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The Kite As Canvas, The Sky As Studio.


Say the word kite and what image comes to mind?

Add paper, wood, and string in the right measure and you’ve got a kite.

Or do you?

More than a hobby, or something for a nice day, the kite carries as much history as you can tie to it.

Every airplane invented traces its roots to a kite.

Every rocket launched credits a kite.

Hard to believe? Believe it.


The dream of flight began with a kite. Powered flight rules the sky today, but not the dream.

Ben Franklin’s kite dream began with construction. From

Make a small cross of two light strips of cedar, the arms so long as to reach to the four corners of a large thin silk handkerchief when extended; tie the corners of the handkerchief to the extremities of the cross, so you have the body of a kite; which being properly accommodated with a tail, loop, and string, will rise in the air, like those made of paper; but this being of silk is fitter to bear the wet and wind of a thunder gust without tearing.”

The Wright Brothers built kites to help them understand how an airplane might handle the wind. Once they got it right they became pioneers of manned flight.


The Wright Brothers were kite enthusiasts and they used the kite flights in the same way that modern engineers use wind tunnels and flight testing to try out their ideas concerning flight control. Kitty Hawk, North Carolina was chosen for their early flight experiments because its consistent high winds off the ocean are perfect for kite flying.

While proving the power of electricity like Franklin and getting us off the ground like the Wrights were timely discoveries, why fly a kite today?


Ron Bohart, a water colorist, takes art to the sky with his kites.

We met in a local gym. I asked what he does to stay in shape, a good question to ask anyone in better shape than you.

One thing led to another and Ron explained his kites. Since I’m a little foggy on art and kites I asked if he would show me his work.

One of the most humble people you’ll ever meet, Ron explained how he makes kites.

It starts with 3/4 oz ripstop nylon. The spars are arrow shafts. Then it gets complicated.


Ron learned how to sew and how to dye his nylon to get the kites he needs.

With the materials in his studio, along with computer generated pages he tapes together to create patterns, he builds kites.

If you’ve seen a gorgeous portrait flying in the air, then you know what the kites look like. Not all of his kites are portraits, but that’s his signature model. People, dogs, clowns, they all fly.

His generosity with his time let me see firsthand what it takes to build a kite. The man is an artist. His kites might be his canvas, but once in the air they turn the sky into a gallery.

As our conversation ranged from old kites to kites associated with different countries, I wondered if Oregon has a State Kite. Does Portland have a City Kite?

Portland baby boomers nearing retirement could take a lesson from Ron Bohart.

Learn new skills, learn how to work with different materials, then go outside and test your results. Make new friends around the world and travel to festivals.

Does this sound boomer enough?

If you plan on retiring and drifting off into the sunset, why not make a better plan? Ron Bohart can explain how engaged a kite maker needs to be.

Anything less than your best effort will keep you grounded.

Sound familiar?


About David Gillaspie
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