Sunday, December 28, 2014

First Fly 2015

We'll be flying kites on the first day of the year again. January first is the day. Call us crazy but this is probably the 31st annual. Some years it's only been the two of us. Others have been attended by a great group of friends and kite flyers from all over. There have been sunny days, sometimes sunny and warm. Occasionally there was wind. Always some sort of refreshments and warm beverages like hot chocolate and cider. Some have been in snow storms, 60mph winds, no winds. Sometimes we bring sleds for the hilly sites. One time there was spontaneous snow sculpture making

This Boulder tradition had it's beginning way back in 1983 when co-owners of the Into The Wind kite store, Jim Glass and George Emmons and I decided to fly kites on the first of January. We met up at a local high school football and soccer field, popped a few kites up into the freezing winds, flew for a while and then dashed back to the car heaters to thaw out our fingers. It then became a tradition.

The rules for the fly was that we'd fly something no matter what the weather and what the conditions were just so that we could start the year out right and with a positive spin. After a few years other friends and family started joining us. The event traveled a bit. It went up to Bald Mountain, a short drive up Sunshine canyon above Boulder. The hike up the hillside to the top led to a view was fantastic! It was usually a clear day and you could see all the way to the Kansas border or at least to the skyscrapers of nearby Denver to the southeast. It continued there into the mid nineties with a combination picnic gathering, kite flying and tree climbing.... to retrieve the kites from the branches.

One memorable fly was during a full blown snow blizzard storm. The storm swept through as we were hiking up the trail to set up the kites and picnic area. We thought no one would show up. Amazingly five others made it up the road and trail and we spent about an hour in the blizzard flying kites. You could not see the kites just ten feet up over our heads but you could hear them flapping wildly. It was a surreal and fantastic memory.

Since then the First Fly was held in various city park and Green Belt areas around Boulder dodging the rangers who told us we could not fly kites without a permit. Permits are required for groups of twenty people or more. My response usually was "I don't know where all these people came from", or just apologizing and promising that I'll apply for the permit next year.

This year we will be flying at our 'Wind Ranch', a large field behind our North Boulder
studio. The field is where we sometimes test fly kites and is a broad expanse outside the jurisdiction of the city of Boulder. It's the realm of prairie dogs, hawks and great horned owls, lots of wild rabbits and some hungry coyotes. Our neighbors of the complex have goats, chickens, pigs, turkeys and a fantastic spring time gardens.

If you're in the area, please stop by for some hot chocolate and a bit of fun in a snowy field. The address is 2227 Yarmouth in Boulder. Please park in the parking lot next to the stone studio building or on the street. 
Walk north from the parking lot into the big field behind the houses. 
You'll see us. Starts at noon. Please come if you can.

A few pics from past years First Fly .....

Wednesday, June 25, 2014


Two kite workshops and a toy boat print making project took us on a journey out to Anderson Ranch Arts Center  in Aspen and Snowmass, Colorado and the Atelier 6000 gallery and printmaking cooperative in Bend, Oregon this past two weeks.  I have to say both Melanie and I treat workshops as a chance for us to play along as well with the students in our own classes. We both needed some valuable time off after a heavy spring season of exhibitions, kite festivals and commission works to be installed.

the woodshop at Anderson Ranch

Anderson Ranch Art Center is a very special place in the mountains of Aspen and Snowmass, Colorado. The school and workshop facility was started some fifty years ago by a group of artists and ceramicists to offer workshops in painting, ceramics, printmaking, photography, wood working and now … kite making. We probably used every media available to the students for our week long adventure into the art and craft of paper and bamboo kites. We used Sumi ink, torn paper collage, paper fold kites, photo ink jet wax print transfers, digital prints, paper fold ink prints as well as conte and crayon drawings for cover designs. 

The art of spitting bamboo was taught from the stash of shafts we brought with us. Kite books lined the tables for inspirational idea making as well as a slide talk opening eyes to the art of kites around the world. 

This was our third invitation to Anderson Ranch with previous years creating our own works as artists in residence. We worked with talented and fun teen students creating and bouncing off of each other’s ideas. This basic kite making class started with simple miniature “sketch idea” kites and grew from there into larger flyables.

Each evening after leaving the dining hall we played with the light winds on the nearby golf course as the sun set over the ridge of the western high peaks.  A delightful experience! We’ll return later in the summer to dress up the campus with banners and wind creations for their annual Anderson Ranch Auction fund raiser.

Thumbing through our kite books, she said "I want to make one of those!"...
a kite design by Austrian kite maker, Anna Rubin

one of Melanie's photo kites on Kozo paper

some of my paper Cat Kites

our very small but very productive class ...
with Melanie, Riley, Jess, Elie, me and Kat

Melanie's  ink jet wax transfer printed kozo paper kite

 my Mr. Edo Wardo kite at the Friday Luncheon Auctionette

the last night goodbye bonfire party


From there we packed the kites and workshop materials and headed for Bend, Oregon to the Atelier 6000 printmaking studio and gallery for our “Flyables + Floatables” workshop. The first day was kite making with small miniature kites made from simple materials of Kozo paper and bamboo. These quick small kite designs and methods were then expanded into larger creations using a variety of painting, collage and print making techniques.

The second day we unpacked our pre-made Styrofoam toy boat hulls that we had made earlier to pass out to the class for the creative play session. Everyone took to the challenge like, well, ducks to water! Hulls were painted, printed and stamped with elaborate designs. Sails and masts sprouted from the small decks.  Ballast weighted keels were added as well as rudders, tillers, rigging, banners, tassles and even a few toy passengers scavenged from a large toy box someone brought to the class.  

By the end of the second day everyone took their boats and kites for the final test of fire… flying and floating at The Mill, a recently developed shopping area in the heart of Bend. There by the Deschutes River with summer floating parties drifting down past the old buildings of the former lumber mill now turned into fancy shops and riverside restaurants we tentatively lowered the little sailboats into a nearby pond for their baptism to the wet.

Off they drifted,  paper sails tipping dangerously close to the choppy seas.  Some headed for the pond falls while others drifted into the pump water vents. Screams  were followed by a run with the long retrieving poles around the pond and catching the boats just in time to send to the opposite side… and into the rocks. People walking by watched this scene of adults playing with toy boats with curiosity. Passing children wanted their own boats as well pleading with their parents to buy one for them. Nope.. not for sale. Gotta make your own.

The winds were also a bit too strong for the kites but several students tried. One flipped from its mooring under a box weight and ended up in the water. Despite it all everyone had a fun and splashy day. No one fell in. All the boats not only floated but sailed as if steered by their toy passengers. Everyone thanked us for getting them to think outside the box of standard printmaking practice and remembering that fine act of playful fun we learned as children.  Some said it was the best workshop experience they had ever had.

After cleanup we hopped into our little silver Beetle bug car and spent two days on the road with our eyes on those fabulous western skies of Idaho, Utah and Wyoming and remembering a great time mucking about with boats and kites.