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.