Tuesday, August 9, 2011


We rarely exhibit our kites indoors. They are outdoor creatures, made for the winds, made to move and dance under the clouds with the sun shining brightly and illuminating their skins in the brightest colors imaginable. We were recently offered a show at the local Art Center in Grand Junction, Colorado. The timing worked perfectly with our kite festival calendar and the space in the large round gallery exhibition hall at the art center proved a perfect showplace for the kites. The high ceiling overhead could support numerous kites in flying positions while the surrounding gallery walls worked for showing our new sets of new photo kites.

The exhibit entry has a few traditional Japanese kites representing the initial inspiration in delving into the art and craft of kite making back in 1977 when, while living in Hawaii, I started making kites in earnest. I was introduced to Japanese kites through a book entitled “The Art of the Japanese Kite” by artist & writer, Tal Streeter. The definitive collection of stories from his travels around Japan gave insights into the deep cultural roots and fascinating tales of meetings with the old kite masters, many of whom were reaching an age when their craft would pass with them.

Since then and after many travels throughout the world attending international kite festivals, I’ve learned much from friendships with other kite makers. Around the world each country visited has unveiled the culture and depth of this simple air craft made from paper, string and sticks. From Europe to India, Indonesia to Japan, New Zealand to the US, each country has a very unique history that is wrapped tightly into the culture and traditions of flying. The kites at the entry to the exhibit represent kite makers and friends from Japan who either gave or traded a kite for one of mine.

Sky & Desert - Melanie Walker

The kites in the exhibition represent a history not only of my kites but also my partner, Melanie Walker’s kites who joined me in 1995 and started making kites as well. Many of her recent kites were produced with a photo printing on polyester technique which involves a dye sublimate digital printing process. This is a new and exciting realm that has opened up many possibilities of combining her first passion in photographic processes with kite making. Some of the photo kites are first prints of mine as well.
House & Artichoke kites - Melanie Walker
Venice House - George Peters

Fish 1 - George Peters

Zebra kite - Melanie Walker

Rabbit Kite & Househead with Bunny - Melanie Walker

The other kites in the exhibition feature various kite designs of ours that have been developed through the rough school of trial and error. It took maybe two years early on for a kite of mine to finally soar to a high angle and just stay up there. Many kite ‘bones’ were broke in the process of learning the subtle aerodynamic principles of kite aeronautics. The early kites made by traditional Japanese means with carefully split, shaved and balanced bamboo spars very soon gave way to modern materials of fiberglass rod, tube and sewn nylon covers. These new materials were, for the most part, crash proof.

Kites have given an appreciation of the simple act of watching the sky and participating in an act of celebration with the winds. It’s a peaceful pursuit, above it all, in the limitless expanse of overhead space. It is like saying, “Here I am”, swimming in the sky, fishing with no lure, no barb, making no political statement, and letting the wind pull our heavenly tether out higher and higher. The gatherings at the international kite festivals around the world are like a high wire circus act putting colorful paint dabs on the blue canvas overhead.

Pipes - George Peters

Bird Man & Kat Man kites - George Peters

Artichoke Kite - Melanie Walker

Leopard Man, Pod kite & Falling Man kite - George Peters

Chevron Edo kite - George Peters

To see more photos from the "Color the Wind" kite exhibition, go to the Flikr slide show.

Thursday, June 30, 2011


Monumento al Aquiloni Signora Volantino
(Monument to the Lady Kite Flyer)

Flying at the Cervia & Venice International Kite Festivals

There is something grand about Italy. Maybe it’s the embedded history on every wall and each face. Or is it those clear skies and steady winds? When we were asked to come to Italy for two kite festivals, one in a little beach bagno community of Pinarella near Cervia and a second on the Lido di Venezia just outside of Venice on the Adriatic, we jumped at the chance.

our kite and banner display in Cervia

our kites after a day on the beach..

The festival of Cervia was held in a new location this year on a bigger beach, more room to fly, and a perfect wind for the ten day festival. Each day glistened with a sky full of kites brought from all over the world hovering overhead on the blue sky gallery ceiling. Each day brought great pictures of the scene and great times with friends we’ve known for many years. Sometimes it’s hard not to just pinch ourselves to make sure we’re not just dreaming this life up.

Each day began with a visit to ‘our’ bagno to open our storage lockers and carry the kites, banners and flying gear to the beachside. Setting up the show is always like putting on a circus. Banners go up, the colors are displayed, the colorful aerial acts start to rise to the big blue top overhead on kite lines angled up to the sky. Some people stand gazing at their addition to the overhead scene, others group together in beach chairs like fishermen watching their lines. We tend to try to see how many kites we can put up there at once… a constant challenge like juggling balls. The kites are tethered to sand bags and spread across the beach so that each kite has some airspace. When the wind is ‘clean’, like straight off the sea, the kites claim their space up there and hang almost motionless drifting together in an overhead aerial sky dance. I never tire from watching this.

the Sardinian ribbon poles

The days passed with lunch treats of sumptuous food Italian style. In the evenings we all gathered at a central hotel along the beach boulevard of Pinarella that gave us a spectacular banquet each night. The waiters and waitresses rushed the plates in a frenzy of service keeping the pasta at just the right temperature. It is a hard job serving eighty hungry kite flyers each night.

the hotel dining room

behind the kitchen doors..

The prima chef

The festival drew big crowds of people each day. The beach tourist season was just starting and the kite festival, organized by Claudio Capelli and his daughter, Caterina, of ArteVento was a welcome event in this community of beach houses, hotels, bagno beach clubs and restaurants. I believe this was the 31st annual kite festival, one of the longest running kite festivals in Europe.

Makoto Ohye's kite display

on the lido del Venezia

One might ask how a group of kite people can keep the colors up there for a full ten days on a beach without serious mental damage? The routine quickly takes front stage as every morning the kite flyers would wander in, choosing a spot on the beach to set up their ground displays, put up some shade and let a first lined kite up into the overhead sky circus. Over the course of the day the sky gets thick with kites dancing in tight formations over the beach. At about noon there were spontaneous little gatherings hosted by different country delegations for a refreshing drink and a taste of each favorite international cuisine. We hosted a US group picnic in our beach encampment serving ‘mini-Mac’ appetizers, mini pizzas, brown and white ‘wine’ (Coke and Sprite) and a big spread of small bite appetizers that were gobbled up in record time….then everyone migrated over to the German vodka tasting.

The USA beach party

Each day we visit with kite flyers down the beach, keeping a sharp eye on our kite group making sure that they stay up and are not lost into the nearby pine forest or on the roofs of the bagnos. As the day goes on the wind always gets perfect as the stomach growls for dinner. Everyone then meets at the local dinner hosting hotel for drinks and a delicious Italian meal each night.

The second weekend after a disappointing rainy Saturday night fly evening that washed out the planned event we had a glorious last day in Cervia/Pinarella and then headed North to Venice the next morning.

Claudio Capeli at the announcer's table

the sky over Lido Venezia

The Venice festival was attended by a smaller group of kite flyers from the Cervia event. Since this was the first festival for the Lido of Venice Claudio and Caterina were asked to help to organize the group of kite flyers chosen for the trip. Many details were kept a bit fuzzy but the kite flyers were ready for anything. Arriving at the field we were greeted by a beach full of umbrellas set up for the beach season on the rather small beach at the east side of the Lido. A large overhead steel pier bisected what was left of the beach. Not much room to fly kites or put up a large show. After a day of trying out the tight space it was decided to move the festival down the beach to another location in front of a large hotel that was closed at the time and being refurbished. The spot was perfect as we all spread our overhead kite show down the long beach.

Each day was a perfect picture of kite fun. Crowds of people came and enjoyed the show despite the fact that the weekend featured some competition in Venice proper...the Pope was there on a special visit and the canals and squares were packed to the hilt with tourists and followers of the Vatican. Banners we set up down the beach. Kites floated overhead and each day was almost perfect conditions.

The last day we were the last on the beach packing up kites. Behind us an ominous dark sky loomed. Suddenly as the last of the kites were packed in our bags and we started to take down the banners, the wind picked up to speed sending an intense sand storm across the beach. Banners flew off poles, sand bag anchors blew tumbling and our Italy tans were sandblasted away.

The next day was spent dumping sand out of the bags and repacking in the garden of our hotel. We were told that plans had changed for our bus trip to the airport in Bologna and we would have to make it to the Venice train station ourselves… with our eight bags of gear and luggage. Somehow we managed to hook and strap everything with wheels together in a long train of gear and rolled down the main street of the Venice Lido to the water bus to the train station. One last trip through down the Grand Canal made us want to come again, again and again. Ciao Italy!

the kite train home

For more pictures of the Cervia and Venice International kite festival go to the Airworks Studio Flikr Slide Show.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


While in Jacksonville installing the 'Sky Bridges' aerial sculpture at the airport we installed our kite exhibition "Kites & Flights" in the Haskell Gallery there. The show features kites from our collection made by Melanie and myself over the years. It is a great pleasure to see the kites in an environment that is so public and available to people who are in transit, waiting for arriving friends and family and need a little diversion and vision into the world of kites. What better place than an airport!

The idea for the show came from early discussions with the airport's public art commission. We were presenting our proposal ideas for the newly renovated main connector bridge to the concourses and showed a few pictures of our kite works. The kites have been a big inspiration for the themes and aerial sculpture we've done in the public art realm over the years so it was good to put up a show in conjunction with the installation of the permanent 'Sky Bridges' sculpture.

Cabeth Cornelius who manages the Haskell Gallery and the airport's public art collection encouraged us to combine the show with the completion and dedication ceremony for the commissioned work. We ended up pulling many of the kites that have been our dedicated 'show' kites. These are either ones that we prefer not to fly at the kite festivals to keep them in good condition or prototype and test kites that, how should I say it, preformed slightly below our international kite festival criteria. Ok... they didn't fly so great. Most of the kites exhibited fly well. It does take a special appreciation level to see the kites close up in the intimate gallery space. We're proud of the craft involved in kite making and like it when people can get close up to the kites to appreciate that aspect. Many people who came to the show opening enjoyed the show and colors. Some told us it was the best show they have seen in the gallery.

The show opened a couple days after the last hanging cable was crimped on the 'Sky Bridges' sculpture on March 24th and will continue until July 14th 2011. If you're flying through Jacksonville anytime soon, please stop by and see the show.... as well as the 'Sky Bridges' aerial sculpture. Can't miss it. Just look up before you go down to baggage claim.

live music for the opening!

Melanie and George at the opening of the show 'Kites & Flights'

For more images from 'Kites & Flights' go to our Flikr slide show

Friday, April 1, 2011

SKY BRIDGES - Jacksonville International Airport

If you think of public art the most public place one can imagine would be the busy terminals and of our international airports. They are extraordinary transit zones and places where humanity is on the move. Both Melanie and I confessed to each other that we liked going to airports in our youth just to witness the drama of air travelers. There are lots of people waiting which is why I always took a sketch book to draw people there. People are busy sleeping, reading papers, checking their cell phones, hurrying to their flights and generally hanging out. In the rush of humanity on the go are people arriving, departing and meeting their loved ones in great shows of public emotion. Airports now have all distractions of ordinary street life with few places for rest. Occasionally there are rest zones for art to occupy.

In all the years we have been applying for public art projects both individually and collaboratively, airports have been at the top of our list. The link to aerial sculpture inspires much of what the work of Airworks Studio has been about for a very long time. From the flying forms of kites to banner installations, atmospheric suspended installation sculptures and kinetic wind sculptures. All have the element of flight and the movement of air over form. We have applied for close to a couple dozen airport calls for public art commissions. I became a finalist back in 1994 for the Denver International Airport before I was ready for a seriously large scale work. We’ve also been finalists for the Philadelphia International Airport arrivals hall.

Last year we were selected for a newly renovated concourse connector bridge at the Jacksonville International Airport in Florida. We had presented a proposal to the art selection committee of a simple group of suspended truss-like forms in gentle curves through the overhead space. We chose materials that were reflective, light reactive, transparent and colorful to cover the truss forms and give a light and airy atmospheric effect to the ceiling of the bridgeway.

the computer 3D model

The forms derived from the bridges of airplane routes one sees on those flight maps in the in-flight magazines that show arching lines connecting cities to each other. The paths of airplanes make contrails across the skies each day connecting people on these bridges across the sky. The white cloud lines are made from crystallized vapor trails and sometimes in the right weather conditions the sunlight catches prismatic ‘sun dog’ parhelion effects along the edges.

Another strong influence in our design for the works was the great number of bridges in the downtown and river front areas of the city of Jacksonville. There are bridges crossing the St. John river that reflect many eras of civil engineering from the classic steel truss bridges made with rivets and human sweat to the extraordinary gravity defying forms of the ultra modern bridges . The engineering of these bridges is breathtaking and the Acosta Bridge, the blue truss elevator bridge of Main Street and the harp-like lines of the Dames Point Bridge make Jacksonville one of the best bridge cities in the country.

Work began in late summer of 2010 constructing the fiberglass rod frame trusses while we searched for a larger studio space for the fabrication processes. Our rear alley awning studio served as a construction space while storing the 20’ long truss units in the only space available… our back yard. Soon the weather dictated that we hurry with our search for an indoor studio in Boulder. After two months of searching we finally found a perfect space. It was a high end used car showroom just east of town with just enough space to store the frames overhead on the ceiling and brought down to the floor tables to complete the covering process.

We recruited three university graduate students we’ve worked with before to help us with the laborious task of the covering the trusses with a lace work of aluminum, polycarbonate and dichroic materials. This process took us two months and about two or three thousand screws to attach all of the materials to the fiberglass frames. Spencer, Evan & Marianna worked tirelessly with us through long days to get everything done and ready for shipment.

the studio got really full

the units arrived at the airport... at the end of the ticketing counters

the cabling center

When all fifteen twenty foot truss units were complete everything was wrapped for the packing and shipping in a large cavernous fifty three foot trailer truck. We flew in six days later to meet the truck at the airport. Everything arrived in good condition thanks to carefully roped and strapped supports. The trusses were then carried into the front door of the airport and put in a staging area at the end of the airport ticketing area. We set to work immediately putting in a 10pm to 4am work shift each night for the six nights it would take to install the hanging eyebolts into the ceiling, the cables and the trusses. Fortunately we contacted a local sign company and arranged for some assistance with the hanging operation. Austin, Cleave and Larry from Harbinger Sign Company were tireless in their help in getting everything up.

It all went like clockwork except for one small slip on my part the first night. While tapping the threads for an eye bolt to the ceiling steel tube beams the tap tool broke in my hand and dropped twenty five feet to the floor. I thought it had bounced harmlessly down the escalator below me. Further inspection by the airport maintenance crew later that night revealed the tool had bounced and ricocheted off of a tempered glass panel, shattering it into a spider web of broken glass. This may be the first serious damage done during an installation in over 35 years. My bad!

After a week all the trusses were cabled to the ceiling we switched gears to hang a kite show in the Haskell airport art gallery at the request of the Jacksonville Aviation Authority and public art director, Cabeth Cornelius. We had brought a group of exhibition art kites with us for ‘Kites & Flights’ that would be shown in conjunction with the dedication opening of the ‘Sky Bridges’ aerial sculpture for the airport.

Lots of people came for the dedication and kite exhibit to see the final results of the Sky Bridges install. We hear many compliments for the works and everyone had great things to say about how well the ‘Sky Bridges’ sculpture fits the new concourse bridge way. A step back to see what we had done and we were ready to make our way home again.

Melanie speaking

and George speaking

To see a slide show of the complete process go to our Flikr site.