Copyrighted 2000 - All Rights Reserved - JEFF MacINNIS


The words kite and beauty are synonymous.   One should think the mere presents of a kite embellishing the sky is enough in itself .   Not to be out done by other cherished things throughout the ages, the kite naturally beckons decoration.


Some folks go snakes at the mere mention of the word art.   Although the fat kid and a few others are over qualified and very gifted in the creative arena-, do not let lack of talent dissuade you from making your kite beautiful.   Even if you have a recessive art gene, you already learned everything you need to know about art in kindergarten, so chin up little buckaroo!


If you saw a really great flying fighter kite with a photographically realistic, airbrushed rendition of The Signing of the Declaration of Independence on it, like the one on the ( ahHumm ) one dollar food stamp, you might think it was pretty cool and get all flustered because you know you could never make one like it and say aw thell with it and want to quit and stuff.

Check this out.

I know this kite-guy named Larry.   Larry had little or no experience with arts and crafts.   Two things he does have though are:   A lot of want to, and the raw confidence to try anything.   Larry also has a pathetic little condition that reveals it self in the form of hyper sensitive saliva glands.   Larry simply puts his natural gifts to work drooling on select areas about the kite and quickly finishes it off with a rattle-can of auto primer.   When the goober and paint are half dry he wipes the kite off on his ever soiled bib.   The incredible results being as visually stunning as his masterful technique.   Hey, if Larry can do it-; ya know what I mean? *

Ol Lare was already a good kite builder prior to his foray into the artistic realm, but there were some things that he is very aware of .   He knows that the incorporation of aerodynamics and control of aesthetics bring with it - design considerations a plenty.

The Larry factor:   Lift, weight, thrust and drag - added to - line, shape, form, color and texture.   Thats enough stuff to keep the average kite experimenter busy for awhile, but lets look at a few things:

Take a four foot wide, 18th century Pennsylvania Dutch quilt, and stretch it over 1/4 inch carbon fiber rods.   Pretty, aint it?   But as a fighter, it is very near ineffective.   At the other end of the spectrum is a kite designed to be a pure flyer.   It is likely to be more industrial in appearance while being considerably less decorative.   Although both pieces possess aesthetically pleasing qualities, one has the vast majority of its design features in the decorative bent, while the other strives for the purely functional .   The adage goes: :  Form follows function.   The function of the highly ornamental piece is to be decorative while being only reminiscent of a fighter kite.   The pure fighter kites function is to fly well.   With little or no attention paid to its looks, any aesthetically pleasing qualities the pure flyer possesses are more or less incidental.

The good news is, there is a lot of room to join together the extremes of the purely functional with the purely decorative.   The vast middle ground of good-flying-beautiful kites is rich with possibilities .   Not unlike the lessons learned building flyers, the aesthetic arena is fraught with dos and donts that become more obvious with practice.   The decision making process will become more involved when a certain percentage of design parameters are aesthetic.

Let the kite aid with the decision making process.

The number one consideration is neatness.   Do the cleanest work possible.

The number two consideration is weight.   Excessive weight is a gihugeic killer of pretty fighter kites.   Slapping on a thick coat of house paint with a four inch brush to an already, near over weight, ( stiff ) Tyvec sail will lend to beauty but will negatively affect flight performance.   Just as easily, weight can be used to an advantage.   Say for example you find the kite you are flying needs a small bit of weight near the nose or tail to enhance spin .   Fighter kiters often use a dab of putty or chewing gum as ballast.   If you are using bamboo for spine material, another solution is to build your next edition of the same kite with a tapered / shaped spine providing added weight in the appropriate place.   An aesthetic solution could incorporate a colorful direction indicator on the nose or tail of the kite along with weight providing ballast as well.   Mask off an area (decisions) of the kite and douche it with the house paint and industrial brush to achieve both requirements simultaneously.   When your line of thinking is in this ilk, you are an engineer.

Then again many coloring techniques do not adversely affect weight as much.   Using dyes and ink such as marker pens, turn the trick rather nicely.   On many sail materials, dyes and ink also open up many possibilities of translucent and opaque effects.   Thats the stuff that makes stained glass windows work.   Immaculate!   If you elect to adorn yourkite with two capricious swallows, where ya gonna putem?   Lots of choices, huh?   Placement of decoration served more than one purpose with the direction indicator example.   When weight is not so much an issue, there are less restrictions and more opportunities.   Heres just one .   On a good fighter kite, the pivot point of spin is located somewherebetween three points:   The wingtip, the center of balance and the upper bridle point.   Placement of a well-drawn swallow centered on either pivot point will compel this kiter to weep tears of joy.   If your line of thinking is in this ilk, you are an artist.

I noticed once that-, that horrific shit ICKY-rex, and the ever rare and luscious Chinese kite silk have a characteristic that enables sunlight to be reflected a certain way.   When a kite made from these materials is positioned on a correct angle to the sun, they flash.   The effective angle so slight that reflected sunlight is briefly seen about the moving kite.   On a spin the flashing pulsates.   Imagine this phenomena used in conjunction with decorative possibilities.   Lightning, Einstein, the Virgin Mary, pills, Mt. Pele; thats what Im talkin bout!.

Perhaps your artistic tastes lay in the sculptural.   I had a kite made of Orcon #AN-36B.The straight leading and trailing edges of the kite were formed by the wind to produce a rolling back of these areas.   The rolled back leading and trailing edges were assumed to create excess drag, but who knows.   I sketched out a line along the border of where the roll and the flat part of the sail intersected and made a template appropriately.   Got pretty lucky with this go because the results were twofold both sculpturally and aerodynamically.   The kite flew better and it had a lovely curvaceous perimeter.   With respect to fighter kites, shape is a tricky area.   One of my early mentors, Ed Alden once said, among other insightful stuff:   There is not a one magic shape.   If you are experimenting with kite shape and are hell bent on producing a kite with a mens underpants theme, you might consider building a Western style Buka Dako.   ( Buker Daker ) The rectangular shape of this kite, complementing the rectangular outline of briefs or boxers, may be more conducive to good over all results.   If your line of thinking lay in this ilk, most fighter people will understand, but you might get your ass kicked by a multi-line sport kiter.   I dont think Ed would get it either.

Appliques are a must visit area with respect to looks and fly.   The combinations of weight, color, texture, opacity, yada yada yada, of various sail materials are numerous.   They can be used together to assist creating the bellows shape of a kite sail under working load .   Or, perhaps you might try using a hard and slick Mylar for the nose area to smoothly receive the onrush of wind, while a soft textured Orcon is used throughout the rest of the sail to dampen and direct escaping air out the back.   Gold and black?   Red and white?   How about a clear film nose area with some sharp scary teeth on it?   Eyes?

Appliques most often require a lot of measuring, preparation, gluing, technique, and a bunch of other junk obviously not mentioned, not necessarily in any order, but definitely not excluding template making .   In order to make an inlay, the builder must first make two templates.   The two templates will trace each other in outline with about a quarter inch or so size difference (width of tape? ) .   The smaller template is used to aid in cutting out the sail area.   The larger template is used to aid in cutting out the piece to be installed.   To accurately install the piece, use drafting tape to secure one edge of the kite sail to the working surface.   With one edge taped down, the sail can be flipped back and forth on the working surface like a page in a book.   The sail along with the cutout area will repeatedly contact the working surface after moving and replacing.   Then it is a matter of locating the spot on the working surface where the inlay piece should be set.   Glue and reset the sail; nailed it!   Do a few kites like this and youll teach yourself a lot of stuff.   Like how to avoid gluing your hours of hard labor to the working surface, all kind of little tricks and stuff.   You might even want to take a crack at making several kite skins at a time via the Indian trick .   Do you think the Indian kite makers consider which side of the sail to glue the seams and appliques on?

Ive mentioned this before here and there in the Notebook but I cant over emphasize the importance of experimenting with scraps prior to execution .   Its faster and saves a lot of anger or remorse induced headaches from boning it big time and screwing up the kite.   Mistakes are good!   Just try and keep them down wind of your museum piece.   If nothing else, aspire to do the cleanest work possible.

There is a ton of stuff people do to celebrate beauty.   We aint even scratched the surface.   Man, if you dig this kind a jazz and gots ta gitcha some mo, find this book:   KITE CRAFT by Newman and Newman, ISBN #0-517-51470.   Its out of print Homer, so you need to do a used book search or steal it from the Library of Congress.   Remember that crack about the recessive art gene?   That wasnt you, I was talking about somebody else .   Hopefully something somewhere will inspire all of us to follow that voice in our heads that says:   I think I could do it better next time That is the sound of our creative nature calling; one of the marks of an artist.

*Laurance (Larry) Langendorf, is a artist from Lake Ronconcama Long Is .   N.Y.   Painter - Langendorf took the long way home in his many exploits only to be welcomed back with open arms as the latest darling of the New York art scene.   Developer of the Spit Resistance technique, Mr. Langendorfs signed bibs command prices in excess of $40,000.00.   Larry, as he likes to be called, is also a torch bearer for the otherly abled.   Much adored by his clamoring throngs, Larry keeps a hectic Paris-New York party calendar, balancing his dedicated volunteer and work ethic.

the fat kid