. Kites Over Washington was his biggest in-house production yet – an attempt to build and fly 121 kites simultaneously on “Kite Hill” at Gasworks Park in Seattle. The kites represent 121 of Washington’s credit unions in a consortium under the event’s sponsor, Credit Unions of Washington. The sponsors of the event were looking for something visually interesting, and wanted to provide “a peaceful display.” They heard of Abramson’s performance work in New York and West Virginia, and decided to commission him for the Seattle event.

With a background in theater and dance, and a BFA from NYU, Abramson lives in Rock Camp, West Virginia where he started the kite-based Rock Camp Productions and runs his family’s general store. Abramson sees kites as a form of improvised dance and as his interface for a deeper relationship with nature. “The wind and air has its own language and range of expression,” he said. He has worked with Guildworks and artist Heather Henson on kite performances in the past.

He describes Kites Over Washington as “all about volume” and “a naturalist experiment,” using a lot of “trial and error testing [to determine] what would be most interesting.” All of the kites were built in the last three weeks in Abramson’s kite studio – a converted garage at his family home. Abramson’s materials of choice for the Delta kites in Kites Over Washington, are white rip-stop nylon, ¼” wooden dowels as spars, and all told, about three miles of nylon line. The kites were printed with the blue Credit Unions of Washington logo and sewn prior to arriving in Seattle, but assembled with line and spars in the parking lot at Gasworks Park. For the sake of efficiency the kites were “tacked on to one another” using precut lengths of line, in groups of five or six, that were broken up and rearranged when necessary. Each kite is seven feet wide and fourteen feet long with their swallow-like tails.

How does one go about flying 121 kites at the same time? “It is logistically very difficult,” said Abramson. However, with about 15 volunteers and by tethering groups of kites to the ground, it’s not impossible. That is, if the wind cooperates. Even though only 87 kites were flown simultaneously that afternoon, the display mesmerized onlookers throughout day and into the evening.  Lake Union floatplanes swooped in for a closer look and children craned their necks to watch the long white tails ripple.  Recalling the work leading up to the event, Abramson said it was “a holistic experience” comparing it to Tai Chi style meditation. “You tune yourself in to it. I’m very connected.”

To learn more about the event go to Discover Credit Unions’ website at: http://www.discovercreditunions.com/kites/

 

Kiyomi Okawa

She came to us as a contractor, freelancing as a graphic designer and answered our need to help us with our newly conceived kite journal. The editor and author was Ben Ruhe, and under his strict but journalistic eye, needed a graphic designer who could take direction, graphically manipulate text and images, all under a deadline.

Not many people could have done this with the professional and the personal grace that Kiyomi was able.

After several months of working for us on contract, she proved her value, we could not do without her, and a firm fulltime position was created for her to join the Drachen team. 8 years later, she helped to build Drachen into what it is today--- That wonderful eclectic combination of the ying and yang of organizations, whether her help was in touring kitemakers, translating for them, working workshops for all ages, creating that look for a special kite publication, or lending a helping hand when desperately needed. She was the perfect ambassador for us in every part of the world, her friendliness was infectious. 

But after 8 years, it was time for Kiyomi to spread her wings, and a professional change was in her future, she was offered a fulltime position at a Seattle Japanese/English private school. She has become a teacher, and a leader, not a follower. Although her subjects are wee ones (5 years old), she will charm and lead them to those wonderful adventures that only a good teacher can…she has the experience and the confidence to excel.

I would be lying by not admitting I miss her. The board of the Drachen Foundation can only wish her the best and anticipate the next time we cross lines!

 

Moku Hanga: 2009 Richard Steiner West Coast Tour

In the heat of summer, Moku Hanga teacher Richard Steiner took the west coast by storm. A master of Japanese woodblock printing, he began his tour (and the 5th year of teaching in Portland) with McClain’s class of 15 students. Teaching this traditional art, he commented, “This was possibly the best class that I have ever had….”

Not to come in second or third, Seattle followed up with 10 students and Tieton/Yakima with 14!

There are few places where one can experience learning the tradition of Japanese woodblock printing, and Drachen committed itself to this task in order to help an individual understand and appreciate how many of the Kitemakers of the past used this art to create multiples of their kites.

 

Gloria Stuart's Flight of the Butterfly

Ninety-Nine year old Gloria Stuart, star of James Cameron’s blockbuster, Titanic, has been a long time fancier of kites. In her autobiography she is pictured in 1939 in the Singapore train station with a Thai Chula kite, having just visited Bangkok. In the years between her great fame in the movie industry, Gloria pursued a variety of artistic endeavors; printer, poet, writer, silkscreener, painter, and nurturer of bonsai plants.

This exhibit celebrates the culmination of a 25 year journey, directly related to kites. This beautiful, butterfly-shaped artist’s book showcases many of Gloria’s significant artistic skills, but it more-significantly shows her love of kites. The book is an homage to artists while carrying on fine traditions of the artist’s press. It celebrates artistic techniques of printing, collage, screenprinting, and painting, and complements them with heart-felt writing.

In her pursuit of the spirit of the kite, Gloria has traveled to both Japan and China and her love for kites has been reflected in much of her recent art. She has depicted kites in clear, virgin skies and has shown them juxtaposed with the hauntingly beautiful Watts Towers. In this volume she follows a butterfly kite to artists’ canvasses and playfully imagines what might have been. As lovers of kites, this is a volume that speaks eloquently for

us all.

- Scott Skinner